Natural Gas Sets New Price Record Ahead of Northeast Storm

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Most of the time we quote natural gas prices at the price for 1,000 cubic feet at the Henry Hub, the central U.S. pricing point in Henry, Louisiana. That price has hovered around $3 for months now. On Wednesday, the spot price of natural gas arriving in New York City hit $175 per million BTUs, an amount of energy approximately equal to 1,000 cubic feet of volume.

At the major pipeline feeding New York City, Transco’s Zone 6, natural gas prices averaged $140.06 per million BTUs on Thursday, a jump of more than $91 per million BTUs in a single day. Thursday’s national average spot price rose by about $6 to $16.78.

According to Natural Gas Intelligence (NGI), Wednesday’s was the highest price spot price ever recorded in the United States. Before then, the highest price paid for a million BTUs was $125 in the “polar-vortex” winter of 2013–2014.

NGI attributed the soaring prices to a “perfect storm of widespread weather-driven demand and pipeline constraints.” Several major pipelines feeding the Northeast are transporting gas under operational flow orders that restrict the flow of gas when the integrity of the pipeline is in jeopardy.

Very cold weather in the Permian Basin of Texas has limited the amount of natural gas flowing on Kinder Morgan’s El Paso pipeline system from 2.3 billion cubic feet per day to 1.38 billion. Cold weather also has affected deliveries from the Marcellus shale regions of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Following Thursday’s report on U.S. natural gas inventories, the spot price for February delivery fell to around $2.80 Friday morning from a pre-report level around $3.03 per million BTUs. Traders are expecting warmer weather in the second half of January and only some unusual event is likely to push spot prices higher.