U.S. natural gas futures were little changed on Friday, putting the contract on track to fall about 5% for the week as weather later in November was forecast to be less cold than previously expected.Front-month gas futures for December delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 0.8 cents, or 0.3%, to $2.655 per million British thermal units at 8:15 a.m. EST (1315 GMT).
That put the front-month down about 5% for the week, which would be its first weekly decline in three weeks.
After a cold snap this week, the U.S. National Weather Service forecast temperatures in the Lower 48 U.S. states would remain a little cooler than normal in the eastern half of the country and a little warmer in the western half over the next 6-14 days.
With the weather expected to moderate later in November, data provider Refinitiv projected average gas demand in the Lower 48 states, including exports, would fall from 116.4 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week to 110.1 bcfd next week and 112.4 bcfd in two weeks.
Those demand forecasts were down from Refinitiv’s earlier predictions on Thursday of 117.3 bcfd for this week and 112.8 bcfd for next week.
Gas flows to liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants rose to 7.1 bcfd on Thursday from 7.0 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with an average of 7.1 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 7.7 bcfd on Nov. 2.
Pipeline flows to Mexico rose to 5.9 bcfd on Thursday from 5.8 bcfd on Wednesday, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with an average of 5.4 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 6.2 bcfd on Sept. 18.
Analysts said utilities likely pulled 79 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas from storage during the week ended Nov. 15, their first withdrawal of the November-March heating season.
That reduction compares with a withdrawal of 109 bcf during the same week last year and a five-year (2014-18) average decline of 32 bcf for the period.
If correct, the decrease would cut stockpiles to 3.653 trillion cubic feet (tcf), 1.2% below the five-year average of 3.698 tcf for this time of year, erasing a small storage surplus built up over the prior five weeks.
Earlier this year, in March, the amount of gas in inventory was as much as 33% below the five-year average. But record production has allowed utilities to inject 2.569 tcf into storage since April 1, turning that big deficit into a surplus during the week ended Oct. 11.
So long as the weather moderates in late November as expected, analysts said stockpiles will likely return to a surplus over the next month or so as rising production enables utilities to leave gas in storage for longer.
Gas production in the Lower 48 states held at 94.8 bcfd for a second day in a row on Thursday, according to Refinitiv data. That compares with an average of 94.7 bcfd last week and an all-time daily high of 95.2 bcfd on Nov. 3.