With bulls still reeling from a surprisingly plump triple-digit weekly storage injection, natural gas futures were down in early trading Friday. The November Nymex contract was off 3.0 cents to $2.413/MMBtu at around 8:40 a.m. ET.
The American and European guidance came into better agreement overnight, with the American data dropping demand and the European remaining “closer to unchanged” compared to 24 hours earlier, according to Bespoke Weather Services.
“There is still some rather solid near-term demand as we combine some very impressive late season heat in the southern U.S., and even up into the lower Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, early next week with some notable early cold in parts of the West,” Bespoke said. “We do still see some colder risks across the northern tier and into the Northeast as we move toward the 11-15 day period, as some of the western cold seeps eastward, but right now we do not see this as strong.” As “southern heat finally wanes” it should place demand in the 11-15 day window “pretty close to normal levels.”
Support at $2.40 could hold near-term for the November contract “given occasional colder 11-15 day risks in some model runs,” according to Bespoke. But loose balances and the prospect of “more sizable builds to come” in the next few Energy Information Administration (EIA) storage reports keeps price risk “ultimately skewed more to the downside than the upside.”
The EIA on Thursday reported a 102 Bcf weekly injection into U.S. natural gas stocks that significantly overshot consensus expectations. The 102 Bcf injection for the week ended Sept. 20 doubles the 51 Bcf build EIA recorded in the year-ago period and easily tops the 74 Bcf five-year average. Total Lower 48 working gas in underground storage ended the week at 3,205 Bcf, 444 Bcf (16.1%) above year-ago levels but 47 Bcf (minus 1.4%) lower than the five-year average, according to EIA.
Analysts at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) had been expecting a triple-digit build from this week’s report. The confirmed 102 Bcf injection reflects a market that was about 3 Bcf/d oversupplied after adjusting for weather-related demand, they said.
“While the triple-digit build likely widened some eyes, the primary focus this week” is the start of full in-service on the 2.0 Bcf/d Gulf Coast Express pipeline “and how quickly volumes will ramp up,” the TPH team said. “Intrastate reporting issues make gauging flows somewhat difficult, but over the past two days we’ve seen receipt volumes of 0.8 Bcf/d hit the system and production volumes from Texas increase by around 1.0 Bcf/d.”
TPH is forecasting flows on the pipeline to ramp up to around 1.2 Bcf/d near-term and reach capacity by early 2Q2020. A “quicker/slower ramp” could have “material implications for the macro.”
The “startling” injection figure from EIA Thursday could signal gaps in the market’s read on production volumes, according to EBW Analytics Group.
“A single major storage miss is often an anomaly,” EBW analysts said. “The recent pattern suggests, however, that production is running substantially higher than published estimates. This may be due to completion of new intrastate lines and gathering systems, and the return of pipelines from fall maintenance and forced outages.”
The next two or three EIA reports “will be critical to gauge whether production estimates should be raised and, if so, by how much.”
November crude oil futures were down $1.40 to $55.01/bbl at around 8:40 a.m. ET, while October RBOB gasoline was trading about 3.9 cents lower at $1.6225/gal.