East Mildly Softer While Much of West Plummets

The market quieted down Friday as the weather-related excitement of last week receded. Eastern points, still just the teensiest bit nervous about the former Tropical Storm Helene and getting a bit chillier in northern market areas, ranged from flat to about a nickel lower in most cases.

But except for Canadian trading points showing continued strength and Permian/Waha and Rockies numbers only moderately softer, the West was cratering again.

Helene was downgraded to a tropical depression after making landfall near Fort Walton Beach, FL, prompting the National Weather Service to cancel all tropical storm warnings. Crews were reported returning to evacuated eastern Gulf of Mexico platforms as Helene's anticipated east-northeast turn reduced its threat to heavy rains over the Southeast. Meanwhile Tropical Storm Isaac, the latest disturbance making the cross-Atlantic trek, was heading north-northwest about 1,915 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Although NWS expected Isaac to attain hurricane status sometime Saturday, it would not be until later this week it would approach the Gulf --- if at all.

A Northeast trader said the region would be cooler for the weekend, but any new heating load would be relatively negligible. A producer reported it was already colder Friday in the Midwest, which likely kept citygate declines there less than in the Northeast, but he agreed that the market could not look for much more weather support yet.

Niagara Mohawk Power's Nine Mile Point 1 nuclear plant in Scriba, NY, was scheduled to add to a fairily extensive list of eastern nukes at either zero or partial operations over the weekend. The 609-MW plant was to be taken out of service Sunday for about a week of planned maintenance.

Once again California prices were the day's big losers as temperatures kept falling. A much more stringent high-linepack OFO by PG&E (see Transportation Notes) helped push all three points down even though SoCal Gas did not issue an OFO itself, sources said.

The lack of California demand carried over into large drops in San Juan Basin and smaller ones on several Rockies pipes. A Northwest decline of more than a nickel for domestic gas coupled with a nickel-plus rise to widen the spread between the two points, which had reached about 90 cents Thursday (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22) to slightly more than a dollar Friday.

An aggregator is seeing stronger October basis for the Northeast, quoting Transco Zone 6 (NYC) at plus 51, Zone 6 (non-NYC) at plus 45, Texas Eastern M-3 at plus 44, CNG at plus 34, Columbia Gas at plus 26 and Algonquin citygate at plus 49. It was a different story for a Texas/Southwest trader, though, who said basis was weakening from September's to minus 13-12.5 for Waha, minus 18.5-18 for El Paso-Permian and minus 1-0.5 for Houston Ship Channel.

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