Leading up to what could be yet another in a long run of reported triple-digit storage injections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas futures were trading slightly higher early Thursday. The August Nymex futures contract was up 2.3 cents to $2.291/MMBtu shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET.

EIA storage data has continued to paint a bearish supply picture, as inventories have shifted to a more than 200 Bcf year/year surplus and closed the gap on the five-year average to only 199 Bcf from more than 500 Bcf at the start of injections in March.

Estimates for this week’s storage report, set for release at 10:30 a.m. ET, have ranged from a 90 Bcf injection to a 113 Bcf build, according to major surveys. A Bloomberg survey of 12 market participants had a median injection of 100 Bcf, as did a Reuters poll, which had 19 respondents. NGI projected a 103 Bcf build, while Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index futures settled Wednesday at 97 Bcf.

Last year, the EIA recorded a 71 Bcf injection for the similar week, while the five-year average stands at 70 Bcf.

“It was cooler than normal over much of the interior” during this week’s storage report period, “while very warm to hot across the West Coast, far southern U.S. and East,” NatGasWeather said. “Our algorithm favors a build of 98 Bcf.”

As for the overnight guidance, the forecaster said all models trended hotter outside of the European model, which had already been hotter than the rest of the data.

“Where demand was added was July 3-7 by seeing a hotter ridge dominate a greater portion of the U.S.,” NatGasWeather said. “But the data still isn’t quite hot enough for July 8-11.

“However, the data has been steadily adding demand over time and could easily trend hotter for this important period as upper ridges often are stronger and last longer than the weather models initially predict this time of the year. As such, if the markets wanted to use hotter trends as an excuse to add to gains, they certainly could.”

Genscape Inc. modeling pointed to a 100 Bcf injection for this week’s report, a number that, if confirmed, would come in more than 0.5 Bcf/d looser than the five-year average. The supply and demand model showed production for the storage week averaging 88.4 Bcf/d, up about 0.2 Bcf/d week/week, while Canadian imports dropped about 0.5 Bcf/d to average 4.3 Bcf/d.

“On the demand side, total demand including net exports averaged 79 Bcf/d, about 1 Bcf/d greater than the prior week,” Genscape senior natural gas analyst Rick Margolin said, noting that the increases were driven by power burns, along with exports to Mexico and via liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities.

“Power burns averaged 32.6 Bcf/d, a 1 Bcf/d weekly increase,” he said. “Exports to Mexico increased 0.2 Bcf/d to average 5.4 Bcf/d with the startup of linepack deliveries to Mexico’s new Sur de Texas system and testing on systems connecting to West Texas. LNG feed gas increased 0.2 Bcf/d to average 5.5 Bcf/d with Cameron operations throttling up.”

August crude oil futures were off 45 cents to $58.93/bbl shortly after 8:30 a.m. ET, while July RBOB gasoline was down about 3.4 cents to $1.9360/gal.