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Tropical Storm Gordon Looms as October Natural Gas Called Lower

October natural gas futures were down about 6.4 cents at around $2.852/MMBtu in early morning trading Tuesday as a combination of near-term tropical weather and longer-term seasonality posed downside risks for demand.

The approach of Tropical Storm Gordon was the immediate concern for the Gulf Coast’s oil and gas industry Tuesday morning. According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), as of 8 a.m. ET Gordon was about 190 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and heading west-northwest toward the shore.

The forecast track showed “the center of Gordon will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico today, and will approach the north central Gulf Coast within the warning area late this afternoon or evening, and move inland over the lower Mississippi Valley tonight or early Wednesday.”

Gordon was carrying maximum sustained winds close to 65 mph and was expected to strengthen into a hurricane by the time it makes landfall, according to the NHC.

“Gulf of Mexico (GOM) production is already showing some declines as” offshore operators “take proactive steps to evacuate personnel,” Genscape Inc. analyst Allison Hurley told clients Tuesday.

The firm’s production estimates showed Tuesday’s Gulf-region output dropping to a 50-day low at 10.19 Bcf/d, including a 2.34 Bcf/d drop in offshore GOM, according to Hurley.

Offshore GOM production accounts for about 5% of total U.S. dry production and 17% of U.S. crude oil production, while the Gulf Coast hosts 51% of domestic natural gas processing plant capacity and 45% of total petroleum refining capacity, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said it had evacuated personnel and shut in two offshore platforms because of the storm.

“We are carefully monitoring the weather conditions in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and to ensure the safety of our people have removed all personnel from our Horn Mountain and Marlin facilities,” the company said. “We have also shut in production at both platforms to protect the environment. All other Anadarko operated and producing platforms remain on production. We will return personnel to Horn Mountain and Marlin when it is safe to do so.”

As for the futures selling over the Labor Day weekend, Bespoke Weather Services pointed to a mix of changes in the latest forecasts.

This included “significant cooler trends over the coming week” as Gordon’s impacts “are felt across key cooling demand regions, but long-range heat risks continued to persist into the second half of September,” Bespoke said. “Moving through September the bullish impacts of heat tend to fade, as we should see heating demand lag quite consistently. This keeps long-range heat risks from appearing as bullish, especially with heat likely focusing more across the northern tier of the country.”

The firm attributed front month declines over the weekend to “loose holiday burns, weak seasonality and record production, which has us seeing another test of $2.80-2.82 as likely this week.”

October crude oil futures were trading about $1.43 higher Tuesday morning at around $71.23/bbl, while October RBOB gasoline was up 5.3 cents at around $2.0497/gal.

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