Despite an abundance of heating load remaining through the weekend in many areas, traders looked beyond that to expected warming trends beginning early this week in sending prices much lower Friday, in many cases by dollar-plus amounts. Of course, the previous day’s 20.3-cent dive by February futures and the usual weekend loss of industrial load also contributed to the cash bearishness.

Due to predictions of lows in the low to mid teens Saturday in Boston and New York City, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic citygates ran against the overall market grain by recording gains from about 30 cents to a little more than $3.45. Steep plunges reigned, though, as losses everywhere else ranged from about 20 cents to a little more than $2.15.

The screen will have slightly less negative guidance for Monday’s cash market after falling 5.7 cents (see related story).

Frigid conditions would remain in the forecast for most areas as the weekend began, but modest warming trends were expected to begin by Monday for the South, Northeast and Midwest, according to The Weather Channel (TWC). The West, which outside the Rockies had tended to see the most moderate weather for most of last week, was expected to see more moderate conditions in the region’s interior as early as Saturday, TWC said.

Williams said its Transco pipeline unit had set a peak-day delivery record of 9.25 million Dth on Jan. 3, exceeding the previous high of 8.91 million Dth on Feb. 5, 2009. “This represents enough natural gas to serve the energy needs of more than 40 million U.S. homes on an average day,” Williams said. Transco also established a new three-day delivery record in the Jan. 2-4 period, averaging 9 million Dth/d (see related story).

The National Weather Service indicated how much the cold weather outlook was changing with its six- to 10-day forecast for the Jan. 13-17 period, saying below-normal temperatures will recede into the lower Southeast from South Texas through Georgia and Florida. It expected above-normal readings throughout the West Coast into southwestern Arizona and Nevada in the south end and through the northern Plains into most of the Midwest, with a thin strip of above-normal predictions extending along the southern edge of the Great Lakes as far as northern Maine.

In a day in which his area did not see temperatures get above zero, a Midwest utility buyer said the company could see “light at the end of the tunnel” as far as super-cold temperatures were concerned. But “all of us were amazed” about the change by Northern Natural Gas (NNG) from a System Overrun Limitation, indicating heavy heating load, to a System Underrun Limitation, which seeks to limit throughput volumes due to lightened demand, he said.

He said his utility had to buy quite a lot of gas for Saturday to meet heating load, but probably will be going into a long supply position on NNG Sunday and Monday. The company had record peak-day gas usage Thursday, “and might break it” Friday, the buyer said.

A Midcontinent producer said volumes were coming back up behind his company’s processing plants Wednesday, but he expected wellhead freeze-offs to continue into Saturday at some locations as lows close to zero extended into their third night. Due to a Critical Notice from Enogex, his volumes on that Oklahoma intrastate pipe were being cut by 20% through Monday. It’s “some of the coldest air we’ve seen here in years,” he said, adding that Oklahoma City and Tulsa public schools were closed Thursday and Friday due to the weather.

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