With tropical storm threats fading rapidly and demand fundamentals staying on the weak side, cash prices ignored a major expiration-day rebound by October futures and continued to fall everywhere except in the Rockies Thursday. The Rockies gains were small at a dime or less, while losses elsewhere tended to range from about 2 cents in Northern California to nearly half a dollar at some Northeast citygates.

Former Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isidore weakened to a tropical depression after making landfall early Thursday morning at Grand Isle, LA, and all tropical storm warnings were discontinued that afternoon, the National Weather Service said. At 4 p.m. CDT the center of Isidore was about 50 miles north-northeast of Jackson, MS. Meanwhile, former Tropical Storm Lili also dissipated into a tropical depression in the central Caribbean Sea, and Hurricane Kyle remained far out in the Atlantic. NWS said it was discontinuing advisories for both Isidore and Lili unless Lili should manage to regenerate.

A spot check of several pipelines with offshore segments found virtually no change in the production outages they had been experiencing Wednesday, but all said they expected a small amount of formerly shut-in supplies to begin trickling in Thursday night, with the pace likely to quicken substantially Friday. A Transco representative said it would be a gradual process, but the pipeline did not have any service disruptions during the storm. “We just had to ‘tighten our belt’ and take gas out of storage” as necessary, she said. A Columbia Gulf spokesman said it still had 550 MMcf/d offline Thursday, “but it appears some could be starting to return tonight, and I think by the weekend we’ll be in pretty good shape again.” Texas Eastern had been thinking some West Louisiana pool gas, which was out of the storm’s main track, might be coming back Thursday afternoon, but any new flows were “very incremental” and nothing substantial, according to a spokeswoman.

At first glance the Minerals Management Service’s Thursday afternoon shut-in update appeared to indicate a massive restoration of more than 10 Bcf/d in offshore supplies. However, the agency said the natural gas numbers it had reported for Wednesday “were overstated due to a number of reporting errors.” Instead of the approximately 13.5 MMcf/d in outages posted for Wednesday, the revised MMS estimate was 8.5 Bcf/d, a reduction of 5 Bcf/d. Thursday’s figure of 8.475 Bcf/d represented a minuscule increase of about 25 MMcf/d. MMS also said 705,292.5 bbl/d of oil was still offline and that 131 platforms and 25 drilling rigs remained evacuated.

Anadarko, BP and ConocoPhillips were among producers reported to have begun returning workers to offshore platforms Thursday. An Anadarko spokesperson said, “Essentially all of our significant assets will be manned this afternoon (Thursday) and back on-line with full production by sometime [Friday].”

Columbia Gulf and Texas Eastern both advised shippers that the Venice Plant near the southeastern tip of Louisiana would not restart processing operations until Saturday at the earliest, and thus supplies upstream of the plant are unlikely to meet the quality specs of either pipe until then.

Far removed from all the storm brouhaha, a Southwest utility buyer said, “We’re trying to get over all the hurricane hype and move on to a hopefully quieter market now.”

EIA said 67 Bcf was injected into storage last week, slightly under prior estimates centering around 70 Bcf. Nymex had a positive response, rising 19.2 cents on the final day of October futures trading. A marketer found it “hard to see why Nymex was so bullish on the storage report, but I guess it was technicals.” Sources anticipate that next week’s report will take a substantial bite out of the year-on-year storage surplus, figuring that the storm outages meant that quite a few traders and pipelines were making withdrawals this week to meet their obligations.

A Gulf Coast marketer who reported dealing with supply cuts on Sonat, ANR, FGT and Trunkline added, “But here is the funny part. There’s not much in the way of trading going on out there. You would think there would be a lot of activity as people scramble around for gas, but I have seen few sellers and even fewer buyers.”

The shut-ins from Isidore were still mixing things up, but day gas from the Gulf was more challenging than impossible, according to a Northeast marketer. “There were some regions that weren’t even affected and there is still plenty of onshore production,” he said. “On top of that lots of customers just decided to pull from storage rather than risk being cut off. Not that it was really necessary to pull [from storage], mind you, it just was more of a hassle to cut or be cut…and we cut a bunch of gas. Everyone did. And it is annoying: I cut you, so you cut him, he cuts her, she cuts me. Sometimes the chain of events seem to go on forever.”

A Northeast utility buyer fared relatively well on offshore losses. “Of our 150 MMcf/d of supply on Tennessee and Transco, only 30 MMcf/d was cut. For us that is not such a big deal and means we will just inject that much less into storage.” He expected to experience cuts again Friday, but thinks that things should be back to normal for Saturday’s flow.

A Rockies marketer commented that he was curious to see how his market would deal with the end of Jonah Field maintenance behind Opal Plant, which he apparently credited with the continuing mild Rockies firmness Thursday. “When they finally figure out how to get the water out [of Jonah gas]. what will happen to all the strong Northwest points like Sumas and Stanfield? You would assume they would split the difference [with domestic supplies], but right now that is a mighty large difference. I think we will see some hurting at Opal. The Rockies has been a bit of an island as of late, bucking every trend that comes along. Who knows what is next?”

Another Rockies trader noted that Rockies supplies were further reduced by a fire at Anschutz Wednesday. “They got it out and they should be back Friday, at least that is what they say. All these little problems build on one another.”

Malin and the PG&E citygate benefited from the end of a PG&E OFO, seeing Thursday’s smallest non-Rockies declines.

One trader reflected consensus feelings in saying the bidweek market has been slow to set up this month. As of Thursday she was still doing only index deals for October, saying Chicago was currently being offered at a discount to index. Meanwhile, a Canadian producer reported deals in the low $3.50s at the Chicago citygate and around C$4.40 for intra-Alberta.

A Midcontinent trader said he was seeing essentially no demand on Williams. “It is trading about 5 cents back of Panhandle Eastern. We often see this in the late summer when storage is full, there is no weather and a lot of Rockies gas is trying to get across [into the Midcontinent]. Williams gets hit hard by that.” He quoted Panhandle basis for October at minus 35-34.

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