European gas prices slumped for a fourth day amid easing concerns about the continent’s supply crunch.
The U.S. is seeking to reassure European allies that any potential sanctions imposed if Russia attacks Ukraine won’t disrupt short-term energy supplies. Meanwhile, more arrivals of liquefied natural gas have offset Europe’s low storage levels and curbed Russian flows to the region.
Front-month gas in the Netherlands, Europe’s benchmark, settled 4.6% lower at 75.153 euros per megawatt-hour, after volatile trading earlier. The equivalent contract in the U.K. fell 5.4% to 179.98 pence a therm.
“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 report. “LNG arrivals help provide flexibility to balance grids or will help to fill storage facilities to prolong the stock levels throughout winter.”
Europe is grappling with an energy crunch that’s more than tripled gas prices within the last year and more than doubled electricity costs as demand remains strong as coal and nuclear power plants close.
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 research note.
However, due to higher arrivals, no slots are available at import terminals and cargoes are being traded at a discount, according to traders with knowledge of the matter.
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 as temperatures are set to remain colder for 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.”
Geopolitical 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.
Russia could boost gas deliveries to the continent by at least a third from current levels, but it’s keeping spot sales capped despite high prices, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said on a call with reporters on Wednesday.
“There are strong elements of tightness in the European gas market due to Russia’s behavior,” Birol said.