European natural gas prices look set to fall for the first time in four years in 2019 as buyers keep a close eye on flows from Russia that reached a record last year.

With a healthy amount of fuel in storage after a mild start to this winter, the outlook is bearish, Bloomberg said.

That's being exacerbated by an expected increase in imports, which would help offset declining production in the region.

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While Russia intends to maintain its grip on about 40 percent of the European market, fluctuations in that dependency will be closely monitored.

"The question is how much gas Russia ends up delivering into the European markets – that will be a key determinant," said Murray Douglas, research director for European gas at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. "Russia expressed publicly it wants to keep deliveries. That could generate a real collapse in prices in the summer months, when we will see a big LNG supply."

Kremlin-backed energy giant Gazprom PJSC reported a record 201 billion cubic meters of natural gas exports to Europe in 2018 and plans to maintain those volumes into 2020. Exports were up 2 percent in the year through December 15.

There's a question whether Russia will be able to follow through on that ambition later in the year when a flood of liquefied natural gas is set to enter European markets, Bloomberg said.