The February 2018 futures contract for natural gas on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) is trading at a discount to the current spot price. This pricing pattern provides economic incentives to withdraw natural gas from storage to avoid exposure to the spot market.
Mexico, the largest offtaker of US pipeline gas and LNG importer from Peru, Nigeria and the US, is getting ready to launch an online gas trading platform by the summer of this year, at the latest. The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), Mexico’s state-owned grid operator, also plans to set up several gas pricing points. “We'll have Henry Hub, too, as that's what we now have,” said Javier Gutierrez Becerril, director of operations at CFE Energy.
Low-cost of natural gas has allowed it to stay the dominant source of power generation in the United States for the second year in a row. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that gas-fired power plants covered an average of 32% of total U.S. electricity needs in 2017, compared with 30% from coal power plants.
Spurred by rising gas demand from the electric power sector, industry and LNG exporters, US dry natural gas production is forecast to rise by an average of 80.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2018, up 6.9 Bcf/d or 9.3% on the 2017 level which would be the highest increase on record, according to EIA figures. A more moderate 3.2% rise of 2.6 Bcf/d is expected for 2019.
Freezing temperatures have crippled the energy infrastructure in New England for the past 10 days, sending prices for natural gas and fuel oil soaring. After a winter storm brought down a large nuclear plant, gas prices skyrocketed and operators turned on some oil-fired power stations. Managing the region’s power system “continues to be challenging,” the ISO New England grid operator warned, noting that some oil-fired generators were “quickly depleting their fuel supply”.
A rebound in crude oil and petroleum product prices has caused a 16% rise of the spot energy index in the Standard and Poor's (S&P) Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) at year-end, after the index fell nearly 20% in the first half of the past year.
Natural gas consumption in the US has increased 27% this week, propelled up by an 18% demand rise from the power sector as a cold weather front moved across the country. In the Northeast, where cold weather persisted throughout the week, prices jumped at the Algonquin Citygate which serves consumers in Boston and at the Transcontinental Pipeline Zone 6 trading point for New York.
Integrating North America’s abundant shale gas resources into global markets keeps prices subdued: NBP averaged at $10/mmBtu in 2011-14 and by 2016 lost more than half of its value, hovering around $4.63/mmBtu. According to Societe Generale analysis, natural gas is now in a unique position to help regions transition away from coal- and oil-fuelled power generation.
Excess growth in global LNG supply, notably through the ramp-up of US LNG through 2018 and into 2019, will make European gas prices “move through the coal floor [price]”. Fuel-switching in the Western European power market, according to Societe Generale, will ultimately be determined by short-term gas prices hinging at the variable cost of shipping a US LNG cargo to Europe.
Natural gas-fuelled power generation in the United States reached its highest daily level at 41 Bcf/day on July 20 – just a tick lower than the 2016 peak of 42 Bcf/d seen on August 11 last year. Higher gas prices relative to last summer explain part of the decrease; but PointLogic Energy analysts stressed that “although power burn in 2017 is lower than in 2016, it is still relatively high compared with the previous five-year average for that period.”