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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
Febuary 22, 2008
Oil Prices, Approaching Storms Rattle Western Energy Markets

Presidents Day limited trading for day-ahead power this week, and uneventful systems operation might have kept price ranges narrow. But crude's breach of a key psychological $100 benchmark on Tuesday moved most energy markets higher. After a midweek lull, weather in the Northeast and forecasts for the West brought prices back to life Friday.

Western power prices started the week close to or below last week's values. After oil went above $100 per barrel Tuesday, power prices picked up in concert with other energy markets, including natural gas.

Crude stayed above $100 Wednesday and gas and power prices held steady. But Thursday's oil inventory report -- showing that crude supplies rose more than expected -- and the Fed's more dire economic outlook deflated oil temporarily and put downward pressure on spot power.

But in life as in power markets, a new day can bring an entirely new set of circumstances. Weekend trades and the prospect of turbulent weather coming to California, courtesy of an offshore low, brought power prices back up Friday, particularly jolting off-peak California hub prices

Peak Palo Verde power rose to $73/MWh Tuesday, then drifted lower until Friday's trades brought the high of the week. Off-peak followed a similar pattern and pushed above $60 on Friday.

South of Path 15 peak power averaged $80 Tuesday, rose 25 cents Wednesday and then swooned Thursday. Friday peak recovered some, reaching $80. Off-peak trades were uneventful until shooting up $9.75 on Friday.

Peak power north of Path 15 reached the week's high Wednesday before dipping to the week's low Thursday and firming some Friday. Off-peak stayed in a tight range after Tuesday's news pushed prices above $62. On Friday, prices vaulted to this year's high of $71.10.

In the Northwest, spring-like weather made its way from west to east with high temperatures peaking on the holiday weekend, ranging as high as the upper 60s in parts of southern Oregon to the 40s inland.

The lightly populated Inland Empire has locales such as Burns, Ore., which had experienced nightly low temperatures in single digits since Valentine's Day. But enough cloud cover arrived overnight Tuesday to boost inland lows up into the low 20s.

California-Oregon Border values picked up where last week's prices left off. Tuesday prime-power trades reached the highs of the week, after which they drifted lower, recovering only slightly on Friday. Low-demand power rose until falling back Thursday, then reached its highest level Friday.

Peak values for Mid-Columbia reflect the Northwest's calmer weather forecast, maxing on Tuesday and staying in a narrow range during the week, except for Thursday's dip. Off-peak Mid-C flipped that performance, marking lows on Tuesday and climbing each day after [Alan Mountjoy-Venning].

Oil Makes Gas-Price Prediction a Slippery Business

Natural gas prices echoed crude markets as oil pierced record nominal prices and headed towards history. But gas held above last week's values at Western hubs even as crude oil prices retreated later in the week.

On Friday, despite a winter storm in the Northeast that lifted heating oil and gasoline, day-ahead natural gas fell almost everywhere, including in the West, where it reached the lows of the week.

The U.S Energy Information Administration's storage report for the week ending Feb. 15 was in line with estimates. Inventories shed 172 Bcf last week, still resting 5.8 percent above the five-year average at 1.770 Tcf.

Natural gas prices across the country are holding near or above this winter's highs, an atypical development as winter gets long in the tooth in late February.

The EIA suggests that sharply lower liquefied natural gas imports might be part of the reason for high gas values. While gas has not kept up with oil in dollars-per-Btu terms, as winter burns off gas storage -- which started the season in record territory -- gas is inching up by that measure [A. M-V.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: February 18 - 22, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 20.55-193.79 15.30-64.45
Mid-Columbia 66.25-71.50 61.50-64.75
COB 70.55-76 62-67.75
NP 15 74.40-81 59.75-63.35
SP 15 73.25-81 59.45-70.75
Palo Verde 67-75 52-60.55

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.

Please contact with questions or comments about this site.

Contact Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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