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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures rose nearly 3percent on Wednesday on forecasts for cooler weather and higher heating demand over the next two weeks than previously expected.

On its second to last day as the front-month, March gas futures gained 12.5 cents, or 2.8percent, to settle at $4.623 per million British thermal units (mmBtu).

“Futures are slightly higher this morning as traders favor bid-side interest based on the extreme cold impacting the middle of the country,” Robert DiDona of Energy Ventures Analysis said.

“We are approaching March contract expiration and there has been tremendous volatility around contract expiration over the past few months,” DiDona added.

Data provider Refinitiv estimated 390 heating degree days (HDDs) over the next two weeks in the Lower 48 US states, up from 372 HDDs estimated on Tuesday. The normal is 346 HDDs for this time of year.

HDDs, used to estimate demand to heat homes and businesses, measure the number of degrees a day’s average temperature is below 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius).

With colder weather coming, Refinitiv projected average US gas demand, including exports, would rise from 120.1 billion cubic feet per day this week to 123.7 bcfd next week. Those forecasts were higher than Refinitiv’s outlook on Tuesday.

Refinitiv said the amount of gas flowing to US LNG export plants has averaged 12.4 bcfd so far in February, in line with January’s monthly record of 12.4 bcfd.

Refinitiv said average gas output in the US Lower 48 states fell from a record 97.3 bcfd in December to 94.0 bcfd in January and 93.2 bcfd so far in February, as cold weather froze oil and gas wells in several producing regions earlier in the new year.

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