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GNL | Gas natural

US LNG utilization expected to rebound quickly after storm passes Gulf Coast

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US LNG utilization expected to rebound quickly after storm passes Gulf Coast

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Feedgas levels drop for fourth day as Beta weakens

Improved market fundamentals seen lasting into winter

Houston — Feedgas deliveries to major US liquefaction facilities fell sharply Sept. 22 for the fourth day in a row as pilot services in channels leading to several Gulf Coast terminals remained suspended or restricted due to high seas caused by Beta.

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Meanwhile, Sempra Energy's Cameron LNG remained offline from an earlier storm, and along the East Coast Dominion Energy's Cove Point terminal was undergoing annual maintenance.

The disruptions have bolstered LNG spreads, with the netback from the Dutch TTF rising to a year to date high of $1.34/MMBtu on Sept. 22. Relatively cheap feedgas and shipping costs also have contributed to positive market fundamentals that will likely incentivize a strong return to exports once Beta, which weakened from a tropical storm to a depression after coming ashore in Texas, passes the area.

Total US feedgas demand dropped to 3.9 Bc/d -- the lowest level since Sept. 2 -- from 5.1 Bcf/d the day before, S&P Global Platts Analytics data show. Flows had surged to 8.3 Bcf/d, even with Cameron offline, on Sept. 18, just as Beta was approaching the US coast.

The decline in flows Sept. 22 was largely driven by lower utilization at Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass terminal in southwest Louisiana and Freeport LNG, south of Houston. Pilot services to the channel serving Sabine Pass remained suspended Sept. 22, while vessel traffic within the channel serving Freeport LNG was restricted, according to separate shipping advisories to customers. With Beta weakening as the day progressed, the restrictions were expected to ease.

Cameron LNG's three trains remained offline for the 28th day in a row, after shutting down ahead of Hurricane Laura's landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 27 and staying down due to damage to power infrastructure in the area. As of Sept. 22, power had been restored to 99% of utility Entergy's affected customers. Partial power was restored to Cameron LNG. Still, the CEO of operator and majority owner Sempra said recently it could be as late as the end of October before the terminal was back to full operations.

In Maryland, Cove Point remained offline for the second day in a row as planned maintenance continued. Dominion has declined to say how long the outage will last; the facility's annual maintenance in 2019 lasted 24 days.

The post-storm recovery in US LNG exports is set to continue in the lead up to winter. Five or fewer cargoes scheduled to be loaded in November from US export terminals were said to have been canceled by customers. That's the lowest number since May.

The international value of LNG has been recovering steadily since the middle of the year, when record lows for several Platts LNG markers were recorded. The recovery of LNG prices in Asia and Europe, the two main markets for US exports, has in turn increased the value of US-origin spot cargoes, which had been trending below the cost of domestic gas prices since the start of April. A recent fall in the value of US gas prices has also helped to bolster the viability of exports.