Lucie Roux talks about prices on the TRS natural gas hub in southern France having reached record highs in January as sustained cold weather exacerbated a tight supply system caused by limited global LNG supplies, low storage levels and internal flow constraints.
Southern French LNG terminal Fos near Marseilles is set to receive seven cargoes in February but traders remain concerned as the supply situation could become even tighter if the cold weather persists into February. This would likely cause storage levels to fall below the level needed to ensure secure supplies, in turn triggering gas prices to spike again.
STRAP: Lucie Roux, Senior Specialist, European Gas and Power in London Welcome to the Snapshot, our series that examines the forces shaping and driving global commodities markets today.
The cold weather sweeping across Europe in January has pushed natural gas spot prices to record highs in southern France, which is already suffering from nuclear power outages. Temperatures in France in particular fell below the seasonal average, causing spikes in demand and prices.
IMAGE 1: FRENCH TRS GAS SPOT PRICE HITS NEW HIGH
In fact, spot prices on France’s southern gas hub TRS spiked several times in January to record highs. TRS became the most expensive gas hub in Europe, beating Italian PSV spot prices. The TRS day-ahead reached a peak of 45 euros per megawatt hour on January 20.
Supply issues also contributed to the rocketing gas prices, including a bottleneck in the southeast, low LNG sendouts and low gas storage levels, as well as restrictions on the so-called North-South gas link within France.
With France dependent on electricity for much of its heating, the cold weather drove demand for gas in power generation, in particular as several French nuclear plants are offline for repairs and hydro stocks are at their lowest.
IMAGE 2: GAS TO SPAIN VIA FRANCE SOARS IN JANUARY
Demand for gas was also higher in neighboring countries, such as Spain and Italy. French gas exports to Spain soared in January to record highs, despite the very tight system and high demand in the south of France.
The system became so tight that French gas grid operator GRTGaz started to publish a daily alert from January 6, indicating minimum LNG volumes to be sent out into the grid at the Fos terminal near Marseilles, in order to preserve storage levels until the end of winter.
IMAGE 3: SOUTHERN FRANCE GAS STOCKS AT 5 YEAR LOW
Storage levels in southeast France are currently at their lowest in five years, as they already started the winter season at a relatively low level.
But extra LNG imports to preserve storage has been hard to find, partly because of an unplanned outage at the Algerian LNG plant Skikda since the end of December, a main supplier of the Fos LNG terminal.
This issue coincided with high LNG spot demand in the Middle East, in particular in Turkey, leading to a shortage in LNG spot availability.
The high prices attracted a new cargo to Fos on January 24 from France’s northern Montoir LNG terminal -- the first time this has happened in 10 years.
7 other cargos from unknown provenance are expected in February.
But the situation remains tense.
STRAP : French TRS gas prices to reach new highs if February very cold
While traders can still count on French storage in January, if the cold weather continues, February could see even higher gas prices in southern France if storage levels fall too low to ensure security of supply.
STRAP – www.spglobal.com/platts
Until next time on the Snapshot, we’ll be keeping an eye on the markets.