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Western Price Survey

March 22, 2019
Price Volatility Resumes Across West

Despite indications that the market might have been experiencing a break in continuing price volatility, Western energy prices dropped this week, with dips in both power and natural gas prices.

Western peak power prices dropped by between $1.85 and as much as $19.75 in the March 14 to March 21 trading period. Mid-Columbia peak power fell $19.75 to $26.80/MWh. By March 21, prices ranged from $26.80/MWh at Mid-C to $30/MWh at California-Oregon Border.

Off-peak power prices posted greater drops, falling by between $6 and as much as $23.45. Again, Mid-C lost the most value, plunging $23.45, about 48 percent, to $25.05/MWh. Nighttime power prices ranged from $25.05 at Mid-C to $29/MWh at Palo Verde by March 21.

California Independent System Operator demand reached 27,169 MW March 18, which should be the week’s high. Northwest Power Pool demand reached 55,111 MW that same day.

Total renewables on the CAISO grid reached 13,658 MW March 16, satisfying 55 percent of demand. Solar resources supplied 10,669 MW, or almost 43 percent of demand, that same day.

Western natural gas prices exhibited renewed volatility thanks to additional pipeline issues. A force majeure called March 18 by El Paso Natural Gas at its Lordsburg and Florida compressor stations in New Mexico sent El Paso-Permian Basin gas prices plummeting by $2.03 in March 14 to March 21 trading. The operational capacity of the pipeline was reduced 0.2 Bcf to 0.38 Bcf by March 19.

The hub price ended at 20 cents/MMBtu March 21. Similarly, El Paso-San Juan Basin natural gas fell $1.86 to $1.23/MMBtu.

Prices at most other Western natural gas hubs fell by between 24 cents and roughly a dollar. SoCal CityGate was the exception, adding 44 cents to reach $4.54/MMBtu by March 21.

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Nationally, working natural gas in storage was 1,143 Bcf as of March 15, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This is a net decrease of 47 Bcf compared with the previous week. Storage levels are now 21.6 percent less than a year ago and 32.7 percent less than the five-year average.

Natural gas supplies nationwide remained flat at 93.5 Bcfd on average, according to the agency. The amount of natural gas used for power generation also remained flat, at 22.5 Bcfd on average.

Dry and sunny weather across California meant little increase in snowpack during the week, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The statewide snow-water equivalent has increased 5.4 inches since March 1.

The statewide snowpack has a 42.8-inch snow-water equivalent, which is 156 percent of the March 21 average.
–Linda Dailey Paulson

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

The Western Price Survey is excerpted from 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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