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Natural Gas in review


Storage:Working gas stocks continue to climb. Working gas in the Lower 48 states posted its fourth straight week of net injections. Net injections into storage totaled 56 Bcf during the storage report week, compared with the five-year (2011-15) average of 79 Bcf and last year’s net injection of 101 Bcf during the same week. As a result, the surplus in storage compared with the five-year average declined from the previous week to 813 Bcf, and the surplus compared with year-ago levels decreased to 816 Bcf.

The 2016 refill season remains well behind the pace of recent injection seasons. Cumulative net injections into working gas total 201 Bcf thus far in the 2016 refill season, compared with the five-year average (2011-15) of 262 Bcf and last year’s tally of 393 Bcf during the same period. Despite the slow start to the refill season, working gas stocks remain near record-highs for this time of year. Working gas stocks as of last Friday were 58 Bcf above the previous five-year (2011-15) maximum of 2,623 Bcf for this time of year, which occurred in 2012. This surplus over the 2012 refill season record level increased for the third consecutive week. Cumulative net injections totaled 149 Bcf at this point in the 2012 refill season.

January futures price continues to trade at more than $1 above current spot price. Decisions about whether to inject gas into storage during the refill season are often made with an eye toward the upcoming January, because it is typically the coldest winter month. During the most recent storage week, the average natural gas spot price at the Henry Hub was $1.94/MMBtu, while the Nymex futures price of natural gas for delivery in January 2017 averaged $3.11/MMBtu, a difference of $1.17/MMBtu. A year ago, the premium was 52ยข/MMBtu, suggesting there is more financial incentive this year to buy and store natural gas in the summer for sale in the winter. The average Henry Hub price so far in the injection season this year, from April 1 to May 6, was $1.91/MMBtu, 27% lower than the average value of $2.60/MMBtu for the same period last year.

The First Natural Gas Injection of the Season fail to impress

Natural-gas futures for May delivery (and most future months) surged 10.5 cents, or 2.3%, to $4.6910 a million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The market had been trading lower prior to the announcement as traders waited for the first increase of the year in stored supplies.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported the amount of natural gas in storage rose by just 4 billion cubic feet in the week ended April 4 to 826 billion cubic feet. Analysts had been expecting an average increase of 13.75 billion cubic feet, according to a survey of 20 analysts by The Wall Street Journal. The increase was less than half of the recent five-year average for the week.

With the weak first gain in stockpiles of the season, the market is questioning whether companies will be able to produce enough gas to have enough in storage at the start of the next heating season in the fall. Inventories are at the lowest level since 2003 after a severe U.S. winter prompted extraordinary demand for natural gas, which is used to heat more than half of U.S. homes. The EIA expects supplies to reach 3.422 trillion cubic feet by the end of October, which would be a nine-year low.