On the back of news that the US's largest LNG export facility would be down for 90 days, and partially offline until year end, Russia has elected to dial down natural gas exports to Europe. The Kremlin has halted another turbine at a compressor station connected to the Nord Stream pipeline, indicating that maintenance has been impacted by sanctions. Tuesday, European natural gas prices rallied ~18%, and prices rose another 23% Wednesday.
European natural gas inventories have recovered to near seasonal average levels, as the continent has pulled LNG cargoes from all corners of the globe. However, the absolute quantity of inventory remains low relative to import needs, with total stocks of ~57bcm. Natural gas imports from Russia alone stood at 155bcm in 2021, and ~300bcm in total, which suggests the Kremlin remains largely in control of European gas prices (UNG), particularly as US exports remain curtailed.
For energy investors (XLE), anyone selling gas into Europe should benefit from ongoing supply challenges, particularly suppliers unimpacted by the Freeport LNG outage, like Shell (SHEL) and Chevron (CVX). Domestic suppliers like Equinor (EQNR), Vermilion (VET) and NRT (NRT) also stand to benefit from elevated pricing. Given Europe's ability to pull natural gas cargoes away from poorer countries, seaborne coal suppliers like Peabody (BTU) and Whitehaven (OTCPK:WHITF) will benefit from elevated coal use in Asia and Africa. However, for investors more broadly, having the Kremlin in control of power and heating costs in the world's largest economic block is likely to feed inflation and recession concerns in the medium term.