May 24, 2022
U.S. natural gas futures eased about 1% on Tuesday from a near 13-year high in the prior session on a slow increase in monthly output and forecasts for less demand this week than previously expected.
That small price decline came despite forecasts for a little more demand next week than previously expected and an increase in the amount of gas flowing to U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plants to a seven-week high.
U.S. front-month gas futures for June delivery fell 3.9 cents, or 0.5%, to $8.705 per million British thermal units at 9:20 a.m. EDT (1320 GMT). On Monday, the contract closed at its highest since May 5 when it settled at a 13-year high of $8.783.
U.S. gas futures were up about 132% since the start of the year as much higher global prices due to supply concerns have kept demand for U.S. LNG exports strong since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
One of the more surprising things about the recent U.S. gas price run-up was that while U.S. futures have soared about 30% over the past month, European gas lost about 8% during that time as Russia continued sending supplies via pipeline and LNG vessels keep delivering cargoes.
Gas was trading currently around $27 per mmBtu in Europe and $23 at in Asia.
U.S. futures lag far behind global prices because the United States is the world’s top producer, with all the gas it needs for domestic use while capacity constraints inhibit LNG exports.
Data provider Refinitiv said average gas output in the U.S. Lower 48 states climbed to 95.0 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) so far in May from 94.5 bcfd in April. That compares with a monthly record of 96.1 bcfd in November 2021.
Refinitiv projected average U.S. gas demand, including exports, would ease from 89.1 bcfd this week to 88.5 bcfd next week. The forecast for this week was lower than the Refinitiv forecast on Monday, while its forecast for next week was higher.
The average amount of gas flowing to U.S. LNG export plants rose to 12.4 bcfd so far in May from 12.2 bcfd in April. It hit a monthly record of 12.9 bcfd in March. The United States can turn about 13.2 bcfd of gas into LNG.
On a daily basis, LNG feedgas was on track to hit a seven-week high of 13.3 bcfd on Monday. The export facilities can pull in a little more gas than they can turn into LNG because they use some of the fuel to run plant operations.
Since the United States will not be able to produce much more LNG soon, it has worked with allies to divert exports from elsewhere to Europe to help European Union countries and others break their dependence on Russian gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.29dk2902l
Russia exported around 7.4 bcfd of gas to Europe on Monday, the same as Sunday, on the three mainlines into Germany: North Stream 1 (Russia-Germany), Yamal (Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany) and the Russia-Ukraine-Slovakia-Czech Republic-Germany route. That compares with an average of 11.9 bcfd in May 2021.
Gas stockpiles in Northwest Europe – Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands – were about 11% below the five-year (2017-2021) average for this time of year, down from 39% below the five-year norm in mid-March, according to Refinitiv. Storage was currently about 40% of full capacity.
That is healthier than U.S. inventories, which were around 15% below their five-year norm, and helped cause European futures on Monday to fall to their lowest since Feb. 21 – three days before Russia invaded Ukraine.