European natural gas prices fall to 21-month low on record imports and rising stocks

Higher temperatures in the coming few weeks will have limited impact on LNG prices, Rystad Energy says

A regasification ship receives a consignment of gas in the German port town of Wilhelmshaven. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

European natural gas prices have fallen to their lowest in nearly two years amid rising stockpiles and record imports of liquefied natural gas.

Dutch Title Transfer Facility gas futures, the benchmark European contract, was last trading at €35.95 ($39.64) per megawatt hour — the lowest level since July 2021.

“High oil prices were supporting higher gas prices until a week ago, but we can now observe some bearish read-through to the commodity complex,” Rystad Energy said in a research note.

Brent, the benchmark for two thirds of the world’s crude supply, has lost about 9 per cent of its value this week on growing signs of a recession in the US and weak crude demand in China, the world’s largest energy importer.

Prices have also come under pressure from rising liquefied natural gas imports.

In April, the amount of LNG imported reached about 11.5 million tonnes, which is an all-time high by some measures, the Norway-based consultancy said.

Meanwhile, underground gas storage across the EU and the UK is 60 per cent full, compared with 35.7 per cent a year ago.

“[This] suggests the continent is very comfortable for the near term, even considering the prospect of a hotter-than-normal summer,” Rystad said.

“The coming week is expected to have temperatures up to 2°C above average, but sporadic bouts of cold have induced some uncertainty in this outlook.

“However, this will have a limited impact on gas prices.”

A potential fall in Europe's imports of Russian gas and LNG, which amount to more than 2 billion cubic metres per month each, poses significant risks to the market's current state of complacency, Rystad said.

Last month, the EU agreed to seek a legal option to prevent Russian companies from sending LNG shipments to member nations.

"This is not a law yet, but this is now a very concrete step," the bloc's energy commissioner, Kadri Simson, said at an event in April.

Despite the recent drop, LNG prices in European and Asian spot markets are “well above” historic averages, the International Energy Agency said in its Gas Market Report this week.

Supply is expected to be tight in 2023 amid uncertainties such as adverse weather, lower availability of LNG and further curtailment of exports by Russia, the agency said.

The IEA, which expects LNG supply to rise by only 4 per cent this year, said it would not be sufficient to make up a potential drop in Russian gas supply.

Meanwhile, global demand for natural gas is expected to remain “flat” as consumption declines in Europe and North America, the agency said.

Global LNG trade reached a high of $450 billion in 2022 on the back of European demand, the IEA said in a February report.

Despite a rise in demand, LNG supply grew only 5.5 per cent last year, mostly due to maintenance at large export terminals and as Freeport LNG’s Texas-based plant — one of the world’s largest export centres of the supercooled fuel — was shut down after a fire in June 2022.

Updated: May 07, 2023, 7:02 AM