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Hefty Holiday Impact Seen in Estimated Storage Build; August Called 2 Cents Higher

August natural gas is set to open 2 cents higher Thursday morning at $2.76 as traders await storage stats that are expected to confirm the ever-decreasing short- and long-term storage surpluses. Overnight oil markets rose.

According to Energy Information Administration figures, working gas inventories at the end of October 2015 tallied 3,953 Bcf. Currently, supplies stand at 3,179 Bcf. With 18 weeks left in the traditional injection season, only 43 Bcf would have to be injected weekly to reach last year's record fill. This week's estimated increase puts storage well on the way to reaching that goal.

Last year 95 Bcf was injected, and the five-year average stands at 77 Bcf. For the week ended July 8, estimates are swirling around a 60 Bcf increase. IAF Advisors calculates a 67 Bcf increase, but the folks at Citi Futures Perspective are on the low end of the range with a 46 Bcf estimate. A Reuters poll of 20 traders and analysts showed an average 59 Bcf with a range of plus 43 to 66 Bcf.

A top consulting firm is looking at a 66 Bcf increase as generation loads declined. "A  plus 66 would appear tight by 2.7 Bcf/d, including an estimated 17 Bcf holiday impact in this week's stat (the average of the last five years for July 4th)," said Genscape in a Thursday morning report. "We saw a big week/week decline in gas-fired power generation (down 2.4 Bcf/d or 12.1 average gigawatt hours (AGWH) due to a 13.4 AGWH overall decline in generation (4th of July holiday impact) and a 6.1AGWH increase in nuclear/renewable generation, while coal also fell by 7.6 AGWH.”

Going forward, however, increased nuclear outages and increasing power loads are expected to increase demand. "Over the past couple of weeks, the nuclear fleet has seen some volatility in the units that are offline as we get deeper into summer," said EnergyGPS in a Thursday morning note to clients. "As a result, the year-on-year delta is showing 2.5 GWs more offline for today compared to a year ago. The month-to-date average is showing just under 3 GWs more offline. From a gas perspective, that equates to roughly 0.5 Bcf/d.

“This, along with above-normal temperatures seen across the country (except California and Pacific Northwest), plays into how strong the power burns are now that we are almost halfway through the month of July. [T]he power burns have increased by 2.6 Bcf/d from Monday to Wednesday.

"[T]he biggest increase in the two day period shows up in the East and the Pacific regions. The Midwest and South Central regions are shifting up as well. Reinforcing the tick up in power burns is the fact that the net load has jumped from 363 GWa to 390 GWa for Wednesday and is expected to shift up another 7 GWa for Thursday.”

In overnight Globex trading August crude oil rose 82 cents to $45.57/bbl and August RBOB gasoline added 3 cents to $1.4077/gal.

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