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Analysis: First Yamal LNG cargo of year transits North Sea Route to arrive in Asia: cFlow

Houston — The first Yamal LNG cargo of 2019 transited the North Sea Route to arrive in Northeast Asia, data from S&P Global Platts' cFlow trade flow software showed Monday.

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The 172,000 cu m Vladimir Rusanov ice-breaking LNG tanker left the Yamal LNG facility in Sabetta, Russia on June 29 and arrived in South Korean waters over the weekend. The vessel is currently in a holding pattern off the South Korean island of Geoje.

Last week, ship transponder data showed the vessel's destination as the Port of Okpo on Geoje Island, which is the site of a Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering shipyard where the Vladimir Rusanov was built.

Updated data now shows the vessel's destination as Tianjin, China, with an expected arrival date of July 24. Tianjin hosts two LNG terminals operated by China's Sinopec and CNOOC.

The North Sea Route is traditionally only open during the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere, when certain ice-breaker class vessels such as the Vladimir Rusanov are able to make the journey. This route to Northeast Asia takes about 15 days, half the time of the alternative route using the Suez Canal.

Cargoes from Yamal LNG, therefore, have good access to both European and Asian markets during this period.

In 2018, only four cargoes transited the North Sea Route, with the last making the voyage in October. This year, however, delivered Asian prices are at a much lower premium to prices in Northwest Europe.

In summer 2018, the spread between delivered prices into Northeast Asia and those at European natural gas hubs, as proxied by the Platts JKM versus the equivalent NBP forward prices (AAPSA00), averaged $1.93/MMBtu in 2018. So far in summer 2019, that spread has collapsed to 81 cents/MMBtu.

The Yamal LNG project is majority owned by Novatek (50.1%), with Total (20%), CNPC (20%) and the Silk Road Fund (9.9%) also holding stakes in the project.

-- Luke Stobbart,

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,