In its reluctance to share its natural gas resources with the world, the United States is operating in a scarcity mode, which is at odds with today’s abundance, Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday.
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Prices were in modest rally mode at a large majority of points Wednesday as heat levels began to trend upward again in key northern market areas and what had previously appeared to be a benign tropical wave south of Cuba was designated as Tropical Storm Don in the afternoon as it headed into the Gulf of Mexico.
Gulf South said late Monday it was notified by the North Terrebonne Gas Plant in South Louisiana that due to planned maintenance the plant is operating in bypass mode from Tuesday through Thursday. Gulf South listed 16 meters that have waivers in place and will remain online as long as the pipeline is able to blend their volumes to meet its tariff specifications. But if sufficient blending is not possible, Gulf South said those locations will be required to shut in until plant processing resumes.
Continuing to prove that the on-again/off-again relationship between natural gas and crude markets is currently in off mode, November natural gas futures on Monday moved 18 cents higher to close at $7.050 while November crude dropped $1.42 to finish the day’s regular session at $80.24/bbl. Talks of a La Nina event returning to the Pacific also had gas traders wary of a repeat of the late 2000 price spike, which took place during the last recorded La Nina episode.
A large majority of points were in rally mode Tuesday, with some modest increases in cooling load and buzz about potential for new Atlantic storm activity being credited for the overall rebound. But Rockies prices continued to take it on the chin for the most part, with a bottom-end quote of 20 cents for Opal being only a nickel above the all-time record low price established last June.
Just before the July 4 holiday, California’s legislature was in full operational mode, grinding out several key energy measures by Friday, including global warming emissions limits and jump-starting accelerated solar and energy efficiency initiatives. Most of the action remains in the state Senate.
With a smidgen of flatness mixed in here and there, prices were in rally mode Tuesday at all other points. Traders cautioned against reading too much into the new cash firmness, though, saying it seemed stronger than it was only in comparison to the holiday weekend’s softness. Also, a plunge just shy of 60 cents in natural gas futures Tuesday should turn cash quotes downward again Wednesday, they said.
Although most of the cash market remained in softening mode Thursday by recording losses ranging from a couple of pennies to more than 80 cents, several areas had points in the mix that were flat to as much as nearly a quarter higher. Sources suggested that the scattered rebounds and eventual screen strength were tied to growing perceptions that Hurricane Katrina-related Gulf of Mexico (GOM) shut-ins could rival those of 2004’s Hurricane Ivan for longevity.
It was no surprise that nearly all points were in rebound mode Monday from weekend softening. But it was somewhat surprising that unlike last week, when Northeast citygates tended to lead price climbs higher and also the subsequent retreats, it was western points (Rockies/Pacific Northwest, Western Canada, California and the Southwest basins) which were in the driver’s seat for this new burst of cash bullishness.
Gas buyers are in panic mode right now and energy service providers are struggling to provide answers to a perfect storm of events that is driving not only natural gas prices into the stratosphere but also the prices of many other fuels.