The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday reported an injection of 66 Bcf into storage for the week ending Sept. 18, comfortably below the low end of analyst estimates and reinforcing a morning rally for Nymex natural gas futures.

EIA storage sept 18

Ahead of the EIA report, the October contract was up 8.7 cents at $2.212/MMBtu. The prompt month jumped further to $2.263 when the data was released. By 11 a.m. ET, the October contract hovered at $2.211, up 8.6 cents from the previous day’s close.

Prior to the report, a Bloomberg survey found estimates ranging from 68 Bcf to 82 Bcf, with a median of 77 Bcf, while estimates in a Wall Street Journal poll ranged from 71 Bcf to 85 Bcf, with an average of 77 Bcf.

A Reuters poll showed estimates ranging from 68 Bcf to 96 Bcf, with a median of 76 Bcf. NGI projected an injection of 71 Bcf for this week’s report.

The latest injection also was bullish relative to a year earlier, when EIA reported a 97 Bcf injection, as well as compared to the five-year average build for the week of 80 Bcf. EIA last Thursday reported an 89 Bcf injection for the week ended Sept. 11.

Analysts said the latest injection reflected favorable weather-driven demand, with hotter than normal conditions over the Northwest and Southeast during the covered week, along with intense heat in the West and Southwest. Also credited were improved liquefied natural gas volumes and production impacts from an active stretch of storm activity in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This number reflects very tight balances — the tightest we have seen in our data all summer long,” Bespoke Weather Services said.

The build for the Sept. 18 week lifted inventories to 3,680 Bcf, above the year-earlier level of 3,176 Bcf and above the five-year average of 3,273 Bcf. 

By region, the Midwest and East regions led with twin builds of 26 Bcf, according to EIA. The South Central injection was 7 Bcf into nonsalt facilities only, and no net build in salts.  Mountain region stocks increased by 4 Bcf, while Pacific inventories increased by 2 Bcf.

Looking ahead to the injection for the week ending Friday (Sept. 25), participants on The Desk’s online energy platform Enelyst cited early forecasts for around 85 Bcf. However, given this week’s report, some predicted downward revisions.

Assuming seven weeks left in the traditional storage season, an average weekly injection of 45.71 Bcf would put storage on track to hit 4.0 Tcf, a threshold at which containment could become challenging.