NEW YORK: US natural gas futures eased to a fresh one-week low on Monday as forecasts for milder weather offset expectations record global gas prices would keep US exports high.
With gas inventories in Europe at extremely low levels heading into the winter heating season when demand peaks, prices in both Europe and Asia traded at all-time highs over $25 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). That compares with just $5 in the United States, prompting buyers around the world to keep purchasing all the gas the United States can produce.
But the amount of gas flowing to US liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants has averaged 10.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in September, the same as in August, according to data provider Refinitiv. That compares with a monthly record of 11.5 bcfd in April.
Traders said US LNG exports would have been higher this month but were reduced by a brief shutdown at Freeport LNG’s plant in Texas during Tropical Storm Nicholas and the start of maintenance at Berkshire Hathaway Energy’s Cove Point in Maryland on Monday.
US front-month gas futures were down 3.5 cents, or 0.7%, to $5.070 per mmBtu at 9:26 a.m. EDT (1326 GMT), putting the contract on track for its lowest close since Sept. 10 for a second day in a row.
After the US front-month remained in overbought territory for much of the past two weeks, gas speculators last week cut their net long positions on the New York Mercantile and Intercontinental Exchanges for the first time since August in anticipation of the price drop that started late last week following a bigger-than-expected storage build, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
US gas stockpiles, however, were still about 7.1% below the five-year normal for this time of year. Those low inventories, like those in Europe, helped boost US gas prices to their highest in seven years early last week.
Refinitiv said gas output in the US Lower 48 states has fallen to an average of 90.6 bcfd so far in September, from 92.0 bcfd in August, due mostly to Ida-related losses along the Gulf Coast.