European gas prices fluctuated as concerns over low Russian flows and storage levels were offset by more arrivals of liquefied natural gas cargoes in the region.
In volatile trading, benchmark European gas prices slid as much as 2% after gaining as much as 9.2% earlier on Wednesday. Russia is continuing to curb supplies via two key pipelines into Europe just as the weather turns colder, while traders await the outcome of a NATO-Russia Council discussion on the situation in Ukraine.
As storage levels remain only about 51% full, with two and a half months of heating season needs still ahead, increased arrivals of LNG cargoes are helping ease pressure on inventories.
“The U.K. is on track to receive a further six LNG cargoes by the end of this week amid a flurry of LNG cargoes that are headed to Europe,” Gazprom Energy said in an emailed daily energy report. “LNG arrivals help provide flexibility to balance grids or will help to fill storage facilities to prolong the stock levels throughout winter.”
With higher LNG arrivals, no slots at import terminals are available and cargoes are being traded at a discount, traders with the knowledge of the matter said.
LNG deliveries to Europe are likely to climb in January amid warmer-than-normal weather in Asia, Abhishek Rohatgi, an LNG analyst at BloombergNEF said in a note.
Europe is grappling with an energy crunch that’s more than tripled gas prices and more than doubled electricity costs as demand remains strong as coal and nuclear power plants close.
Russian gas supplies via the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline are moving eastward from Germany to Poland for a 23rd day, a reverse of the usual direction. Flows via Ukraine are also lower than normal and come at a time that temperatures are expected to remain slightly below seasonal norms through the rest of the week.
“This is because traders have preferred to take gas from storage, to avoid paying close to record-high prices,” Inspired Energy wrote in a note. “As a result, Gazprom PJSC has not seen bids for westbound exports.”
Higher LNG imports “may limit the upside from tight Russian gas supplies,” the consultants said.
Front-month gas in the Netherlands, Europe’s benchmark, jumped as high as 86 euros a megawatt-hour before later paring gains to trade 0.1% lower at 78.70 euros by 2:05 p.m. in Amsterdam. The equivalent contract in the U.K. was little-changed at 192.50 pence a therm.
Tensions are high as Russia has been building troops on the border with Ukraine, a move that U.S. intelligence says could signal an invasion early this year. While gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine weren’t disrupted when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, they were temporarily cut during gas-price disputes in 2006 and 2009.