“Earnings from market-based businesses are less predictable thanregulated earnings,” TransCanada PipeLines President George Watsonreminded stockholders Thursday in explaining how lowersecond-quarter earnings in marketing, gathering and processing haderased some pipeline gains.
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Weak gas processing margins prompted Mitchell Energy &Development to cut its natural gas liquids (NGL) production by morethan 20% – roughly 10,000 barrels/d. “With the collapse in thecrude oil market, gas processing margins are pretty ugly rightnow,” said George P. Mitchell, CEO. “NGLs have tracked the slide incrude prices due to weak demand and higher imports. Strong gasprices are adding to the squeeze in processing margins since makingup the volume shrinkage that occurs when we extract the liquids isa cost. With NGL inventories in the U.S. running at 10-year highs,we decided to cut back where it makes economic sense.
It took a while longer than many traders had counted on, but thewidely expected recovery from last Thursday’s falling pricesfinally came to pass Wednesday. The upticks were broadly based butdiverse, ranging from 2-5 cents at many Gulf Coast and Midcontinentpoints to 10-15 cents in the California market.
ÿBetter late than never, bullish traders must have thought onTuesday. After posting a extremely light trading session on Monday,the spot August Nymex futures contract exploded 8.0 cents higher tosettle Tuesday at $2.469. The contract managed to hit a high of$2.485 amid a session when a robust 52,644 estimated totalcontracts changed hands.
A last-minute protest by Scana Energy Marketing to a requestedwaiver by Atlanta Gas Light to allow assignment of some of itsupstream pipeline capacity as part of the Georgia unbundling planmay have been a factor in derailing FERC action last week.
Other than the screen-related drop in prices Wednesday, it’sbeen a pretty slow and uneventful bidweek, a number of GPI sourcesagreed. Things had settled down Thursday and June gas was tradingin about the same area as it had following the futures expiryWednesday, a Midwest-based marketer noted. However, another sourcesaid Southwest and Southern California border prices continued tosoften a bit further Thursday.
The capacity of natural gas pipelines reached an all-time highof more than 84 Bcf/d or 30.7 Tcf/year in 1997, according to areported released Friday by the Energy Information Administration.”This represents a 15% increase over installed capacity reported in1990,” EIA said in a report: “Deliverability on the InterstateNatural Gas Pipeline System.” Flowing gas increased 24% between1990 and 1996, resulting in a record high 75% utilization rate,while U.S. consumption grew by 17%, fed by a doubling of imports.U.S. production increased 6%.
April swing prices showed even more strength Wednesday than theyhad in Tuesday’s trading for April Fool’s Day flow. Double-digitincreases were the order of the day at almost trading point.However, it appeared that numbers may have peaked for now sincesources reported that late deals were falling in most markets.That portends softening quotes today, they said.
ONEOK Resources has signed a definitive agreement with OXY USAto purchase some of its natural gas and oil reserves including morethan 400 wells in Oklahoma and Kansas outside the Hugoton field forapproximately $135 million before adjustments. Net production isapproximately 30 MMcf/d and 400 b/d. The properties havelower-risk development potential for increased reserves. WhileONEOK’s previous reserve acquisitions have been concentrated inOklahoma, this purchase includes significant reserves in Kansaswhere ONEOK recently acquired Kansas Gas Service, an LDC servingtwo-thirds of the state. David Kyle, president and chief operatingofficer of ONEOK, Inc., said the acquisition will almost doubleONEOK’s oil and gas reserve base. The acquisition includes a gassweetening plant located in the Aledo Field in Oklahoma.