It is well known that those of us in the business of trading or buying natural gas (and power for that matter) anxiously await the weekly natural gas storage reports issued by the Energy Information Administration. In fact, in my office there is friendly wagering amongst our price risk management and consulting staffs on exactly what the level of inventory build, or draw, will be.
Even as crude oil and natural gas prices begin to rebound from their recent lows, we are seeing continued financial stress in the oil & gas sector. In recent months, Linn Energy, Chaparral Energy, Penn Virginia, Halcón Resources, and Breitburn Energy Partners have all filed Chapter 11. Financial concerns are not confined to the Upstream segment as Midstream players such as Plains All America Pipeline and Azure Midstream have seen their bonds downgraded by the rating agencies.
Typically, spring is a season of low electricity and natural gas demand as heating demands from the winter fades away and cooling demand tends to be low until it starts ramping up closer to the summer. This year though, there are several factors that could potentially buck the bearish trend that has been in play since 2014.
The lack of sustained cold temperatures across the consuming regions has curbed heating demand from residential and commercial consumers. El Niño has had a major influence this winter, so the bouts of below normal temperatures that have swept the eastern half of the country have been short lived. As we approach the spring, natural gas and power fundamentals continue to be bearish because of the following factors:
Typically, the end of October is considered by many in the industry the end of the natural gas injection season; history however, paints a different picture. During the last 13 years (including 2015), there have been net injections through at least the first week of November, and in 7 of the 13 years, there have been net injections in multiple weeks in November. In 2015, we expect to see injections at least through the week ended November 13, 2015.
During the fall, meteorologists sharpen their assumption to build their probability weighted winter weather forecast scenarios. From an energy perspective, this is also a critical time of the year. Since it is typically a period of low energy demand, there tend to be seasonal dips that provide good buying opportunities in natural and electricity. This year though, natural gas prices have been seesawing since mid-July 2014 due to the following reasons:
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Multiple supply and demand factors affect seasonal natural gas and electricity spot prices across the country:
Topics: Heating Season\, Polar Vortex, forward curve, winter strip, spot price, Heat Rate, black swan event, pipeline capacity, energy sourcing, Acclaim Energy Advisors, risk management, energy, energy procurement, weather outlook, demand response, energy regulations, energy reliability, energy savings, Weekly Energy Insights, natural gas, energy management, reserve margin, energy price spikes, Price Spike, energy blog, Natural Gas Supply, price volatility, NG Demand, Winter Weather, new england, NG
On January 2, 2014, the NYMEX Henry Hub NG February-2014 (front month) contract settled at $4.321/MMBtu, and on January 29, 2014, the contract expired at $5.557/MMBtu (see chart below). This was the highest expiration settlement price for the front month in four years. During the month of January, the front month contract rose $1.24/MMBtu, or 28.6%. The chart below shows that on expiration day (1/29/14) the front month price posted a $0.52/MMBtu or 10% gain for the day. The March 2014 contract followed suit and rallied almost 11%, settling at $5.465/MMBtu. During the expiration day, weather forecasts turned colder than previously expected, so market players that underestimated demand rushed to the market and were clobbered in a short squeeze.
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Two ruthless surges of arctic air, east of the Rockies, have taken over the eastern half of the country this month. The latest forecasts suggest that this weather pattern will continue to linger through the end of the month. Sub-zero temperatures are expected in the upper Midwest cities and the great lakes, including Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit and possible below zero temperatures as far south as the Ohio River. Factoring in wind chill, temperatures are expected to be 20 or 30 degrees below zero. This weekend a couple of Canadian clippers will be followed by another arctic surge through mid-next week with conditions that could rival those from January 6, 2014. A Canadian clipper (a.k.a Alberta clipper) is a storm system during the winter months that originates from the Canadian Province of Alberta (or there close by). The term "clipper" originates from the quick speeds of clipper sailing ships. Thus, an Alberta clipper is a quick-moving winter storm system originating from Alberta, Canada. A clipper will usually bring smaller bursts of snow (generally 1-3 inches) along with colder temperatures and often times gusty winds (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
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