Two Qatari LNG shipments, believed to be U.K.-bound, abruptly changed direction in the Gulf of Aden Thursday, raising speculation that the row between Qatar and its Mideast neighbors will spill more broadly into the global gas market.
U.K. natural gas futures spiked nearly 4 percent as the reports began to circulate. Qatar is the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, and so far the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt has had little impact in energy markets. The two Qatar shipments were believed to have been headed for Britain's South Hook terminal, partly owned by Qatar Petroleum.
According to Kpler, the tanker Al Mafyar, carrying 262,000 cubic meters of LNG, was no longer heading toward the Suez Canal, and its destination was unknown.
The report was surprising and raised questions about whether Qatar vessels were able to move through the Egyptian-controlled Suez Canal. About 7 percent of seaborne oil and 13 percent of the world's LNG is transited through the Suez, according to RBC's Helima Croft.
Croft said analysts believe that the Egyptian-controlled Suez is operating normally. If that were to change, "That would be a massive escalation. There's a huge amount of cargo that goes through Suez. If they started blocking shipments from one country, it would go to the sanctity of this as a reliable transit point," said Croft, global head of commodities strategy.
U.S. natural gas futures also were higher Thursday, despite a larger-than-expected increase in supply last week. Natural gas futures were up 0.2 percent at $3.02 per million British thermal units.
"Our market seems to be getting some support from this situation, even though we're obviously not a big exporter of LNG," said John Kilduff of Again Capital. "It does seem to be a rally in sympathy of what's going on in that market and in Europe.