Press digest

2020 May 20

Yamal LNG on fast boat to China as Northern route melts early

The first vessel to deliver a liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo from Russia’s Yamal plant via the Northern Sea Route this year is on its way to China, ship-tracking data showed and analysts said.

The direct route to Asia, shorter than the westward journey via Europe, is frozen for much of the year, but is being used increasingly as climate change means it is free of ice for longer.

This year’s opening is more than a month earlier compared to 2019, when first vessel to go via the route left Yamal LNG on June 29.

The Christophe de Margerie vessel, an Arc7-classed LNG tanker, left the Sabbeta port in Russia’s Arctic on May 18 and is expected at China National Petroleum Corp’ (CNPC) Tangshan LNG terminal on June 11, data on Refinitiv Eikon showed.

The last eastward journey in 2019 was made by the Boris Davydov tanker that delivered a Yamal cargo to South Korea in October last year, according to data intelligence firm Kpler and Refinitiv Eikon.

Yamal LNG has a 15-strong fleet of Arc7-classed LNG tankers that are the only vessels able to get to the facility to load cargoes in winter and the only ones able to ship cargoes eastwards via the Northern Sea Route in summer, when icebergs melt enough to let them pass.

Independent Russian gas producer Novatek began operations at Yamal in December 2017.

PetroChina, the international arm of CNPC, is a 20% stakeholder and customer of Yamal.

China’s LNG demand is recovering from a dip caused by the coronavirus lockdown earlier this year, contributing to a rise in spot LNG prices in Asia over the last week.