European Gas Prices Jump as U.S. Weighs More Sanctions on Russia
European natural gas futures jumped as traders weighed the risk of fresh international sanctions against top supplier Russia and its new pipeline project if it invades Ukraine.
The U.S. will push Germany to agree to stop the contested Nord Stream 2 gas link if Russia invades its neighbor, according to documents seen by Bloomberg and people familiar with the plans.
Dutch front-month gas, the European benchmark, surged as much as 7.9% earlier Tuesday as heightened tensions added to existing concerns over Russian supplies, which have already been curtailed in recent months while the continent’s stockpiles remain unusually low.
“EU consumers are not getting any break from punitive gas prices,” said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank A/S. “The market is once again caught up in geopolitical developments with Ukraine border worries raising the prospect for more sanctions on Russia.”
Global competition for the fuel increased further after Royal Dutch Shell Plc canceled several liquefied natural gas shipments because of an outage in Australia. Prices are also supported by colder weather forecasts for western Europe, as well as freezing temperatures in Russia, according to consultant Engie EnergyScan.
The Dutch contract closed 6.6% higher at 95.88 euros a megawatt-hour, while U.K. month-ahead gas gained 6% to 243.98 pence a therm.
Nord Stream 2 is already facing delays after Germany paused the approval process for the pipeline last month until its owner restructures its operations.
Russia has kept European gas traders on edge this year, even though it said it supplies as much fuel to the region as it has to under its contracts.
Deliberate cuts as a retaliation to potential sanctions don’t seem possible, said Ron Smith, an analyst at BCS Global Markets in Moscow. That would be “rightly considered a hostile move and would have severe economic, political, and diplomatic repercussions,” he said. “I think that Western politicians in general overemphasize the potential of the ‘gas weapon’ as a realistic, peremptory tool for Russia’s international relations.”
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