Two tropical cyclones threatened the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Monday, prompting offshore production shut-ins and lifting natural gas futures in early trading. The September Nymex contract was up 4.4 cents to $2.492/MMBtu at around 8:45 a.m. ET.
Tropical Storm Marco has weakened, but Tropical Storm Laura is now on course for the Texas and Louisiana coasts and could pose a “significant threat” to oil and gas interests, Bespoke Weather Services said in a note to clients early Monday.
“This will be a tricky week in dissecting the natural gas market, as we have near-record levels of heat nationally but also the risk of a major hurricane into the northwest Gulf of Mexico, which has production in the Gulf shut in this morning,” Bespoke said.
The tropical cyclone activity also threatens liquefied natural gas exports, the firm said.
As of Sunday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement reported that personnel had been evacuated from 114 production platforms, or 17.73% of the 643 manned platforms in the GOM.
Production impacts totaled roughly 1.2 Bcf/d of natural gas and slightly more than 1 million b/d of oil, according to the agency.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Marco was about 85 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River at 8 a.m. ET Monday, moving northwest at close to 10 mph as it delivered heavy rainfall and gusty winds over parts of the northern GOM.
“Marco is forecast to approach the coast of Louisiana this afternoon, and then turn westward and move very close to the coast of Louisiana through Tuesday night,” the NHC said.
Meanwhile, Laura was in the Caribbean and expected to reach the southeastern GOM by Tuesday morning before moving into the central and northwestern GOM by Tuesday night into Wednesday, according to the forecaster.
“While Marco has weakened, Laura has the potential to become a Category 2 or even Category 3 storm,” analysts at EBW Analytics Group said in a note to clients early Monday. “If this occurs, gas production in the Gulf could be shut in for much of the week, slashing output by 10-15 Bcf.
“Processing plants could also be flooded, causing further production losses and supporting the September contract in the last few days of trading, when volatility is likely to be high. But if Laura loses force, prices are likely to decline.”
Looking at the technicals, ICAP Technical Analysis analyst Brian LaRose in a note to clients raised the prospect of the tropical cyclone activity in the GOM this week could inspire “another round of short covering” in the market.
LaRose said a band of resistance in the spot contract from $2.500-2.600 will be the “area of contention the bulls must clear to trigger such an event. Targeting $2.768 next if the bulls succeed.”
October crude oil futures were up 34 cents to $42.68/bbl at around 8:45 a.m. ET, while September RBOB gasoline was up about 3.7 cents to $1.3214/gal.
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