On the verge of a long holiday weekend that would feature severe winter cold in nearly all areas, prices made substantive gains across the board Friday. Transco’s Zone 6-New York City pool saw quotes run as high as $27 and recorded an average increase of more than $11 as multi-dollar spikes at Northeast citygates led the cash market uprising.
A few Gulf Coast points, the Florida citygate and Northern Natural-Ventura joined the Northeast in posting advances of a dollar or more. Friday’s increases ranged from a little less than 15 cents to nearly $11.10. The smallest ones were concentrated in the West, where the Rockies was one of the rare areas where a warming trend was under way going into the weekend.
The Algonquin citygate, Dracut, Iroquois Zone 2, Texas Eastern M-3 and Transco Zone 6 (non-NYC) joined New York City in registering peak quotes of more than $20 and averages topping $15. Tennessee Zone 6 numbers failed to reach $20 but averaged more than $15.
Most pipelines had either announced or already had their restrictions in place in preparation for combating the tremendous surge in heating load they would face during the frigid Martin Luther King Day weekend, which prompted gas to be traded Friday for flows through Tuesday. El Paso declared a Strained Operating Condition due to low linepack Friday, and affiliates Panhandle Eastern and Trunkline were adding Saturday-Monday bans on “unparking” gas from their Autopark services (see Transportation Notes).
Kern River, still reporting low linepack systemwide Friday, said it had been unable to keep markets whole when a contaminants problem Thursday at the Opal Plant caused a reduction of nearly 100,000 Dth in pipeline linepack, but the situation appeared to be improving Friday (see Transportation Notes).
An arctic front was moving southward Friday out of Canada and would be in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions that night, The Weather Channel (TWC) reported. It said weekend wind chills in the Midwest would be in the dangerous range of 20-45 degrees below zero. “With highs 10 to 25 degrees below average on Saturday, parts of [five] states (eastern North Dakota, northeast Iowa, a large part of both Minnesota and Wisconsin and western Upper Michigan) will stay below zero all day,” TWC added.
Snow would be returning to the Southeast only two days after the region’s most recent snowfall, according to an AccuWeather.com advisory. “Many places [in the Southeast] could experience the lowest temperatures so far this winter,” the forecasting service said.
The Northeast got something of a break as TWC said the snowstorm that had been moving up the East Coast would rush out to sea and miss the region. However, “the Northeast might be missing the snow but it won’t miss the cold,” TWC said Friday. “Much colder air and gusty winds will rush in Saturday night. By Sunday, highs will be in the teens and 20s, some 10 to 20 degrees below average.”
The cash market will have moderately negative screen guidance when it resumes activity Tuesday. February futures began in positive territory Friday but finished the day down 8.8 cents. Cash quotes are still expected to continue firming Tuesday, though, as much of North America will still be in deep freeze conditions.
The Northeast really didn’t get very cold weather until the weekend, and that’s why Friday’s spikes were preceded by two days of large declines, said a regional marketer. Obviously there were some pipeline restrictions in effect, he said, but he didn’t perceive any troublesome transport issues. The Northeast should get a brief warm-up around midweek but then will turn colder again, he added.
A Florida-based trader said making purchases was a bit more hectic than usual Friday because his company has customers spread all the way from the Sunshine State’s Panhandle to south of Miami, and north-south climates for the weekend were decidedly different. Saturday highs would reach the mid 80s in the southern end of Florida, while lows just above freezing were predicted in northern sections. The southern customers had little need for spot gas, he said, while “our Panhandle customers will feel the cold most this weekend.”
For some reason the Florida market was not all that well bid Friday, the trader went on. Despite a Florida Gas Zone 3 spike of about $1.25, he considered the volumes traded there as rather modest. It was mainly the competition for area supplies from Southeast and Northeast buyers that sent prices so high, he said.
At least the latest siege of major cold weather came on a holiday weekend, the buyer observed; that meant the price-boosting impact wasn’t as great as it would have been for a regular weekday period.
The number of drilling rigs actively seeking natural gas in the U.S. fell again in the week ending Jan. 18, but by much less than the 41-rig loss during the previous week, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count (https://intelligencepress.com/features/bakerhughes/). Last week eight rigs quit the search, and again most of the decline occurred onshore (down seven). The tally was 4% less than both the month-earlier and year-ago levels, Baker Hughes said.
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