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FERC Extends Deadlines Due to Hurricanes; NatGas Demand Starts to Return After Irma

Citing the emergency conditions created by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, FERC is giving an extension to entities that need it to file various forms and regulatory documents with the Commission.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Monday that any upcoming deadlines to file forms, non-statutory filings or filings required by tariffs or rate schedules will be extended until Oct. 11 for "those who need such extensions on account of the hurricanes."

Meanwhile, Southeast natural gas demand was already showing signs of recovery Tuesday following the demand destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma. Utilities had all hands on deck, with help from other utilities across the country, as they continued to assess the damage and work toward restoration for the millions left without power across Florida and Georgia.

Irma had weakened to a post-tropical cyclone Tuesday, delivering “moderate to locally heavy rain” across parts of the Lower Mississippi Valley, the Tennessee Valley and the southern Mid-Atlantic, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The storm’s center was located about 50 miles north-northwest of Birmingham, AL, traveling north-northwest at 26 mph, NWS said.

As for assessing the market impacts following Irma's landfall with Florida over the weekend, Genscape Inc. said Southeast gas demand increased day/day Tuesday "driven by gains in Florida power burn. After reaching a low of 5.76 Bcf/d on Monday, evening cycles for Tuesday show aggregate demand for Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas is back to 7.31 Bcf/d, its highest since drops from Irma began after Thursday. Aggregate demand averaged 9.34 Bcf/d during the two weeks prior to Irma."

In Florida, the hardest-hit in terms of power outages, demand was up 910 MMcf/d to 3.21 Bcf/d Tuesday, driven by a 979 MMcf/d day/day increase in power burn, Genscape said.

PointLogic Energy reported a similar day/day increase in demand Tuesday.

According to PointLogic, "pipeline data indicates that the decline in gas demand is not just within Florida but occurring in neighboring states as well. Demand related pipeline deliveries were down 37% from Sept. 5 to Monday in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina."

"Early indications have demand up 2.6 Bcf/d on Sept. 12, although that number could be revised down significantly as the day progresses as power demand in the regions hit by Irma is the largest driver for the increase from yesterday," PointLogic said. "We saw pipeline deliveries scheduled down in this region on Monday in later nomination cycles and the same may occur on Tuesday."

Looking at Irma's path through Florida, "definitely, the way the storm cut could have been worse," Elaine Levin, president of Washington, DC-based risk management firm Powerhouse, told NGI Tuesday.

Levin said the market's response to Irma, following the muted price reaction to Harvey, continues to show how much things have changed in the shale era. That natural gas has remained range-bound through two major storms "is to me the biggest story of all considering the history of natural gas prices and hurricanes."

Despite the scope of the production shut-ins and demand destruction from Harvey and Irma, "I think the market is looking at this as to some degree temporary," Levin said.

Full Restoration Could Take Weeks

Utilities were making progress Tuesday in getting the lights back on for customers impacted by Irma but warned that complete restoration could take a while.

Florida Power & Light (FPL), Florida's largest electric utility, said that it had restored power to more than 1.1 million customers as of 7 p.m. EDT Monday. FPL said Irma affected 4.4 million customers in its territory, and the utility has deployed a staff of 19,500 -- made up of FPL employees, employees from other utilities and contractors -- to tackle "the largest number of outages in company history."

"Hurricane Irma is unprecedented by almost every measure -- its size, destructive power and slow movement," said CEO Eric Silagy. "...We have the largest restoration workforce in U.S. history responding to the worst storm in our company's history. Our crews are out restoring power, and every hour of every day more and more people are getting their lights back.

"That said, we anticipate that much of the electric system in Southwest Florida will require a complete rebuild, which could take weeks. In contrast, we expect our electric system along Florida's East Coast will require more traditional repairs. Regardless, this will be a lengthy restoration effort."

As of 8 p.m. EDT Monday, Georgia Power reported that 950,000 customers had lost power, with that number reduced to 925,000 by 10 p.m. EDT. The utility said its damage assessment teams were out across the state Tuesday "evaluating widespread destruction from Hurricane Irma as part of the company's first phase of the restoration process."

Georgia Power said it will have to wait until conditions are safe for crews to begin restoration, citing heavy rain and high winds, as well as downed trees, blocked roads and bridges that will need to be inspected following flooding.

The utility said customers "could experience extended outages for days or weeks due to the vast damage from the storm."

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