* Vitol seeks 4 cargoes for 2019-2020 for South Korea - trader
* LNG imports into Northeast Asia at monthly record high - data
* Australia’s Prelude FLNG starts production
By Jessica Jaganathan
SINGAPORE, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) slipped this week amid thin trade, though monthly deliveries into Northeast Asia climbed to a record in December as colder-than-normal temperatures are expected this week.
Spot prices for February delivery to Asia LNG-AS dropped to $9.10 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), with bids and offers remaining wide apart from $8.70 to $9.50 per mmBtu, industry sources said.
Trade was largely quiet with many traders on Christmas holidays.
Commodities trader Vitol Asia bid in S&P Global Platts’ pricing process on Thursday for a series of four LNG cargoes to be delivered over 2019 to 2020, according to one trader.
The cargoes were for delivery over May 10 to 20, August 10 to 20, November 10 to 20 in 2019 and Feb. 10-20 in 2020 into Port of Gwangyang, South Korea.
Meanwhile LNG imports into China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have climbed to 20.5 million tonnes so far in December, already 5 percent more than the previous monthly record of 19.5 million tonnes back in January, data from Refinitiv Eikon showed.
December shipments were nearly 15 percent higher than November, the data showed.
Temperatures across Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul are expected to be colder than normal this week, with a widespread chill likely to cover China over the next 10 days, weather forecasts from Refinitiv Eikon show.
Lower shipping rates could also be aiding flows into the region, industry sources said. Rates dropped to about $85,000 to $100,000 per day this week from $110,000 to $120,000 the previous week.
The rates have dropped as several vessels which were at sea with LNG cargoes for Asia have been released after discharging their loads, one of the industry sources said.
Elsewhere, Australia’s Ichthys LNG plant and Malaysia’s Petronas may have offered cargoes for January, sources said, though details were not immediately clear.
Royal Dutch Shell said earlier this week that it has begun output at its Prelude floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) facility in Australia, the world’s largest floating production structure and the last of a wave of eight LNG projects built in the country over the last decade.
Shell did not immediately respond to a Reuters query on when first LNG will be exported from the facility, but analysts estimate exports to start by first half of next year, with condensates likely to start first. (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)