The latest storage figure from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) came in on the high side of expectations Thursday, with the agency reporting a 15 Bcf injection into storage inventories for the week ending April 23.

EIA storage April 23

After three straight days in the green, natural gas futures retreated early in Thursday’s session and fell further following the EIA report. 

The Nymex June futures contract was trading about 1.5 cents lower day/day at $2.944/MMBtu ahead of the EIA’s 10:30 a.m. ET report. As the print crossed trading desks, the new prompt month slipped to $2.917 and by 11 a.m. was at $2.898, off 6.2 cents from Wednesday’s close.

On Wednesday, a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts showed injection estimates ranging from 6 Bcf to 19 Bcf, with a median build of 8 Bcf. Reuters polled 18 analysts, whose estimates ranged from an injection of 6 Bcf to 28 Bcf, with a median build of 9 Bcf. A Wall Street Journal poll also produced results within that range. NGI projected a build of 13 Bcf.

Last year, EIA recorded an injection of 70 Bcf for the similar week, and the five-year average build is 67 Bcf.

“Now we can wait and see if the build knocks some air out of an overbought market as we approach summer…maybe short term,” said Huntsville Utilities’ Donnie Sharp, natural gas supply manager.

Sharp and other participants on The Desk’s online energy chat Enelyst noted the higher-than-expected build in the South Central region. EIA said South Central inventories rose by 6 Bcf, including a 2 Bcf injection into salt stocks and 4 Bcf into nonsalts. Most analysts had pegged the build at 1-2 Bcf.

Another surprise in the latest EIA data was the 6 Bcf withdrawal in the East.

“It was much colder than normal over the interior U.S., slightly cool over the East, while warm over the West Coast,” NatGasWeather said of temperatures in the EIA report reference period.

Elsewhere, Pacific inventories rose by 7 Bcf, while Midwest stocks increased by 6 Bcf, according to EIA. The Mountain region reported a 1 Bcf increase in stocks.

Total working gas in storage as of April 23 was 1,898 Bcf, 302 Bcf below year-ago levels and 40 Bcf below the five-year average, EIA said.