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U.S. natural gas futures fell 2% on Friday on predictions that the weather over the next two weeks won’t be as cold as originally expected.
Front-month Henry Hub natural gas futures for January delivery fell 13.4 cents or 2.08% to $6.598 per million British thermal units at 11:36 a.m. ET—on track for a 6% dip on the week.
Gas stockpiles are still more than 2% below the five-year average for this time of year, but the warmer weather may offer utilities—who have been struggling with the low inventories—a chance to leave more gas in storage.
Natural gas prices may also be under some pressure from the White House’s efforts to stave off a railroad strike. A strike could limit the availability of coal, and in so doing, increase the demand for gas from utilities to compensate.
The undercurrent in the natural gas market, though, is the 2.1 bcf/d Freeport LNG shutdown, which is expected to begin restarting in a couple of weeks, reaching full capacity sometime in March. When Freeport LNG is back up, it will open up other outlets for U.S. nat gas, increasing demand. While Freeport has endured a lengthy shuttering, it has allowed nat gas inventories to grow domestically due to the export limitations.
Freeport LNG has yet to submit its request to restart to PHMSA, Reuters sources familiar with company filings said on Friday.
On the supply side, Refinitiv data shows that average gas output in the U.S. Lower 48 rose to a monthly record of 99.5 bcf/d in November, up from 99.2 bcf/d in October.
U.S. gas futures are up nearly 75% so far this year as the market expands for U.S. gas exports.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.