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US working natural gas volume in underground storage rises by 109 Bcf: EIA

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Build comes in higher than expected

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Denver — The amount of natural gas in US storage facilities increased by 109 Bcf to 2.612 Tcf in the week that ended May 22, according to US Energy Information Administration data released Thursday.

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The injection was larger than the consensus expectations of analysts surveyed by S&P Global Platts, which called for a 101 Bcf build. Responses to the survey ranged from an injection of 88 Bcf to one of 114 Bcf.

The injection nearly matched the 110 Bcf build reported during the same week in 2019 but was 17.2% larger than the five-year average of 93 Bcf.

The long decline in working rigs due to weak crude oil prices has begun to catch up to the US gas market, with production estimates averaging just 86.5 Bcf/d for the week ended May 22, according to S&P Global Plats Analytics. This is down from roughly 92 Bcf/d in mid-April. Production for the third week of May tumbled 2.7 Bcf/d, marking the largest weekly decline in more than two years.

While the movement was unusually large for production, it was overshadowed by the dying gasp of residential and commercial demand, which declined more than 7 Bcf/d last week, hitting year-to-date lows.

Storage volumes now stand 778 Bcf, or 42.5%, above the year-ago level of 1.834 Tcf and 423 Bcf, or 19.3%, higher than the five-year average of 2.189 Tcf.

The recent drop in production was also met with higher power burn demand, which climbed 2.5 Bcf/d this week in response to an 8 degree increase in average temperatures across the US, according to Platts Analytics.

LNG feedgas deliveries also continued a downward march that began in mid-April, averaging just 6.3 Bcf/d. Deliveries averaged about 9.5 Bcf/d during the first quarter of 2020 when they hovered between 9 and 10 Bcf/d. With LNG facilities running at roughly half the expected utilization, and continued uncertainty in global markets due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is little upside to support exports through this summer, helping push end-October inventories likely above the 4 Tcf mark.

The NYMEX July gas futures contract fell 4 cents to $1.846/MMBtu in trading following the release of the weekly storage report. The remaining summer strip through October fell 4.4 cents to average $1.947/MMBtu.

Spreads to next winter remain strong, leading to significant volumes aimed at storage. The winter 2020-21 contract strip is priced roughly 80 cents over the balance of summer at $2.75, even with storage running above normal, due to expectations of further associated gas production declines stemming from weak oil prices.

Platts Analytics' supply and demand model expects a 111 Bcf addition to US storage volumes in the week that ended May 29, which would continue to expand the storage overhang.

After massive cuts in production last week, the week in progress has seen output hold steady, with total supply up 100 MMcf/d higher on the week. Downstream, however, changing seasonal weather is driving a shift in gas demand away from the residential and commercial sector to power generation. Power burn demand has increased by 3 Bcf/d week over week, absorbing most of the roughly 3.1 Bcf/d decline in residential-commercial and industrial sector demand, though slight declines in exports to Mexico and LNG feedgas deliveries have led to an overall drop of 400 MMcf/d in total demand from the reference week.

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