Thursday's release of the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report (WNGSR) represented the last full week of the winter heating season (November 1 – March 31). Although traditionally net withdrawals of working natural gas in storage occur during these months, this year net injections began the week ending March 16. Because the latest WNGSR represents inventory levels as of March 30, it excludes the last day of the winter heating season; official end-of-month levels will not be reported until the May Natural Gas Monthly is released.
Working natural gas in storage as of March 30 totaled 2,479, which is 816 billion cubic feet (Bcf) greater than the 5-year (2007-2011) maximum for that date. Inventories for each week ending in March have been greater than 2,300 Bcf; the next highest March inventory level of any year for the 18 years for which EIA has data is 1,887 Bcf, recorded for the week ending March 3, 2006. The high levels of storage this winter have been the result of abundant supplies as well as a very mild winter that has reduced demand for natural gas.
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Consistent with increasing natural gas prices across much of the country, the Henry Hub day ahead price rose 1.0 percent during the report week, from $2.04 per MMBtu the previous Wednesday to $2.06 per MMBtu yesterday. Prices fell consistently through Monday, dropping to $1.89 per MMBtu (dipping below $2.00 per MMBtu for the first time since September 2009) before rebounding on Tuesday and Wednesday.
At the NYMEX, the May 2012 contract fell from $2.282 per MMBtu last Wednesday to $2.141 per MMBtu yesterday, a decrease of 14.1 cents (6.2 percent). Prices reached a low of $2.126 on Friday, before climbing to $2.187 on Tuesday, then falling back again yesterday.
Natural gas prices rose at most downstream trading locations over the week as temperatures generally dropped from last month's record-highs. Spot price increases were particularly pronounced on Tuesday in the Northeast. At the Algonquin Citygate trading point for delivery into Boston, the spot price rose by 45 cents, and at the Transcontinental Pipeline's Zone 6 trading point (which serves New York City markets), the spot price increased by 21 cents. Spot prices in the Pacific Northwest (represented by the Sumas trading point located in Washington State) rose daily after dipping modestly on Thursday, ending the week up 24 cents (12.9 percent).