The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said storage inventories for the week ending April 15 rose by 53 Bcf, a huge miss to the upside that sent natural gas prices tumbling.

eia storage

The May Nymex gas futures contract was trading a few cents higher day/day at around $6.980/MMBtu in the minutes leading up to the EIA report. As the print crossed trading desks, the prompt month slid to $6.844. As traders continued to digest the latest storage data, the May contract was back at $6.880 by 11 a.m. ET.

Ahead of the EIA report, 11 responses to a Bloomberg survey showed injections as small as 28 Bcf and as high as 42 Bcf. The median build was 40 Bcf. Reuters polled 14 analysts, whose injection estimates ranged from 17 Bcf to 50 Bcf, with a median increase of 37 Bcf.

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A 42 Bcf injection was recorded in the same week last year, while the five-year average is also a 42 Bcf injection.

Bespoke Weather Services questioned whether the larger-than-expected build was a bit of a “make up” from last week’s bullish miss versus expectations. The firm, however, uses an average balance of the last two weeks in its storage model, so the misses ultimately get “smoothed out,” it noted.

“Either way, we have definitely loosened, just based on these last couple of weeks, with the model’s end-of-season up over 3.6 Tcf,” Bespoke said. Bespoke’s end-October projection is only extrapolating forward data based on the last two weeks, so it is prone to large errors.

“That means we are not ‘in the clear,’ but this probably limits near-term upside risk,” it said.

Broken down by region, the South Central (SC) led with a plump 33 Bcf injection that included an 18 Bcf increase in nonsalt stocks and a 15 Bcf rise in salts. Midwest inventories were up by 11 Bcf, while the East climbed 9 Bcf. Pacific inventories were flat week/week, while the Mountain region withdrew 1 Bcf.

Market observers on The Desk’s online chat Enelyst noted the stout gain in SC stocks. “SC coming to the rescue. SC has performed the last two weeks and to kick off its injections earlier,” said one Enelyst participant.

Total working gas in storage as of April 15 stood at 1,450 Bcf, which is 428 Bcf below year-ago levels and 292 Bcf below the five-year average, according to EIA.