• May natural gas prices fall to $2.455 as pipeline work leads to drop in feed gas deliveries to Gulf Coast LNG facility
  • Mostly mild weather on tap through early May, negating decline in Lower 48 production, Canadian imports
  • Cash prices slide amid lack of demand; Kern River extends outage on portion of line

One day after cooler trends in weather models helped boost natural gas futures by a few pennies, bears attempted to reclaim control by quickly reversing those gains amid shifting forecasts and a significant drop in flows to a Gulf Coast liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility. The May Nymex gas futures contract settled Tuesday at $2.455/MMBtu, down 6.9 cents. June lost 5.9 cents to hit $2.499.

Spot gas prices were mostly lower as mild weather trumped most pipeline work going on across the country. There were, however, a few regions that posted modest gains, and West Texas prices rose by more than a dime across the board. The NGI Spot Gas National Avg. ultimately fell 2.5 cents to $2.015.

Although weather models were mixed Tuesday, it was news that feed gas deliveries to the Corpus Christi LNG export facility in South Texas had dropped off precipitously that likely sent futures prices crashing. Corpus Christi Pipeline began maintenance Tuesday at its Sinton Compressor Station, which will cut all flows along the pipeline and effectively shut in the line for the duration of the two-day event, according to Genscape Inc.

The maintenance is scheduled through Thursday morning, the firm said. “Given that the Corpus Christi Pipeline will be unable to flow gas, we expect a stoppage of liquefaction operations at the Corpus Christi LNG facility during this maintenance.”

Scheduled deliveries to Corpus Christi LNG have averaged 766 MMcf/d over the past two weeks, according to Genscape LNG analyst Allison Hurley. Evening cycle nominations for April 23 were posted at 106 MMcf/d.

Meanwhile, daily production data reflected a significant decline day/day, and Canadian imports were also notably lower. While some upward revisions were expected, the supply drop was seen as significant enough to keep prices relatively supported, especially as a strong ridge was seen in the eastern half of the United States over the next couple of weeks, according to Bespoke Weather Services.

The firm viewed the ridge as potentially leading to a few more early season cooling degree days (CDD) in the southern half of the nation than the weather model explicitly shows. While there is a solid blocking signal in modeling that helps some chill slide across the northern United States as the market transitions to the warm season, “any blocking gradually becomes a warmer signal in the southern U.S,” Bespoke chief meteorologist Brian Lovern said. “So this is something to watch for if the pattern can actually hold on to any high latitude blocking, something that has been difficult to achieve over the last several months.”

Overall, the entire U.S. pattern through Friday is “near perfect” temperatures wise, with very light national demand and why NatGasWeather sees next week's storage build possibly exceeding 120 Bcf. Colder trending weather systems/cool shots are expected across the northern United States this weekend into early next week, resulting in a minor swing toward stronger national demand and why the build three storage reports out should be closer to 105-112 Bcf.

“However, warming will return across the Great Lakes and Northeast May 1-7 with near-perfect temperatures of mid-70s to lower 80s from Chicago to New York City, making for very light demand. The southern United States, meanwhile, will be quite warm most days through May 10, maintaining some needs for cooling, but far from impressive with national CDDs running less than 4/day,” NatGasWeather said.

Despite the somewhat bearish sentiment, the forecaster was interested to see if May prices would hold above strong support of $2.48 ahead of Friday’s expiration, but that theory was quickly nixed after prices continued to sell off to multi-month lows even after the midday data added back a good chunk of demand.

After the break below $2.50, Societe Generale analysts said that a larger correction can’t be ruled out toward $2.45/2.43 and even $2.39.

Cash Mostly Lower

Spot gas prices softened at most pricing hubs Tuesday as mild to warm conditions were set to dominate the United States this week, with high temperatures in the 60s to 80s making for very light demand. There were expected to be slightly cooler exceptions across the far northern United States as weather systems tracked across the Upper Midwest, and a second weather system was forecast to bring heavy showers to the south-central United States and Texas through Wednesday, although with conditions remaining warm, according to NatGasWeather.

On the West Coast, next-day gas at PG&E Citygate dropped 10 cents to $2.89, while SoCal Citygate posted the region’s only gain as cash rose 15.5 cents to $2.215.

Over in the Rockies, prices across the region slid less than 10 cents or so even as Kern River Pipeline extended a force majeure at the Fillmore compressor station to May 15. The outage from an unexpected pipe repair, was originally scheduled to end Monday (April 22), but the end date was pushed back to mid-May. During the outage, flows are reduced to 1.995 million Dth from 2.476 million Dth, but operators will continue to evaluate the system operating capacity each cycle to ensure throughput is maximized.

Kern River cash fell 7 cents to $1.675, in line with other pricing hubs in the region.

Midcontinent spot gas prices were down as much as 35 cents at NGPL Midcontinent, which averaged $1.405, although most declines were capped at around a dime.

Similar losses were seen across Louisiana and the greater Southeast despite Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) on Wednesday beginning pigging maintenance on its southernmost pipe segments running through eastern Mississippi. This will reduce operational capacity at compressor station 546 by roughly 50% until work is completed on June 15.

Flows through the station have averaged 1.11 Bcf/d over the past 30 days, therefore the work would cut gas flows by around 296 MMcf/d, according to Genscape. “While the length of this event is significant, gas at this part of the system should generally be able to find its way onto TGP’s mainline segments in Mississippi or other systems in the region,” Genscape natural gas analyst Dominic Eggerman said.

Several pricing hubs in Appalachia posted modest gains on Tuesday, while Texas Eastern M-3, Delivery next-day gas rose a more substantial 10.5 cents to $2.27. Most Northeast markets also strengthened, although the majority of increases were limited to a few pennies.

West Texas markets rounded out the day’s gainers as prices rose by double digits across the region. El Paso-Permian spot gas averaged 54.5 cents after climbing more than 15 cents day/day.