Exports of gas from Norway by pipeline to the UK and continental Europe fell below 9 Bcm in April, the first time since September last year, as a series of unplanned outages impacted flows to market, according to an analysis Thursday of data from S&P Global Platts Analytics.
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UK imports of Norwegian gas dropped to 2.57 Bcm last month, the lowest in seven months, as the outages included long-lasting work on the Vesterled pipeline that feeds Norwegian gas into the St Fergus terminal in Scotland.
Recoveries in supplies to Germany and the Netherlands failed to offset the overall decline.
Analysts expect NCS flows to be robust this summer given the need to replenish European storage stocks, which fell to their lowest point in a decade at the end of March after back-to-back cold weather systems.
In addition, maintenance on the NCS this summer -- traditionally the period with the highest rate of activity as demand drops -- is seen as essentially flat compared with last year.
But given that next summer's prices are also substantially lower, this could incentivize some operators to delay some maintenance until summer 2019.
The spread will also likely to see the giant Troll field continue to produce at its maximum available capacity throughout the summer as it did last year. Operator Statoil has optimized Troll output in the past to produce more during higher-price periods.
Statoil also said last week its other swing field -- Oseberg -- had been flowing "strong" gas volumes since the start of 2018.
The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) forecasts gas production in May back above 10 Bcm at 10.1 Bcm, with output expected to stay flat at around the 10 Bcm mark each month until the end of the summer.
Those rates would be higher than the output in the early summer 2017, when supplies dropped as low as 8.5 Bcm in June, but below the 10.5 Bcm in both July and August.
GERMAN, DUTCH IMPORTS
While demand in the UK may be muted this summer given the loss of the UK's only long-range storage facility at Rough, northwest Europe is still seeing strong Norwegian gas demand to refill stocks.
Germany -- which has seen its imports from Norway drop off in recent years given its direct import link to Russian gas via Nord Stream -- imported 1.7 Bcm of Norwegian gas last month, down 28% on the year, but up on the previous months to its highest since last October.
Flows of Russian gas into Germany have risen each year since Nord Stream started, increasing from 23.9 Bcm in 2011 to 78.8 Bcm last year.
Germany is moving to refill its storage stocks, which were drawn down to just 3.2 Bcm by the end of March, according to Platts Analytics data. Demand for gas to replenish German stocks could drive higher demand for Norwegian gas over the summer.
In the Netherlands, meanwhile, imports from Norway rose back above the 2 Bcm mark in April, the first time since December last year.
Total supplies were 2.13 Bcm last month, the highest since August 2017's record high imports of 2.18 Bcm.
The Netherlands is increasingly dependent on imports from Norway due to falling production from the Groningen field, which is set to see its output gradually cut until the field is closed by 2030, according to the government's latest plan.
The current quota is 21.6 Bcm/year, but the cap is set to fall to below 12 Bcm/year by 2022.