Most locations recorded price increases -- a majority of them in double digits -- Monday as frigid conditions were forecast in most of Canada and the U.S. Some low-linepack issues and wellhead freezeoffs contributed to firmness in the West, and the return of industrial load from a longer-than-usual holiday weekend was also a bullish factor. But the previous Wednesday's 0.3-cent gain by expiring December futures was considered insignificant.

The Northeast market was something of a conundrum. New England-related locations saw all of Monday's losses ranging from a couple of pennies to about 35 cents as the region is not expected to get below the 40-degree area Tuesday. Because of its Maritimes & Northeast (M&N) connection, Dracut saw the smallest New England decline as outages of the Sable Offshore Energy Product is denying M&N of one of its biggest supply sources through Wednesday (see Transportation Notes).

However, lower Northeast markets such as New York City and Philadelphia will be considerably warmer in the 50s than New England Tuesday, yet both of Transco's Zone 6 pools and Texas Eastern M-3 joined in the overall strong price advance.

Emerson and Empress, both up only a couple of pennies, brought up the tail end of gains ranging as high as about 45 cents. Most of the biggest gains were concentrated in the Midcontinent, which had plenty of heating demand from its most prominent market area of the Midwest, where bottom-end temperatures in the teens and 20s will be common Tuesday.

Most of the lower South will remain relatively moderate, but lows just below freezing will extend into the region's northern reaches.

Merely chilly to cold conditions will dominate in the West. The pull on gas supplies was enough to extend low-linepack situations on Transwestern and Kern River (see Transportation Notes), while Opal Plant operator Williams Field Services reported cutting Cycle 3 nominations for Monday's gas day, saying, "Freezes in the field have impacted volumes. The curtailments will be done to align nominations with current flowing gas."

In their prompt-month contract debut, January futures provided negative guidance for Tuesday's start of the December aftermarket by sinking 18.9 cents (see related story).

A utility buyer in the South said his company was buying a lot more swing gas for Tuesday than before the holiday, both because the weather was getting so cold and because it can't access supply from a winter term contract until Wednesday. He said he was trying to avoid dipping into storage too early, adding that several forecasts call for a milder second half of winter, but it was not worth taking a risk on that not panning out.

The buyer noted that many of Monday's Gulf Coast price averages were pretty close to parity with the January futures close at $4.21.

Bidweek trading was pretty routine, he said.

IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) said bidweek prices continued to rise at many points Wednesday in holiday-constricted trading on its online platform. In the West the SoCal citygate actually retreated by nearly 3 cents while the PG&E citygate was up barely a couple of pennies, ICE reported. However, Opal numbers tended to be stronger, rising from nearly $4.03 Tuesday to about $4.08 Wednesday. NGPL-Midcontinent rose by a relatively modest 4 cents or so, according to ICE, but neighboring pipe Panhandle Eastern and the Chicago citygate saw gains of about 8 cents and nearly 9 cents, respectively.

Little December trading other than the tying up of loose ends was expected Monday and Tuesday. A Midcontinent producer said his company did only spot gas deals for the last day of November and no next-month sales.

Seventeen more drilling rigs entered the U.S. search for natural gas during the week ending Nov. 24, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count. A drop of one rig in the Gulf of Mexico was more than offset by the onshore addition of 18, Baker Hughes said. Its latest tally was down 1% from a month ago but 27% higher than the year-ago level.

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