U.S. natural gas futures rose more than 6% on Tuesday, following an 8% increase in oil prices, on hopes of economic stimulus and expectations the oil price collapse will prompt U.S. drillers to cut back on oil and gas production in shale basins.
Analysts said a cutback in U.S. production and a possible increase in gas use spurred by low prices should give demand a chance to grow and absorb some of the supply glut building over the past few years.
Much of the growth in U.S. gas output in recent years has come from gas associated with the production of oil in shale basins like the Permian in West Texas and eastern New Mexico. Since drillers in oil basins were seeking crude, that production was insensitive to low gas prices.
Energy firms kept producing oil and associated gas even though gas prices in the Permian fell to negative levels. In 2019, they also burned or flared record amounts of gas in the Permian because output increased more quickly than companies could build pipelines to transport the fuel to markets.
Front-month gas futures for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 11.2 cents, or 6.3%, to $1.890 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) at 9:58 a.m. EDT (1358 GMT). If the contract closes at that level, it would be its highest settle in two-weeks.
Oil prices jumped about 8% on Tuesday a day after their biggest rout in nearly 30 years as investors eyed the possibility of economic stimulus and Russia signaled that talks with OPEC remained possible.
The collapse of U.S. oil prices and rise in gas futures cut the oil-to-gas ratio to its lowest since January 2019.
Despite gains this week, gas prices were still down 35% from an eight-month high of $2.905 per mmBtu in early November because record production and mild winter weather enabled utilities to leave more gas in storage, making fuel shortages and price spikes unlikely.
Traders noted the rise in gas prices so far this week came even though meteorologists forecast milder weather over the next two weeks. That could cut heating demand enough this week to allow utilities to inject gas into storage for the first time this year – about three weeks earlier than usual.
Data provider Refinitiv projected average demand in the U.S. Lower 48 states, including exports, would edge up from 99.8 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) this week to 101.8 bcfd next week. That is much lower than Refinitiv’s forecast on Monday of 100.7 bcfd this week and 107.5 bcfd next week due to the milder outlook.
In the spot market, next-day gas at the Henry Hub benchmark in Louisiana fell to $1.74 per mmBtu, its lowest since April 2016.