German net imports of natural gas from Netherlands dropped to a 16-month low in January, as Russian imports kept German hubs at a discount to TTF and Dutch L-cal production and flows dropped off in response to mild continental temperatures, traders said Friday.
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* Jan flows at 843 mil cu m, down from 2 Bcm a year ago * TTF spot largely at premium to GASPOOL, NCG in Jan * Lower heating demand reduces need for L-cal gas
German net imports of Dutch natural gas more than halved year on year to 842.7 million cu m in January, from 2.0 Bcm, S&P Global Platts Analytics data showed.
The drop comes amid a sharp rise in German H-cal gas flows to the Netherlands, which rose to 1.1 Bcm in January -- the highest level recorded -- after amounting to just 374.1 million cu m in January last year.
Exports of L-cal gas to Germany were also lower at 1.9 Bcm, down from 2.3 Bcm in January 2017.
TTF day-ahead values have remained largely at a premium to the corresponding GASPOOL and NCG prices for most of January, averaging 10.9 euro cent for NetConnect and 20.5 euro cent for GASPOOL.
"[Looking at] the NCG/TTF spread it is clear that TTF is no longer the cheapest market," a trader in the Dutch and German markets said.
"TTF is still cheap in summer but in winter you can now see the impact of lower Groningen production."
Summer 18 GASPOOL premium to TTF averaged 12.6 euro cent in January, while the equivalent NCG spread averaged 32.8 euro cent.
Market sources said production of L-cal gas tends to fall during periods of warmer weather such as that seen over the past month.
Production is likely to rise next week, the trader said. Dutch production fell to an average of 116.1 million cu m/d for January 24-February 1, from 135.1 million cu m/d seen during the first half of January.
L-cal gas produced from the Groningen gas field is used as a domestic fuel in the Netherlands for residential heating as well as in the industrial process, with the country also exporting L-cal gas for domestic use to Germany, Belgium and France.
The Dutch gas regulator, the State Supervision of Mines, said Thursday that gas production from the giant Groningen field should be cut to a maximum of 12 Bcm/year as soon as possible to further minimize the risk of earthquakes.
Markets sources said this is likely to keep the TTF at a premium to its German counterparts.
"Russian gas should be cheaper in Germany than in the Netherlands; the transport route is shorter," the trader said.