US natural gas storage continues to rise, dampening futures

18 November 2010 23:13  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US underground storage of natural gas remained at a record peak for the second straight week, keeping futures prices depressed on Thursday.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a build of 3bn cubic feet (bcf) in stockpiles during the week ended 12 November, bringing the country’s total to 3,843 bcf.

Aggregate inventories moved 6 bcf above the record-setting 2009 mark of 3,837 bcf after eclipsing the all-time peak last week. Some analysts had anticipated a possible withdrawal last week, which would have been the first of the 2010 autumn season.

The injection was met with what has become a typical post-report sell-off on the NYMEX front-month contract. The benchmark price fell to almost $3.85/MMBtu shortly after 10:30 New York time (15:30 GMT) compared with Wednesday’s close of $4.03/MMBtu.

Trading climbed throughout the afternoon, though, and made up most of the ground lost on the back of cold weather forecasts and strong coal prices.

“The excess gas is being burned and replacing coal,” said Chris Kostas, an analyst at Energy Security Analysis. “That’s what’s keeping prices at $4 right now.”

The December contract settled at $4.007/MMBtu, a loss of 2.3 cents.

“The last time we hit record levels last year, coal was trading a lot lower than it is now,” Kostas said. “It’s 20% higher this year than it was last year. That basically brings up the floor for gas prices.”

In addition, forecasts for the US holiday Thanksgiving week were shaping up to pull massive amounts of natural gas.

“An evolving set-up over the north Atlantic will ultimately help usher some of this cold air into the plains and the east for the end of the month,” said Travis Hartman, energy weather manager and meteorologist with MDA EarthSat Weather.

“This cold event will be seen during a time when many people are spending time indoors with their families enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday, and with the potential for seeing the coldest Thanksgiving holiday period of this decade,” Hartman said.

The price of natural gas is an important measuring stick for chemical commodity prices.

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