China’s state-owned gas importers are considering declaring force majeure on LNG imports, which would amplify the turmoil in global gas markets.
LNG prices have already plunged to their lowest levels in a decade in Asia as the ramp up of supply in 2019 came at a time when demand has slowed. That was true before the outbreak of the coronavirus. But the quarantine of around 50 million people and the shutdown of huge swathes of the Chinese economy has sent shockwaves through commodity markets.
Shipments of oil and gas are backing up at Chinese ports, which is creating ripple effects across the world. Now, Chinese state-owned CNOOC is considering declaring force majeure on its LNG import commitments, according to the FT. Sinopec and CNPC are also apparently considering the move.
Prices were already in the dumps. JKM prices recently fell to 10-year lows. But they have continued to decline, approaching $3/MMBtu for the first time in history. Just a few weeks ago, JKM prices were trading at around $5/MMBtu, itself an incredibly low price for this time of year.
LNG exports from the U.S. are uneconomical at these price levels. Many exporters have contracts at fixed, higher prices. But shipments can be cancelled for a fee. And any spot trade would be hit hard. The question now is whether shipments will come to halt. “Forward prices for summer are now at levels where U.S. LNG shut-ins begin to seem viable,” Edmund Siau, a Singapore-based analyst with energy consultant FGE, told Bloomberg. “There is usually a lead time before a cargo can be canceled, and we expect actual supply curtailments to start happening in summer.”
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