Softness continued in most of the cash market Wednesday, but unlike the double-digit drops that were predominant the day before, nearly all of Wednesday's declines were around a dime or less. Prices again were weighed down by dwindling cooling load, especially in the eastern end of the South (Atlanta's high was predicted to fall from around 80 Wednesday to 73 Thursday), and by prior-day futures weakness.

Several flat to higher points, most of them in San Juan Basin and in the Midcontinent/Midwest and Northeast markets, were mixed with the overall downturn that peaked with a loss of about 20 cents.

A cold front that was moving into the Northeast may bring a revival of heating load with it, as upstate New York and northern New England were due to see temperatures peak in only the 40s Thursday. Things will be a bit more moderate in the Midwest, but forecasts there call for lows in the 40s. Temperatures will be above mid-May norms in most of the West, The Weather Channel said.

Although a total outage of El Paso's San Juan Crossover isn't scheduled to end until Friday's gas day (there will still be a 44 MMcf/d reduction of crossover capacity that day followed by restoration of full 628 MMcf/d capacity Saturday), San Juan traders apparently were looking ahead as they pushed basin prices up by a little more than a quarter in the Blanco pool and by a little more than a dime in the Bondad pool. Temperatures peaking around 100 degrees or higher in the desert Southwest may have been a factor in the early San Juan rally.

The Rockies has gotten an infusion of extra takeaway capacity. Williams' Northwest Pipeline announced Wednesday that it had gotten FERC's OK to begin service on its 30-inch diameter Parachute Lateral (see related story), and a spokeswoman in Salt Lake City confirmed that nominations were already being taken for Parachute flows. The approximately 38-mile pipeline and related facilities will move up to 450,000 Dth/d from Williams' production facilities in Garfield County, CO, to the Greasewood Hub in Rio Blanco County, CO, where interconnects can be made to other interstate pipelines that access various markets.

Noting that the Chicago citygate was one of the few points to eke out a small gain Wednesday, a Calgary-based producer said he had to figure that the Chicago market was driven mainly by storage buying because there wasn't all that much cold weather creating extra heating load. He said Wednesday was probably the warmest day of the week in Calgary with highs in the 70s, but rains will cool the city down again in the next few days.

Monday is the Victoria Day holiday in Canada, so the producer expects to make sales for four days of flow on Friday. However, that will depend somewhat on whether Alliance posts its Authorized Overrun Service levels through Tuesday on Friday, he added. If it doesn't, those in the Calgary trading community who work the Chicago market likely will have to work Monday, he said, "but Alliance is usually pretty good" about holiday weekends and likely will post four days of AOS levels.

The National Weather Service's (NWS) forecast for the May 21-25 workweek calls for above-normal temperatures in a broad swath that includes all of the Northeast, the eastern half of the Midwest, most of the Mid-Atlantic and a western section of the South that extends to the eastern fringe of Oklahoma, the northeast corner of Texas and the northern fringe of Louisiana. It also looks for above-normal readings in virtually all of Arizona and California along with most of Nevada and the southwest corner of Utah. Below-normal temperatures should prevail in most of Florida (excluding the western half of the Panhandle) along with coastal sections of Georgia and South Carolina; in South Texas; and in the Upper Plains as far south as the Oklahoma Panhandle, NWS said.

Reuters said its survey of 22 industry players found an average expectation of a 99 Bcf storage build to be reported for the week ending May 11. Broker Jay Levine of enerjay LLC weighed in with a 107 Bcf estimate, while Ron Denhardt of Strategic Energy & Economic Research looks for a 98 Bcf injection. Bentek Energy said it expects inventories to have risen by 96 Bcf.

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