Daily NGL prices for 2017 per gallon. (Source: Hart Energy, Bloomberg)
The assault by an arctic chill that jolted natural gas consumption to a record 143 billion cubic feet on New Year’s Day has been largely deflected in terms of price so far by commodity markets aware of the U.S. superabundance of supply.
By morning Jan. 4, the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) price had slipped 4.3 cents from its Jan. 2 close to $3.013 per million Btu (MMBtu).
The winter storm referred to as “bombogenesis,” or a storm that rapidly intensifies and causes a rapid change of pressure, crippled the East Coast from New England to the Carolinas, though it was expected to ease the frigid conditions temporarily. However, it could also dump as much as 10 to 15 inches of snow on Maine, according to some forecasts.
The snowstorm was expected to move through by Jan. 4 but a new front is forecast to immediately follow, bringing dangerously strong wind gusts of up to 60 mph and brutally low temperatures to the region, according to AccuWeather.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of gas for heating needs.
“Rapid production growth that has unfolded in the second half of 2017 has limited concerns of supply shortage this winter,” Teri Viswanath, analyst at PIRA Energy Group, told the Financial Times. Even demand from the sustained very low temperatures is being met by strong gas production from the Marcellus Shale and the Permian Basin.
Ethane soared at Mont Belvieu, Texas, recording a 13.9% single-trading day jump in price from Dec. 29 to Jan. 2 to 22.6 cents per gallon (gal). At Conway, Kan., the price rose by 7.5%. Propane and C5+ moved little. Butanes, which had rallied in late December, took a hit.
Ethane margins endured a rough fourth-quarter 2017. At Mont Belvieu, the margin narrowed by 43% compared to fourth-quarter 2016, though the December 2017 to December 2016 comparison saw a 9% increase. The 16.5% drop in ethane’s December 2017 price at Conway wreaked havoc with the margin there.
Propane’s average price dipped in December but its margin more than doubled at both hubs compared to December 2016. In the six trading days from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2, propane rose 6.9% at Mont Belvieu and 8% at Conway.
Butanes pushed back over $1/gal at both hubs and C5+ rose 7.7% at Mont Belvieu to eclipse $1.40/gal for the first time since December 2014.