It was a tale of two physical markets on Friday for weekend and Monday gas deliveries: New England and everyone else.
Most locations outside of the New England area experienced losses of a nickel or more to as much as a quarter for points in the Midwest and Midcontinent as weekend temperatures were forecast to work above normal by Monday. In and around Boston, however, weekend and Monday gas soared over $2 on falling temperatures and hefty power loads and strong Monday power pricing. Overall, the market was down 6 cents. Futures continued their march higher, and December gained 4.6 cents to $3.873 and January was higher by 5.3 cents to $3.959. December crude oil fell 58 cents to $80.54/bbl.
Cold, blustery weather was forecast to hit the East over the weekend. "The coldest air since April will blast into the Eastern states and will shock parts of the South this weekend," said Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather.com meteorologist. "In many areas, the cold air will be pushed along and enhanced by gusty winds. The winds will be generated by a winter-like storm swinging off the mid-Atlantic coast and possibly taking a curved path back toward New England. The combination of plunging temperatures, winds and other conditions will produce shockingly low [wind chill] temperatures. Levels will dip into the teens over the Appalachians and New England to the 20s over the interior South and along the mid-Atlantic coasts and to the lower 30s in part of Florida.
"A hard freeze will visit areas from the Ohio Valley to the Appalachians this weekend. Freezing temperatures will touch areas from northern Texas to parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas and Virginia, [and] although far from a freeze, record low temperatures will be challenged in South Florida and the Keys Sunday morning.
"The worst of the wind and cold will ease in the South and parts of the Midwest by Sunday afternoon for NFL games. However, winds will continue howling in much of the Northeast, [and] parts of New England on Sunday will not only have wind and cold to contend with, but also the potential for heavy snow," Sosnowski said.
Forecaster Wunderground.com predicted that for many New England cities temperatures would struggle to make it to seasonal norms. Boston's high of 52 Friday was expected to drop to 49 Saturday and recover to just 50 by Monday, 7 degrees below the seasonal norm. Hartford, CT's Friday high of 55 was predicted to slide to 48 Saturday and reach 52 by Monday. The normal high in Hartford this time of year is 56. Providence, RI was anticipated to see its Friday max of 54 drop to 48 Saturday and recover somewhat to 50 by Monday. The seasonal high in Providence is 59.
Normally moderate power loads over the weekend were forecast to rise. ISO New England predicted that Friday's peak load of 15,530 MW would ease to 15,060 MW Saturday but reach 16,320 MW Sunday.
IntercontinentalExchange reported that Monday peak power at the ISO New England Massachusetts Hub jumped $20.76 to $61.60/MWh. In contrast, at the PJM West terminal Monday peak power rose $6.25 to $51.40/MWh.
At the Algonquin Citygates weekend and Monday gas soared $2.31 to $6.64 and on Tennessee Zone 6 200 L gas changed hands at $6.44, up $2.25. Deliveries to Iroquois Waddington shed 3 cents to $4.02.
Gas bound for New York City on Transco Zone 6 retreated 5 cents to $2.76, and deliveries to Tetco M-3 were off 13 cents to $2.65.
Marcellus and Appalachian points fell hard. Gas on Transco Leidy was seen 39 cents lower at $2.09, and packages on Tennessee Zone 4 Marcellus shed 20 cents to $1.95. Gas on Millennium came in 15 cents lower at $2.25 and weekend and Monday gas on Dominion South was quoted at $2.44, down 12 cents.
In the Midwest temperatures were forecast to work higher over the weekend adding anywhere from 10 to 20 degrees to Friday's highs by Monday. Wunderground.com predicted that Milwaukee's high of 40 Friday would climb to 44 by Saturday and reach 58 by Monday. The normal high in Milwaukee for late October is 54. Chicago's Friday high of 38 was seen advancing to 44 Saturday and 59 by Monday. The seasonal high in Chicago is 57. Indianapolis' Friday peak of 50 was expected to ease to 44 Saturday but jump to 60 by Monday, the normal high.
On Alliance, weekend and Monday parcels tumbled 26 cents to $3.86, and at the Chicago Citygates gas changed hands at $3.87, down 24 cents. At Demarcation parcels were seen at $3.78, down 29 cents and on Consumers gas fell 20 cents to $3.87. Deliveries to Michcon were quoted 19 cents lower at $3.86.
Some buyers are willing to take their chances on even lower prices. A Michigan marketer said, "We have customers who are willing to just take the monthly index and not try to lock up prices for the winter. In some cases they are willing to take chances on the daily market."
Futures rallied overnight Thursday as a mixture of rain and snow was expected over key energy markets and a cold front begins a trek across the West. "A cold front will move across the West Coast on Friday, while a trough of low pressure affects the eastern third of the country," said Kari Strenfel, Wunderground.com meteorologist, in a Friday morning report
"A strong low-pressure system will dip southeastward over the Great Lakes and the upper Midwest on Friday. This system will bring a mixture of rain and snow to the Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley and the higher elevations of the central Appalachians," Strenfel said. "Late-afternoon and evening rain will spread across the northern Mid-Atlantic and New England, while scattered showers and thunderstorms will be possible over the southern Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast. The central third of the country will continue to experience cool, dry conditions due to a large high-pressure system over the Plains and the Mississippi Valley. Temperatures will range between the 30s and 40s from the northern Plains to the upper Mississippi Valley.
"A strong cold front is expected to shift over the West Coast on Friday. This system will bring much-needed rain to portions of central and northern California, including high-elevation snow showers for the Sierra Nevada. Heavy rain will also develop over the Pacific Northwest, while the higher elevations of the Cascades will experience another round of snow showers. Late-evening showers will be possible over southwest California, while the Desert Southwest and the Great Basin will stay mostly clear of precipitation. Temperatures are forecast to drop 10 to 20 degrees as this cold front ushers a cooler air mass over the West Coast."
Traders are standing aside as weather sorts itself out. "This market continues to show strength and is still reflecting some shifts in temperature forecasts with colder patterns than previously expected ahead," said Jim Ritterbusch in closing comments Friday to clients. "This strength has been accentuated by chart improvement that was kicked off on Tuesday by an October down-trend line violation and accentuated yesterday by a decisive push to above $3.90 resistance. This week's wide-swinging price action is reflecting the fact that the short-term weather forecasts are taking on increased importance with temperatures across much of the Midwest seeing their first freezes of the year during the coming weekend. Significant cold deviations are also receiving pronounced impact during this anticipatory phase of the heavy-usage cycle.
"Within such an environment, even an expected renewed warming trend beyond next week is having limited impact. Although we cannot rule out a decided run at the $4 mark early next week, we still see several more storage injections that will be positioning storage for ample winter coverage later next month. We are maintaining a neutral stance."