The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that a net 237 Bcf was withdrawn from natural gas inventories in the Lower 48 for the week ended Dec. 23, which was above market expectations as well as historical averages.
The latest pull left total U.S. working gas supply at 3,360 Bcf, or 413 Bcf below the same week in 2015 and 79 Bcf below the five-year average of 3,439 Bcf.
Market analysts and traders had called for a withdrawal from storage ranging from 219 Bcf to 240 Bcf, with an average 231-Bcf pull projected for the week under review.
The figure compared to an 80-Bcf five-year average withdrawal and a smaller 50-Bcf pull during the same week in 2015.
The newly anointed front-month February 2017 natural gas futures contract held negative ground, drifting to a $3.794/MMBtu low and trading at $3.819/MMBtu, 7.9 cents lower on the session, just before the 10:30 a.m. ET release of the data. Following the release, the contract maintained a negative stance, moving last down 4.3 cents at $3.855/MMBtu.
In the East, gas storage was down 53 Bcf on the week, to 757 Bcf, or 14.1% below the year-ago level. Storage levels in the Midwest declined 61 Bcf, to 946 Bcf, or 8.3% below the year-ago level. In the Mountain region, storage levels were down 13 Bcf on the week, to 217 Bcf, or 10.7% above the year-ago level, while in the Pacific region, storage levels were down 19 Bcf, to 283 Bcf, or 16.8% below the year-ago level. In the South Central region, storage levels dropped 91 Bcf on the week, putting stocks at a 12.5% deficit to a year earlier.
Working gas stocks in the South Central region totaled 1,157 Bcf, with 324 Bcf in salt cavern facilities and 833 Bcf in nonsalt cavern facilities. Working gas stocks fell 39 Bcf in the salt cavern facilities and were down 51 Bcf in nonsalt cavern facilities since the previous week.
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