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Natural gas trading, prices increase on colder weather, nuclear outages

Houston — North American natural gas trading has been relatively higher the last four trading sessions as colder weather and nuclear outages increased the market's reliance on gas to meet its needs.

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S&P Global Platts received 8,660 physical fixed-price deals for North American gas on March 1. This was an all-time high of deals received. Platts received 7,094 deals on Monday. This was the second most deals ever received. The trend continued as Platts received 6,900 deals on Tuesday, the fourth-highest amount of deals seen. Platts received just under 6,900 deals on Thursday, according to preliminary numbers.

The cash price for Pacific Gas and Electric Malin increased 22.5 cents on the day to $3.625/MMBtu as the colder weather added upward pressure.

US total demand has averaged 131 Bcf the last two days, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. Demand averaged 110 Bcf for all of February. The increased demand stemmed from the recent onset of colder-than-average weather.

The US has averaged 32 heating degree days the last two days, according to Platts Analytics. The onset of the colder weather is evident across the country as the US averaged only 23 heating degree days in February.

The uptick in nuclear outages across the country also increased the reliance on gas. Daily power generation replaced by natural gas due to nuclear outages increased by 105 MW, to average 11,026 MW, the highest value in the last seven days, according to Platts Analytics.

Year-to-date power generation replaced has averaged 5,429 MW, 32% higher than the 1,309 MW seen last year, according to Platts Analytics.

Looking forward, the most recent eight- to 14-day temperature forecast calls for slightly colder-than-average weather across much of the country, according to the US National Weather Service.

Power burn demand for Midwest sat at 2.5 Bcf/d on Wednesday, but is expected to fall 831 MMcf/d to 1.67 Bcf/d by March 10, according to Platts Analytics. The backing off of the cold weather and decrease in power burn may contribute to the downward trend in deal count seen after the spike on March 1.

-- Arsalan Syed, arsalan.syed@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com