Robust production out of the Marcellus Shale is weighing on prices, causing Bank of America (BofA) analysts to doubt the staying power of their fourth quarter and 2014 price forecasts and prompting Bernstein Research to cut its 2013 forecast by 25 cents.
“The Marcellus is a monster and production keeps growing,” BofA said in a note Wednesday. “North America simply remains awash with dry natural gas…Low Henry Hub gas prices have reignited coal-to-gas switching. But given strong storage injections, mild demand and, most importantly, continued growth in U.S. dry natgas production, we see downside risk to our 4Q and 2014 price forecasts of $4.30/MMBtu and $4.20/MMBtu.”
Bernstein analysts took note of Henry Hub prices averaging about $3.70/Mcf year to date and their expectation that prices will not average $4.40/Mcf-plus for the rest of the year, and they cut their Henry 2013 forecast to $3.75/Mcf from $4.00/Mcf.
“We maintain our forecasts for $4.00/Mcf gas price in 2014 and 2015, but continued strong results in the Marcellus (downspacing for Range Resources Corp., well performance by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.) suggests to us that resource estimates out of the Marcellus may continue increasing…” Bernstein said, adding that expected environmental regulations affecting dirty power plants and exports of liquefied natural gas “provide some price tailwinds” in 2015 and beyond.
In a note titled “Still choking in natural gas,” BofA said it was raising its dry gas production growth forecast to 0.6 Bcf/d this year and to 1.5 Bcf/d in 2014, “likely placing a cap on U.S. natgas prices for the time being.”
More gas will be in storage, too, BofA said. This October should see stored 3.8 Tcf, up from the previous estimate of 3.65 Tcf, and the October 2014 storage level is now expected by BofA to be 3.7 Tcf, up from the previously forecast 3.45 Tcf. “While these numbers suggest plenty of spare inventory capacity (given that maximum storage capacity sits at 4.2 Tcf) and thus little reason for a collapse in prices, they equally imply little upside to U.S. natural gas prices.”
Given recent production statistics from producers, BofA said it may be hard for U.S. prices go get much higher than $3.90/MMBtu for 2014.
Fitch Ratings recently went on the record that it expects gas prices to stay within a $3.00-4.50/MMBtu range over the “next few years” (see Daily GPI, Aug. 15)
“We expect prices will remain volatile due to weather impacts but should continue to be range bound over the next several years due to the substantial amount of oversupply that continues to affect the market and limited visibility on new demand to soak up that supply,” Fitch analysts said earlier this month.
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