Natural gas futures were trading slightly higher early Monday as weekend forecasts hinted at a cooler shift later this month; April Nymex futures were trading 2.3 cents higher at $2.882/MMBtu just after 8:30 a.m. ET.
Weather models over the weekend trended warmer for the first half of March versus Friday’s expectations, but the data also came in cooler toward Day 15 of the outlook period, just past the middle of the month, according to Bespoke Weather Services. Both American and European guidance showed the cooler long-range changes, with the European data “most adamant” about a “cooler turn” near the end of the 15-day outlook period.
“This first week of March remains very cold, just slightly less impressive overall, thanks to less cold late this week,” Bespoke said. “Changes to next week were unanimously to the warmer side, which is not a surprise, as we believed models may be holding onto too much cold at the surface. The cooler turn at Day 15 was a little unexpected, however, and makes the pattern for the back half of the month less clear.
“...With the strongest cold waning after the middle of this week, we believe any move to $2.90 or higher will be difficult to sustain, although with less mid-month warming and balances that remain on the tight side, it likely will be difficult to move under the $2.80 level over the course of this week.”
While futures prices have been steady, the near-term cold had a major impact on spot prices heading into the weekend. On Friday physical prices for weekend and Monday delivery soared from coast to coast but especially in the Midwest, the Midcontinent and the Rockies, where Northwest Sumas prices topped out at an astronomical, record-breaking $200/MMBtu.
The $200 high trade recorded at Northwest Sumas Friday easily tops the most expensive individual North American natural gas trade on record at NGI. The previous record was set in January 2018 when Transco Zone 6 NY reached $175.
The record-smashing trading at the Pacific Northwest location came on a combination of pipeline constraints following an explosion last fall on the Enbridge Inc. Westcoast system and an uptick in heating demand with the latest cold snap.
“The Sumas hub tracks gas received by Northwest Pipeline from Westcoast at the U.S./Canada border. It has been facing increasing supply limitations over the last week due to reduced southbound flow on Westcoast related to inspections and maintenance following the explosion on October 9,” noted Genscape Inc. analyst Joe Bernardi. “After flow capacity through Westcoast’s Station 4B remained steady at 1650 MMcf/d for the first three weeks of February, maintenance events resulted in an average flow of 1363 MMcf/d for February 23-28.”
Heading into the weekend, expected flow capacities through the location for Saturday through Monday delivery were roughly 1,150-1,300 MMcf/d, while population-weighted heating degree days (HDD) in the Pacific Northwest were totaling about 10 HDD more than normal for this time of year, according to Bernardi.
April crude oil futures were trading 66 cents higher at $56.46/bbl shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET, while April RBOB gasoline was up about 2.3 cents to $1.7534/gal.