U.S. natural gas futures fell about 5% to a one-week low on Friday on rising output and forecasts for less demand over the next two weeks than previously expected.
That decline came even though U.S. power generators were forced to burn more gas for a second week in a row this week due to lower wind power. Wind was on track to produce just 11% of the country’s power this week, down from a recent high of 16%, while gas will generate about 36%, up from a recent low of 33%, according to federal data.
After last week’s smaller than usual storage build, traders noted that extra gas burned by power generators will limit what utilities can inject into storage again this week.
On its first day as the front month, gas futures for July delivery fell 48.1 cents, or 5.4%, to $8.414 per million British thermal units at 9:13 a.m. EDT (1313 GMT), putting the contract on track for its lowest close since May 20.
When June was still the front month, it closed at its highest since August 2008 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
For the week, the contract was up about 4% after rising about 5% last week.
U.S. gas futures are up about 125% so far this year as much higher prices in Europe and Asia keep demand for U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports strong, especially since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine stoked fears Moscow might cut gas supplies to Europe.
Even with much bigger supply worries in Europe, traders noted U.S. futures were up about 16% over the past month, while European prices were down about 20% as Russia keeps sending supplies by pipeline and LNG vessels continue to deliver cargoes.
Gas was currently trading around $27 per mmBtu in Europe and $22 in Asia. Gas stockpiles in Northwest Europe were only about 10% below the five-year norm versus about 15% below in the United States.
U.S. futures, however, continue to 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.
Data provider Refinitiv said average gas output in the U.S. Lower 48 states has climbed to 95.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in May from 94.5 bcfd in April, off the monthly record of 96.1 bcfd in November 2021.
Refinitiv projected average U.S. gas demand, including exports, would hold around 88.5 bcfd for through to mid-June. The forecast for this week and next were lower than Refinitiv forecast on Thursday.
The average amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants rose to 12.5 bcfd so far in May from 12.2 bcfd in April. It hit a monthly record of 12.9 bcfd in March. The United States can turn about 13.2 bcfd of gas into LNG.
Since the United States will not be able to produce much more LNG soon, it worked with allies to divert exports from elsewhere to Europe to help European Union countries and others break their dependence on Russian gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia exported around 7.4 bcfd of gas to Europe on Thursday, the same as Wednesday, on the three mainlines into Germany: North Stream 1 (Russia-Germany), Yamal (Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany) and the Russia-Ukraine-Slovakia-Czech Republic-Germany route. That compares with an average of 11.9 bcfd in May 2021.