Blizzard conditions that were still continuing in some areas but starting to fade in others, along with fluctuations in pipeline activity to handle low linepack, made for a wild mix of both large and small price declines and increases in Thursday's market. Increases modestly outnumbered the declines.
A few scattered flat points accompanied losses of up to $1.16 (Dracut). Meanwhile, gains ranged from 2-3 cents to a little more than $1.46 (Katy).
A state of emergency has been declared in New Mexico due to natural gas service outages across the state. Temperatures Thursday night were forecast to hit 9 degrees above zero in Albuquerque.
"Disruptions in gas service have been reported statewide," the governor said. "Please limit gas usage to preserve service across the state. Turn your thermostat down, dress in layers and, if possible, use alternate sources of heat."
Widespread outages of natural gas service were reported throughout Albuquerque, Bernalillo and Otero County, with estimates from New Mexico Gas Co. that up to 20,000 customers in Albuquerque were without gas Thursday morning, according to press reports (see related story).
In a press release New Mexico Gas Co. said that "due to rolling blackouts in West Texas and other problems, the delivery of natural gas into New Mexico has been impeded. States in the southwest are experiencing similar issues." The controls on compressors that push the gas through pipelines and distribution systems generally are electric. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas was running rolling blackouts across its delivery area Wednesday and for half the day on Thursday because of system disruptions.
Spokeswoman Meredith Hargrove confirmed that Transwestern was experiencing wellhead freeze-offs in the Southwest production basins as the pipeline extended a low-linepack Alert Day through Friday.
El Paso had upgraded a previous Strained Operating Condition due to low linepack to an emergency drafting-based Critical Operating Condition with a 3% negative imbalance tolerance, saying operators and production plants "are still having issues bringing facilities back online." And Southwest Gas said it issued an OFO based on upstream Transwestern's Alert Day.
Through late Thursday Northern Natural Gas had allowed System Overrun Limitations to expire in its market areas but said they would still be in effect Friday for all field mids (see Transportation Notes). Later, however it sent out revised notices that SOLs would be in place for Friday through Monday in all market zones and all field mids.
The Houston Ship Channel, Katy and Waha spiked by about $1.21, $1.46 and nearly $1.44, respectively. Waha demand was driven by both intrastate load and supply shortfalls in the Permian and San Juan basins. Despite IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) reporting a Waha gain just shy of $1.48 to average $7.28, volumes on ICE's online trading platform fell sharply from 564,900 MMBtu Wednesday to 422,500 MMBtu Thursday.
Although severe cold continues to reign overall, several areas including the Rockies, South, Midcontinent, Midwest and Northeast will have moderate warming trends under way Friday. CIG and Westcoast were ending a Strained Operating Condition and low-linepack OFO, respectively, while NOVA restored its normal imbalance tolerance range.
Sometimes thermometers can be deceiving. The MRT bulletin board reported that although St. Louis was experiencing 14-degree temperatures around 11:30 a.m. CST Thursday, the "real feel" under sunny conditions (sort of a negative wind chill) was 29.
In reporting a 189 Bcf pull from storage during the week ending Jan. 28, the Energy Information Administration largely was in line with consensus estimates in the upper 180s Bcf. However, March futures were down 9.2 cents at the end of Thursday's trading session.
A Con Edison spokesman said the utility hasn't had any weather-related problems with gas deliveries or meeting demand in its New York service area, despite the fact that January was its largest delivery month ever -- 25,144,340 Dth -- and December was the third largest on record.
A spokesman at the New York State Public Service Commission said it wasn't as cold there as it was two weeks ago and there were no current weather-related problems. "Gas companies are withdrawing more gas than planned, but they are also buying more gas from Marcellus [Shale] producers at reasonable prices," he said.
"While it has been 6-7% colder, it has not created any big problems for us," said Buffalo-based National Fuel Gas spokeswoman Nancy Taylor. "Our storage is just about exactly where it was last year at this time, even though it's a bit colder this year than last. We have been buying extra gas in December, January and continuing into February to preserve our storage. We'll likely continue that practice until the weather breaks some."
A spokesman for Chicago-based ComEd said the weather hasn't kept the utility from receiving all the gas it needs. "Our biggest issue has been getting power restored to people in hard-to-reach places amid the storm."
Atmos Energy has curtailed interruptible customers in the northern Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area but did not have any details on number of customers, volumes or percentage of flow cut, a spokesman said, adding that the curtailments were still in effect Thursday afternoon.
The National Grid utility is drawing on cavern and liquefied natural gas storage as usual for this time of year, and "we're in fine shape," said a spokesman.
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