Although no Northeast locations were able to breach the $10 average level a day earlier, they did so with a vengeance Thursday as further spikes carried them solidly into quadruple-digit territory. As it often is, Transco Zone 6's New York pool was king of the price hill with the day's top quote of $15 and top average of $14.31.

Disregarding the Northeast's dollar-plus jumps, numbers everywhere else were flat to about 40 cents higher. Flatness was fairly common, and only a few non-Northeast points managed to gain a dime or more.

After falling 5 Bcf or so short of consensus expectations a week earlier in reporting a 138 Bcf storage withdrawal for the week ending Jan. 7, the Energy Information Administration more than made up for it in the opposite direction in saying 243 Bcf was taken out in the week ending Jan. 7 -- about 10 Bcf above most analysts' estimates in the low to mid 230s Bcf. Nymex traders saw it as a buy signal and pushed the prompt-month gas contract 13.4 cents higher (see related story).

Although quite a few pipelines were asking shippers to make extra efforts to stay in balance, there were only a few instances of concrete imbalance-restricting OFO-like actions in effect for such frigid market conditions.

Huge throughput continued at the Katy Hub as cold weather returned to southeast Texas following a brief respite. As Katy prices rose a little more than a nickel, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) said volumes traded there on its platform moved up from 1,141,000 MMBtu Wednesday to 1,180,800 MMBtu Thursday. NGPL-TexOK also saw hefty activity on ICE, with a price increase of about a nickel accompanied by a volume jump from 819,800 MMBtu to 1,086,500 MMBtu.

With the Minneapolis-St. Paul market due to have both a high and low just about zero Friday, it was hardly any surprise that Northern Natural Gas further extended its System Overrun Limitations in all market-area zones (see Transportation Notes). Compared to a normal system-weighted temperature of 15 degrees at this time of year, the pipeline projected averages of 4 degrees Wednesday, minus 1 degree Friday and 5 degrees each on Saturday and Sunday.

Weather 2000 said the coldest arctic air of the season so far was entering both the Midwest and Northeast. "Southwestern states [are] warming up, but this will contract as the East cold expands," said the New York City-based consulting firm. Elsewhere in the West, a mini-Santa Ana wind condition will help warm and dry Southern California, according to Weather 2000, while north of the border a modest Chinook wind will thaw Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The South, which had been in a moderately upward temperature swing earlier in the week, could expect a wintry mix of snow and icy rain from Oklahoma and Texas eastward to Tennessee, Alabama and northern Georgia, said The Weather Channel (TWC). And two storm systems will impact the Northwest and northern Rockies through Friday, TWC added.

With the Northeast again becoming the "hot" market again in solid control of $10-plus delivered averages, Bentek Energy's U.S. Natural Gas Hub Flows chart showed somewhat unusual diversions in Thursday's flow volumes at two key citygates. Texas Eastern M-3 experienced the biggest volume decline by far, dropping 275,000 MMBtu to 4,159,000 MMBtu Thursday (6%), Bentek said. However, Transco Zone 6 recorded a 6% change upward, rising by 111,000 MMBtu to 2,046,000 MMBtu. Bentek noted that Thursday's biggest percentage increase of 20% occurred at Sumas (up 149,000 MMBtu to 880,000 MMBtu), while the top percentage decrease was 14% at Waha (down 84,000 MMBtu to 534,000 MMBtu).

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