Utilities injected 60 Bcf of natural gas into underground storage during the week ended April 30, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on Thursday.

EIA storage April 30

The result came in bullish relative to analysts’ estimates, providing Nymex natural gas futures a modest bump. Temperatures were cooler throughout the Midwest during the covered week, fueling heating demand and partly offsetting mild temperatures elsewhere. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) export levels hovered near record levels during the period as well.  

Minutes before the EIA report was released at 10:30 ET, the June contract was flat with the prior day’s close at $2.938/MMBtu. The prompt month shed a penny when the EIA data was released, but by 11 a.m. ET, it had climbed 1.9 cents to $2.957.

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Participants on The Desk’s online energy platform Enelyst said while below expectations, the storage figure likely signaled more – and larger – injections to come in May, given mild temperatures. This likely kept market enthusiasm in check.

Bespoke Weather Services analysts agreed.

“We do feel some loosening will occur in the next few numbers, which is likely why the market has accepted this week’s strong number without another jump higher in prices,” Bespoke said. The firm’s model preliminarily estimates an 80 Bcf build with next week’s report.

Prior to this week’s print, the median of estimates delivered to Bloomberg was a 65 Bcf build, with predictions ranging from 49 Bcf to 76 Bcf. Estimates generated by a Reuters poll spanned increases of 49 Bcf to 76 Bcf, with a median of 65 Bcf. The Wall Street Journal’s weekly survey showed estimates ranging from increases of 52 Bcf to 70 Bcf, with an average of 62 Bcf.

NGI’s model predicted a 76 Bcf build.

EIA recorded a 103 Bcf injection in the comparable week of 2020, while the five-year average increase is 81 Bcf. The build for the April 30 week lifted inventories to 1,958 Bcf, compared with the year-earlier level of 2,303 Bcf and the five-year average of 2,019 Bcf. 

By region, the South Central build of 20 Bcf led all others and included a 14 Bcf injection into nonsalt facilities and an increase of 6 Bcf into salts.

The Midwest and East regions followed closely with builds of 15 Bcf and 13 Bcf, respectively, according to EIA. Pacific inventories grew by 7 Bcf, while Mountain region stocks increased by 5 Bcf.

Looking ahead to next week’s EIA print, analysts on Enelyst said they were generally expecting injections in the 70s-80s Bcf.