By Marcy de Luna

HOUSTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Europe’s call for U.S. liquefied natural gas continues to run hot in February and is poised to remain the top destination for U.S. shipments for the third month in a row, according to mid-month Refinitiv vessel tracking data on Tuesday.

About three quarters of U.S. LNG volumes went to Europe in January as skyrocketing demand lifted prices and U.S. LNG exports. U.S. LNG exports overall last month hit 7.3 million tonnes. Read full story

“Volumes into Europe remain extremely strong with the U.S. playing a key role,” said Reid I’Anson, senior commodity analyst at data provider Kpler. U.S. exports to Europe this month could be near January’s record, based on Kpler’s preliminary data.

So far this month, the U.S. has exported 3.56 million tonnes of LNG, similar to the half-way market in December, which was the second highest on record, preliminary Refinitiv data showed on Tuesday.

At least half of U.S. LNG shipped this month has gone to Europe, the Refinitiv data showed, as companies look to secure new supplies. Worries over a cutoff of Russian gas, which accounts for about 35% of European consumption, have contributed to the exports, analysts have said.

Prices have tapered off in recent weeks.

The European LNG benchmark on the Dutch exchange TRNLTTFFVWc1traded at $23.35 per mmBtu this week, below the Asia spot gas LNG-ASat $24.70 per mmBtu and below November’s about $31 per mmBtu, Refinitiv data showed.

About 10% of cargoes shipped so far this month have gone to Asia while about 4% of shipments have gone to Latin America, the data showed. About a third of tankers have not disclosed a destination.

The Panama Canal last week said it was seeing increased seasonal demand for passage, but there was fewer LNG vessels crossing the canal due to warmer temperatures in Asia.

(Reporting by Marcy de LunaEditing by Marguerita Choy)

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