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Markets

U.S. natgas futures edge up ahead of storage report on cooler weather

  • Analysts said U.S. utilities likely pulled 83 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the week ended Dec. 4 as liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports hit a fresh record high.
10 Dec, 2020

U.S. natural gas futures edged up on Thursday on forecasts for cooler weather and higher heating demand over the next two weeks than previously anticipated and a federal report expected to show last week's storage draw was bigger than usual.

Analysts said U.S. utilities likely pulled 83 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the week ended Dec. 4 as liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports hit a fresh record high.

That compares with a decrease of 57 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2015-19) average withdrawal of 61 bcf.

If correct, last week's decrease would cut stockpiles to 3.856 trillion cubic feet (tcf), which would be 7.5% above the five-year average of 3.588 tcf for this time of year.

Front-month gas futures rose 1.6 cents, or 0.7%, to $2.458 per million British thermal units at 7:50 a.m. EST (1250 GMT).

Data provider Refinitiv said output in the Lower 48 U.S. states averaged 90.8 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in December. That compares with a seven-month high of 91.0 bcfd in November 2020.

Even though the weather is expected to remain milder than normal into late December, the latest forecasts called for slightly cooler temperatures over the next two weeks.

That prompted Refinitiv to project demand, including exports, would rise by more than previously expected to 120.4 bcfd next week from 118.6 bcfd this week.

The amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants, meanwhile, rose to an average of 10.8 bcfd so far in December, which would top November's 9.8-bcfd record.

That increase comes as the third train at Cheniere Energy Inc's Corpus Christi plant in Texas prepares to enter commercial service and as rising prices in Europe and Asia prompt buyers to purchase more U.S. gas.

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