The American Public Gas Association (APGA) wants the Energy Information Administration (EIA) to make a “full and public statement” about what happened on Nov. 24, when an erroneous natural gas storage report was inadvertently released and triggered a significant rise in futures prices, a spokeswoman for the group said Monday.

The APGA, which represents municipal gas distributors, believes the Department of Energy (DOE) agency should “lay out all the facts” of that day in conjunction with the scheduled publication of a notice in the Federal Register in January in which the EIA will seek public comment on its storage data revision policy, said spokeswoman Laura Schepis (see Daily GPI, Dec. 9). Under its current policy, the EIA waits a full week until the next scheduled release of its storage report to make corrections, which often compounds the effects of the error.

This “would be a great time to have a full discussion” of the events of Nov. 24, she told NGI. Although the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission carried out its own investigation of the incident and reported the results earlier this month, Schepis said “all the facts are not in” yet.

“I’m not sure what more we’re able to say at this point,” said EIA spokesman Jonathan Cogan. “There still is an issue of what we can disclose about individual [company] submissions” to the storage report.

FERC staff said that an incorrect e-mail attachment sent by a clerk at Dominion Transmission Inc. (DTI) to weekly storage surveyors at the EIA led to the erroneous storage report in late November and the subsequent spurt in gas futures prices. The agency staff estimated that the error and price run-up cost U.S. consumers $200 million to $1 billion in their December cost of gas (see Daily GPI, Dec. 20).

While there’s “not an ability to return that money to consumers,” the EIA and industry must do everything they can to “minimize the chance” of “another very costly mistake” in the future, Schepis noted.

The false DTI storage information was included in EIA’s weekly storage report that was released at noon on Wednesday Nov. 24, a day earlier than EIA’s normal Thursday schedule because of the Thanksgiving holiday. The EIA report showed a 49 Bcf withdrawal, substantially larger than market consensus estimates of 13-25 Bcf.

As a result, December futures prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped 60 cents in the 30 minutes following the release of the EIA weekly report. Later in trading that day, December futures spiked again before expiring at $7.976, up $1.183 from the previous day’s close. The worst part about the error was that it came on a futures contract expiration day. The futures settlement price that day determined not only the price of December futures, but also those of all basis contracts. It also strongly influenced the prices at all locations across the North American cash market for the month of December.

The apparently unintentional DTI error has increased the calls for daily, rather than weekly, reporting of gas storage information, which currently is being considered by FERC. Schepis noted that the APGA favors daily reporting of storage data.

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