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Blizzard sets record prices, squeezes natural gas supply

Houston — The Upper Atlantic Seaboard entered a state of paralysis Thursday as blizzard conditions blanketed states stretching from Virginia to Maine, lifting regional gas demand and putting a squeeze on prices and supply.

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In early trading, next-day gas prices at New York City-area hubs traded as high as $160/MMBtu, according to data from the Intercontinental Exchange.

Prices further north in New England also breached the $100 mark Thursday, with gas at the Boston-area Algonquin city-gate hub and the Upstate New York Iroquois Zone 2 hub changing hands at highs of $105/MMBtu and $125/MMBtu respectively, both record highs.

As temperatures plunged into the low-20s Fahrenheit in New York, Hartford, Providence and Boston, gas demand from residential-commercial consumers and power generators surged. At an estimated 35.7 Bcf, northeast regional demand Thursday was more than 6 Bcf above the prior 30-day average, but remained below record levels seen on January 1.

Tight gas supply and high prices lifted gas sendout Thursday from the Boston-area LNG import terminal at Everett which sent nearly 875 MMcf to the regional grid, up from just 600 MMcf one day prior.

On Thursday the Provalys LNG carrier docked at the Everett terminal carry a 3.3 Bcf cargo from Trinidad and Tobago. The vessel is the second to offload at the terminal in just over two weeks.

Further south, freeze-offs at the wellhead in the Marcellus and the Utica shales were multiplying the region's tightening supply-demand balance.

Northeast Pennsylvania was hardest hit Thursday with sample production there down about 5%. In West Virginia, output continued struggling to recover from freeze-offs seen early this week, with receipts there still down by over 15%.

On Thursday, regional shale gas production from Appalachia was estimated at 25.9 Bcf/d having decline rough 1.4 Bcf/d from the December average.

--J. Robinson,

--Samer Mosis,

--Edited by Richard Rubin,