U.S. natural gas futures jumped about 6% to a one-week high on Monday in what has already been an extremely volatile month on forecasts for colder weather and higher heating demand through the end of November than previously expected.
Traders also noted the market remained hyper focused on unproven rumors that the Freeport liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in Texas may not return to service until December. Freeport LNG has said repeatedly said the plant, which shut after an explosion on June 8, would return in November.
On Friday, the market dropped more than 5% due in part to what Freeport LNG called fake Tweets about cracked pipes at the plant.
“Any Tweets and/or posts on Freeport LNG branded letterhead that may have been obtained or published, are reporting false information and are not legitimate, official public information from Freeport LNG,” Freeport said on Friday.
Front-month gas futures rose 36.8 cents, or 6.3%, to $6.247 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) by 8:38 a.m. EST (1338 GMT), putting the contract on track for its highest close since Nov. 7.
Rapid price changes over the past couple of weeks – futures gained or lost more than 5% on eight of the past 10 days – boosted the contract’s 30-day implied volatility index to its highest level since hitting a record in October 2021 for a fourth day in a row. The market uses implied volatility to estimate likely price changes in the future.
With a rise in gas prices last week, speculators cut their net short futures and options positions on the New York Mercantile and Intercontinental Exchanges for the first time in three weeks to their lowest since September, according to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Commitments of Traders report.
Sources familiar with Freeport LNG’s filings with federal safety regulators told Reuters on Dec. 10 that Freeport has not yet submitted a request to resume service to the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
Analysts at investment bank Goldman Sachs, energy consulting firm Gelber & Associates and others have said that lack of a request to resume service likely means the 2.1 billion-cubic-feet-per-day (bcfd) Freeport export plant will not return until December.
A couple of vessels were waiting to pick up LNG from Freeport, according to Refinitiv data. Prism Diversity and Prism Courage were offshore from the plant, while LNG Rosenrot and Prism Agility were expected to arrive in late November.
But one vessel, Prism Brilliance, which had been waiting outside the Freeport plant, is now waiting outside Corpus Christi in Texas where Cheniere Energy Inc has an LNG export plant, according to Refinitiv data.
Gas futures are up about 66% so far this year as much higher global gas prices feed demand for U.S. exports due to supply disruptions and sanctions linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Gas was trading at $32 per mmBtu at the Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) in Europe and $27 at the Japan Korea Marker (JKM) in Asia.
Data provider Refinitiv said average gas output in the U.S. Lower 48 states slid to 99.0 bcfd so far in November, down from a record 99.4 bcfd in October.
With the much colder weather coming, Refinitiv projected average U.S. gas demand, including exports, would jump from 121.7 bcfd this week to 126.8 bcfd next week. Those forecasts were higher than Refinitiv’s outlook on Friday.
The average amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants rose to 11.6 bcfd so far in November, up from 11.3 bcfd in October.