Natural gas traders were given a little surprise Thursday morning when the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that a measly 51 Bcf was injected into underground storage for the week ended Sept. 19. It appears traders should have been focusing a little more on Bentek Energy’s 47 Bcf storage injection estimate rather than the Reuters survey, which produced an average injection estimate in the low 60s Bcf.
Just prior to the 10:35 a.m. EDT release of the report, October gas futures, which expire Friday, had traded as low as $7.467. Immediately following the release, the prompt-month contract spiked to record a $7.805 tick before easing back a bit. The contract recorded a high on the day of $7.942 in afternoon trade before closing at $7.724, up 4.5 cents from Wednesday.
November crude also rebounded Thursday. The contract gained $2.29 to finish the day’s regular session at $108.02/bbl, which was still a far cry from the $130/bbl mark that the October contract made on its wild expiration Monday (see Daily GPI, Sept. 23).
“The 51 Bcf net injection was at the bottom of the expected range and it also compares with a 78 Bcf five-year average,” said Tim Evans, an analyst with Citi Futures Perspective said. Heading into the report Evans was calling for an 85 Bcf build. “This cuts the year-on-five-year average surplus to 35 Bcf. In the larger context, we think this report may be followed by more average to above-average storage injections, which may soften the impact of the surprise.”
The actual injection for the week also came in well below last year’s 71 Bcf build. It appears the shut-ins in the Gulf of Mexico from hurricanes Gustav and Ike are putting a larger pinch on available gas than expected. On Thursday the Minerals Management Service reported that 56.4% of the Gulf’s usual gas output of 7.4 Bcf/d was still shut in, which is a gain of less than 1% in 24 hours (see related story).
As of Sept. 19, working gas in storage stood at 3,023 Bcf, according to EIA estimates. Stocks are 162 Bcf less than last year at this time. For the week, the East region injected 33 Bcf, and the West and Producing regions chipped in 12 Bcf and 6 Bcf, respectively.
A look at the tropics Thursday revealed that while Gulf of Mexico energy crews will be able to go about their restoration work unabated, people along the coast in the Northeast could feel the effects of a system as early as this weekend.
“The storm that dumped as much as 28 inches of rain on the Dominican Republic this week is now headed north over open water,” warned John Kocet, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather.com. “That means the system is likely to grow stronger, and it has a good chance of becoming a named tropical storm within the next 24 hours. The storm isn’t moving that fast at the present time, but it will really pick up the pace toward the north Friday night and Saturday. Currently, we believe the main impact from this storm will be felt from New England into the Maritimes. New England could get quite a bit of rain over the weekend, while the area from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia gets hit with the highest winds.”
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