U.S. natural gas futures ticked higher on Thursday, but held a tight range as the market awaited a federal government report expected to show last week’s storage build was much bigger than normal.
Front-month gas futures for October delivery were up 9.2 cents, or 1%, to $9.22 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) by 9:28 a.m. EDT (1328 GMT).
Analysts forecast that U.S. utilities added 58 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas to storage during the week ended Aug. 26. That compares with an increase of 21 bcf in the same week last year and a five-year average increase of 46 bcf.
If correct, last week’s increase would boost stockpiles to 2.637 trillion cubic feet (tcf), or 11.5% below the five-year average for this time of the year.
However, “a further reduction in the supply shortfall will likely prove limited through the rest of this month while the expected re-start of Freeport LNG in November could take over from there in keeping overall demand quite stout in offering limited allowance for a colder than normal winter,” Ritterbusch and Associates said in a note.
The restart delay at the fire-hit Freeport liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in Texas, leaves more fuel in the United States for utilities to refill storage.
The second-biggest LNG export plant in the United States was consuming about 2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas before it shut.
Dutch and British wholesale gas prices were mostly down on Thursday morning due to comfortable storage levels, price cap concerns and continued EU gas demand reduction proposals.
Russia halted gas supplies via Europe’s key supply route, intensifying an economic battle between Moscow and Brussels and raising the prospects of recession and energy rationing in some of the region’s richest countries.
Globally, gas was trading around $69 per mmBtu in Europe and $54 in Asia.