In the fourth quarter of 2022, average European and Asian prices fell back compared to the previous year. European prices have been extremely volatile in the short term, with periods of dramatic, weather-driven declines. The TTF price has fallen over the last four weeks to pre-war levels in Ukraine, a sign of unexpected easing in the European market as the Russian gas crisis intensifies. The drop in gas consumption, due to unusually mild weather and the decline in industrial activity, and the continued strong growth in LNG imports explain the very high level of European gas stocks, which reaches 930 TWh at the beginning of 2023. This situation has pushed down spot and forward prices and eased fears of tensions in the coming months.
In the third quarter of 2022, European and Asian spot gas prices reached new record highs but remained highly volatile. Driven by the Russian gas crisis and threats of pipeline supply cut, European gas prices peaked at over €300/MWh at end-August, contributing strongly to the European inflation. However, three bearish factors have moderated European prices over the last few weeks: the good replenishment of stocks, the very strong growth in LNG imports at the expense of China and the sharp reduction in gas consumption (plants’ closures and industrial demand destruction, energy substitution and energy savings) in response to the surge in gas prices. The massive inflow of LNG and the destruction of demand in Europe have kept storage levels high and these two factors will be crucial to get through the next winter without a deficit.
In the second quarter of 2022, European and Asian spot gas prices were on average lower than the levels of the first quarter but experienced strong trend variations. After an exceptional price surge in the days following the invasion of Ukraine in early March, prices fell back to levels of around $20/MBtu to $30/MBtu until mid-June. In Europe, the mild temperatures, the sharp fall in gas consumption, the growth in LNG imports and the high inventory filling rates had a moderating effect on prices. But since mid-June, Russian gas supply cuts through the Nord Stream pipeline and the shutdown of the Freeport LNG plant in the United States have caused spot prices to soar again. Europe is entering the third quarter on high alert, with the risk of prolonged disruptions in Russian gas supplies, prompting emergency measures.