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US natural gas in storage forecasts to increase by 54 Bcf: survey

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Build to continue above-average trend

Henry Hub cash, futures prices flounder

Denver — US natural gas in storage looks to expand at a rate larger than the five-year average for the third consecutive week as production continues to set records in August.

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The US Energy Information Administration is expected to report a 54 Bcf injection for the week ended August 9, according to a survey of analysts by S&P Global Platts. Responses to the survey ranged from an injection of 47 Bcf to 62 Bcf. The EIA plans to release its weekly storage report on Thursday at 10:30 am EDT.

A 54 Bcf injection would be more than the 35 Bcf build in the corresponding week last year, as well as the five-year average injection of 49 Bcf. An injection within expectations would increase stocks to 2.743 Tcf. The deficit versus the five-year average would decrease to 106 Bcf and the surplus to last year would expand to 362 Bcf.

The build looks to be nearly in line with the week prior, when the EIA reported a 55 Bcf injection, as US production continues to surge.

US production has started to push up against 90 Bcf/d, setting record highs practically every day in August so far, and sending even more supply into storage, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. The injection for the week ended August 9 was also kept high due to a 1.6 Bcf/d decline in LNG feedgas demand due to scheduled maintenances at Sabine Pass and Creole Trail. The decline in LNG feedgas demand was partially offset by a 1 Bcf/d increase in gas-fired generation during the week.

PRICES

With cash prices at Henry Hub floundering just above the $2/MMBtu mark, the lowest levels since November 2016 when gas in storage reached a record high of more than 4 Tcf. Higher gas-fired power generation demand remains the best hope the oversupplied US market will find some relief before the end of summer, given the continued delays in building out Mexican export capacity.

Henry Hub futures also continue to drag with the September contract trading at $2.15/MMBtu on Tuesday. It traded as low as $2.03/MMBtu on August 5. With more than two months remaining before the end of the injection season, other factors are in play beyond perceptions of further outsized US storage injections, which could possibly take stocks up toward useable end-of-October working gas capacity as high as 4 Tcf.

The consensus outlook for end-of-season US inventory, while trending up in recent weeks, is currently about 3.8 Tcf. However, Platts Analytics CellCAST model still has storage peaking at approximately 3.5 Tcf before the switch to withdrawals begins sometime in November.

An early forecast by Platts Analytics shows storage levels increasing by 64 Bcf for the week in progress, which is 13 Bcf stronger than the five-year average.

-- Brandon Evans, bevans@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Joe Fisher, newsdesk@spglobal.com