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Texas and Southeastern storage eclipses 1 Tcf

Low prices likely until LNG feedgas demand returns

Denver — With natural gas storage volumes approaching or surpassing five-year maximums in multiple regions across the US, and imports from Canada likely to rise later this summer, a resurgence of LNG feedgas demand will likely be required to tighten the market and prevent further price collapses at Henry Hub.

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Underground storage volumes in the Southeastern US and Texas regions have exceeded 1 Tcf nearly four months earlier than normal, according to data by S&P Global Platts Analytics. As of June 23, volumes stood at 1.02 Tcf. This marks only the third time in at least eight summers volumes have made it above 1 Tcf. Over the past five years, storage levels in the region on this date averaged 771 MMcf.

The coronavirus pandemic outbreak combined with a milder-than-normal winter has combined to create the oversupply situation. The power burn demand jump typically seen in the region in June due has failed to materialize this summer. What's more, the LNG feedgas demand drop has exacerbated the situation.

Platts Analytics now forecast LNG feedgas demand to average between 3 Bcf/d and 3.5 Bcf/d in July and August. This represents a decline of more than 50% from the start of the year. This has resulted in a price collapse in mid-June when Henry Hub plummeted to $1.38/MMBtu, its lowest value since 1998.

It is possible weak Henry Hub prices could improve LNG netbacks to markets in Asia and later Europe, especially in September and October. However, early in 2021, Platts Analytics expects these netbacks drop back into negative based on stronger prices at Henry Hub. The supply and demand outlook next year will likely be much tighter despite current high storage volumes.

A similar bearish picture has appeared in the US Northeast and Midwest regions as well. Storage volumes in both regions are approaching the five-year maximum levels last seen in 2016. The elevated volumes will lead to an earlier end to the injection season or below-average volumes injected over the remainder of summer, according to Platts Analytics.

EQT, which curtailed 1.5 Bcf/d of Northeast production in mid-May, plans to bring those volumes back online as early as July 1. Those returning volumes, combined with associated gas already rebounding in the Permian Basin, look to keep supply high over the second half of 2020, according to Platts Analytics. The additionally could further weigh down prices during the low US-level demand seen during the shoulder season of September and early October.

On top of that, Western Canada is expected to export up to 700 MMcf/d more than average to the US later this summer. Much of the imports will be pushed into the US Midwest and weigh on prices, according to Platts Analytics.