Most points responded to forecasts of cold fronts, diminishing cooling load in several areas and Wednesday’s expiration-day weakness of September futures by ranging from flat to down about 30 cents Thursday. The Rockies, however, continued to recover from their maintenance-related plunges in the first two days of the week by rising as much as about 70 cents.

High heat levels in the interior West (outside the Pacific Northwest) fed the demand for Rockies gas. California’s electric grid operator was expected to issue a second consecutive Stage One power alert Thursday, and there was a possibility of the alert being upgraded to Stage Two. Also, Thursday was the last day of three maintenance constraints on northbound Northwest flows, although a reduction of available capacity at the Muddy Creek South Constraint Point to 160,000 Dth/d is scheduled to last through Sept. 10.

One source noted that in addition to the Northwest constraints, another reason for the huge volatility in Rockies numbers this week that took Opal quotes as low as 20 cents Tuesday was that Rockies Express (REX) was shut down Wednesday while the pipeline performed tie-ins at its Wamsutter Compressor Station. Nominated REX receipts of about 381,000 MMBtu/d Tuesday went to zero Wednesday before being restored to about 375,000 MMBtu/d Thursday, he said.

The PG&E citygate fell about a nickel despite the utility’s California Gas Transmission system extending a systemwide Stage 2 low-inventory OFO through at least Friday.

Florida Gas Zone 3 was more responsive to Florida Gas Transmission’s keeping an Overage Alert Day in place Thursday; the production-area point defied Gulf Coast softness everywhere else by rising nearly half a dollar. The Florida citygate saw an increase of nearly 15 cents.

Sumas had plenty of supply availability again as Westcoast reported completing leak repairs between Stations 1 and 2 and restoring normal transmission capacity Thursday (see Transportation Notes). Sumas shared the distinction of Thursday’s biggest drop of about 30 cents with MRT.

A cold front will lower temperatures in the Deep South at least through early next week, The Weather Channel said. Other cold fronts should assure pleasant Labor Day weekend weather in the Midwest and Northeast, it added.

The Energy Information Administration met the consensus expectations of most industry analysts in reporting a storage build of 43 Bcf for the week ended Aug. 24. At least one Nymex trader thought the report had virtually nothing to do with October futures realizing a gain of 5.4 cents in their first day as the prompt-month contract (see futures story).

It’s a slam dunk that most, if not all, of the cash market will be softer Friday, a Texas-based marketer said, allowing that the West’s high heat levels might keep some regional points firm. Milder weather is predicted in most of the East, and the long Labor Day weekend will be an extra depressant on prices, he noted, while the screen’s modest increase of a little more than a nickel will be a negligible factor.

His company had already finished bidweek trading by Thursday, the marketer said, and he could detect little September baseload activity still going on. Asked to estimate the Chicago first-of-month index, he pegged it in the mid $5.20s, or about 60 cents down from August’s number. Nicor continued to have a premium of up to about a nickel over the other Chicago citygates, he said.

An industrial end-user reported routine bidweek trading, adding that his company welcomed the September price drops. As an indicator of how much Midwest power generation load is dropping, he said nighttime lows were expected to be in the 40s during a family holiday weekend outing in northern Wisconsin.

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