September natural gas is set to open a penny higher Thursday morning at $2.85 as traders mull a government inventory report that is expected to show the leanest increase in supplies in six years. Overnight oil markets were mixed.

Currently, inventories stand at 3,294 Bcf, as high as ever for this point in the injection season. Trouble is that it is not growing fast enough for those who earlier forecast that ending stocks might reach upwards of 4 Tcf, set a new record as well as provide an ample supply cushion and keep prices in check.

Last year supplies set a record at 3,953 Bcf at the end of October, and this year the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is projecting ending supplies at 4,022 Bcf.

Industry consultant Genscape said its latest calculations do not show inventories at “acceptable” levels. “The largest revisions to the forecast based on recent gas price gains have been to production and power burn. The production projection was revised upward to capture the higher prices available, as well as revisions to rig counts coming in higher than expected. Power burn for winter was revised down from previous forecast as higher gas prices nudge gas out of some regional stacks,” said Eric Fell, a Genscape analyst.

Current estimates for the week ending July 29 show increases in supply barely making it to positive territory.

ICAP Energy is looking for a 4 Bcf pull and Tradition Energy sees a 1 Bcf injection. A Reuters survey of 20 traders and analysts showed an average 2 Bcf build with a range of -6 Bcf to +10 Bcf.

Last year 41 Bcf was injected and the five-year average stands at 54 Bcf. Industry consultant Bentek figures on a 4 Bcf pull utilizing its flow model and said, “The risk to the week’s forecast once again belongs to the South Central region estimate, which came in at a surprisingly strong 18 Bcf withdrawal the week-prior, above expectations.”

In overnight Globex trading September crude oil rose 5 cents to $40.88/bbl and September RBOB gasoline shed a penny to $1.3361/gal.