The cash market turned in a mixed performance Wednesday that was slightly weighted toward the downside. A few pockets of freezing temperatures remain, and induced gains of up to about a dime. Most points were flat to off a few cents, however, pressured by weak weather fundamentals in most regions.
Midcontinent/Midwest points tended to see most of the small increases because of a windy system packing snow showers that is expected to remind residents of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes areas that winter is not quite over yet. Northern Natural’s demarcation and Ventura points topped the pack with gains on either side of a dime due to severe cold in its Upper Plains and Upper Midwest market areas.
The market is staying quiet right now, commented a Northeast marketer. He noted that crude oil futures lifted the gas screen a bit by rebounding a little from softness that followed a government report of rising oil inventories, but both still ended the day in the red. In fact, unleaded gasoline at New York Harbor was the only Nymex energy product that advanced Wednesday. The marketer could see nothing that would rally cash prices “because there just isn’t the weather needed.” Most of the Northeast is experiencing normal to slightly below normal temperatures for mid-March, and it should stay that way through the rest of the week, he said. He and another source confidently expected mild softness to continue for physical gas.
Despite Rockies lows below freezing, the West (with the exception of flatness at Waha and the Permian Basin) saw the lion’s share of declines of 3-4 cents or more. PG&E not only extended a high-linepack OFO through Thursday (see Transportation Notes) but also tightened the positive imbalance tolerance to zero. “That means you’d better nominate less into PG&E than you actually expect to use,” a western marketer said. Quite a few traders think SoCalGas is close to following PG&E’s lead in calling a high-linepack OFO, but the giant LDC hadn’t done so as of Wednesday, she said.
There’s very little price volatility right now, a Calgary-based producer observed, and March is very much living up to its reputation as a shoulder month. Temperatures in the Calgary area were about 3-4 degrees C. (high 30s F.) Wednesday and due to rise to 7-8 degrees C. (mid to high 40s F.) later this week, he said; “very pleasant,” in other words.
The only below normal temperatures that the National Weather Service foresees for the March 15-19 workweek will be in the Pacific Northwest extending southeastward into parts of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. It predicted above normal readings in the central U.S. and in the lower Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states extending as far south as Georgia.
A big loss of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports was averted when Trinidad’s Atlantic LNG resumed exports Wednesday following resolution of a strike by tugboat operators, Lehman Brothers analyst Thomas Driscoll noted in an advisory. The strike had shut down operations at all three trains on Monday and Tuesday, Driscoll said, adding that Trinidad is the largest source of LNG for the U.S. market, averaging about 1 Bcf/d last year — “nearly 2% of U.S. gas supply.”
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