No fooling; the April aftermarket remains quite weak in its early days. San Juan Basin/Rockies quotes dipped as low as the $3.20s Monday amid an overall market dive that saw nearly all points dropping by a quarter or more. Only a moderate rise of a little more than a dime at the Southern California border, leaving it only about a dime shy of the April index, went against the overall softening tendency.
This is turning out to be “a real shoulder month as advertised,” a Midcontinent trader commented. A Gulf Coast marketer agreed, seeing conditions as stagnant with hardly any air conditioning or heating load to speak of. “My Southeast demand has been squashed” with a warmup developing that won’t quite generate enough power load to turn prices around, he added. The region was cooler than usual during March, “but it seems to be turning into a typical mild April,” he said.
The screen was a non-event for cash markets, spending the morning little changed from flat, a marketer noted. Its eventual afternoon rise of a little more than 7 cents came too late to influence Monday’s trading, but may help generate a small bounce today, he said. However, large losses Monday by the May crude oil and heating oil futures contracts could mitigate any support for cash gas, the marketer concluded.
Along with northern sections of New England, the Upper Plains market area of Northern Natural Gas was one of the few with any noticeable heating demand remaining. However, the Upper Plains is too sparsely populated to keep NNG’s demarc and Ventura points from plunging along with the rest of market, a Midcontinent marketer said. He traded Chicago citygates in the mid $5.10s, but said that with the area due to warm up by the end of the week, “it should make it even harder to get rid of gas then.”
Malin, San Juan and Rockies points took the day’s biggest price hits, and sources agreed it was this week’s outage at Questar’s Clay Basin storage facility that caused most of the damage. One estimated Clay Basin is capable of up to 330 MMcf/d in injections at the current start of the season (that goes down to about 250 MMcf/d near season’s end, he said), so the Rockies currently is trying to absorb at least 300 MMcf/d or more of gas that can’t get into Clay Basin. One note of cheer for Rockies suppliers: Questar said it has determined it will be able to provide both injection and withdrawal service at Clay Basin, along with Northwest, effective with Thursday’s gas day. Previously the Questar services had not been scheduled for restoration until Friday.
California was under a Stage Two Electrical Emergency alert again Monday. A source said both units at the big Mohave coal plant, which had been shut down by a fire last week, were back to 90% power Monday. However, the Palo Verde 1 nuclear unit was in cold shutdown (zero output) for refueling, and the San Onofre 3 nuke remains in cold shutdown for maintenance; its outage began in early February.
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