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US heating season looks to continue its record-long stretch

Denver — The natural gas withdrawal season is poised to stretch two weeks longer than ever reported as stocks must currently replace 2.549 Tcf of gas to reach the five-year average by the start of the next heating season.

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The US Energy Information Administration on Thursday is expected to report a 12 Bcf withdrawal for the week that ended April 20, according to a survey of analysts by S&P Global Platts. Responses to the survey were tight and ranged from a withdrawal of 7 Bcf to 17 Bcf. The EIA plans to release its weekly storage report at 10:30 am EDT on Thursday. A 12 Bcf draw would be very bullish compared to the corresponding week last year, which featured a 71 Bcf injection, and the five-year average build of 60 Bcf. It would also be the latest net withdrawal on record for the heating season.

A withdrawal within analysts' expectations of 12 Bcf would deplete stocks to 1.287 Tcf. The deficit versus the five-year average would grow to 521 Bcf and the deficit versus the corresponding week last year would expand to 891 Bcf.

The EIA reported a 36 Bcf net withdrawal for the week ended April 13. It dropped inventories to 1.299 Tcf, which was 38.3% less than the year-ago inventory of 2.107 Tcf, and 25.7% less than the five-year average of 1.748 Tcf.



2014 INJECTION SEASON ADDED 2.787 TCF

During the injection season, stocks currently need to replace 2.549 Tcf to reach the five-year average of 3.848 Tcf for the start of the next heating season. Last year, storage added 1.737 Tcf during injection season. Over the past five injection seasons stocks have increased by an average of 2.147 Tcf. Over the past decade, stocks only registered lower once to start the injection season. In March 2014, the injection season began with 824 Bcf in storage following the polar vortex. By November, producers had added 2.787 Tcf to reach 3.611 by the start of the 2014-15 heating season.

S&P Global Platts Analytics has October ending inventories on pace to finish at 3.4 Tcf despite 7.5 Bcf/d of production growth summer over summer, of which 3.5 Bcf/d is forecast to come from the Northeast.

MIDWEST TO POST PULL OF 16 BCF

The relatively cold April continues to eat away at US stocks, most recently led by the Midwest region, which is expected to pull another 16 Bcf, according to Platts Analytics.

While inventories are not at record lows, the extended withdrawal season and additional demand load since the previous record low puts additional downward pressure on what already looks to be a lower carryout than is typically seen.

Population-weighted temperatures across the US increased 1.5 degrees week over week. Although the East, Midwest and South Central storage regions experienced slight warming, temperatures there remained 6 or 7 degrees below normal, pushing withdrawal season for the US two weeks further than has historically occurred.

Expectations for the week ending April 27 point to the first net injection of the year. Early estimates call for a 48 Bcf to 58 Bcf injection.

--Brandon Evans, bevans@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jim Magill, newsdesk@spglobal.com