Long-term gas deals become pricey as world moves to quit Russia

LNG shipping Source: Shell

Liquefied natural gas suppliers are asking clients to pay much higher rates for new long-term contracts, as a global effort to cut Russian imports is expected to keep the market tight for the next decade.

The industry’s top suppliers are offering 10-year contracts that start in 2023 at rates about 75 per cent above the price of similar deals signed just last year, according to traders with knowledge of the matter. Volatile spot prices and a worsening supply deficit outlook triggered a rush by importers to negotiate long-term deals.

LNG spot rates from Asia to Europe surged to records last month as the war in Ukraine exacerbated an already tight market. Prices are expected to remain elevated for years as Europe boosts imports of LNG to curb dependence on Russian pipeline gas, outpacing additional supplies.

Contracted LNG supply linked to the price of oil – a practice dating back to the 1970s – is currently much lower than the cost of buying a shipment from the spot market. But that discount is shrinking as available supplies dwindle.

War, the energy transition, severe weather and surging demand are creating a period of upheaval that is tightening supply like never before in the natural gas industry. The global LNG market could be short nearly 100 million tons per year by the middle of the decade if the world moves to cut Russian gas, according to a Credit Suisse report last month. 

Pricier long-term LNG contracts threaten to boost electricity and heating rates, adding to inflation fears. It could also make the fuel unattainable for some cash-strapped emerging nations, like Pakistan.

Suppliers including major producers and portfolio players are offering to sign 10-year LNG deals that start next year at 16 per cent to 18 per cent of the price of Brent crude. For comparison, Qatar was signing supply agreements to Chinese customers in the low-10 per cent range early last year. Beijing Gas Group Co. inked a deal just below 13 per cent this January.

While no deal has yet to be signed at 18 per cent the price of Brent, such a rate would likely be among the most expensive ever signed, according to traders.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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