Asia's natural gas, kerosene demand rises as cold spell spreads

Jan 08 2013, 15:04 IST
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SummaryPremiums for fuel oil, also used by utilities in Japan, have risen 20 percent to about $120-$130 a tonne.

The chilliest winter in decades has pushed up demand for fuel to keep homes and offices warm in much of Asia, taking natural gas prices close to their 2012 high and disrupting the production and transport of oil and coal in top energy consumer China.

China is facing its lowest temperatures in nearly 28 years. Japan has seen record snowfall in many places and in northern India the coldest weather in at least 44 years has killed more than 100 homeless people.

"Weather has definitely had an impact on energy demand. Even though coal prices softened towards the end of the year, the impact on physical demand has been seen in the stocks," said Sijin Cheng, a commodity analyst at Barclays.

"For natural gas, we've seen companies increasing spot purchases, which has been tied to consumer use and heating."

The rise in winter demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG) has helped fuel a rally of nearly 40 percent since mid-October, taking the price close to the 2012 high of $18 per mmBtu (million British thermal units) LNG-AS.

Australian thermal coal prices have rallied 15 percent since mid-November to trade at around $95 per tonne as Japan steps up imports and supplies in China tighten. The price is still down around $20 on a year ago after abundant supply and slowing demand growth from China hit the market.

Premiums to Asia spot prices for kerosene, a popular fuel in Japan for heating homes, shipped from neighbouring South Korea rose to a multi-year high of about $12 a barrel, one North Asian trader said on Tuesday. That is a 20 percent increase from two weeks ago and more than double the $5 a barrel premium the same time last year, the trader said.

Premiums for fuel oil, also used by utilities in Japan, have risen 20 percent to about $120-$130 a tonne above Singapore spot quotes, CFR Japan basis, the highest in about six months.


PetroChina, China's largest oil and gas producer, said it would buy an additional 400 million cubic metres of LNG, or 296,000 tonnes, from the spot market for the first quarter as the country asks companies to increase gas output and imports to meet soaring winter demand.

Japan, the world's largest LNG importer, is expected to buy nearly 900,000 tonnes more of the fuel between December and March 2013 than a year ago, according to forecasts from the Institute of Energy Economics, because of higher demand.


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