(Bloomberg) -- European natural gas prices surged after a drop in flows to the biggest US liquefaction terminal, underscoring the market’s continued sensitivity to supply risks.
Benchmark futures in the Netherlands settled 4.9% higher, after declining as much as 6.1% in earlier trading.
Flows to the Sabine Pass LNG plant in Louisiana dropped about 18% Thursday from a day earlier, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Cheniere Energy Inc., operator of the plant, declined to comment.
US liquefied natural gas has been fundamental in helping Europe meet its gas needs after Russian pipeline flows declined. The European market reacted with heightened volatility when another US LNG plant, Freeport, had issues earlier this month.
Still, Thursday’s price increase occurs amid signs of easing easing supply risks elsewhere. Chevron Corp. and unions are close to a regulator-brokered deal to end strikes at liquefied natural gas export facilities in Australia as soon as Friday.
Uncertainty over the strikes’ impact on LNG flows globally has weighed on the market for weeks, threatening to cause disruptions just ahead of Europe’s winter demand season. Prolonged maintenance in Norway, the continent’s biggest supplier, has been another source of nervousness.
Norwegian flows are gradually recovering. Gas capacity at the giant Troll field is ramping up after repeated delays, according to network manager Gassco AS. However, work on the on network that delivers supplies to a terminal in the UK is taking longer than planned.
The front-month gas contract on the Dutch hub closed at €39.11 a megawatt-hour. The UK equivalent contract also gained.
The resumption of Norwegian supplies takes place against a backdrop of full European inventories and lackluster demand, which hasn’t fully recovered from the energy crisis sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“A number of industries have seen their business plan broken in a way,” according to Gergely Molnar, a natural gas analyst at the International Energy Agency. An easing of gas prices “does not necessarily translate into a recovery in industrial gas demand,” he said at an International Gas Union press briefing.
European storage sites are about 94% full on average, providing a substantial buffer against winter risks, including extremely cold weather and greater competition with Asia for LNG.
Germany, the region’s largest economy, is conducting a test Thursday to make sure it is prepared for the possibility of a gas shortage this winter.
“Germany is much better prepared for this winter than last year,” said Klaus Mueller, president of the regulatory Federal Network Agency, in a statement. “We can certainly be optimistic, but it is still too early to sound the all-clear.”
--With assistance from Iain Rogers and Ruth Liao.
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