Natural gas bears picked up right where they left off last week, slaughtering the Nymex futures curve on Monday as feed gas deliveries to a pair of Gulf Coast liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals continued to decline and weather forecasts showed heat mostly limited to the southern United States for the next couple of weeks.
The September Nymex gas futures contract settled 5.1 cents lower at $2.070/MMBtu after dipping as low as $2.029. October was down 4.7 cents to $2.083.
Spot gas prices were mixed but mostly stronger, with heat in the West and in the southern United States driving prices higher in several areas. Weather patterns were more varied elsewhere across the country, although with only minor swings in demand expected throughout the week. The NGI Spot Gas National Avg. rose 3.5 cents to $1.875.
After a volatile week that saw September futures surge as high as $2.333 only to finish Friday at a new summer low of $2.121, the front of the curve got another beating Monday as feed gas deliveries to Cheniere Energy Inc.’s two Gulf Coast LNG export terminals continued to taper off.
Deliveries to U.S. liquefaction facilities dropped to 3.98 Bcf/d for Monday from an initial dip to 4.46 Bcf/d on Friday, according to Genscape Inc. The firm estimated that U.S. LNG-related demand was down 1.85 Bcf/d compared to the seven days prior to the initial decline.
Cheniere spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder confirmed to NGI that the company “is conducting previously scheduled turnaround on Trains 3 and 4 as part of its maintenance plan” at Sabine Pass LNG. The drop in deliveries to Corpus Christi LNG was attributed to ongoing commissioning activities at the second train at that facility.
“Delivery nominations to Sabine Pass have fallen precipitously since Aug. 1, to 2.3 Bcf/d from gas day Aug. 4, down about 1.2 Bcf/d from the seven days prior to the feed gas decline,” Genscape LNG analyst Allison Hurley said.
Meanwhile, nominations to Corpus Christi LNG decreased to 819 MMcf/d on Saturday, representing a roughly 530 MMcf/d decrease in nominations to the facility compared to the previous seven-day average near 1.4 Bcf/d. Deliveries to the facility for gas day Aug. 5 had declined further and were posted at 780 MMcf/d as of the Evening Cycle.
Sabine Pass Trains 1 and 2 underwent planned maintenance earlier this spring, with the outage lasting about three weeks and sending nominations to Sabine Pass LNG to a localized minimum of 1.6 Bcf/d on April 5, according to Hurley. Train 2 began its shutdown on March 20, while Train 1 began shutting down the following day.
“Train 2 experienced a 19-day full train outage spanning gas day March 21 through gas day April 8; Train 2 resumed full train operations on April 10,” Hurley said. “Train 1 experienced a 17-day full train outage spanning gas day March 22 through gas day April 7, with partial operations lasting several days before the train resumed full operations on April 12.”
Train 5 also experienced an overlapping outage beginning April 4, according to Hurley. “With all three trains offline for a short period in early April, nominations to Sabine Pass LNG reached a localized minimum of 1.6 Bcf/d on gas day April 5.”
During the 13 days where Trains 1 and 2 remained fully offline, but Train 5 had yet to shut down, nominations to the facility averaged 2.44 Bcf/d. For comparison, during the week prior to the start of the Train 1 and 2 turnover maintenance, deliveries to the facility averaged 3.9 Bcf/d, Hurley said.
Conversely -- yet still notable -- nominations to Cameron LNG resumed on Friday after nine consecutive days of zero flows to the facility. Evening Cycle scheduled deliveries to the facility for Monday’s gas day sat at 244 MMcf/d.
Genscape had noted that the stoppage of feed gas nominations to Cameron was brought on by an LNG storage inventory constraint at the facility, due to what appeared to be a lack of willingness of exporters to load cargoes. The first production unit at Cameron was cleared by federal regulators in late July to begin service.
The other big story greeting traders on Monday was a new record high for Lower 48 production after the Northeast posted a solid recovery during the weekend. Production had dipped sharply last Thursday following the explosion on Texas Eastern Transmission’s (Tetco) 30-inch diameter Line near Danville, KY, as well as the start of a 25 day-maintenance on Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line’s (aka Transco) Leidy Line near Station 515 in Luzerne County, PA.
