U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports were up slightly in the week ending Jan. 22, as 15 vessels departed carrying 54 Bcf, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Seven ships left from Sabine Pass, two from Corpus Christi, four from Cameron and one each from Cove Point and Freeport. Exports were up from 51 Bcf in the previous week, but down from 68 Bcf in the first week of the month. High temperatures along the Gulf Coast in recent weeks have created foggy conditions, impacting the departures of loaded vessels.
Warmer weather is weighing on global natural gas prices too. A mild winter in Northeast Asia and Europe, coupled with a flood of LNG as countries like Australia, Qatar and the United States have been steadily producing, has combined to push prices to multi-year lows.
Over the last week, the prompt month contract in the U.S. hit its lowest point since early 2016. Natural gas for February delivery was still stuck below the $2.00 mark on Monday -- even with a colder-looking forecast. In Asia, LNG spot prices fell to lows not seen since 2009, while benchmark futures contracts there and in Europe were stuck around $4.00/MMBtu.
The maximum Gulf Coast LNG netback price for March delivery between the Japan Korea Marker, National Balancing Point and Title Transfer Facility on Friday (Jan. 24) was $2.606/MMBtu, or just $0.713 above where Henry Hub futures settled, according to NGI data.
The arbitrage spread between the Gulf Coast and key markets in Europe and Asia has continued to narrow. Terminal shut-ins remain unlikely with Gulf Coast offtake hedged and secured by long-term agreements, but the market dynamics continue to raise questions about the viability of proposed U.S. export projects, analysts said.
As it looks to catch the second wave, Annova LNG scored a 20-year supply deal last week to tap multiple receipt points with major pipelines in the Agua Dulce area to feed its Brownsville, TX, project. The precedent agreement with Enbridge Inc.’s Valley Crossing Pipeline LLC would provide transportation for the still unsanctioned 6.5 million metric tons/year facility.
In other U.S. developments, McDermott International Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to wipe out more than $4.6 billion of debt. The company is at work on the next stages of Freeport and Cameron LNG. It also landed the engineering, procurement and construction contact for the Golden Pass LNG project in Texas. The proceedings are not expected to slow progress on any of those projects, McDermott said.
Also last week, Pembina Pipeline Corp. pulled a key permit two days after Oregon regulators denied a request to extend the decision time on the Jordan Cove LNG project to March 31. It was the latest setback to cloud the project’s path forward.
Overseas, Egypt has plans to cut the number of LNG cargoes it offers in the spot market given how prices have crashed and intends to negotiate longer-term sales with its customers instead. Meanwhile, India announced negotiations with Qatar to lower prices it pays by cutting the link between oil and LNG.
Qatar is a global LNG leader and has been a standard bearer for linking longer-term LNG costs to oil prices under contracts that often fetch more than spot market transactions. The negotiations are another sign of how growing supplies are impacting the market and prompting more negotiations.
Reuters reported earlier this month that China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., aka Sinopec, is reviewing its price terms under a supply deal with leading U.S. exporter Cheniere Energy Inc.