The price of wholesale British natural gas, with immediate delivery, hit a 12-year high on Wednesday morning as reduced supply and rocketing demand shook the market.
The Within-day gas contract at the market – known as the NBP – dealt at 194 pence per therm (p/th) at the start of trade.
Plummeting temperatures driven by the “Beast from the East” pushed daily British gas demand to levels not seen in four years. The Siberian temperatures had already caused prices to rise above typically February values earlier this week.
But an unplanned shut-down at a key Norwegian gas processing plant meant prices spiralled to highs not seen since March 2006. The Kollsnes plant, run by Norway’s Gassco, is a key facility that feeds gas to Britain.
Later in the morning the Within-day price started to fall-back, but then a key import pipeline from the Netherlands called the BBL experienced technical issues that caused the NBP to bounce up, although not as high as at the open.
Prior to Wednesday’s huge spike, the Within-day price through February traded on average at 56p/th. The only time the Within-day NBP price has been higher was on 13 March 2006, when it dealt at 255p/th. Since then, it has only traded above the £1/th threshold once, on 22 March 2013.
“It’s been a roller-coaster few days already on the NBP with demand moving to levels not seen since 2012, but this morning’s prices have been on another level entirely,” said Tom Marzec-Manser, who heads up the European gas team at commodity price agency ICIS.
“Back in December when Austria’s Baumgarten facility blew-up at the same time as the Forties system breaking down, we thought we had hit the high of the winter. Then the Within-day price reached 99p/th. So in comparison, Wednesday’s prices are astonishing,”
Besides the BBL, Britain can also import gas from the European mainland via a pipeline to Belgium called the Interconnector.
“Despite the high prices we are seeing at the NBP, flows through the Interconnector are not very high at all, which has been driven by rocketing prices and demand on the continent. It’s a proper tug-of-war for any available gas across the whole of Europe,” Marzec-Manser added.
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