Prices continued to spike at Northeast citygates Tuesday, and they were joined by lesser displays of strength at some locations in the Midcontinent and West Texas. However, softer numbers again ruled in a moderate majority of the cash market despite a new winter storm moving into the South and lows around zero or lower being forecast for much of the Midwest.
The tumble of 20.6 cents by March futures a day earlier contributed greatly to Tuesday's overall softness. Negative screen guidance for cash traders Wednesday will be lighter after the March contract dropped another 6.4 cents (see related story).
Most points fell between 2-3 cents and about a quarter. Several outside points joined the Northeast in ranging from flat to about $2.65 higher. Several Northeast points recorded top quotes of $10 or more, while Iroquois Zone 2 and Transco Zone 6-New York both averaged well above $10.
Although more cold was on the way in the Southwest again, the linepack situations appeared to have largely stabilized for El Paso and Transwestern. El Paso canceled a high-linepack Strained Operating Condition (see Transportation Notes), and spokesman Robert Newberry said the pipeline was repacking its system in preparation for the next blast of cold.
There were some unusual contrasts. CIG implemented a new Strained Operating Condition Tuesday because of snow and near-zero cold forecasts in its area, but another Rockies pipe Kern River was asking customers to stay in balance to help it resolve a high-linepack condition.
No injuries were reported in an explosion and fire Tuesday at the Mont Belvieu NGL Hub in southeast Texas (see related story). A Gulf Coast trader said the fire wouldn't affect any of her company's producer clients, but she figured it likely would be a problem for production from South Texas through the area between San Antonio and Houston because much of it is moved to Mont Belvieu for fractionation services.
The North Texas/Oklahoma area is expecting bad weather to start returning Wednesday, she said, but added that "luckily most of us can work from home" if necessary. This week's winter blast should not be quite as bad as the one last week and it also will be short-lived, she said, with temperatures likely to get above freezing again as soon as Thursday.
The trader noted that the weekend temperature shift in the Southwest was so abrupt that she had to make intraday sales from home Sunday via cell phone and laptop for a few clients whose West Texas wells were coming back online.
Since most prices are going down along with temperatures, a Midcontinent producer said he figured that both cash and Nymex traders are looking ahead to more moderate eastern weather next week. He said it was hard to say if the Mont Belvieu fire might boost prices because there are other NGL facilities around and plenty of storage if needed.
Credit Suisse analysts Teri Viswanath, Stefan Revielle and Hugh Li anticipate a storage withdraw of 213 Bcf being reported for the week ending Feb. 4, which they said would bring total working inventory to 2,140 Bcf, or 102 Bcf below the year-ago level. The trio went on to say the current La Nina weather cycle has left western states with abundant precipitation, "suggesting the possibility of ample hydropower and a reduction in gas demand for the region this year."
Stephen Smith of Stephen Smith Energy Associates said his current projection of a 210 Bcf pull is up from an original estimate of 187 Bcf.
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