Spain Gas Exports Surge 18% as Importers Battle Weak Demand

Spain boosted exports of natural gas 18 percent in the first quarter as plunging local demand forced importers to load the fuel back onto the ships for sale abroad.

About 260 million cubic meters of gas were sent in liquefied form by ship, up from 220 million cubic meters a year earlier, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg based on Poten & Partners data. Last year Spain re-exported more gas than any nation, according to the International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers trade group.

“This turns them into competitors of their own LNG suppliers in Qatar, Nigeria and Algeria,” Bloomberg analyst Philipp Chladek wrote yesterday in a note to investors.

Spanish gas demand slid 10.5 percent in the quarter as recession idled businesses and renewable energy replaced gas-fired power plants. European countries led by Spain that don’t need contracted gas bought months or years earlier typically ship it to Latin America and Asia, Chladek said.

In 2012 Spain chilled 1.34 billion cubic meters of gas into liquid form for export, more than double the 590,000 cubic meters compressed in 2011, figures compiled by Bloomberg show.

Enagas SA, the operator of Spain’s gas distribution network, has returned about 52 percent in the past year through yesterday including reinvesting gross dividends. That beat the 17 percent average return of its peers in a 16-member group of utilities tracked by Bloomberg.