The final week of 2021 featured a US natural gas storage draw measuring less than one-third the average, much weaker than the market expected, but triple-digit withdrawals lurk in the weeks ahead, as Henry Hub futures dip slightly.
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Storage fields withdrew 31 Bcf for the week ended Dec. 31, according to data released by the US Energy Information Administration on Jan. 6.
It was significantly weaker than the 50 Bcf draw expected by an S&P Global Platts survey of analysts. The withdrawal was well outside the range of expectations as responses to the survey ranged from a 40 Bcf to 59 Bcf drawdown. The pull paled to the five-year average of 108 Bcf and last year's 127 Bcf draw in the corresponding week.
Working gas inventories decreased to 3.195 Tcf. US storage volumes now stand 154 Bcf, or 4.6%, less than the year-ago level of 3.349 Tcf and 96 Bcf, or 3%, more than the five-year average of 3.099 Tcf.
Over the past five years, US storage systems have withdrawn 638 Bcf to meet demand by this point in the heating season. In contrast, US-level inventories have only declined by 449 Bcf this winter.
The remaining NYMEX Henry Hub winter strip, February and March, fell about 1 cent to average $3.78/MMBtu in trading following the release of the EIA's storage report.
Cold weather has finally arrived to blanket much of the US for the week ending Jan. 7. The Midwest region alone is poised to pull more than 80 Bcf from inventories.
Total US demand increased 9.8 Bcf day over day on Jan. 6, according to Platts Analytics. Residential and commercial drove most of the increase, with a 7.1 Bcf/d gain. The Midwest region was responsible for the bulk of the increase.
The power sector is expected to add another 2.2 Bcf of gas demand Jan. 6, with most of this coming from a 1.6 Bcf increase in Texas. Net Canadian imports, which have been depressed due to a cold snap in Western Canada, partially recovered on the day with a 600 MMcf increase. Still, imports from Alberta into the Midwest are still down more than 1 Bcf/d from normal levels, likely helping spur gas the price rally at Chicago, which saw the hub reach a 64 cent/MMBtu premium to Henry Hub.
Platts Analytics' supply and demand model currently forecasts a 176 Bcf draw for the week in progress, which is more than the five-year average. An early look at the week ending Jan. 14 points to a drawdown of more than 200 Bcf.