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Gas Retreats From Highs, But Supply Remains Tight

Copyright © 2021 Energy Intelligence Group
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Europe continues to grapple with high prices for natural gas and power, with energy-intensive industries such as steel warning that they can no longer produce profitably.

Traders have reportedly had to raise additional funds as they scramble to meet their obligations to customers and exchanges.

And the European Union was expected to announce a set of measures on Wednesday in response to the crisis.

The region's tight gas market sent the month-ahead November contract on the Dutch TTF hub to a new record of €116 per megawatt hour ($39.31 per million Btu) on Oct. 5.

That was roughly nine times as much as the price of €13/MWh at which it traded in early October 2020.

The Dutch TTF price serves as a benchmark for LNG cargoes shipped to Europe, while the region's power prices also track natural gas prices closely.

Russia to Boost Supplies

European gas prices have eased back from their recent highs over the past week after Russia — the region's main supplier — said it was willing to make more gas available.

The November TTF contract traded around €86/MWh on Tuesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Tuesday that Russian gas giant Gazprom has started withdrawing gas from storage "to stabilize the market."

“We work deliberately, quietly, soberly toward stabilization. It's not in our interest to rock the boat further," Ryabkov told the BBC.

Separately, the European Commission reportedly planned to present a toolbox of EU-wide policy measures on Wednesday to address the energy crisis.

A leaked draft of the proposals included a voluntary scheme for joint EU purchases of gas to build up a strategic supply buffer against shortages.

'Unhinged Market'

A manager at the analytics desk of a US LNG supplier told Energy Intelligence that the current gas market was "unhinged."

“We are seeing chronic illiquidity. This is not a market where everyone is involved at prices of around €100/MWh, because not everyone can participate at this price," the manager said. "If you do, you'll run your company out of business."

Commodity traders have faced margin calls and some have been asked by exchanges and brokers to deposit additional funds as a guarantee.

Some have had no option to buy gas at recent elevated prices to meet their commitments to counterparties, the manager added.

Switzerland-based Gunvor said on Sep. 30, for example, that it had issued a $300 million bond, the first time it has tapped the bond market since 2013.

Asia Draws LNG Cargoes

An LNG broker said the market has been "crazy" and that it has been "hard to find any sense."

LNG is not expected to help ease Europe's supply woes because strong demand in Asia and correspondingly high prices continues to draw cargoes to that market.

Chinese coal prices have soared after heavy rains hit the coal-mining province of Shanxi. That exacerbated already tight supplies caused by the flooding of mines in the coal-producing region of Henan in July.

China may have to step up its LNG imports after being hit by electricity shortages.

"If the weather is 10% colder than normal in Northeast Asia it could draw an extra 3.5 Bcm of LNG away from Europe over October 2021-March 2022 compared to our balances," Energy Aspects said in a research note dated Oct. 11.

"A similar 10% colder-than-normal scenario in Europe would raise gas demand for heating by 4 Bcm," it added.

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