In Friday's trading gas for weekend and Monday delivery was also highly varied. A major interstate pipeline declared a force majeure, and although earlier polar vortices did not seem to be in play, many traders were not desirous of being short gas going into the weekend with cold weather clearly an added risk.
Multi-dollar gains seen in the Great Lakes and Midwest easily offset weakness in the Rockies, California, Gulf Coast and parts of the Northeast. Futures prices stayed within their recent trading range and at the close April was off 4.4 cents to $4.618 and May had declined 3.6 cents to $4.567.
In Friday's spot market trading Great Lakes and Midwest buyers were kept on edge as a major pipeline bringing gas from the south declared a force majeure. NGPL said on its website that "a force majeure event has occurred at Compressor Station 102, located in Beaver County, OK. Natural has experienced an unexpected outage due to a mechanical failure on one of the compressor units requiring Natural to reduce the throughput capacity northbound out of the Midcontinent Zone. The scheduling constraint will be at Compressor Station 103 (the beginning of Segment 11 of Natural's Midcontinent Zone). Any gas received south of Station 103 for delivery north of Station 103 (including transport associated with storage withdrawals) will be impacted."
Traders also had to deal with an anticipated sharp temperature drop over the weekend, which also made precautionary purchases viable. Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted the high in Chicago Friday of 51 would plunge to 29 Saturday before making it back to 46 on Monday. The seasonal high in Chicago for mid March is 43. In Detroit the Friday high of 47 was forecast to drop to 33 on Saturday before reaching 42 on Monday. The normal high in Detroit is 40.
The National Weather Service in Chicago reported that "a cold front currently stretching from central Wisconsin into south central Iowa will drop southeast across the forecast area this evening [Friday]. Over the weekend, it said, "a decent push of cold air behind the departing cold front will drive temperatures back down into the -7c to -9c range Saturday afternoon resulting in surface highs that struggle to reach the freezing mark."
Gas for weekend and Monday delivery on Alliance jumped $3.99 to $12.82, and gas at the Chicago Citygates rose by $1.92 to $8.72. On Consumers gas was seen at $12.24 up $3.22, and on Michcon packages changed hands at $13.59, up $4.91. At Northern Natural Ventura gas came in at $10.32, up a stout $3.31.
Midcontinent points held steady or eased. Gas for weekend and Monday delivery at the NGPL Midcontinent Pool rose 3 cents to $4.72, and gas on NGPL's Amarillo Line fell 40 cents to $4.85. Deliveries on OGT fell 16 cents to $4.65, and on Panhandle Eastern weekend and Monday gas added 3 cents to $4.80.
Rockies prices were lower by about a quarter. On CIG Mainline weekend and Monday parcels were seen 26 cents lower at $4.58, and at the Cheyenne Hub gas was seen at $4.80, down 10 cents. At Opal packages for the weekend and Monday fell 25 cents to $4.61 and on Northwest Pipeline WY gas fell 22 cents to $4.51.
Forecasters see a slight moderation in the near term. WSI Corp. in its Friday morning report said, "[Friday's] six-10 day period forecast has trended milder over the northern Plains and Northwest when compared to yesterday's forecast. Forecast confidence is considered [reaching] just average standards as models show good agreement during the early half of the period, but then technical differences develop later in the period."
Risks to the forecast include the models "struggling with the mean evolution and propagation of another cut-off low-pressure system digging over the West early. If the European op is correct, temperatures would likely run warmer than forecast over the East late in the period."