With the hottest week of the summer just around the corner, natural gas futures rebounded early Monday. The September Nymex gas futures contract was flirting with the $4.000/MMBtu mark again, trading 6.3 cents higher at $3.977 at around 8:45 a.m. ET.

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Long-range outlooks showed stronger ridging in the eastern United States next week, giving a boost to temperatures in the Midwest and East, according to Bespoke Weather Services. This comes on the heels of cool weather this week in these regions. As a whole, four gas-weighted degree days (GWDD) were added compared with Friday’s data, and the 15-day period was more than 10 GWDDs above the five-year average.

“Next week’s peak highs will reach the low to mid-90s for most areas from Chicago to New York City and points south,” Bespoke said. “As the forecast stands currently, this would actually make next week the hottest of the summer, nationally, beating out last week by a few GWDDs.”

Meanwhile, news hit early Monday that Whistler Pipeline began full commercial service on July 1. The 450-mile, 42-inch diameter pipeline provides 2.0 Bcf/d of incremental Permian Basin gas transport capacity to the Texas coast.

Project sponsor MPLX LP said Monday the new Permian conduit would “help ensure sufficient reliable gas takeaway and reduce natural gas flaring in the Permian basin.” In addition, the delivery points in the Agua Dulce area of South Texas provide shippers with access to Gulf Coast industrial and export markets, including liquefied natural gas (LNG).

WhiteWater Midstream LLC and a joint venture between Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners and West Texas Gas Inc. also are partners in the project.

BTU Analytics LLC last month noted that regional flows appeared to indicate that Whistler was in service. At the time, BTU’s Tony Scott, managing director of analytics, said Whistler did not have any direct connections online with multiple pipelines in the region, but volumes into Aqua Dulce had fallen off significantly the last few weeks. “This, combined with Northbound volumes” on Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America and Northern Natural Gas Pipeline “falling off over the same time frame, seems to indicate that Permian is sending more gas into Aqua Dulce.”

As for trading action this week, EBW Analytics Group LLC noted that recent volatility has reflected a sharp split between bulls and bears. Weather is likely to be the primary determinant, according to EBW analysts.

Last week, most of the weather models repeatedly shed cooling degree days, creating significant downward price pressure on gas, especially with an extended period of much milder-than-normal weather beginning this past weekend, according to EBW. This suggested that the hot heart of the summer might be drawing to a close. Late last week, however, models stabilized and are now predicting nine days of hot weather beginning next weekend.

“With a very small inventory build expected Thursday, and the winter contracts showing considerable strength, gains are likely if the forecast holds,” EBW analysts said.

Crude oil futures were trading 88.0 cents lower at $73.07/bbl, while RBOB gasoline futures were trading about 2.0 cents lower at $2.317/gal.