January 6, 2010 / 9:37 PM / 10 years ago

US LNG sendout hits over 2-yr highs as cold holds

NEW YORK, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Natural gas sent out from U.S. liquefied natural gas terminals hit over two-year highs on Tuesday as cold weather boosted prices and drew incremental tankers to the U.S. East and Gulf coasts, analysts figures showed on Wednesday.

Sendout rose above 3 billion cubic feet as nearly all U.S. LNG terminals sent gas into the grid to meet cold weather demand, according to analysts’ estimates.

The volumes, which have been rising gradually over the last few days, are the highest seen since August 2007 when LNG imports were at record highs. The record send-out was about 4 bcf on Aug. 9, 2007, analysts said.

“Four days in a row between 2.5 and 3.5 bcf per day of sendout makes you sit up and notice,” said Dave Purcell, head of macro research at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co in Houston.

Tudor saw a 3.2 bcf sendout on Tuesday, with NATS analysts in Raleigh, North Carolina, seeing numbers closer to 4 bcf.

A rise in U.S. gas prices above those in Britain has helped coax incremental LNG cargoes to the United States in January as shippers look for the best netback in the Atlantic. Throughout last year prices favoured delivery to Britain.

U.S. gas futures rose 15 percent in December and continued their rise to above $6 per million British thermal units on Wednesday as cold weather continued.

Terminals across the East and Gulf Coasts, some of which have barely taken a cargo in recent weeks, are now seeing some action. The Cove Point terminal in Maryland, which has imported about two cargoes a month since October, received two cargoes this week alone.

The world’s largest producer Qatar, which sent a steady stream of cargoes to Europe last year, is now increasingly targeting North American terminals as prices rise. At least two Qatargas tankers are currently on route to U.S. shores.

Analysts expect this to be the beginning of a near doubling of LNG imports to the United States in 2010 — to an average 2.3 bcf per day — as new global production comes online and demand in the traditionally large importers in the far east remains dampened by economic woes. (Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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