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Reheating Northeast Leads Broad Advance

With a major pre-summer heat wave solidly entrenched from the South through the Midwest and threatening to spread into the Northeast -- not to mention traders eyeing the prospects of a Caribbean low-pressure area that could become a tropical depression as it moves toward the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) -- prices rose at nearly all points Monday.

Only flat quotes for Kern River and White River Hub in the Rockies failed to make the cut of gains ranging from 2-3 cents to a little more than 65 cents. Tennessee Zone 6 scored the top uptick in leading Northeast citygates to most of the day's biggest gains as several pipes took action to guard against negative imbalances. Not surprisingly, cool forecasts had the Rockies and Western Canada seeing the most modest gains.

A large low-pressure system designated as 94L had moved into the northwestern Caribbean Sea over the weekend, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. Assuming the system clears western Cuba, its movement toward the north or northwest tracking could take it into the central GOM. On Monday afternoon it was about 90 miles south-southwest of Grand Cayman, and NHC was giving it 50% odds of becoming a tropical depression Monday night or Tuesday before upper-level winds become unfavorable for development.

The same factors driving the cash gains -- high levels of eastern heat and the Gulf storm possibility -- were also on the minds of Nymex traders, who gave the physical market some additional upward impetus for Tuesday by pushing July futures 12 cents higher (see related story).

Canaccord Genuity analysts noted an updated outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that "helps explain the strength in gas futures this morning [Monday] as the agency forecasts cooling degree days should be 11% higher year-over-year and 22% above the long-term average this week. The early season heat should be particularly acute in the North Central region of the country where cooling demand is expected to be more than double seasonal norms. The forecasts suggest a strong call on gas-fired power generation over the near term, which should help put a cap on gas storage injections over the next week."

Such generally torrid conditions as those now generally occupying the East won't stick around forever, of course. Northern Natural Gas noted the significant cooldown coming to its Upper Midwest market area with a bulletin board posting saying that Monday's and Tuesday's projected thermometer averages of 82 each (the normal system-weighted temperature is 66 at this time of year) are expected to fall to 72 Wednesday and 63 Thursday.

And while the Houston area continued to reach the century mark in temperatures over the weekend and into Monday, its peak was forecast to drop into the low to mid 90s through the rest of the workweek.

Although Northeast highs were just reaching the 80s Monday, they can be expected to intensify through midweek as Tennessee, Texas Eastern, Algonquin and Maritimes & Northeast all said they would begin encouraging market-area customers to run positive imbalances Tuesday (see Transportation Notes) in order to meet anticipated cooling demand.

The Weather Channel (TWC) said temperatures in the South will remain average to as much as 15 degrees above average Tuesday across the South. Similarly, except for parts of the Dakotas and northern Minnesota, TWC predicts readings five to 20 degrees above average for the Midwest in general and exceeding 100 in sections of Kansas. An excessive heat warning was issued Monday in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, the forecaster said.

Southern heat can be felt as far as the desert Southwest, but for the time being air conditioners aren't needed much in the rest of the West as the overall forecast calls for further mild to cool conditions.

The Southern California border was up about 20 cents while the SoCal citygate rose a quarter or so after SoCalGas ended Sunday a high-linepack OFO that had been for the previous two days. However, IntercontinentalExchange found traded volumes on its platform dropping at both points -- from 771,000 MMBtu Friday to 728,300 MMBtu Monday at the border, and from 438,800 MMBtu to 265,600 MMBtu at the citygate.

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