Atlantic gas swings leave LNG tankers torn over where to turn

jueves 26 de febrero de 2015 08:55 GYT

By Oleg Vukmanovic

MILAN Feb 26 (Reuters) - Atlantic natural gas markets are seeing some of the biggest price swings in years as volatile European trade, freezing U.S. weather and Brazilian demand leave tankers torn over where to sail.

The region's gas markets, each taking turns as top payer before being outbid again, have boosted consumption of shipped liquefied natural gas (LNG), triggering multiple diversions as vessels chase the best price.

Two weeks ago Europe became the world's premium gas market after a year-long demand slump in Asia, thrusting Atlantic trade into the spotlight.

A mix of Dutch production caps, supply outages and technical trading has driven European gas prices towards fresh multi-month highs as Asian prices show only meager gains, widening premiums.

In the United States a burst of Arctic cold and grid bottlenecks drove gas prices at Algonquin in New England to $25 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on Wednesday, dwarfing European levels at $8.31 per mmBtu and Asia at $6.90.

The hefty premium has prompted London-based oil and gas major BP to divert three vessels - the British Merchant, British Innovator and British Sapphire - back towards the United States after circling the Atlantic.

The Sapphire's tortuous course shows how low shipping rates have freed up traders to pursue prices.

From Trinidad where it loaded, the vessel sailed into the south Atlantic, then backtracked thousands of kilometres attracted by surging British gas prices before making another U-turn to head for the United States.   Continuación...