LONDON - Asian spot liquefied natural gas (LNG) hit a fresh record high this week as South Korean and Japanese buyers restocked for the winter and a planned outage at the Nord Stream 1 pipeline next week pushed up European demand.

The average LNG price for October delivery into north-east Asia was estimated at $70.50 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), up $13.50, or 23.7%, from the previous week, industry sources said.

The market is in a firm contango, where a futures price is higher than the spot price, with prices from November through Summer 2023 above $72/mmBtu.

"We expect LNG imports to northeast Asia to strengthen in the month ahead. Given how high gas prices are, despite only entering the Autumn season, there is a potential for prices to move much higher once we are in winter," said Ryhana Rasidi, gas and LNG analyst at data and analytics firm Kpler.

"There is clearly a lot of panic in the European gas market, especially with prices spiking in recent days due to fears that Russian gas flows would not return even after planned maintenance on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline," she said.

Russia's Gazprom has announced a three-day outage for the pipeline which is currently running at 20% of its total capacity, piling pressure on Europe as it seeks to fill up gas storage facilities ahead of winter.

Freeport LNG, the United States' second largest producer of the super chilled fuel, which halted operations in June after an explosion and fire, has further extended its outage. The facility has been a major LNG supplier to Europe.

"The 15 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) plant is now due to restart a month later in November rather than October and the operators expect it to be at only 85% at most until March 2023, which means there is a big impact on the second half of the winter too,” said Alex Froley, LNG analyst at data intelligence firm ICIS.

"This is now the best case, and we wouldn’t be surprised if there are further delays to the timeline in the future."

BP has a ballast vessel nearby Mozambique's 3.4 mtpa Coral South project, which could load the first cargo soon. While this could be a boost to global supply, it is only one fifth the size of Freeport, so wouldn’t fully offset it, Froley added.

S&P Global Commodity Insights assessed LNG prices on a delivered ex-ship (DES) basis into north-west Europe (NWE) at $68.694/mmBtu on Aug. 25, a discount of $23.975/mmBtu to October Dutch gas prices, almost double the differential of last week, said Ciaran Roe, global director of LNG.

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Nina Chestney)