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Industry sources and shipping statistics cited by Reuters indicate that Shell (SHEL.L) is expected to resume exports next month at its Prelude liquefied natural gas (LNG) project offshore Australia, where significant maintenance is almost finished, with operations likely to resume next week.
While huge stockpiles have constrained buying so far this year, the timing of the massive floating facility's resumption to operations is likely to coincide with peak consumption in Europe and China, as winter in the northern hemisphere increases demand.
Shipping data show that the LNG tanker Symphonic Breeze is scheduled to arrive at the floating plant on December 6, indicating that the work, which began in August, is almost finished.
Shell declined to provide a direct statement to Reuters regarding the state of the repairs. However, last month, the oil giant stated that it had targeted December for a production ramp-up.
Estimates place Prelude's cost at over $12 billion, making it the first floating LNG facility in the world to deploy innovative technology.
Prelude has been under maintenance since August, with initial assessments that it would take between two and several months. Originally, the turnaround was expected to be completed last year; however, a trade union dispute and cyclone season forced Shell to reschedule for 2023. At that time, Shell decided to undergo a shorter maintenance period to shore up production for North Asian winter demand.
Last week, S&P Global reported that Asian LNG importers were angling to resell some December-delivery LNG cargoes amid high inventories and slower demand.
Citing the Chongqing Petroleum and Gas Exchange, S&P Global said that Chinese companies had resold at least five LNG cargoes so far this month.
"It's a contango market now. Currently, prices in January are the highest. But prices start to move down from H2 January to H1 February by almost 30 cents," an industry source based in Singapore told S&P.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com