The spot price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Asia has surged by more than 20 percent in one week after demand in key importers China and South Korea picked up, while buyers have also canceled U.S. LNG cargoes, traders told Reuters on Wednesday.
The spot price at which several LNG cargoes have been traded have ranged between $2.40 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) and $2.65/MMBtu this week, up from just $2/MMBtu last week, according to several traders who spoke to Reuters.
Demand started to snap back in Asia on relaxed lockdowns and a return to business activity. At the same time, buyers in Asia as well as Europe were said to have canceled in April some 20 cargoes from U.S. LNG projects.
This week, the uptick in demand and the lower supply have sent LNG prices jumping.
LNG spot prices in Asia began to crawl up last week as countries in the region eased lockdowns, which created some demand. Before that, LNG spot prices in Asia had fallen for three weeks in a row amid sluggish demand in the COVID-19 pandemic and an excess of spot supply.
In April, while demand for LNG was still very low, China was said to have taken advantage of the ultra-low prices, stocking up on cheap LNG.
Even before the pandemic, natural gas prices – from Asia’s spot LNG prices to the price in northwest Europe’s hubs and the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub – were falling because natural gas and LNG supply globally exceeded the growth in demand. LNG spot prices had hit a decade low due to warmer winter weather in many parts of Asia, booming new LNG supply—especially from the U.S. and Australia—and slower import growth in China.
Then came a milder winter in North Asia and high LNG inventories across Asia in the winter season. All these factors sent LNG prices to multi-year lows. And then came the pandemic that further cratered the LNG market as business activity stalled during lockdowns.