Most cash points continued to rise Tuesday as the latest cold wave began to engulf much of the East. Northeast citygates realized triple-digit spikes due to what one forecaster described as blizzard-like conditions expected in the region Wednesday. However, warming trends had a good deal of the West and Midcontinent falling by 2-3 cents to as much as 15 cents.

Several flat points were a part of Tuesday’s mixed price movement. Gains ranged from 2-3 cents to a little more than $1.90. Excepting Northeast citygates, the top increase was limited to about 40 cents.

The cash market will continue to have marginal prior-day screen support Wednesday after March natural gas futures tacked on another 2 cents to their recent gains in the contract’s penultimate day of trading. But once again Nymex’s main attraction Tuesday was in the oil pit, where April crude racked up another in a recent series of price records by closing at $100.88/bbl. It also moved the intraday record bar higher by peaking at $101.15.

The Sable Offshore Energy Project was back to its normal production range of 400-500 MMcf/d Tuesday, a spokesman said, following reports by Maritimes & Northeast U.S. (M&N) of some supply shortfalls Sunday and Monday (see Transportation Notes). Dracut, the New England terminus of M&N, was the only Northeast citygate to rise less than a dollar Tuesday.

With the return of frigid weather in the East came the return of several OFO-like pipeline restrictions (see Transportation Notes). Most had to do with constraints on shippers’ ability to create due-pipe imbalances or get payback of due-shipper imbalances, i.e., anything that would tend to reduce linepacks. M&N joined its affiliates Texas Eastern and Algonquin in implementing such measures; the other two pipes had announced theirs Monday.

Florida Gas Zone 3 and the Florida citygate were up nearly 35 cents each after Florida Gas Transmission issued an Overage Alert Day due to cold temperatures predicted for northern Florida Wednesday. Sections of Florida, Georgia and Alabama experienced power outages Tuesday from major windstorms.

It should be noted that nearly all of the new constraints occurred in pipes serving the Northeast and Southeast. It was believed that only ANR and MRT had significant restrictions in pipes to the Midwest. Besides that factor, the abundance of Midwest storage in comparison with the Northeast has a lot to do with the rather sedate nature of Midwest prices as opposed to the huge volatility seen lately in the Northeast.

It would be nothing like the lows in the single digits and teens expected Wednesday in the Midwest and Northeast, but the South will start making substantive contributions to overall heating load again when temperatures start bottoming out at or below the freezing level in the region’s eastern half.

Meanwhile, western markets were fairly quiet and modestly softer for the most part, especially in the Rockies, as temperatures are trending higher in contrast to much of the East. Denver, which peaked in the mid 40s Monday and Tuesday, will see Wednesday’s high jump about 10 degrees, according to Madison, WI-based Weather Central.

“I would take 63 degrees,” a marketer in the Upper Midwest said when told that’s what Houston’s peak temperature was expected to be Tuesday. It’s now looking like March won’t be much milder than February, she said; the first week shouldn’t be too bad, but her company is “seeing a lot of blue on the weather map” through much of the rest of the month.

The marketer acknowledged that the groundhog had warned the industry about six more weeks of winter at the beginning of February, but even his forecast indicated that winter weather should be tapering off around mid-March, she said. Pretty much all of the Midwest won’t get above freezing before the weekend, she added. It might start thawing out again Sunday, “but right now I’m not sure how long that [warming trend] will last.”

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