All aboard! Treasure on the high seas for gas dealers

LONDON (Reuters) – In the booming market for super cooled natural gas, the most precious commodity is the ship. A global quest for cleaner energy has fired up demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG), which produces less carbon dioxide than coal. But an abundance of supply has helped keep prices subdued, meaning the most profitable trade is in renting out vessels to transport it. Reflecting the white-hot demand for ships, over a dozen different companies, including energy majors BP and ExxonMobil, trading house Trafigura and gas utility Centrica are already looking to charter boats for the winter, according to four shipping industry sources, months earlier than usual. ExxonMobil, Centrica and Trafigura declined to comment. BP did not respond to requests for comment. Energy firms are trying to avoid getting stuck without ships on charter for the winter, when cold weather typically drives up trade in LNG and, consequently, transport costs. They also want to profit off less nimble rivals. Last winter, spot charter rates – the cost of renting a ship to transport LNG in real-time – soared to almost $200,000 per day in November compared to around $40,000 in May, squeezing those companies which had left it too late… continue reading

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