Colder weather returning to northern market areas combined with rising power generation load for air conditioning needs along the entire southern rim of the U.S. to boost prices at most points. The cash market also had residual support from Friday's 12.1-cent advance by May futures.

However, Rockies points were highly conspicuous in missing out on the overall market strength by posting triple-digit losses and falling as low as $1.70 in some cases on Northwest. Generally mild weather in the West has dampened demand, one source said, but he thought the withdrawal test scheduled for Tuesday at Questar's Clay Basin storage facility had more impact on Rockies price weakness by putting extra (and unneeded) supplies into the regional market.

Most of the Monday market saw prices range from flat to about 75 cents higher. Despite the Rockies plunges, several western points recorded some of the larger increases of half a dollar or more. Rockies numbers fell by as much as $2.75.

The source noted that production in the Rockies keeps rising, but takeaway capacity hasn't been keeping up, which is why such things as the required storage pulls from Clay Basin can have such a negative influence on prices. Also, the weather is currently pretty mild in the West, he said. The Denver metropolitan area normally records 23 heating degree days (HDD) on April but Monday the tally was only about half that at 12 HDDs, he added.

The Clay Basin withdrawal test will last only one day, but suppliers will not be able to use the facility for another couple of weeks. During further maintenance scheduled from Wednesday through April 18, Questar will accept only transfer nominations at Clay Basin with no injections or withdrawals allowed.

The Northern Natural Gas bulletin board provided a clue about the firmness of the Midwest market in general and why prices were soaring 40-60 cents or so at the pipeline's demarc and Ventura points. The normal system weighted temperature at the start of April is 41 degrees, a posting said, and Monday was expected to be even warmer than that at 47 degrees. However, the pipeline projected that the system weighted temperature would plunge to 33 Tuesday and 26 Wednesday before "warming" to some extent Thursday to 29.

The Southern California border rose nearly 60 cents after SoCalGas ended Monday a high-linepack OFO that had been in effect for 15 consecutive days (see Transportation Notes.

As much as four to eight inches of wet snow is expected as winter returns Tuesday to Canadian border areas in the Upper Midwest in advance of a strong cold front, The Weather Channel (TWC) said. The Northeast likely will see both heating and cooling load Tuesday, with TWC predicting that regional highs will ranged from the 30s in Maine and northern New Hampshire to the "summery 80s" in much of Virginia.

There is no doubt that the South is contributing some early spring cooling load to the gas market, with temperatures expected to top out in the 80s in much of the region.

A Midcontinent producer said he was a little surprised by the price strength of NGPL-TexOk, noting that a lot of pipeline maintenance was restricting flows in the TexOk zone. On Friday TexOk had traded about a dollar back of Henry Hub, he said, but the spread narrowed Monday to about 85 cents. The producer reported finding a sizeable amount of power generation load in the intrastate Texas market, where Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth were predicted to see highs in the low 80s Tuesday. One generator told his company that the spark spread was very favorable, he said.

For some reason it actually felt like "a dead market" Monday even though his company was able to sell a pretty large amount of gas, he added.

©Copyright 2007 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.