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Extreme Cold Sends Ventura Natural Gas Spot Prices Spiking as High as $100/MMBtu

Natural gas spot prices at Ventura, IA, skyrocketed to record levels Thursday, hearkening back to the polar vortex conditions of winter 2013/14 and leaving Northern Natural Gas and Northern Border pipelines prepared to take action to maintain balance on their systems.

Day-ahead deliveries at Northern Natural Ventura traded as high $100/MMBtu Thursday and were averaging $68.59, up $64.66 from the day before, according to NGI's Midday Price Alert. At Northern Border Ventura, midday prices traded as high as $95 and were averaging $42.77, up $38.94 day/day.

Previously, the highest trade NGI ever recorded for Northern Natural Ventura was $80 on January 27, 2014. Prices that day averaged $55.62, Daily GPI historical data show. The previous record at Northern Border Ventura occurred that same day, when spot prices traded as high as $85 and averaged $49.30.

Northern Natural Gas declared a "Critical Day" for delivery points in Zones ABC, D and EF for Friday's gas day. The operator said it would penalize shippers up to $113/Dth for taking deliveries in excess of scheduled quantities.

"Northern's system-weighted average wind-adjusted temperature is forecast to be -4 degrees for Friday. This temperature compares to a normal system-weighted temperature of 17 degrees," the operator said.

Northern told customers the pipeline "is at risk of experiencing reduced receipts at pipeline interconnects in its Market Area. It is uncertain when this situation will improve. As this situation continues, Northern's pipeline system integrity will be negatively impacted if deliveries are in excess of receipts."

Northern spokesman Mike Loeffler told NGI the pipeline instituted the critical day for Friday in response to the price volatility observed in Thursday's trading.

Loeffler said Northern's system is designed to manage peak days like those observed during the ongoing arctic blast. Wednesday's gas day set a record for market area deliveries for the pipeline, he said.

On Wednesday Northern Border issued a low inventory notice to shippers "due to extreme cold weather conditions" that was scheduled to remain in effect until next week.

"If an interconnect or shipper is underperforming, Northern Border may need to implement unilateral actions including the curtailment of firm service to maintain operational integrity of the company's system" consistent with its tariffs, the operator said.

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