Natural gas cash prices were mixed Tuesday as traders balanced news of a pipeline explosion in the Marcellus Shale with no indications of supportive weather developments on the horizon. While most regions saw little change in either direction average in the Midcontinent and Midwest mostly slipped, while the Northeast ranf up some significant dollar-plus gains. January futures skidded another 4.8 cents to $3.412 and February slumped 4.6 cents to $3.441. January crude oil rose 23 cents to $85.79/bbl.

Market attention was drawn to an explosion and fire on a natural gas pipeline owned by NiSource Inc. early Tuesday afternoon near its Columbia Gas Transmission Lanham Compressor Station in Sissonville, WV, (see related story). An eastern marketer learning of the event was unsure if the event would have any impact on his trading. IntercontinentalExchange said trading was quiet in the late hours at points such as Dominion and Columbia Gas TCO.

At the close of physical trading Columbia Gas TCO was quoted at $3.41, up a penny, and Dominion was 3 cents higher at $3.36. Transco Leidy rose by 7 cents to $3.29. However, a few Northeast points soared Tuesday. Algonquin Citygate added $1.60 to $6.84, while Tenn Zone 6 200L increased by $1.71 to $6.96.

Midcontinent points were steady to lower as forecasts called for a quick change to warmer temperatures. “[R]esidents of the Heartland are in store for a wild shift to warmer weather,” said Brian Edwards, an meteorologist. “Just as a big dip in the jet stream has settled into the Plains and Great Lakes, it will just as quickly lift out as a large zone of high pressure slides into the East [and] southerly winds around the back side of this high will send a surge of much milder air into the Plains.

“Temperature in cities such as Minneapolis, Omaha and Oklahoma City, which were in the teens this morning [Tuesday] will rise into the 40s and 50s by the middle of the week!”

Quotes for Wednesday delivery on NGPL Mid Continent were up a penny at $3.29, and gas on ANR SW was flat at at $3.32. Oklahoma Gas Transmission quotes for Wednesday deliveries came in at $3.28, off 3 cents. Parcels on Panhandle Eastern were steady at $3.27.

In the Great Lakes prices eased. Quotes at the Chicago Citygates fell 4 cents to $3.45, and on Alliance gas for Wednesday delivery slipped 2 cents to $3.49. On Michcon gas for Wednesday came in 4 cents lower at $3.58, and parcels on Consumers were 3 cents down at $3.61. At Dawn next-day deliveries were about flat at $3.79.

Market analysts see some moderation in the recent trend of weather forecasts to call for pronounced warming in the East. “This market is thus far showing some usual Tuesday price consolidation as the overnight trading range has been limited to [Monday’s] parameters. Some of the show of support appears attributable to some shifts in the extended eight-14 day temperature views that encompass most of next week in which normal temperature trends across the heavily populated Northeast region are now widely anticipated,” said Jim Ritterbusch of Ritterbusch and Associates.

“The shorter-term six-10 day outlook is suggesting less-pronounced deviation toward the warm side across most of the country. Nonetheless, we are seeing nothing in the forecasts capable of igniting a strong upside price advance.”

According to the most recently released reports on heating requirements for major energy markets, expectations of a low withdrawal from inventories in this week’s storage report appear to be correct.

For the week ended Dec. 8, the National Weather Service (NWS) calculated that New England saw 177 HDD (heating degree days) or 41 fewer than normal. New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were seen with 152 HDD, or 50 fewer than the norm. The greater Midwest from Ohio to Wisconsin shivered under 146 HDD, or 84 fewer than its seasonal norm.

NWS starts measuring the heating season from July 1, and since then HDD totals show that although it may seem to be a warm winter, it is not as warm as last year. New England’s total is 1,494 HDD, or 229 more than a year ago, and the Mid Atlantic has seen 1,326 HDD, or 193 more than last year. The Midwest has tallied 1,573 HDD, or 151 more than a year ago.

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