The Frac Spread feature will not appear next week but will return on Jan. 4, 2018.

The price of ethane rebounded in the past week but a month-long swoon pulled the hypothetical NGL barrel to three-month lows at the Mont Belvieu, Texas, and Conway, Kan., hubs.

Propane took a 4.9% hit at Mont Belvieu to its lowest level since mid-October, and dropped 5.5% at Conway to its lowest point since mid-September. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) propane inventory data showed stocks rising nationally and in PADD 3 (Gulf Coast states) during the first two weeks of December before a sharp 4.5% U.S. drop in the week ending Dec. 15.

En*Vantage attributed the inventory increases to a drop in exports caused by Gulf Coast fog and mechanical issues at a Houston Ship Channel terminal. The price correction from almost $1 per gallon (gal) three weeks ago to 91.45 cents/gal in the past week, won’t for linger long, En*Vantage said.

Exports will rebound in coming weeks as the weaker U.S. price widens the export arbitrage. Also, the shutdown of the Forties Pipeline System in the North Sea has forced Ineos to run its Grangemouth, Scotland refinery complex at reduced rates. The pipeline system is expected to restart in early January.

OPIS, a unit of IHS Markit, wondered in a recent report whether the era of cheap LPG is over. Karen Tang, London-based managing editor of OPIS Europe LPG, noted that the shutdown of U.S. Gulf Coast facilities by Hurricane Harvey pushed up propane prices in Japan by 10% in the first week after the storm. The price at Mont Belvieu, by contrast, rose only 2%.

The jump in price created a premium for propane against naphtha in northwest Europe, resulting in an import reduction of more than half from the total of a year earlier. The increase in propane’s price vs. West Texas Intermediate crude oil passed 70% this year, Tang wrote, to the point that the October comparison was higher than during the “polar vortex” winter of 2014. The price of propane peaked in February 2014 at $1.60/gal at Mont Belvieu.

Demand, Tang wrote, shows signs of growth in Europe. In particular, Ukraine is home to one of the world’s fastest-growing LPG markets and is seeking to ease its reliance on Russian imports. Turkey has turned to imports from the U.S. since 2015 to do the same.

Normal butane fell below $1/gal for the first time in 12 weeks at Mont Belvieu and for only the third time in 12 weeks at Conway. The Mont Belvieu price is 16.4% below where it was at this time in 2016. At Conway, the 12-month drop was 10.1%. Isobutane’s price at Conway slumped to its lowest point in four months.

Storage of natural gas in the Lower 48 decreased by 182 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in the week ended Dec. 15, the EIA reported, compared to the Bloomberg consensus of a 172 Bcf draw and the 2016 draw of 200 Bcf. The figure also contrasts with the five-year average decrease of 125 Bcf, resulting in a total of 3.444 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). That is 5% below the 3.627 Tcf figure at the same time in 2016 and 2.4% below the five-year average of 3.528 Tcf.

Joseph Markman can be reached at and @JHMarkman.