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U.S. natgas futures fall to month low on cooler forecasts


U.S. natural gas futures fell on Wednesday to their lowest level in over a month on forecasts for cooler weather over the next two weeks than previously forecast.

Front-month gas futures for August delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 8.0 cents, or 3.5%, to settle at $2.220 per million British thermal units. That put the contract within a few cents of its $2.185 close on June 20, which was its lowest settle since May 2016.

Meteorologists predict the weather will remain near normal this week before turning a little warmer next week – just not as hot as previously forecast.

Data provider Refinitiv projected demand in the lower 48 U.S. states would rise from 89.2 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week to 90.1 bcfd next week as power generators burn a little more gas to meet higher air conditioning use.

The power sector, however, remains on track to burn more than 40 bcfd of gas on average this month, which would break its monthly record of 39.9 bcfd set in July 2018, according to federal energy projections.

Since Tropical Storm Barry hit the central Louisiana coast on July 13, energy firms have been returning Gulf of Mexico wells and platforms to service.

Gas production from the offshore Gulf of Mexico rose to 2.7 bcfd on Tuesday from a low of 1.2 bcfd from July 13-15, according to Refinitiv. That compares with a high of 3.1 bcfd during the first week of July.

With the increases in the Gulf of Mexico, output in the Lower 48 states edged up to 89.3 bcfd on Tuesday from 89.2 bcfd on Monday, according to Refinitiv. That compares with an all-time daily high of 91.1 bcfd on July 5 and an average of 82.7 bcfd during this week last year.

The amount of gas flowing to the nation’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals, meanwhile, eased to 5.7 bcfd on Tuesday from 6.1 bcfd on Monday due to small declines at Cheniere Energy Inc’s Sabine Pass in Louisiana and Sempra Energy’s Cameron in Louisiana, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with a record high of 6.4 bcfd on Friday.

Analysts said utilities likely added a smaller than normal 37 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas into storage during the week ended July 19. That compares with an increase of 27 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2014-18) average build of 44 bcf for the period.

If correct, the increase would boost stockpiles to 2.570 trillion cubic feet (tcf), 5.5% below the five-year average of 2.720 tcf for this time of year.

The amount of gas in inventory has remained below the five-year average since September 2017. It fell as low as 33% below that average in March 2019. With production near record highs, analysts expect stockpiles will reach a near-normal 3.7 tcf by the end of the summer injection season on Oct. 31.



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