UK natural gas price hovers near 4-year peak
UK natural gas prices stayed near their highest level in four years on Wednesday, reflecting supply disruptions in the North Sea, but the reopening of a key European hub for Russian imports helped ease concerns over shortages.
The cost of gas for the UK’s energy needs eased 5 pence to 68p a therm, though it remains up 17 per cent since the beginning of the month. The price for delivery in January dipped nearly 5p to 60.85p.
Fears of a supply crunch have risen during the cold snap gripping the country, sparked by the shutdown of a key North Sea oil and gas pipeline that is expected to cut as much as 40 per cent of daily supply into the new year.
A surge in gas prices on Tuesday also reflected an explosion at the Baumgarten gas import hub in Austria, the main conduit for Russian supplies into Europe.
The operator Gas Connect Austria said on Wednesday that the main arteries supplying neighbouring countries had come back online late on Tuesday.
Same-day UK gas prices rose almost 50 per cent to a high of 99p a therm on Tuesday, the highest level since 2013.
The shutdown of the Forties Pipeline System caused the closure of the British North Sea Elgin-Franklin and Britannia gasfields.
On Wednesday, the UK’s gas system was undersupplied by 27.8m cubic metres as demand fell short of flows, National Grid data showed, but the UK government stressed that the country had adequate import capacity.
The pipeline outage has also reduced supplies of North Sea crude oil by 450,000 b/d, boosting oil prices to the highest in more than two years.
Brent crude, the international oil benchmark underpinned by supplies from the North Sea, jumped to almost $66 a barrel on Tuesday. Prices have since eased to $63.76 a barrel.
Alongside short-term supply and demand dynamics, oil market watchers are also looking ahead into 2018.
Opec revised higher its output growth figures from producers outside of the cartel for this year and next, saying that production, particularly from US shale fields, presented “considerable uncertainties”.
“US, Canada and Kazakhstan have been the key contributors to the upward revisions,” said Opec. “The momentum seen this year is expected to continue in 2018 on the back of increased investment in US tight oil and improved well efficiency.”
The performance of US shale oil producers is in focus as industry watchers judge the effectiveness of supply cuts led by Opec and countries such as Russia, which have been extended for the duration of 2018.
Ahead of a meeting of oil ministers in Vienna in November, Russia pushed for guidance on when the supply curbs deal would end, as domestic oil companies expressed concern about US producers taking advantage of a price rebound.
Opec kingpin Saudi Arabia has said that it is “premature” to discuss an exit strategy as global inventories still remain above their five-year average, meaning that producers had more work to do to ease bloated stockpiles.
The cartel said on Wednesday that supply and demand in the oil market would not come into balance until late 2018.
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