LNG Futures Trading Soars in April Amid India's Summer Demand Prep


Following increased demand and geopolitical tensions, trading volumes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) futures saw a significant uptick in April, indicating strong activity in preparation for the upcoming summer season. Against this backdrop, India, a key player in the LNG market, continues to witness a rise in its LNG imports, fueled by multiple sectors such as power generation, industrial usage, and transportation.

Based on March 2024 figures, India imported a total of 1.9 million metric tonnes (MMT) of LNG, encompassing both long-term contracts and spot purchases, valued at USD 1113 million. Over the fiscal year 2023-24, India's overall LNG imports reached 23.3 MMT, valued at USD 13266 million. Projections indicate a potential 7-8 percent surge in LNG imports for 2024, driven by growing demand and continued infrastructure enhancements.

India's ambitions to elevate its LNG import capacity align with its goal to raise the share of natural gas in its energy mix to 15 percent by 2030, up from the current 7 percent. This move aims to reduce reliance on more polluting fossil fuels such as coal and oil. According to S&P Global Commodity Insights, the Japan Korea Marker (JKM) LNG futures and JKM LNG balance-month next-day futures traded volumes witnessed a significant uptick in April, reflecting market activity.

Data from the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) indicated a 5.65 percent month-on-month increase and a staggering 134.43 percent year-on-year rise, with 87,209 lots cleared. These derivative contracts, equivalent to approximately 16.77 million metric tonnes or 264 cargoes, indicate strong trading interest in LNG futures. Open interest for the contracts reached a 26-month high of 107,972 lots by the end of April, showcasing robust market participation.

The notable increase in LNG futures trading is attributed by analysts to several factors, including a rise in spot LNG prices across the Asia-Pacific region amid geopolitical tensions. Market sentiment became more cautious due to escalated risks, notably the conflict between Iran and Israel in mid-April. The Platts JKM, a significant benchmark reflecting LNG deliveries to Northeast Asia, experienced a rise, with the average price climbing to USD 10.07/MMBtu in April, up from USD 9.15/MMBtu in March.

The increase in prices had an impact on trading patterns, with certain market players favoring bilateral agreements over spot transactions. Despite the absence of East-West arbitrage opportunities in April, which restricted inter-regional trades, traders observed abundant cargo availability for June shipments, alleviating potential market challenges. Amidst prevailing geopolitical uncertainties and evolving market trends, India's ongoing emphasis on expanding its LNG infrastructure reaffirms its dedication to diversifying energy sources and catering to escalating demand.