U.S. natural gas futures edged up about 1% on Friday on forecasts for lower output, higher liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, warmer weather and higher demand than previously forecast over the next two weeks.
In addition, traders noted power consumption in Texas was expected to reach a record high next week as economic growth boosts overall usage and hot weather causes homes and businesses to crank up their air conditioners.
In Florida, meanwhile, gas demand could decline if a tropical storm causes power outages this weekend. The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecast a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico will strengthen into a tropical storm later Friday before crossing over South Florida on Saturday with winds of up to 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).
Front-month gas futures for July delivery rose 8.4 cents, or 1.0%, to $8.569 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 9:23 a.m. EDT (1323 GMT).
Despite the small gain on Friday, the contract was still down about 2% for the week after rising about 8% last week.
U.S. gas futures are up about 130% 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 that Moscow might cut gas supplies to Europe.
Gas was trading around $27 per mmBtu in Europe and $24 in Asia. That compares with a 13-year high of around $9 in U.S. futures in late May.
U.S. 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.
Data provider Refinitiv said average gas output in the U.S. Lower 48 states fell to 94.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in June from 95.1 bcfd in May. That compares with a monthly record of 96.1 bcfd in December 2021.
Refinitiv projected average U.S. gas demand, including exports, would rise from 85.3 bcfd this week to 86.4 bcfd next week and 89.9 bcfd in two weeks. The forecasts for this week and next week were higher than Refinitiv’s outlook on Thursday.
The average amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants rose to 12.8 bcfd so far in June from 12.5 bcfd in May. That compares with a monthly record of 12.9 bcfd in March. The United States can turn about 13.6 bcfd of gas into LNG.
The United States, which will not be able to produce much more LNG anytime soon, has worked with allies to divert exports from elsewhere to Europe to help European Union countries and others break dependence on Russian gas.
Russia kept pipeline exports to Europe at around 7.3 bcfd on Wednesday and Thursday 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 11.6 bcfd in June 2021.
Gas stockpiles in Northwest Europe – Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands – were about 9% below the five-year (2017-2021) average for this time of year, down from 39% below the five-year norm in mid-March, according to Refinitiv. Storage was currently about 44% of full capacity.
That is healthier than U.S. inventories, which were around 15% below their five-year norm.