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Western Price Survey

February 2, 2018
California Snowpack Meager to Date

Little snow has accumulated thus far in California’s wet season, despite some January precipitation in the Sierra Nevada.

The California Department of Water Resources found a snow-water equivalent of 2.6 inches in its Feb. 1 manual snowpack measurement at Phillips Station. This is just 14 percent of the early-February average.

The statewide snowpack has a 4.9-inch snow-water equivalent, which is 27 percent of the Feb. 1 average. This stands in sharp contrast with last year’s February measurement, which was a 31-inch snow-water equivalent, or 173 percent of average.

“Today’s measurements indicate an anemic snowpack to date,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, who conducted the survey, “but there is still the possibility of a wet February and March.”

Working natural gas in storage was 2,197 Bcf as of Jan. 26, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This is a net decrease of 99 Bcf compared to the previous week.

Henry Hub gas spot prices lost 54 cents in the Jan. 25 to Feb. 1 trading period, ending at $3.05/MMBtu.

Western natural gas prices generally followed suit, with values falling between 35 and 77 cents in Thursday-to-Thursday trading. El Paso-San Juan Basin dropped the most in trading, down 77 cents to $2.09/MMBtu. Alberta natural gas proved the exception, adding 2 cents to reach $1.79/MMBtu.

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Warmer weather suppressed natural gas prices, according to Enerfax. Temperatures may continue weighing on prices as above-seasonal norms continue into the week of Feb. 5; Los Angeles could see a daytime high of 83 degrees by midweek, while Portland highs should surpass 60 degrees.

Western power prices saw nominal movement throughout the trading period. Palo Verde peak power gained the most, up $2.75 to $26.25/MWh. The hub also posted the biggest increase for off-peak values, adding 75 cents to reach $23.50/MWh.

California Independent System Operator power demand reached 29,592 MW Jan. 29, which was the week’s high. Total renewables reached 11,253 MW Jan. 28.

In January, average natural gas prices were generally higher compared with 2017 (see “Price Trends,” next page). The average high price last month at Henry Hub was $6.88/MMBtu, $3.47 more than in January of last year. Among Western gas hubs, Southern California Border gained the most, up $2.21 in 2018, with an average high price of $5.66/MMBtu. PG&E CityGate shed 40 cents year over year.

Average prices for Western power in January varied compared with last year. South of Path 15 added $13.82 to $52.60/MWh on average on a year-over-year basis, while Mid-Columbia prices last month fell $11.26 compared to January 2017, with an average high price of $34.45/MMBtu. –Linda Dailey Paulson.

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.

The Western Price Survey is excerpted from Energy NewsData's comprehensive regional news services. See for yourself how NewsData reporters put events in an accurate and meaningful context -- request a sample of either or both California Energy Markets and Clearing Up.

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Contact Mavis Scanlon, editor with questions regarding Price Survey content.

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