U.S. utilities withdrew 124 Bcf natural gas from storage during the week ended March 4, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on Thursday. The result modestly exceeded market expectations, supporting a morning rebound in Nymex natural gas futures.
“It was colder than normal over the northern and central U.S.” during the latest EIA report period, NatGasWeather said.
What’s more, demand for U.S. liquefied natural gas has proved robust during the covered period and throughout the more than two-week war in Ukraine, with feed gas volumes hovering around 13 Bcf and near capacity.
Ahead of the EIA report, the April futures contract was up 5.3 cents at $4.579/MMBtu. The prompt month hovered near $4.600 when the EIA data was released at 10:30 ET. By 11 a.m., it was up 5.5 cents from the prior day’s close at $4.581.
The EIA print “does reflect tight supply/demand balances,” Bespoke Weather Services said. “We still project end-of-season storage levels to come in above 1.4 tcf, on the assumption that the next few weeks will be looser,” given coming spring temperatures and likely eased heating demand.
Futures had fallen each of the past three days amid outlooks for spring weather beginning next week.
Prior to the report, a Bloomberg survey found a median prediction for a 118 Bcf decrease for the week. Withdrawal predictions ranged from 108 Bcf to 141 Bcf. Reuters’ poll found estimates ranging from withdrawals of 91 Bcf to 128 Bcf, with a median estimate of 120 Bcf.
The five-year average for the period was a pull of 89 Bcf, while the year-earlier period saw a 59 Bcf decrease.
The decrease last week lowered inventories to 1,519 Bcf, leaving stocks well below the year-earlier level of 1,800 Bcf and the five-year average of 1,809 Bcf.
The East and Midwest regions led with withdrawals of 41 Bcf and 40 Bcf, respectively, according to EIA. The South Central followed with a pull of 38 Bcf that included a 26 Bcf draw from nonsalt facilities and a decrease of 12 Bcf in salts. Mountain region stocks declined 3 Bcf, while Pacific inventories fell 2 Bcf.
Looking ahead to next week, analysts are generally expecting a more modest withdrawal. Bespoke forecast a pull of 67 Bcf with the next EIA report, followed by a 45 Bcf decrease the following week. For the final week of March, the firm expects an injection of 4 Bcf.
Bespoke’s outlook was in line with expectations shared by participants on The Desk’s online energy platform Enelyst. “Definitely the last triple-digit draw of the season,” one analyst said of Thursday’s print.
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