© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Port of Long Beach is shown in this aerial photograph taken above Long Beach, California August 5, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake
By Marcy de Luna
HOUSTON (Reuters) -U.S. liquefied (LNG) exports rose nearly 16% last month to a record high, according to preliminary Refinitiv data, with shipments to Europe continuing to dominate.
U.S. LNG is in high demand as European countries try to cut gas imports from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine while also looking to rebuild low inventories.
U.S. LNG exports to all destinations were about 7.43 million tonnes (MT) last month, according to Refinitiv, up from 6.4 MT in February and topping the prior record of 7.25 MT in January.
Europe was the top importer of U.S. LNG for a fourth straight month, taking about 65% of U.S. exports. About 12% of exports went to Asia, and 3% to Latin America, the data showed. About 20 vessels responsible for 20% of volumes had not signaled a destination.
“The U.S. continues to emphasize European buyers,” said Reid I’Anson, senior commodity analyst at data provider Kpler.
MORE GAS NEEDED
While U.S. LNG exports to Europe have ripped higher since November, analysts said more is needed with European gas inventories only about a quarter full, below the five-year average of about 34% for this time of year.
For graphic on U.S. LNG exports, click here: https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-LNG/EXPORTS/lgpdwqaxqvo
The European Commission has proposed inventories be 80% full by Nov. 1, which could keep demand strong after the winter heating season ends.
Germany in February said it would build two LNG import terminals and boost reserves to cut dependence on Russian gas.
“In order to manage risks, European countries must follow Germany’s example and start a procedure to ration gas demand and prepare for an eventual supply cut,” said Vinicius Romano, an analyst at the Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy.
As many as 19 LNG tankers were near or on the way to U.S. Gulf Coast export terminals on Friday, according to data from Refinitiv Vessel Tracking service.
Global LNG prices remained high in March, with European prices still drawing demand from Asia. The European LNG benchmark this week traded at $39.22 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), according to Refinitiv, compared to $28.61 per mmBtu for the same week in February.
Asia spot gas this week traded at $35.00 per mmBtu, according to Refinitiv, down from $37.50 per mmBtu for the same period in February.
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