U.S. natural gas futures held near a five-week high on Tuesday on the coldest day of the winter so far in the Northeast region.
That lack of price movement came despite a 3% decline in European gas futures.
U.S. gas futures followed European prices about two thirds of the time during the last quarter as utilities scrambled for U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes to replenish low stockpiles in Europe and meet surging demand in Asia.
Front-month gas futures remained unchanged at $4.080 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 8:12 a.m. EST (1312 GMT). On Monday, the contract closed at its highest since Dec. 3.
In the spot market, power prices in New England for Tuesday jumped to their highest since January 2018 as homes and businesses cranked up their heaters to escape the region’s coldest day of the winter.
Lingering cold since New Year’s Day continued to cause well freeze-offs and other production declines in several regions, including the Permian in Texas and New Mexico, the Bakken in North Dakota and Appalachia in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.
Data provider Refinitiv said output in the U.S. Lower 48 states has averaged 94.6 bcfd so far in January, down from a record 97.6 bcfd in December.
Refinitiv projected average U.S. gas demand, including exports, would hold around 132.7 bcfd this week and next. The forecast for this week was lower than Refinitiv projected on Monday, while the outlook for next week was higher.
On a daily basis, Refinitiv said total U.S. gas demand plus exports hit a preliminary record of 150.9 bcfd on Jan. 7. That would top the current record of 150.6 bcfd on Jan. 30, 2019, and the 147.2 bcfd hit on Feb. 12, 2021, just before Winter Storm Uri left millions without power and heat for days after freezing gas wells and pipes in Texas and other U.S. Central states.
The amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants has averaged 12.1 bcfd this month, just below the 12.2-bcfd record in December.
With gas prices around $28 per mmBtu in Europe and $33 in Asia, compared with around $4 in the United States, traders said buyers around the world would keep purchasing all the LNG the United States can produce.
But no matter how high global gas prices rise, the United States only has capacity to turn about 12.2 bcfd of gas into LNG.
So global markets will have to wait until later this year for some of the 18 liquefaction trains under construction at Venture Global LNG’s Calcasieu Pass in Louisiana to start producing LNG. The plant has been pulling in small amounts of feed gas since around September as it prepares to begin operating.