Was it a case of deja vu? Friday’s market was close to a carbon copy of the day before. Sizeable declines in the Northeast and plunges in San Juan Basin and the Rockies mingled with moderate upticks at nearly all other points. The gains were around a dime or less in a majority of cases.

Naturally, Thursday’s unexpected report of a storage withdrawal and Nymex’s bullish reaction received most of the credit for sustaining the mild rally Friday at points that weren’t dropping.

“It’s raining today, and that’s better than snowing, I guess,” remarked a Northeast utility buyer anticipating more price softness this week because of area temperatures expected to get up to 70 degrees around Tuesday. She was not surprised by EIA reporting a storage pull, saying, “We were among the utilities that withdrew gas last week” to keep from buying too much new supply at high prices. The buyer added that she also wouldn’t be surprised at all to see another withdrawal in this week’s report, noting that the one Thursday covered only through April 4, “and that’s about when the winter weather started again in the North.”

Analyst Kyle Cooper of Citigroup looks for an even larger storage pull to be reported next week. His initial estimation “looks for a draw in the 30 to 40 Bcf range,” which would compare with a year-ago build of 15 Bcf and a five-year average injection of 28 Bcf. “Cold temperatures are once again likely to lead to a storage withdrawal that is considered bullish on a temperature-adjusted basis,” Cooper continued. “However, coming weeks are likely to see reports viewed as bearish on a temperature-adjusted basis if our theory regarding R&C [residential and construction] demand holds true. Once again, although the differential did contract today [Friday], crude is still very cheap in relation to natural gas on a historical basis. Unlike the U.S. draw, Canadian storage rose slightly for the week ending April 4.”

The declaration by Northern Natural Gas of a System Underrun Limitation for the weekend (see Transportation Notes), which typically signifies excess linepack on the system, might have been expected to weaken prices on the pipe. Instead, Ventura and the demarcation point recorded gains on either side of a nickel. A Midwest utility buyer said the mild upticks were related to Thursday’s screen strength, noting that Friday morning trading “started with Nymex up nearly quarter from where it was when most cash business had finished Thursday.” He went on to observe that NNG is “still having issues with the Bushton Station compressors,” which limits its ability to put gas into storage and had something to do with issuance of the SUL. An explosion and fire on the morning of April 1 injured five pipeline employees at the Bushton Compressor Station in Kansas (see Daily GPI, April 2).

The buyer said the weather in his company’s service territory was nearly “summer-like” Friday, with temperatures “about 75 degrees compared with 35 a week ago.” Prices have come down a little since then but not nearly as much as the change in weather would seem to warrant, he said.

There’s almost no weather load left in the Rockies, a marketer said. Also, rumors Thursday that the Echo Springs Plant in Wyoming might return to operation a day early Friday proved unfounded, he said, but it was meeting the scheduled return Saturday, which restored about 100 MMcf/d of supply to the market.

Despite major plunges of about 50-90 cents throughout the Rockies/San Juan market, Opal shot up at the end to $4 when “someone hit a couple of late high offers,” one western trader observed. She found it “hard to understand why anyone would pay that much in such a weak market.”

But the above Rockies marketer thought the Opal rebound was “because the gas got too cheap. People were outsmarted, they thought the prices would stay low.” CIG numbers also moved up late, he said. The marketer thought one factor in the late strength was producers shutting in because prices kept falling and then buying gas from others to meet their contract obligations. In effect they were both cutting supply and raising demand, he said. “That’s especially likely with tight sand production. There’s virtually no damage to the reservoir from shutting in those wells.”

Calgary was another area where the weather is finally resembling spring more than winter. Temperatures around the city were in the mid to high 60s F. Friday, a local trader said.

A Florida utility buyer who had no weekend deals to report said not only was her service area not getting hot, “but we’re even feeling a bit chilly lately.” That means almost nothing in either heating or cooling load, she added.

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