Natural gas weekly prices for the Oct. 21-25 period were mixed as a series of weather systems moved across the country, bringing brief bouts of chilly air in between spans of milder temperatures. Sharp increases were seen in Appalachia, while West Texas pricing came under pressure from rampant production growth and a return to pipeline constraints. The NGI Spot Gas Weekly Avg. climbed 8 cents to $1.980.
On the East Coast, the majority of pricing hubs in the Northeast posted small gains as the midweek blast of cold was quickly replaced by more seasonal conditions, although parts of England put up more substantial increases. Appalachia markets were up by double digits, led by Columbia Gas, which jumped 17.5 cents on the week to $1.88.
Prices were mixed across the Southeast, with Dominion Energy Cove Point picking up 16 cents to average $2.02 as the Cove Point liquefied natural gas terminal returned from a nearly monthly maintenance outage.
West Texas gas prices, which had soared to nearly $2 after Kinder Morgan Inc. put its Gulf Coast Express pipeline into full service, quickly came back under pressure as the line filled. With Kinder Morgan’s second Permian conduit, Permian Highway, delayed to early 2021, from late 2020, the rapid sell-off was no surprise.
Waha averaged just 20 cents for the week after plunging 95.5 cents. However, producers paid as much as 30 cents earlier in the week to have customers take the gas off their hands.
The Permian Highway delay is expected to keep Waha gas prices under pressure for longer, “with relief dependent on seasonal support to demand and exports to Mexico,” Goldman Sachs analysts said. “That said, this weakness in Waha could admittedly be offset (or delayed) by slower oil production growth.”
In California, local utilities resorted to public safety power shutoffs in order to mitigate risks related to wildfires that were spreading throughout the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom had declared a state of emergency as Santa Ana winds were expected to peak on Friday, and community resource centers were opened throughout the state.
Southern California Edison had about 20,000 customers still without power Friday after shutting service to nearly 27,000 customers across five counties by midday Thursday.
San Diego Gas & Electric Co. had about 16,000 customers without power, while Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) indicated that power had been restored to most of the counties in its service territory. However, only about half of its customers in Tehama and Sierra counties had been restored, and all affected customers in Kern County were still without power.
A somewhat erratic week for Nymex futures kept prices range bound, although several cents higher on the week, as an approaching cold front was forecast to dramatically shift the currently mild conditions in much of the United States.
The November Nymex futures contract tumbled around 8 cents to start the week as that cold snap was seen a little warmer than earlier forecasts and was expected to be more extreme in the Midwest and South, not the more populated areas of the East Coast. Futures bounced back on Tuesday and continued to tack on modest gains through Thursday as an initial early-season blast of chilly air began moving into the Rockies and Plains.
After pulling back a bit on Friday, the November Nymex futures contract ended the Monday-Friday period up 6.2 cents to $2.300. December moved up 1.8 cents to $2.459.
After a brief return of warmer air, the next weather system was forecast to deliver more widespread accumulating snow, as well as long-lasting and brutal cold stretching from Montana to New Mexico through early this week, according to AccuWeather. The period from late Sunday to Monday night is expected to be the snowiest across Colorado.
The heaviest snow is likely to be confined to the mountains from western Montana to central Colorado with many east-facing slopes expected to receive 6-12 inches. Lesser amounts of snow are anticipated at lower elevations, AccuWeather said.
A harsh burst of frigid air is then forecast to arrive during the first half of the week as Arctic air will empty out of northern Canada and sweep across the northern and central Rockies and Plains. Widespread morning lows in the single digits and teens are forecast across this region through Tuesday. However, by Wednesday, widespread subzero temperatures are possible, according to AccuWeather.
“As the cold air spreads farther to the east over the Plains, one to two potent storms may develop and spread swaths of heavy snow from the central Plains to the Upper Midwest,” AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sojda said.
The latest weather models still weaken the cold pattern in the 11- to 15-day period as they show the negative North Atlantic Oscillation blocking fading away, with the American weather models still the most adamant about such a change, according to Bespoke Weather Services. The Pacific side of the pattern still suggests some cold risks in the northern/central United States, however, “so we may still see model runs jump around some in the medium range. We do still favor moderation in terms of the national demand picture after the first week of November, in agreement with the general trend in the current modeling.”
The lack of sustainability in the early-season cold could spark renewed downside for Nymex futures after the first week of November, especially as Lower 48 production continues to set fresh highs. Production hit 95 Bcf over the Oct. 19-20 weekend and then hit 95.3 Bcf on Thursday, according to Bespoke. Early indications pointed to yet another high on Friday as numbers started off higher than the previous day.
Although power burns continue to look stronger week/week, the firm’s view is that the market still needs to see more tightening to avoid price declines, “unless we see sustainable cold deeper into November than what we think will occur.”
Chili-making weather in Texas was not enough to boost spot gas prices on Friday, while mild conditions on the East Coast took a chunk out of cash prices there.
In the Northeast, Algonquin Citygate tumbled 27.5 cents to $1.560, while most other pricing hubs fell between 15 cents and a quarter.
Appalachia cash markets softened in a similar manner, although Columbia Gas finished the day a half-cent higher at $1.855.
Weakness spread across the Southeast and into Louisiana, with losses capped at 15 cents throughout the area.
Meanwhile, market observers on Friday were monitoring a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico, but the weather system was expected to be picked up by the cold front advancing through Texas and the South. This was expected to bring heavy rains across the Gulf Coast that could then spread northward into the Ohio Valley on Saturday, according to NatGasWeather.
Spot gas prices across Texas were lower, but Permian Basin cash remained in positive territory to close out the week.
Prices out West were also mostly a sea of red, although a glaring exception was Northwest Sumas in the Rockies, which saw cash prices surge 47.5 cents to $3.240 amid ongoing restrictions on critical import lines.
However, lower prices could be ahead as an updated maintenance calendar posted Thursday by Westcoast Transmission showed its southbound flow capacity returning to near normal capacity in November after being limited for more than a year following an explosion on its system near Prince George, British Columbia, last October.
Westcoast’s flow capacity is expected to generally range between 1,630 MMcf/d and 1,730 MMcf/d at Station 4B in November, an increase of 380-480 MMcf/d over the year-to-date average. The year-to-date maximum flow is also only 1,650 MMcf/d, “so if flows come in equal to operational capacities, as they generally do, November should see a new maximum flow for this point for 2019,” Genscape analyst Joseph Bernardi said.