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US LNG export terminal utilization jumps amid Sabine Pass Train 6 commissioning

Highlights

Weather temporarily stalls shipments at two facilities

End-user prices remain high, though off record levels

US LNG feedgas demand hit the highest level in more than six months on Oct. 29 at 11.8 Bcf/d, translating to near 100% liquefaction terminal utilization amid commissioning of a sixth train at Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass in Louisiana, S&P Global Platts Analytics data showed.

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At the biggest export terminal in the US, however, shipments were stalled because of high winds and seas offshore that forced pilots to temporarily suspend service along the channel that feeds the terminal.

The last tanker to depart Sabine Pass was on Oct. 27, with two moored there on Oct. 29 for loading, according to Platts cFlow trade-flow analytics software. Traffic was expected to resume outbound once weather improves, according to a notice to shippers. In a separate notice to shippers, the pilots that serve the channel that feeds Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG export terminal in Louisiana said service also was suspended temporarily due to high winds, and remained so during the morning of Oct. 29. There were no tankers moored at Cameron LNG on Oct. 29; the last one to depart the terminal was on Oct. 26, cFlow showed.

Strong netbacks due to high prices in end-user markets in Europe and Asia have been incentivizing full dispatch at US LNG export terminals for much of 2021. The total feedgas demand on Oct. 29, based on nominations for the morning cycle, was the highest level since April 18, Platts Analytics data showed. Except for periods of scheduled maintenance and unplanned outages due to weather and other factors, the six major US liquefaction terminals have been operating at near full utilization.

While prices have moderated since record levels in early October -- most recently amid Russia's vow to refill storage sites in Germany and Austria with pipeline gas once it serves domestic needs -- the price for LNG cargoes into Northwest Europe remains five times higher than a year ago when market impacts from the coronavirus pandemic were most pronounced. Strong demand, expensive shipping and volatile trading have been cited for the elevated prices.

Platts assessed DES Northwest Europe for December at $26.383/MMBtu on Oct. 28. The first half of December was assessed at $26.233/MMBtu, and the second half of December was assessed at $26.533/MMBtu. That widened the intramonth contango to 30 cents/MMBtu on the day from 9 cents/MMBtu on Oct. 27.

The FOB Gulf Coast Marker was assessed Oct. 28 at $25/MMBtu. The assessment was based on tradable values reported by market participants at $26.30/MMBtu by the middle of the day for FOB USGC cargoes loading 30 to 60 days forward, in conjunction with elevated freight rates for shipments through the Atlantic and Pacific and sharply downward price movements in the major destination markets by close.