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Europe's First Taste of Gulf Coast LNG On Its Way

The sixth cargo, carried by the Creole Spirit, from Cheniere Energy Inc.'s Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal is bound for Portugal, making it the first Lower 48 LNG export to Europe, according to a Bloomberg report citing unnamed sources.

Sabine cargos have previously been sent to Brazil, Argentina and India. But in a world awash in LNG -- at least for now -- it's Europe that is the market of last resort for LNG seeking a home, analysts at Barclays Commodities Research said in a note published Tuesday.

Europe sets the floor for global LNG prices, Barclays said. "Given limited amounts of incremental demand in the premium markets of Asia, the Middle East and South America, increasing volumes of LNG will likely be imported into Europe, especially northwest Europe, given the region's liquidity relative to other global gas markets (the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands).

"These liquid gas markets allow surplus LNG a backstop when no other premium global market demand is available. However, the LNG glut will converge on Europe, meaning Europe's prices will likely decline."

With the advent of Henry Hub-linked LNG exports, a connection will be established between natural gas prices in the United States and United Kingdom, Barclays said. "Despite being separated by the Atlantic Ocean, U.S. and UK natural gas prices are starting to converge. The convergence between two of the most liquid gas hubs has been largely driven by a precipitous fall in UK natural gas prices.

"As U.S. LNG exports ramp up, we expect market forces increasingly to close the arbitrage window between the regions.

Cheniere is in the process of bringing online the second train at Sabine Pass (see Daily GPI, April 6). The company was recently given regulatory approval to introduce refrigerants into the second train at Sabine Pass. Genscape Inc. which conducts infrared monitoring of the terminal in order to provide market information, said in a note that the second train's first propane stack was activated Tuesday morning. "This step indicates that Sabine is moving along as stated in their commissioning and startup process," Genscape said.

"Sabine has loaded six cargoes totaling nearly 20 Bcf in exports thus far. The next cargo is set to load onto the BW GDF Suez Brussels on April 24," Genscape said.

"Gaslog Salem appears to be headed back to Sabine for a May loading and Sabine's eighth cargo loading. By the end of April 19, Genscape estimates the storage nearly to be full at Sabine, with 16.5 Bcf in LNG storage. Based on the estimated storage number, Genscape anticipates a ramping down of Train 1 as Train 2 begins its startup process."

Creole Spirit departed the terminal Friday (April 15), Genscape said, adding that cargo loading took "an unusually long time."

A Cheniere spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for more information about Sabine Pass activity.

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