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Analysis: Permian gas prices hit four-month high on rising demand

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Waha weekly average at 97 cents, up from negative territory

Texas, Southwest power burns hit annual highs in mid-July

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Permian Basin gas prices averaged their highest since mid-March during the week just passed, propelled by rising summer demand in local and regional markets.

Over the past seven days, cash prices at Waha have averaged 97 cents/MMBtu, up from negative territory during the first week of July. On Friday, prices were down nearly 40 cents from the prior-day settlement, trading around 37 cents/MMBtu, preliminary data from S&P Global Platts showed.

Forecasts calling for cooler weekend temperatures and lower demand led Friday's decline in prices.

Through mid-July, though, more summer-like temperatures in Texas and the Southwest have begun boosting demand for gas-fired cooling, offering some price support to Lone Star State producers.

In Texas population-weighted temperatures have averaged 85.4 degrees during the week. For the Southwest, the average hit 74.5 degrees. Both regions are at their warmest yet this year.

Regional power burns have followed temperatures upward, hitting year-to-date highs during the week at 6.9 Bcf/d in Texas and 4.7 Bcf/d in the Southwest, data from S&P Global Platts Analytics shows.

Earlier this week, local gas demand around the Permian Basin even topped 800 MMcf/d -- a high rarely seen during the summer months.

Production

More summer-like temperatures and stronger demand has allowed operators in the Permian to hit the throttle on production recently.

Earlier in the week, in-basin gas production briefly topped 9.1 Bcf/d, marking its highest since late March.

Wednesday's high came just as pipeline developer Kinder Morgan disclosed recent and earlier-than-anticipated commissioning activity for its Gulf Coast Express Pipeline.

During its second-quarter earnings call, executives said the company has been purchasing Permian gas for line-packing purposes. While it's possible that the recent buying activity has been supportive of gas prices at Waha, Kinder offered no details on the volume or extent of its purchases.

The company's top executives also said they now expect the Gulf Coast Express project to enter full service about seven to 10 days ahead of a previously announced October 1 in-service date.

Startup of the 2 Bcf/d pipeline from the Permian Basin to Agua Dulce will give West Texas producers new access to both local demand and exports markets along the state's Gulf Coast.

Price outlook

On Friday, lower prices at Permian gas hubs accompanied forecasts calling for cooler temperatures and lower demand across the West, particularly on Saturday and Sunday.

By mid-week, though, total gas demand across the West is projected to top 10 Bcf/d, up sharply from weekend levels around 9.4 Bcf/d.

In the forward market, traders now appear more confident that Permian gas prices will remain in positive territory until Kinder Morgan's Gulf Coast Express pipeline enters service in late September.

On Thursday, the balance-of-month forward contract at Waha settled at 60 cents/MMBtu, up from a low at just 2.5 cents/MMBtu earlier this month. Over the same period, forwards prices for August and September have also climbed, most recently settling at 88 cent/MMBtu and $1.22/MMBtu, respectively.

-- J. Robinson, Tyler Jubert, Emmanuel Corral, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Gail Roberts, newsdesk@spglobal.com