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NatGas Forwards Slide Again; LNG Imports Pressure NE Markets

A springlike forecast for the next couple of weeks and a very bearish storage report sent natural gas forward prices even lower during the period Feb. 19 and 25, NGI’s Forward Look data shows.

The Nymex March contract, which rolled off the board Feb 25 at $1.711, dropped 9.3 cents during that time as weather models point to increasingly mild weather over much of the country.

In its mid-day report Friday, weather group NatGasWeather said that while some cold air is forecast to hit the north-central United States and Northeast next week, the resulting spike in natural gas demand is expected to be short-lived as mild temperatures will quickly follow.

“Therefore, we expect weather sentiment to remain at least somewhat bearish unless much colder temperatures were to show much greater potential for the middle of March, which they are far from doing,” NatGasWeather said.

Meanwhile, the market was taken by surprise yet again during the week when the U.S. Energy Information Administration issued its weekly storage report.

The EIA reported a 117 Bcf draw from storage inventories for the week ending Feb. 19, far lower than the 139 Bcf expected by the market.

“This week’s stat appears erroneous, and it would not be a surprise to see it revised in the near future,” said Genscape’s Rick Margolin, senior natural gas analyst.

Genscape, based in Louisville, KY, is a real-time data and intelligence provider for energy and commodity markets.

Nevertheless, with springlike temperatures already showing up in the forecast, and the official first day of spring just weeks away, the possibility of substantial storage withdrawals is becoming less likely.

“In addition to this week’s bear stat, the weather forecast remains very mild (we are on track to end the winter more than 450 degree days below normal -- around 750 Bcf below normal demand for the winter); production recently hit a new all-time high; and storage is likely to end the winter more than 600 Bcf above average as a result of the previous two points,” Genscape said.

The Nymex’s 9.3-cent decline for the week set the tone for other natural gas markets, which fell an average of 10 cents between Feb. 19 and 25, according toForward Look.

Northeast points, meanwhile, fell considerably more as temperatures are expected to swing between seasonal levels and as much as 15 degrees above normal over the next couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the arrival of additional liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes in the region put additional pressure on prices, particularly in New England.

Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) citygates for March fixed prices tumbled 40.1 cents between Feb. 19 and 25 to reach $2.90, Forward Look data shows.

AGT April sat Feb. 25 at $2.62, down 16.7 cents, about double the rest of the country. The balance of summer (May-October) slid 9 cents to $2.51, on par with other markets.

The steep decreases at the front of the Algonquin curve come as the Everett terminal received its ninth cargo of the winter, the 2.65 Bcf Matthew.

Since the start of October 2015, LNG terminals at Boston, Canaport and Cove Point have collectively received almost 49 Bcf of natural-gas equivalent LNG and are quickly approaching winter 2012-2013’s record levels, Genscape said.

With March yet to begin, imports already have eclipsed the entirety of last winter’s (October-March) imports of 44 Bcf. Historically, the 2012-2013 winter had the highest volume of LNG imports at 65 Bcf, Genscape said.

Interestingly, the high level of LNG imports is occurring amid a market of weak demand and weak prices as U.S. production has surged to record highs and record warmth has squashed demand.

“The reason the cargos are showing up, rather, is a function of forward prices featured last summer,” Genscape’s Margolin said. “We noted in May, July and September that, at those times, forward prices for winter 2015-2016 showed Algonquin offered substantially better forward prices for global LNG cargos than the Japan-Korea (JKM) or European (NBP) markets.”

At the time, there was a pronounced decoupling of LNG and crude prices, as well as structural changes in Asian markets, such as the recommissioning of previously shuttered nuclear facilities, Margolin said.

Other Northeast points were considerably lower for the week as well.

Transco zone 6-NY March dropped 25.2 cents between Feb. 19 and 25 to reach $1.71, while April slipped 7.1 cents to $1.40. The balance of summer (May-October) was down 4.4 cents to $1.43, according to Forward Look.

Tetco M3 March fell 19.2 cents to $1.185, April dropped 7.1 cents to $1.205 and the balance of summer slid 4.4 cents to $1.25.

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