European Gas Prices On The Decline

Early start of summer and ample LNG supply push gas prices down

European natural gas prices have been on the slide for several days now as an early start of summer combines with ample LNG supplies to quench supply worries. According to a Bloomberg report, natural gas prices in Europe have been on the decline for five days now as demand eases while supply remains strong thanks to LNG and continued deliveries by Gazprom via Ukraine and the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Europe became the biggest buyer of U.S. liquefied natural gas a few months ago as it sought to reduce its dependence on Russian gas even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This has led to a spike not only in gas prices but also in LNG carrier rates, which recently hit the highest in a decade.

Despite the lower demand, gas prices in Europe remain quite elevated as importers seek to refill their reserves ahead of the next heating season. Some of these might be worse off than others as Gazprom suspended deliveries to Poland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, and Denmark over their refusal to pay for the gas in rubles.

Still, most of the large gas buyers that supply European countries with natural gas from Gazprom have accepted the latter’s payment terms, ensuring the uninterrupted supply of gas. According to unnamed sources cited by Bloomberg today, Gazprom was unlikely to cut off supplies to any other European buyers for now.

U.K. Inflation Hits 40-Year High

Prices rose 9% in one year

UK inflation, the rate at which prices rise, jumped to 9% in the 12 months to April, up from 7% in March. The surge came as millions of people saw an unprecedented £700-a-year increase in energy costs last month.

Higher fuel and food prices, driven by the Ukraine war, are also pushing the cost of living up, with inflation expected to continue to rise this year. Citizens Advice said “the warning lights could not be flashing brighter” for the government to offer more support for households, and debt charities urged anyone finding it difficult to pay bills to seek help earlier rather than later in the year.

Around three quarters of the rise in inflation in April came from higher electricity and gas bills, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Europe Determined To Ban Russian Energy Exports

How to hurt Russia’s finances without raising the price of oil and gas

Europe is determined to ban—fully or partially—imports of Russian oil and gas, a senior White House advisor said on Friday. Europe has been under pressure to decrease its reliance on Russian energy, including coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear fuel in order to starve Russia of its main income stream. “I have confidence that Europe is getting the message, and they are determined to close off this last source of export revenue,” Daleep Singh, deputy White House national security advisor, told CNN in an interview.

But several particularly oil-dependent countries in Europe, including Germany, have so far refused to support an immediate or full ban on Russian oil and gas. “It’s important that they do this as soon as they can,” Singh said, adding that they need to do it “in a way that’s smart.”

According to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, a full EU ban on Russian crude oil and gas imports could have unintended economic consequences for both the United States and its Western allies. While Yellen agrees that the EU needs to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas, “we need to be careful when we think about a complete ban on, say, oil imports,” Yellen said on Thursday.

The sticking point is finding a way to hurt Russia’s finances without raising the price of oil and gas, hurting Europe and the United States.

Russia threatens to stop supplying gas if not paid in roubles

There may not be an immediate threat to supplies

Vladimir Putin has signed a decree stating buyers “must open rouble accounts in Russian banks” from Friday. “Nobody sells us anything for free, and we are not going to do charity either – that is, existing contracts will be stopped,” the Russian president said. Mr Putin’s demand is being seen as an attempt to boost the rouble, which has been hit by Western sanctions.

His decree means foreign buyers of Russian gas would have to open an account at Russia’s Gazprombank and transfer euros or US dollars into it. Gazprombank would then convert this into roubles which will then be used to make the payment for gas.

Though the order comes into effect for gas exported from Friday onwards, the payments for that gas will not be paid by European buyers until mid-May, Dr Jack Sharples, a research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies told the BBC. That suggests there may not be an immediate threat to supplies.

China Could Cause The Next Massive Crash In Oil Prices

Slower economic growth and a huge debt bubble pose a tremendous risk to oil markets

Given the extreme disconnect between China’s huge economy-driven oil and gas needs and its minimal level of domestic oil and gas reserves, the country’s influence over oil prices has long been profound. As a result of this imbalance, China almost alone created the 2000-2014 commodities ‘supercycle’, characterized by consistently rising price trends for all commodities that are used in a booming manufacturing and infrastructure environment.

This was a product largely of the 8 percent-plus annual GDP growth recorded by China over that period, with many spikes well above 10 percent and only a relatively short move down in economic growth at the onset of the Great Financial Crisis.

Aside from huge quantities of imported oil and gas, this massive economic growth was fuelled by enormous debt piled up but then hidden away in various financial mechanisms that China believed it could simply pay off eventually through its rapid economic growth. Developments in the last week or so hint that both of these bubbles may be set to burst, taking the big bid in oil out of the market.

Soaring European Energy Prices

Europe’s natural gas and electricity prices could rise even further

Record breaking natural gas and electricity prices in Europe could be the harbinger of increased volatility in global commodity markets, according to Goldman Sachs. “European energy pricing dynamics offer a glimpse of what is in store for other commodity markets, with widening deficits and depleting inventories leading to elevated price volatility,” the investment bank’s analysts wrote in a new report carried by Bloomberg.

Depleted natural gas inventories and low wind speeds have led to a surge in electricity prices across Europe, putting pressure on governments as consumers protest against soaring power bills ahead of the winter heating season. Electricity prices from the UK to Spain have jumped to all-time highs, people in Spain have taken to the streets, while prices across Europe so high could become a drag on the economic recovery from the pandemic.

According to Goldman Sachs, Europe’s natural gas and electricity prices could rise even further, considering that gas levels in inventories are at a ten-year low—and not filling fast enough—just ahead of the winter heating season that begins next month.