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Analysis: Dutch TTF gas a growing influence on JKM LNG pricing as spread narrows

Highlights

Low JKM-TTF spread leads TTF to play a technical resistance

Spread expected to open in Q1 20, TTF to lose influence on JKM

London — Weakness in the Platts JKM market this year and its decorrelation with Brent has prompted LNG sellers to start using the Dutch gas hub TTF price as a floor for the market, an S&P Global Platts analysis found.

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The JKM has traditionally followed LNG long-term contracts, the majority of which are linked to crude oil prices.

But Asian LNG prices have been falling since last winter due to strong supply and muted demand, leading the Platts JKM spot price to fall close to the TTF price. Meanwhile, Dated Brent prices have remained robust, creating a significant disparity with JKM.

The JKM spot price fell almost 40% in the first half of the year to stand at $5.509/MMBtu on June 30, according to S&P Global Platts data, while the equivalent Asia weighted average contract declined 14.7% to $9.375/MMBtu.

"It is interesting to see that LNG sellers now have to adjust their JKM spot and forward offers to the Dutch TTF gas hub level," a London-based LNG broker said, pointing to TTFas the current technical support for the JKM.

European natural gas prices rose last week, supported by coal and carbon prices and lower flows from Norway and Russia. Both JKM spot and derivatives have also gained value in the last days mirroring the TTF bullish movements.

On Friday, JKM for August was assessed 21.3 cents/MMBtu higher day on day at $4.588/MMBtu, the biggest single-day price rise since April 12, according to Platts data. The JKM derivative for October delivery was assessed at $5.60/MMBtu on Friday, up 25 cents/MMBtu on the day.

TTF month-ahead was assessed at $4.588/MMBtu on Friday at the close, leaving the JKM premium at just 17.5 cents/MMBtu, having traded at a discount of 20 cents/MMBtu at one stage during the day.

The tight spread between TTF and JKM suggested Europe remained the preferred option for LNG supply, as netbacks favored Europe. For instance the August netback for Northwest Europe from the US Gulf Coast was $3.713/MMBtu on Friday, compared with $3.118/MMBtu for Japan/Korea.

Related story: JKM LNG derivatives June volume shrinks 7.7% to 142 cargoes

U-Turn in Q1 2020?

"The question is, what will happen with European prices if storage will be close to full? This could depress TTF, widening the gap [to JKM]. Then TTF would have less influence on JKM, partly because Europe would not be able to compete with Asia as it cannot physically take more gas," said Gergely Molnar, gas analyst at the International Energy Agency.

Stock levels in Northwest Europe plus Italy are 80% full, compared with 59% a year ago, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe.

"There are increasing concerns that European gas storage could hit 'tank tops' by the end of summer, opening up further downside to prices," HSBC oil and gas analyst Kim Fustier said.

Forward prices assessed by Platts at Friday's close showed the spread opening again in Q1 2020, with the US Gulf Coast and Nigerian netbacks for Asia being higher than those for Northwest Europe.

Once the spread opens, and the JKM returns to a larger premium, TTF will have less influence.

"In periods of oversupply, TTF will provide a key benchmark for global LNG pricing, but this dynamic will be short-lived if winter demand materializes at seasonal norms in Asia," S&P Global Platts Analytics senior LNG analyst Samer Mosis said.

-- Lucie Roux, lucie.roux@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Joe Fisher, newsdesk@spglobal.com