GLOBAL LNG-Prompt Asian spot prices tumble below $3/mmBtu as China demand drops

* CNOOC declares force majeure with some suppliers - sources

* At least one cargo bound for China diverted

* Two suppliers say cargo deliveries from CNOOC to be delayed

SINGAPORE, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Prompt Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) hit new lows this week, tumbling below $3 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), after reports of China’s top buyer of the super-chilled fuel declaring force majeure on prompt cargoes.

The average LNG price for March delivery into northeast Asia LNG-AS fell to $2.95 per mmBtu this week, down 85 cents from the previous week, several industry sources said.

Prices for cargoes delivered in April are estimated to be $3 to 3.70 per mmBtu, they added.

China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), the country’s top LNG importer, has suspended contracts with at least three suppliers amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus, sources told Reuters.

Traders are scrambling to find alternative locations to place cargoes originally meant for China.

At least one cargo bound for China has diverted and is currently heading towards Singapore storage tanks, several sources told Reuters. Three other vessels bound for China have reduced speed, one of them said.

At least two major suppliers to CNOOC told Reuters that the firm has requested for its cargo deliveries to be delayed.

Prices for cargoes sold to India also toppled. India’s Reliance Industries purchased a cargo for early April delivery at $2.80 per mmBtu, which is likely the lowest in to India in many years, traders said.

In a sign of how oversupplied the market is, prices barely reacted after Royal Dutch Shell said earlier this week it had temporarily suspended production at its Prelude floating LNG facility off northwest Australia following an electrical trip on Feb. 2.

In tenders, India’s Essar Steel is seeking 36 cargoes for delivery over 2021 to 2023 in a tender that closes on Feb. 5 and valid until Feb. 7, one of them said.

This is likely a reissue of an earlier tender by the company in November last year for the same volumes and delivery period, a second source said, though this could not immediately be confirmed.

Turkish state energy company Botas could have awarded a tender seeking four cargoes for delivery in March at about $2.50 per mmBtu, one industry source said, though this could not immediately be confirmed.

Kuwait Petroleum is seeking a cargo for delivery into Mina Al-Ahmadi over Feb. 25 to 26 in a tender that closes on Feb. 10, the source added.

Tangguh LNG may have offered 5 cargoes for loading over April to June in a tender that closes on Feb. 14, an industry source said. (Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; editing by David Evans)