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US natural gas storage fields add more than market expects, prompting price slide

Highlights

Working gas in storage rises by 83 Bcf

Henry Hub futures dip, but remain well above $5

US working natural gas in storage rose more than the market expected for the second consecutive week as demand in the South Central region fell more than anticipated.

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Storage fields injected 83 Bcf in the week ended Sept. 10, well above the 70 Bcf build that an S&P Global Platts survey of analysts expected. The build was above the five-year average of 79 Bcf, but below an 86 Bcf injection in the corresponding week a year ago.

Working gas inventories totalled 3.006 Tcf, the US Energy Information Administration reported Sept. 16. US storage volumes now stand 595 Bcf, or 16.5%, below the year-ago level of 3.601 Tcf and 231 Bcf, or 7.1%, below the five-year average of 3.273 Tcf.

The latest injection proved more than the 52 Bcf build reported the week prior. EIA's South Central region drove the bulk of the week-on-week change as storage fields rose 22 Bcf rather than post a withdrawal.

The lingering effects of Hurricane Ida once again cast uncertainty over the markets heading into this week's inventory report. While the supply loss can be readily quantified because of extensive tie-ins between offshore Gulf of Mexico production and interstate pipeline systems, the effects on demand are nebulous at best. This is because expansive intrastate systems traversing the Gulf region and connecting with industrial facilities don't fall under the same reporting requirements that interstate systems do.

Henry Hub futures remained above $5/MMBtu despite shedding some prior gains following the release of the weekly storage report. The NYMEX Henry Hub October contract slid 13 cents to $5.33/MMBtu. The winter strip — November through March — shed 16 cents to $5.35/MMBtu, still 34 cents above the strip a week ago.

Henry Hub spot prices broke above $5/MMBtu Sept. 10 although offshore production returned to slightly over 1 Bcf/d, according to Platts Analytics. It was the first time the benchmark breached $5/MMBtu since March 2014, with the exception of Winter Storm Uri in February 2021 and another two-day spike seen in January 2018.

Platts Analytics' supply and demand model currently forecasts a 52 Bcf build for the week ending Sept. 17. This would measure 22 Bcf below the five-year average with less than two months remaining in the injection season. The week after points to a 57-Bcf injection, which would grow the storage deficit by another 15 Bcf.

There has been an uptick in power burn demand during the week in progress, which has carried modeled demand estimates higher by 1.2 Bcf/d week on week. Additionally, offshore production has begun to rebound, rising nearly 700 MMcf/d on the week, although current offshore production remains less than half what it was prior to the late August storm.