Japan’s energy policy is undergoing fundamental changes. The accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant questions the future contribution of nuclear power in the national energy mix. Growing imports of fossil fuels to replace the lost nuclear capacity inflated energy prices and raise economic and energy security challenges. At the same time, the US shale gas and oil revolution is reshaping the global energy scene. Japan expects to take advantage of the trend to eliminate the “Asian premium” on natural gas prices and expand cheaper natural gas consumption. These developments have driven the Government of Japan to review its energy policy from scratch and adopt a new Strategic Energy Plan. This new policy has far reaching implications for gas and coal development in Japan but also for the international markets as Japan is the world’s largest LNG importer and the second largest coal importer.
NBP: volatile and rising
The NBP price stood at €21.8/MWh ($8.1/MBtu) in October, an increase of 4.5% in one month. However, it stayed at a level that continues to be moderate, 17% lower than the price a year ago. The market remains relatively volatile (-5% to +4% compared to the average) influenced by factors such as the temperature, fluctuations in Norwegian deliveries and declarations related to the Russo-Ukrainian negotiations. For instance, on October 17 (+1.6%), the Russian president warned Europe about big transit risks for gas this winter, just before the October 21 negotiations with Ukraine (still ongoing on the 29th). For now, the market is not anticipating a crisis. The projected winter price remains moderate, between €23.5 and 25.5/MWh ($8.7 and 9.4/MBtu) compared to €26/MWh ($10.3/MBtu) last winter. Actual trends will depend in particular on temperature (currently moderate) and deliveries from Russia. The range of “possibles” remains fairly broad, with Asian LNG providing a potential ceiling for the NBP price in the event of a crisis.
CEDIGAZ, the International Center for Natural Gas Information, has released today the updated version of its Worlwide Underground Gas Storage (UGS) database. According to Cedigaz, worldwide working gas capacity stood at 399 bcm at January 1, 2014, a 5% growth over the previous year. Salt caverns represented 8% of working gas capacities worldwide and 26% of daily withdrawal capacity, they were the fastest growing segment of the market, with a 10% growth rate in 2013 and a 33% share of the planned projects backlog in terms of capacity. In difficult times for storage operators, European capacities grew by almost 3% (+13% for salt caverns).