Prices managed to rebound Friday at quite a few scattered points as the March aftermarket got launched, but a majority of the cash market continued to slide due to forecasts of a mild weekend across much of the southern tier of states and seasonable conditions in most other areas. The drop of industrial demand that accompanies a weekend contributed to overall bearishness.
The points that ranged from flat to about a quarter higher likely derived some of their strength from April futures jumping 38.3 cents in their prompt-month debut Thursday. Monday’s cash market will have moderately negative guidance after the contract retreated by 7.7 cents Friday.
Most points fell anywhere from 2-3 cents to a little more than $2.70. Northeast citygates registered triple-digit dives in their continuing descent from the spikes of Tuesday and Wednesday. However, the smaller declines on Friday represented a slowing of the Northeast descent. Outside that region losses were limited to a little more than 35 cents.
The South was expected to enjoy a warm weekend with temperatures ranging from a few degrees above average along the Southeast coast to 10-20 degrees above average in the southern Plains, The Weather Channel (TWC) said. However, a strong cold front will be moving into the lower Mississippi Valley Monday, with much colder temperatures and “possibly accumulating snow” following heavy rain across Arkansas, the Tennessee Valley and the southern Appalachians Tuesday, it added.
A stormy cold front due to bring mountain snowfall to the Northwest over the weekend helped support prices at Sumas, Kingsgate and Stanfield.
Snowfall was expected to continue in the Northeast, but the Midwest would be mostly dry, according to TWC. Both would be getting a modicum of respite from considerably colder temperatures earlier in the week. The Midwest would see a return of frigid weather starting Sunday from a cold front racing eastward from the Plains toward the western Great Lakes and the mid-Mississippi Valley, TWC said. The Northeast could expect to see relatively moderate conditions last through Monday before it also would see thermometer levels dropping again.
A gain of a little more than a nickel by Northern Natural-Ventura increased its premium over the pipeline’s demarcation point to nearly half a dollar as the pipeline anticipated that its system weighted average temperature would return to sub-freezing Sunday and Monday after averaging about 34 degrees Saturday.
An OFO by PG&E (see Transportation Notes) had little impact on prices that were about a nickel higher at the citygate and Malin. On the other hand, SoCalGas canceled an OFO shortly after issuing it, but the Southern California border fell nearly 20 cents.
One western trader said he wasn’t sure, but he thought imbalance resolution activity as the new month got started may have had something to do with the modest citygate and Malin firmness in spite of the OFO. It’s not all that uncommon at this time of year to have quickly alternating periods of mild and cold weather, as the market has been experiencing for weeks now, he added. The trader said he expects most if not all western prices to be higher Monday.
A western producer noted that Baja path capacity from the south to the PG&E citygate “is sold out” for all of March, so that could have something to do with the citygate/Malin gains, he said. He also speculated that the Southern California border drop could have been related to limits on the storage injection capacity of SoCalGas. Also, “we’re looking at very mild Southwest weather for the weekend,” he said.
A utility buyer in the Southwest confirmed that the region is currently quite warm (the Phoenix forecast called for highs around 80 to continue), “so we have very little heating or air conditioning load right now.” It’s gotten to the point that his company is even selling a little excess gas now and then, he added. March is about its lowest gas demand month of the year, but he still bought a little baseload gas because of the area’s lack of access to storage service.
There were plenty of bids during bidweek, so sales were easy to make, reported the trading representative for a few independent Gulf Coast producers. She expects prices to be higher Monday, saying colder weather will be returning in several areas by then.
CenterPoint quotes “got hammered” because there’s so little heating load in its lower Midcontinent/western South service area right now, a Midcontinent producer said. He expressed some doubt about whether prices will be able to rebound Monday, noting Friday’s screen weakness.
The number of drilling rigs actively seeking gas in the U.S. fell by 12 to 1,418 during the week ending Feb. 29, according to the Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count (https://intelligencepress.com/features/bakerhughes/). The Gulf of Mexico realized a gain of five rigs, but that was more than offset by an onshore decline of 17, Baker Hughes said. Its latest tally is down 1% from a month earlier and 3% less than the year-ago level.
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