Global LNG competition intensifies on new Russia supply cut

RUSSIA’S latest move to cut natural gas supply to Europe is intensifying global competition for seaborne shipments of the fuel, threatening higher prices and shortages from Asia to South America.

Utilities in South Korea and Japan are accelerating plans to purchase more liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes for winter out of fear that Europe will also hoard supply, according to traders with knowledge of the matter. Even some price-sensitive buyers in countries such as India and Thailand are looking to procure cargoes and avoid a shortage, traders said.

Russia’s Gazprom PJSC said it will reduce flows through the Nord Stream pipeline to Europe again this week, forcing the region’s buyers to find replacements like LNG. Spot prices of the super-chilled fuel, already trading at a seasonal high, are at risk of surging further as buyers in Europe and Asia move to outbid each other.

Traders estimate that North Asia spot LNG prices will rally to the mid-$40s per million British thermal units level on Tuesday, the highest since early March shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. There is a shrinking pool of available LNG through this winter amid supply disruptions from export facilities in Australia and the US.

Natural gas is a key fuel for power generation and heating, and the price rally threatens higher inflation around the world. At this price level, buyers in some emerging nations – such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Argentina – cannot afford spot cargoes of the fuel and are struggling with power shortages.

South Korea is currently working on securing LNG cargoes from the spot market on wider supply concerns over geopolitical uncertainties, the energy ministry said. Any potential disruption to the country’s power supply may require more spot purchases, according to Korea Gas Corp.

China – the world’s top LNG importer last year – has remained on the sidelines of the spot market due to virus restrictions curbing demand for the fuel. If China’s economic activity picks up, that could quickly change and result in fewer LNG cargoes for Europe, Samantha Dart, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s head of natural gas research, told Bloomberg Television last week. – Bloomberg