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Asia Outbidding European Utilities for LNG

Northwest European liquefied natural gas terminals are for the first time exporting more of the fuel than they are feeding into the region’s pipeline networks.

Even with the European benchmark at a record for this time of year, surging demand in Asia to South America means traders are sending ships with the super-chilled gas there instead of supplying utilities at home.

Most of the LNG tankers that have arrived this month or are confirmed as docking in Belgium, the Netherlands and northwest France through the middle of next month plans to load fuel and sell it elsewhere rather than discharging. The cargoes will be picked up from storage tanks or from vessels arriving from the Russian Arctic, where output is expanding ahead of schedule.

Novatek PJSC’s Yamal LNG plant has just added a second production line in northern Siberia. Yamal cargoes travel to Europe first where they are transferred for further journeys to other markets where prices are higher.

“The markets are working — allowing LNG to move to where it is most needed,” said Thierry Bros, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “With Yamal LNG trains 1 and 2 now operating we are going to see even more reloads in the winter,” when eastern routes in the Arctic are restricted because of ice.

Even during the summer, when the Northern Sea Route has less ice and enables navigation eastbound for specialized ice-class tankers via the shorter direct route to Asia, transfers in northwestern European ports are proving popular. At least eight will take place in August alone, a record, since Yamal started operations.

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