Natural gas for Wednesday delivery moved little in Tuesday's trading as near-term weather conditions in populous eastern and Midwest markets remained mostly benign and any seasonal cold looked to be at least a couple of weeks away.
The NGI National Spot Gas Average fell a penny to $2.00, and gains in the East of about 4 cents were able to largely offset California declines of about a nickel. Futures managed a gain as traders saw a somewhat thinner storage build emerging on a delayed Friday report. At the close, December had risen 2.0 cents to $2.320 and January was up 3.5 cents to $2.484. December crude oil gained 34 cents to $44.21/bbl.
Next-day gas prices in the East were something of a split affair. Weak power prices in New England and the Mid-Atlantic prompted softer quotes, but Marcellus points firmed as a major pipeline expansion announced delays. Intercontinental Exchange reported on-peak Wednesday power at the ISO New England's Massachusetts Hub dropped $8.23 to $30.33/MWh and next-day power at the PJM West terminal fell $2.70 to $31.49/MWh. Power into New York at the New York ISO's Zone A (western New York) delivery point gave up $1.54 to $30.99/MWh, but next-day peak power at Zone G (eastern New York) added 25 cents to $29.33/MWh.
Next-day deliveries to the Algonquin Citygate tumbled 77 cents to $2.37, and gas on Iroquois, Waddington shed 9 cents to $2.23. Deliveries on Tenn Zone 6 200L changed hands 63 cents lower at $2.30.
In the Marcellus, prices rose as Transco announced a one-month delay on its Leidy southeast expansion project. According to industry consultant Genscape, the pipeline "will not go into service on Dec. 1, 2015 as originally intended but will instead go into full service on Jan. 1, 2016."
Next-day gas at Tennessee Zn 4 Marcellus gained 12 cents to $1.04, and deliveries on Dominion South were quoted 6 cents higher at $1.20. Gas on Transco-Leidy Line added 7 cents to 99 cents.
The company said, "construction delays are to blame for the revised in service date." While the full in-service date has been pushed back, some partial volumes will be allowed on Dec. 1 subject to necessary authorizations. When completed, the pipeline expansion should provide an additional 0.5 Bcf/d of transportation capacity along the eastern seaboard.
Most major hubs showed little change. Gas at the Henry Hub came in 2 cents lower at $2.11, and gas at the Chicago Citygates added a penny to $2.18. Deliveries to the Cheyenne Hub rose 2 cents to $2.01, and gas at the PG&E Citygate slipped a penny to $2.72.
Natgasweather.com in an update Tuesday said, "Weather patterns for mid-November haven't trended any colder in the latest suites of weather data to support a strong [price] move higher. In fact, to our view, it's slightly warmer overall for mid-November. We are still expecting a colder northern and eastern U.S. this weekend, warming again next week, followed by cooling after. It's just the milder eastern U.S. break next week is playing out warm enough to bring below normal natgas demand even though the west-central U.S. will be relatively cold.
"Below normal heating requirements continue to be the norm. Essentially, the swings in temperatures in intervals of every three to four days will continue for the next two weeks with the eastern U.S. being to the warmer side and the western and central U.S. to the cooler side. There's still a fair bit of data that supports much colder pushing into the northern U.S. during the latter half of November, but the fact is it has yet to gain enough support in the weather and climate data overall."
For the week ending Nov. 14, the National Weather Service forecasts well below normal accumulations of heating degree days (HDDs) in key population centers. New England is expected to see 137 HDD, or 21 fewer than normal, and the Mid-Atlantic is expected to have 121 HDD, or 24 below its normal seasonal tally. The greater Midwest from Ohio to Wisconsin is anticipated to experience 134 HDD, or 30 fewer than its norm for this time of year.
Traders see the December contract poised to take a dive. "This should remain a weather-driven market as this month proceeds," said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates in a Tuesday morning note to clients. "And while an unusually warm fall period is conjuring up images of an El Nino-driven mild winter, we feel that some occasional extreme cold spells are inevitable that will prove capable of spiking the market.
"On a very near term basis, we still expect an up move back into the $2.45-2.50 zone where we will look to re-establish some short holdings in anticipation of a price decline to around the $2.10 area per the December contract within about a two and a half-week time frame. As has been the case with the December futures, seasonal considerations will preclude the January contract from attaining this month's December contract lows."