“Damn the fundamentals; full speed ahead!” as the Civil War’s Admiral David Farragut might have said if asked to analyze the modern-day spot gas market. A smidgen of heating load in parts of Canada and the northern U.S., along with a wee bit of cooling demand from the desert Southwest through the western end of the South, did little to explain rising prices across the board Monday.
In general, weather-based demand remained light in most regions, but as has happened several times in the last couple of weeks or so, gas numbers seemed to care not a whit for the weakness of weather fundamentals. Instead, it appeared that they relied on last Friday’s 12.9-cent increase by May futures (and the contract’s general strength over the week) and the return of industrial load after a weekend off in realizing gains ranging from a little less than a nickel to a whopping slightly more than 75 cents at El Paso-San Juan Bondad pool as highs had begun to approach in the mid 90s in parts of the desert Southwest.
Nearly all upticks were in double digits, but the high end fell off greatly after Bondad’s jump, peaking at a little more than a quarter elsewhere. Likely responding to Bondad’s strength and chipping in some supplies of their own, the Rockies/Pacific Northwest tended to see the other largest increases.
Western markets also got a boost from both PG&E and SoCalGas having ended high-linepack OFOs.
Although prices rose only a little more than a nickel Monday at Transco’s Zone 6-New York pool, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) saw trading there on its online platform nearly double from 104,100 MMBtu for the weekend to 192,900 MMBtu. In contrast, Henry Hub was up 15 cents or so, yet its volumes shrank a bit to 951,100 MMBtu Monday from 965,500 MMBtu in Friday’s ICE deals through the weekend.
The Midwest/Midcontinent is close to seeing heating load again, a regional marketer said, but he thinks most folks are resisting turning their furnaces back on as much as possible. Since he couldn’t detect enough weather demand to justify Monday’s cash firmness, the marketer confessed to being “a little puzzled” about why prices were still going up. He guessed that it had to be mainly prior-trading day screen support and the post-weekend restoration of industrial demand.
He reported seeing few bargains in storage buying at this point because “the spreads just aren’t there,” but said maybe a few people felt like they were getting decent deals on storage purchases.
With May bidweek officially getting under way Monday, the marketer said his company was doing baseload deals for Rockies Express into Tennessee-Clarington at plus 16 cents, at Ohio’s Lebanon Hub for plus 10 cents, and at the Chicago citygate for plus 6 cents.
Even though temperatures are fairly cool in the California market, a western trader said they’ve gotten substantially warmer in the Southwest, and the resultant air conditioning load was likely a big part of spurring strong San Juan/Rockies price gains. Even though Transwestern was restoring a pretty good amount of capacity following maintenance (see Transportation Notes), the traders said he saw very few deals Monday on the pipeline, which he thought was largely due to “a lot of people being still spooked” about maybe not getting the capacity until they can be sure.
He said El Paso-Blanco was trading Monday in the mid $3.80s for May, and there was an unusually high volume of deals for the first day of bidweek, so he suspected that the Blanco index may wind up in that vicinity.
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