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Cold Blast Sends Gas Demand to Record Levels in New England, Long Island

Cold Blast Sends Gas Demand to Record Levels in New England, Long Island

While several gas demand records were broken in the West last week, particularly in the Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, the severe cold over the weekend in the Northeast shattered records at KeySpan's New England and Long Island utilities. The company also warned that it anticipates heavy demand in the last half of this week as weather forecasters are predicting another severe cold front to drop temperatures to sub-zero levels with high winds.

Late last week, wholesale gas prices shot all the way up to a daily high of $17.50/MMBtu at Transco Zone 6 New York. The cold weather over the weekend prompted KeySpan's Long Island customers to consume 56% percent more gas than normal for this time of year.

In late January, Long Island usually requires 450,000 Dth/d each day, but on Friday, Long Island set a new record sendout of 685,700 Dth/d. Then on Saturday, that record was surpassed when gas sendout reached an all-time new high of 702,000 Dth/d.

Meanwhile on Friday in New England, KeySpan's natural gas demand hit 1.27 million Dth/d, breaking the old record set on Jan. 22, 2003 of 1.20 million Dth/d. A normal day for this time of year in its New England territory in Massachusetts and New Hampshire is 705,652 Dth/d.

KeySpan said its Brooklyn utility operations over the weekend came close to testing the record sendout set last January. On Saturday, Brooklyn hit the sixth highest sendout in its history at 1.07 million Dth/d, which was close to the Jan. 23, 2003 record sendout of 1.09 million Dth/d. On a typical day in January, customers in this area usually consume an 800,000 Dth/d.

KeySpan spokeswoman Diana Parisi said interruptible customers who experienced curtailments over the weekend were seeing their capacity and gas volumes return Monday. She said there were no firm delivery cuts, and the company has adequate supply to continue meeting demand.

However, it faces a daunting task later this week. The National Weather Service reported Monday that southern New England should see the coldest temperatures in nearly two decades. "This past Friday and Saturday's weather may have been just a taste of what is likely to be even greater in magnitude of record cold," the National Weather Service said in a weather alert for Boston on Monday. "The next surge of frigid air will arrive in the form of an Arctic cold front late Tuesday... Wednesday will find temperatures hovering near zero with chill similar to that of this past Friday and Saturday. Conditions are likely to worsen Thursday night and Friday... This air mass will be accompanied by dangerously cold wind chills of 25-30 below zero and record cold temperatures of 5 to 15 below for much of the area."

Throughout many areas in West early last week, severe cold weather sent natural gas and electricity demand soaring. Xcel Energy's Colorado customers, for example, used a record 1.94 Bcf of natural gas during a 24-hour period, a company spokesperson said on Friday, exceeding the previous record of 1.9 Bcf.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) in western Washington set a natural gas sendout record at the outset of the cold snap and then a near-record for electricity the next day. And to the east in Montana, NorthWestern Energy faced electricity demand (1,547 MW) Tuesday, exceeding totals reached the past two summers in 100-degree heat. Temperatures in some places bottomed out at minus-31 degrees, a utility spokesperson said. The combination utility also reported sending out about 275 MMcf/d.

Earlier in the week Portland General Electric (PGE) and Puget Sound Energy were still coping with outages and near-record demands. Last Thursday morning PGE still had 40,000 power customers out of service.

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