Weekend prices fell at a large majority of points Friday as March appeared to be living up to its "shoulder month" reputation more than when cold weather lingered into the month's first week. The bearish storage report from a day before, which spurred a dime drop by April futures, and the weekend decline of industrial load were other factors in softer quotes.
A few flat to about a dime higher locations, mostly in Western Canada and the Northeast, were exceptions to overall losses ranging from 2-3 cents to about 20 cents. The Florida citygate led the declines.
Activity in North American shale and unconventional plays ramped up during the week. According to NGI's Shale Daily Unconventional Rig Count (http://shaledaily.com), 10 more rigs were actively drilling for unconventional oil and gas resources during the week ending March 11 over the previous week. The largest upticks were seen in the Eagle Ford Shale, which rose by 14 rigs to 157, and in the Haynesville/Bossier, which rose by five rigs to 145. The largest decline in activity for the week was seen in the Marcellus Shale, which dropped by eight rigs to 145.
In a week of frequently shifting temperature directions, the Midwest could expect to see lows go below the freezing level over the weekend. On the other hand, most of the South was predicted to return to mild highs in the 70s after a brief dip into chillier conditions. Static to moderately colder thermometer levels, with a few areas of possible snowfall, were expected in the Northeast. A new storm moving into the Pacific Northwest was expected to keep most of the West outside the desert Southwest chilly to cold, while subfreezing lows would continue to prevail in most of Canada.
Following Thursday's futures decline, the April contract will resume providing a bit of cash market support for Monday after rebounding by 5.9 cents (see related story).
U.S. imports of LNG have been light in the last couple of years because of the supply abundance showing up in shale gas plays, and odds against them rebounding anytime soon grew substantially after a major earthquake and resulting tsunami Friday forced the shutdown of many of Japan's nuclear plants and refineries.
Largely due to mild weather across the South, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) reported major drops in trading activity on its platform for Henry Hub and Houston Ship Channel, which both saw prices fall about a dime. Henry Hub was down from 787,300 MMBtu Thursday to only 446,700 MMBtu Friday, while the Ship Channel declined from 542,500 MMBtu to a mere 273,100 MMBtu, ICE said.
It was warm in the mid 70s and "very windy" in Oklahoma Friday, said a Midcontinent producer. Local weather forecasters are looking for some colder weather in maybe eight to 10 days "but nothing significant," he said, adding that he expects the market this week to be mostly a nonevent. Midcontinent supply is abundant with all the drilling going on in western Oklahoma by Devon, Chesapeake, Cimarex and others. That means regional gas supplies will "certainly be battling for market share" over the summer into fall, he said. However, drilling in the eastern part of Oklahoma is "pretty dead."
The producer said he was going out for bids on April-October term deals "and into seeing great bonuses." However, many potential customers want to buy "daily" pricing, which he perceived as "a bit concerning."
A western utility said his area is experiencing an "almost but not quite shoulder month." With temperatures near 80 due over the weekend, he said the current "quite warm weather" was earlier than he had hoped, since it meant lower throughput on his LDC's system.
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