A former “wild card” in the outlook for Canada’s biggest energymarket is starting to look like an ace for natural gas that willpay off for American as well as Canadian suppliers, according tonew evidence before the National Energy Board. The NEB has beentold a healthy growth market for gas is developing fast as a resultof Ontario Hydro’s shutdowns of nuclear power generators andelectricity deregulation. According to the evidence a C$1.7-billion(US$1.2-billion) chain of gas-fired power projects is rising fromthe ashes of the Crown Corp.’s crumbling monopoly and troublednuclear facilities.
Articles from Outlook
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its Annual EnergyOutlook 1999 released Tuesday is forecasting only a gradual 0.8%average annual rise in natural gas wellhead prices through 2020.Prices will go from $2.23/Mcf in 1997 to $2.68 in 23 years later.
Most cash points tended to ignore Thursday’s rebound on thefutures screen and instead focused on weak fundamentals. Many GulfCoast and Midcontinent pipes were leveling off from Wednesday’sprecipitous plunges, although several in the Gulf fell a few morecents. The losers included points in South and East Texas despite aferocious heat wave straining the state’s electric utilities.
A Houston-based producer summarized his gas market outlookWednesday: “It’s pretty ugly for August, even uglier forSeptember.” Although end-users might consider the picture moreattractive, all could agree that prices were dropping for bothincremental August and September bidweek business.
The rapid pace of gas injections into the nation’s storagefacilities this spring (9.4 Bcf/d, or 5.4 Bcf/d greater than overthe same period last year) and the current massive surplus ofstored gas (331 Bcf) compared to levels at the same time over thepast four years prompted Wefa Inc. to turn extremely bearish onspot prices. The additional storage this year is equal to 5% ofdemand for the remainder of the non-heating season, Wefa said inthe May edition of its Natural Gas Monthly.
Producers predicting gloom and doom for gas supply based on 1997reserve replacement estimates are being way too pessimistic,according to Tom Woods, Ziff Energy Group vice president for U.S.gas services. He told attendees at GasMart/Power ’98 Wednesday inNew Orleans the reason gas prices have been so high is that themarket is spooked. “How much of what we are seeing is the substanceof what is occurring and how much of what we are seeing is reallythe form it is taking because of some change maybe in industrybooking practices? I would suggest to you that industry bookingpractices are beginning to resemble a more traditional inventoryapproach to life rather than the very long-term reserve toproduction ratios that we traditionally used to have in terms ofrecovery…”
A major independent producer group has painted a rosy outlookfor short- and long-term growth of domestic gas demand and supply.U.S. gas demand is expected to rise by one percent to 22.23 Tcf in1998, eclipsing the previous consumption peak achieved in 1972, andlikely will hit 23 Tcf in 2000, according to forecasts issued atthe Independent Petroleum Association of America’s (IPAA) Oil andGas Investment Symposium in New York Tuesday.