Subfreezing lows will be left in the wake of an icy coastal storm moving out to sea, but Northeast residents will no doubt welcome the chance to finish cleaning up in relatively dry conditions after the devastating blizzards in the middle of last week. Thus Northeast citygates took nearly all of Tuesday's price hits ranging from about 40 cents to the $1.50 area (the Florida citygate chipped in with a loss of about a nickel).

Modest bullishness dominated the rest of the market, which ranged from flat to up a little more than 15 cents. A hefty majority of upticks were less than a dime.

The previous Friday's increase of 7.3 cents by February futures and the extra reclamation of industrial load from a long holiday weekend abetted the remaining cold patches in mildly supporting spot prices.

However, cash numbers will return to seeing negative screen guidance after prompt-month futures reversed course Tuesday into a loss of 5.5 cents (see related story).

Bison Pipeline, which began initial service Friday from the Powder River Basin of the Rockies to an interconnect with Northern Border (see related story), averaged 203 MMcf/d, or about half of contracted throughput in its first five gas days (Friday through Tuesday), said TransCanada spokesman David Dodson. However, 280 MMcf/d has been nominated for Wednesday, Dodson said, and the pipeline is expected to be moving 350 MMcf/d-plus from Thursday onward.

A Rockies producer said his company has no direct stake in Bison since it serves only output from the Powder River Basin but doesn't connect to production firms like his that operate in such areas as the Pinedale Anticline or Jonah Field areas. That doesn't matter much since those producers already have adequate takeaway capacity, he said.

The TransCanada parent claims that Bison will offer the best netback pricing to the Chicago-area market from the Powder River, the producer said, adding that he thinks that's true and Bison will be capturing business from Cheyenne Plains as a result. Producers seemed to be taking a cautious early approach to use of Bison, but the pipeline spokesman's report of rapidly growing throughput indicates any hint of hesitancy is already melting, the producer added.

Northern Natural-Ventura fell a little less than a nickel last Friday despite System Overrun Limitations (SOL) being scheduled in all market-area zones, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) said. However, not only did the point make a strong rebound of slightly more than 15 cents in online ICE trading Tuesday, but ICE volumes soared from 416,500 MMBtu Friday to 540,000 MMBtu Tuesday as the pipeline extended the SOLs through at least Wednesday and Thursday (see Transportation Notes).

The reason for the Ventura strength wasn't hard to figure out: with a normal system-weighted temperature of 15 degrees, Northern Natural's bulletin board was projecting averages of six degrees each on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by minus three degrees Thursday and zero Friday.

The number of drilling rigs searching for natural gas in the U.S. dwindled by another 12 to 902 in the week ending Jan. 14, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count. Four units joined the Gulf of Mexico effort, but 16 others were idled onshore, Baker Hughes said. Its latest tally is 4% less lower than a month ago but 11% above the year-earlier level.

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