Denver — US working natural gas volumes in underground storage dropped by 107 Bcf last week, which was more than market expectations, as NYMEX Henry Hub futures made only modest gains following the announcement.
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Storage inventories fell to 3.411 Tcf for the week ended December 13, the US Energy Information Administration reported Thursday morning.
The pull was more than an S&P Global Platts' survey of analysts calling for a 93 Bcf draw. Responses ranged for a draw of 80 Bcf to 102 Bcf.
The withdrawal was below the 132 Bcf pull reported during the corresponding week in 2018, as well as the five-year average draw of 112 Bcf, according to EIA data. As a result, stocks were 619 Bcf, or 22.1%, above the year-ago level of 2.793 Tcf and 9 Bcf, or 0.3%, below the five-year average of 3.420 Tcf.
The balance-of-winter NYMEX Henry Hub strip continues to reflect an oversupplied market, although historically the market has been quick to rebalance when prices move too much in either direction. But for now, prices remain low, although the selloff does appear to have lost some steam with prices finding support at the $2.25/MMBtu mark through March as of Thursday afternoon. This is about where it bottomed out during the middle of last week. Between last week and this week, prices got as high as $2.31/MMBtu Monday, but quickly retreated on mild weather forecast updates.
The draw was more than the 73 Bcf pulled from working gas in storage reported for the week ended December 6.
US supply-demand fundamentals for the week ended December 13 were roughly 3.4 Bcf/d tighter than the week before as colder weather boosted demand from the residential and commercial and power sectors while LNG feedgas demand continued higher, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.
Balances moved much tighter on a rise in weather-driven heating demand. Total supplies are up 0.7 Bcf/d on the week to an average 96.6 Bcf/d, with much of the increase driven by a rise in net Canadian imports to meet higher demand.
Downstream, total demand is up 7.4 Bcf/d on the week at an average 116.8 Bcf/d, with gains driven primarily by higher home heating demand and a roughly 1.6 Bcf/d increase in power plant deliveries, according to Platts Analytics. LNG feedgas demand hit new highs in recent weeks on increased deliveries in the Gulf Coast region, setting a record of 8.5 Bcf/d Wednesday. LNG feedgas demand is up 0.1 Bcf/d for the week ending December 20 compared with the week prior.
A Platts Analytics forecast calls for a massive draw of 143 Bcf for the week ending December 20, which would be more than 40 Bcf stronger than the five-year average. Stocks are currently expected to exit the heating season at a low of 1.928 Tcf. This would be about 650 Bcf above the end-of-winter low in 2019 and likely keep a lid on the NYMEX Henry Hub summer strip.