June 11, 2019 / 11:04 AM / 13 days ago

First LNG from Sempra Energy's Louisiana Cameron terminal heads to France

* Mitsui charters commissioning cargo

* Japanese term holders expected to resell commissioning cargoes

* Another cargo from Cameron likely to head to Spain

* Deliveries to southern Europe up in May from April - data

By Jessica Jaganathan and Ekaterina Kravtsova

SINGAPORE/LONDON, June 11 (Reuters) - The first liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo to be shipped from Sempra Energy’s $10 billion Cameron export terminal in Louisiana is heading to France, shiptracking data from Refinitiv and Kpler showed on Tuesday.

Mitsui & Co Ltd, one of the partners in the Cameron project, is the charterer of the tanker, Marvel Crane, that picked up the commissioning cargo.

The cargo, which loaded in late May, is set to arrive at France’s Dunkirk on June 18, Refinitiv data showed.

Japanese stakeholders of the project were initially expected to import the cargoes to meet domestic demand, but weak spot prices in Asia mean that it is not economically viable to ship cargoes from the United States to Asia, traders said.

Their commitment to domestic customers is expected to start only after all testing and commissioning has been completed, which means they will resell the commissioning cargoes they do not need, one of them said.

Demand from North Asia, the world’s biggest importing region, is also lacklustre amid high inventory even as new supply enters the market from Australia and the United States.

“The fact that Mitsui is shipping the cargo to (Europe) shows how weak the demand is in Japan,” a Singapore-based industry source said.

Kpler said the vessel was initially expected by U.S. Customs to deliver the cargo in Japan, adding that it was likely diverted later to Europe.

With Asian prices expected to remain depressed, LNG shipments to Europe are likely to stay high, traders added.

In Europe, France and Spain are providing the best netbacks for U.S. cargoes, Refintiv Eikon data showed.

Another LNG tanker, Shinshu Maru, is due at Cameron on June 19 to load a cargo. Shipping market sources said it was chartered by Spain’s Repsol from Russia’s Novatek and could deliver a Cameron cargo to Spain where LNG imports have been growing since May on lower hydro generation.

“Qatari deliveries are not headed to the United Kingdom any longer, they are being delivered to Southern Europe instead,” said Madeleine Overgaard, an analyst with data intelligence firm Kpler, adding that this was a shift from the traditional route.

“Of course, there is still a bit of LNG headed to the UK, but nothing like what we observed in March, April and May,” she added.

Refinitiv data shows total LNG deliveries into Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Turkey in May rose 16% from April, and are up 53% from the same month a year ago. June deliveries this year are set to be higher than in 2018.

There are three liquefaction trains at Cameron. The first started producing LNG in mid-May. Sempra has said it expects Cameron 2 and 3 will enter service in the first and second quarters of 2020.

Cameron is jointly owned by affiliates of Sempra, Total SA , Mitsui, and Japan LNG Investment LLC, a company jointly owned by Mitsubishi Corp and Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK). Sempra indirectly owns 50.2% of Cameron. (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan in SINGAPORE and Ekaterina Kravtsova in LONDON; editing by David Evans)

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