(Bloomberg) -- European natural gas prices slumped as record imports of liquefied natural gas helped to offset a blast of winter weather that’s testing the region’s resilience to the energy crisis.
LNG imports into northwest Europe have surged in recent weeks as high prices attract shipments. The continent is also seeking to prevent its gas stockpiles from dwindling as demand for heating soars.
From London to Latvia, temperatures are set to drop below freezing in the coming days, forecasts show. It’s Europe’s first real trial of the season after Russia curbed gas supplies in the fallout over its war in Ukraine. A slump in wind power and nuclear outages in Sweden and France are also straining power and gas networks.
“We now expect two-thirds of all US LNG cargoes to land in Europe this year,” said Kristy Kramer, vice president for gas & LNG research at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “Regasification capacity is currently the major impediment to even more US LNG exports to Europe.”
Flows from LNG terminals in northwest Europe reached all-time highs in December as cold weather pushed prompt prices higher, encouraging traders to unload their cargoes, Arun Toora, an analyst at BloombergNEF, said in a note. Tankers held at sea for weeks in the past two months are discharging the fuel, boosting supply.
Europe’s gas storage levels are still more than 90% full, after dropping from almost 96% in mid-November, according to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe. The recent cold snap has coincided with additional outages at facilities in Norway.
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Traders are also closely watching activity in China, which is loosening Covid-related restrictions that have crimped energy demand. A freeze in Asia could increase international competition for LNG.
“Germany has one of the highest prices for LNG now, and that has helped to attract cargoes,” said Peter Heydecker, executive director of trading at German energy company EnBW. “We have a huge need now, but we compete globally. We still see enough LNG coming, but that can quickly change and we need to keep an eye on Asia’s demand.”
Dutch front-month futures, the European benchmark, fell 6.9% to €138.89 per megawatt-hour. The UK equivalent contract slumped 6.7%.
--With assistance from Vanessa Dezem.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.