Futures strength, which had largely been responsible for cash quotes rising most of last week, had its supportive ability fail Friday as the physical market took double-digit dives at all points. Cash traders also had to contend with a weekend warm-up in the Midwest eliminating some heating load at the same time that falling temperatures were reducing cooling load in the western end of the South.

Naturally the dip in industrial load that accompanies a weekend also played a part in Friday’s softness, as did the growing lack of storage injection options and high linepack situations on a number of pipelines.

Declines ranged from a little more than C20 cents at Westcoast Station 2 to about 80 cents at Cheyenne Hub.

Most of the biggest price hits were taken by Rockies/San Juan Basin points and the Southern California border, which were struck by the double whammy of California’s two giant distributors both issuing high-linepack OFOs for Saturday (see Transportation Notes).

Although it spent some time in negative territory during the morning, the November futures contract recovered to post a daily gain of 12.9 cents, extending its rally into a sixth straight day. Combined with autumn’s first significant cold snap that will start in the East early this week and spread as far west as the Rockies from midweek onward, that gives cash prices a sturdy base from which to attempt a rebound from Friday’s declines.

Cash-screen “convergence” has a long way to go this month. Henry Hub’s deficit to the prompt-month contract, already tremendous at a little more than $1.60 Thursday, blew out to $2-plus Friday as the two prices moved in opposite directions.

Three Duke Energy pipes (Texas Eastern, Algonquin and East Tennessee) were among those warning Friday that high storage inventories left them vulnerable to operational inflexibility arising from limited injection capability. All three asked customers to avoid creating positive imbalances and to resolve due-shipper imbalances as soon as possible.

Southern Natural Gas said it was “too close to call” on whether it would issue a Type 6 OFO for long imbalances Sunday or Monday, while Florida Gas Transmission told market-area customers Friday that forecasts of “very mild weather” in Florida over the next couple of days created the potential that FGT might declare an Underage Alert Day on an upcoming gas day.

Although heating load was dropping in the Midwest, it was still hanging tough in the Northeast, where a Canadian high-pressure system was due to bring another night of frost and freezing temperatures to much of the region, The Weather Channel (TWC) said. However, Northeast highs would rebound into the 60s and 70s by the end of the weekend before a new cold front arrives around Tuesday, the forecaster added. The South and West will remain mostly moderate to cool early this week before both areas get a shot of colder weather around midweek, TWC said.

A bullish note came from a Calgary source, who reported that it had snowed recently in the mountains around Alberta. “Winter is on its way — it won’t be long, and gas prices will go up,” he predicted.

A Midwest utility buyer said his company would lose some heating load over the weekend with highs rising into mid 80s, “but we didn’t have that much of it [heating load] anyway” last week when highs were reaching only the mid 70s. One mitigating factor was that a nuclear plant outage in the region was helping to boost throughput, with the generator burning gas instead until the nuke returns to service, he said.

Regional weather should be cooler again early this week, but it won’t be until the middle of the week before “the real cold” arrives, the buyer said. Overnight lows are expected to be in the vicinity of freezing late in the week, he added.

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