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NEW YORK: US natural gas futures were down about 2% top a near one-week low on Thursday after paring earlier losses on slightly smaller than usual storage build that was in line with expectations.

Earlier in the day, futures were down about 7% to a near three-week low on expectations the fire and explosion that shut the Freeport liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in Texas on Wednesday will free up gas to help refill low US stockpiles.

Freeport LNG said its export plant in Texas will remain shut for at least three weeks following the explosion, raising the risk of global gas shortages especially in Europe.

But shortages of LNG around the world means more gas will remain in the United States, giving utilities a chance to rapidly rebuild extremely low stockpiles. US storage was currently about 15%, or 340 billion cubic feet (bcf), below normal levels for this time of year, its lowest since April 2019.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said utilities added 97 bcf of gas to storage during the week ended June 3. Traders said the build was slightly smaller than usual because power generators burned more gas last week to keep air conditioners humming during a heatwave.

That was in line with the 96-bcf build analysts forecast in a Reuters poll and compares with an increase of 98 bcf in the same week last year and a five-year (2017-2021) average increase of 100 bcf.

After dropping 6% on Wednesday, front-month gas futures for July delivery fell 16.9 cents, or 1.9%, to $8.530 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 10:46 a.m. EDT (1446 GMT), putting the contract on track for its lowest close since June 3.

Traders noted that the two-day futures price decline came despite record power demand in Texas this week, rising spot prices, low wind power and a decline in output so far this month.

Even though the weather was seasonally mild in both Pennsylvania and Chicago, next-day gas for Thursday rose to its highest since February 2014 at the Dominion South hub in Pennsylvania and its highest since the February freeze in 2021 in Chicago.

Despite this week’s drop, US gas futures were still up about 127% so far this year as much higher prices in Europe and Asia keep demand for US LNG exports strong, especially since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine stoked fears Moscow might cut gas supplies to Europe.

Gas was trading around $27 per mmBtu in Europe and $23 in Asia. That was an 8% gain for European gas prices due to worries about LNG supplies now that Freeport was shut.

US futures lag far behind global prices because the United States is the world’s top producer with all the gas it needs for domestic use, while capacity constraints inhibit additional LNG exports.


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