Genscape’s pipe data sample shows that, as volumes dipped 807 MMcf/d on Tetco and 531 MMcf/d on Transco from July 31 to Aug. 4, production rose nearly equal amounts on Columbia Gas Transmission, Tennessee Gas Pipeline, Equitrans Pipeline, Millennium Pipeline and Rockies Express Pipeline. The total production sample for Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Kentucky and Virginia fell to 31.7 Bcf/d on Aug. 1 from 32.5 Bcf/d on July 29, a roughly 790 MMcf/d drop.
However, production rose back up to 32.4 Bcf/d on Sunday and had reached 32.0 Bcf/d early Monday, according to Genscape analyst Josh Garcia.
Meanwhile, weather failed to make any headlines as model changes over the weekend were generally small, with the overall theme maintaining a variable pattern that is skewed to the hotter side of normal, according to Bespoke Weather Services. Over the next couple of weeks, the focal point for the strongest anomalous heat will be in the southern half of the nation, with Texas likely to see their hottest weather of the summer, the firm said.
“This is different from the hotter pattern in much of July, where it was the Midwest to East seeing the strongest heat relative to normal,” Bespoke chief meteorologist Brian Lovern said.
The firm sees risk that the East can heat back up again approaching Aug. 20 and beyond, as both the American and European models advertise more of a trough into the Northwest, allowing the redevelopment of a stronger heat ridge in the eastern United States. But until that point, both the Midwest and East stay variable with occasional cooler upper-level troughs passing through in the pattern, according to Bespoke.
The midday American model, which was slightly hotter during the weekend, gave back a handful of cooling degree days (CDD), NatGasWeather said. The firm continues to view the weather data as not hot enough to prevent a new streak of larger-than-normal storage builds from lining up several weeks deep.
“Again, it will take much above normal national CDDs for smaller-than-normal builds to occur, and while national CDDs will be slightly above normal most days through mid-August, they need to increase further,” NatGasWeather said.
Even with some bouts of heat and strong demand, the end of summer is nearing. By the last week in August, demand is likely to start falling off sharply, according to EBW Analytics. Furthermore, the expected in-service of Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Gulf Coast Express pipeline in September is likely to sink cash prices below $2, “pulling futures down at the same time,” EBW said.
Already, Nymex futures have been on a clear downward trajectory for most of the summer injection season -- with the exception of a short-lived move higher as temperatures warmed in early July -- falling 48 cents (18.4%) since mid-May, according to EBW.
“Once it became clear that early July heat could not be sustained, bearish sentiment became particularly strong, and any brief move higher has been the result of a short-covering rally rather than a change in underlying market views,” the firm said, adding that this bearish sentiment is likely to continue through the fall.
Spot gas prices across most of the country rose even as a weak weather system was forecast to sweep across the Midwest and portions of the East early in the week, keeping daytime highs in the 70s and 80s.
Meanwhile, Tetco indicated on Monday that it would continue to restrict capacity through its Danville compressor station to zero through at least Aug. 12, with no return to service timeframe estimated. “We are currently coordinating with the [National Transportation Safety Board] to determine additional information that we can provide regarding our return-to-service plan,” Tetco operator Enbridge Inc. said.
Most other pricing locations in the region posted much smaller gains of around a nickel or so, similar to those seen in the Southeast.
The Midwest also saw small gains as temperatures were forecast to warm briefly midweek before a stronger weather system and cool shot was expected to arrive late in the week with another round of mostly comfortable temperatures. Consumers Energy rose a penny to $1.945.
Out West, more solid gains were seen as heat continued in the region, and El Paso Natural Gas (EPNG) declared a force majeure on part of its pipeline in Arizona.
EPNG experienced an equipment failure at its Dutch Flat Compressor Station, near Kingman in Mohave County, limiting throughput by 107,100 Dth/d from a base capacity of 611,500 Dth/d.
The resulting force majeure boosted prices in the region, with El Paso S. Mainline/N. Baja surging 59.0 cents to $2.815. Other points along the EPNG system also rose notably.
In California, SoCal Citygate next-day gas was up 21.5 cents to $3.175, while much smaller increases were seen in the northern part of the state.