SINGAPORE : Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) prices surged to a record high this week on sustained demand from China amid a power crunch and high gas prices in Europe as the winter season begins.
The average LNG price for November delivery into Northeast Asia was estimated at about US$32 per metric million British thermal units (mmBtu), up nearly 20per cent from the previous week, industry sources said.
Price agency S&P Global Platts said on Thursday that its Japan-Korea-Marker (JKM), which is widely used as a benchmark for spot LNG contracts, rose to US$34.47 per mmBtu.
Chinese buyers are seeking more cargoes despite record prices, bidding above market rates as the winter season starts with the country's gas inventory not full, trade sources said.
Unipec, the trading arm of Chinese oil and gas group Sinopec, is likely to have bought more than the 11 cargoes it sought last week for winter, while China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) and PetroChina are also seeking cargoes for winter, they added.
Sinopec said on Thursday that it planned to import 13.3 billion cubic metres (bcm) of LNG this winter - about 9per cent higher than imports last winter - to operate its existing terminals at full capacity, and accelerate adding gas storage by the end of October.
Earlier this week, Malaysia's state energy firm Petronas said a fire broke out at its LNG complex in Bintulu but that operations were unaffected.
Taiwan's CPC Corp is also likely to have bought cargoes for winter, one trader said, though the exact volumes could not be confirmed.
Demand was also strong from Argentina, with energy company Integracion Energetica Argentina (IEASA) seeking four partial LNG cargoes for delivery in the fourth quarter, an industry source said.
Some supply deals were done this week with Pertamina selling two LNG cargoes from Bontang for mid-October and November while Australia's APLNG plant sold a cargo for November at a discount to North Asian price quotes, traders said.
Russia's Sakhalin Energy is also likely to have sold a cargo for November loading at about US$34 to US$36 per mmBtu, one source said, though this could not be confirmed.
(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan. Editing by Jane Merriman)