China is lapping up liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments from Russia on the cheap. The Sakhalin-2 LNG export plant in Russia’s Far East sold several shipments to China for delivery through December at nearly half the current spot price in a tender that closed earlier this week, according to traders with knowledge of the matter.
Still, global rates have soared so much this year that the project can profit from those sales.
The move is beneficial for both countries — China is able to secure cheaper supply and resell shipments from more expensive exporters to utilities in Europe and Asia, while Russia can continue selling fuel at a profit. Japan and South Korea, traditionally the top destinations for Sakhalin LNG, have stopped buying spot shipments from the plant since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
“Russian supply is still making its way into the market, just with a reorganisation of trade flows via market participants who don’t take issue with accepting Russian cargoes,” said Saul Kavonic, an energy analyst at Credit Suisse. “It appears China is happy to take Russian LNG cargoes at discounts, swapping out alternative supply that can then be directed to Europe at higher prices.”
China’s LNG imports from Russia surged to the highest level in at least two years in August, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. Meanwhile, deliveries from the US have slumped as Chinese importers divert cargoes to Europe at a hefty profit.
The operator of Sakhalin-2 is primarily owned by Gazprom PJSC, and was recently redomiciled to Russia after a decree by President Vladimir Putin. The move forced Shell Plc to abandon its 27.5% stake in the project for nothing.