A sharp drop in the latest production estimates, attributed to springtime maintenance, helped lift natural gas futures several cents higher in early trading Tuesday. The June Nymex futures contract was up 4.1 cents to $2.662/MMBtu at around 8:30 a.m. ET.

Genscape Inc. reported a “hefty day/day drop” of more than 2.7 Bcf/d in its latest Lower 48 production estimate early Tuesday, which the firm attributed to “widespread shoulder season maintenance events.”

Tuesday’s estimate is subject to revision, and recent daily revisions have exceeded 1 Bcf/d, noted Genscape senior natural gas analyst Rick Margolin. Still, the drop in Tuesday’s data “pulls the month-to-date average down below 87.6 Bcf/d, about 0.5 Bcf/d behind our forecast for May.

“For today, there are more than 0.7 Bcf/d of day/day declines posting in the East and Gulf regions, respectively,” he said. “Rockies production is down 0.52 Bcf/d day/day; San Juan down 0.3 Bcf/d day/day; Texas off 0.26 Bcf/d day/day; and Permian down 0.17 Bcf/d.”

As for the latest forecast, Radiant Solutions highlighted a warm pattern for the eastern half of the country in its updated 11-15 day outlook Tuesday.

“Models have come into better agreement compared to yesterday’s output for this period, with changes being in the warmer direction in the Midwest,” Radiant said. Otherwise the pattern maintains similar themes to Monday’s forecast, including “continued belows in the West and above normal temperatures in the Eastern Half.”

As for the six- to 10-day period, “the forecast features a cool change in the Southwest, Upper Midwest and Northeast, with any warmer adjustments being in parts of the Mid-Atlantic,” the forecaster said. “These changes are a result of model trends in further deepening a trough over the West and south-shifting boundary positions along the Northern Tier...Above normal temperatures are in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and South, where additional warm risk is attributed to a strengthening ridge.”

Looking ahead to this week’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage report, Energy Aspects issued a preliminary estimate for a return to a triple-digit injection, calling for a 106 Bcf build. The estimate showed fundamentals “essentially flat across the ledger week/week except for residential/commercial demand, which falls by nearly 3 Bcf/d and drives a return to triple-digit builds.”

“The combination of a low absolute storage level to start the season, burgeoning production and lower gas prices has been stoking injections,” Energy Aspects said. “Injections into salt inventories have been particularly high, as storage at such facilities can be ‘turned’ more quickly, allowing capacity holders to take advantage of any potential profit-taking in the spread between cash and nearer-term forwards during peak cooling season.

“...While we anticipate such strong injection activity will help stoke triple-digit storage injections for at least the next four storage reports, the salt push is limited in seasonal scope. As cooling loads build, the prop-up from salt cavern injections will bow out seasonally and take balances back toward double-digit injections.”

June crude oil futures were trading 76 cents higher at $61.80/bbl at around 8:30 a.m. ET, while June RBOB gasoline was up about 1.9 cents to $1.9827/gal.