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Western Price Survey / Archives

March 26, 2004
Lull Lingers Amid Lower Gas Prices

Slumping electricity trading was brought to a close this week as temperatures fell and gas prices retreated. Power prices throughout the region managed only to lose value during the week.

Mid-Columbia power was changing hands for between 38.50 mills and 39.25 mills/KWh at the beginning of the week. By Thursday, power at the hub was down to a low of 32.75 mills/KWh. At the California-Oregon Border, power prices were less than stellar, with high-demand electricity moving for between 40.25 mills and 42.50 mills/KWh in the early part of the week. By the end of the week the COB price had hit a low of 35.50 mills/KWh. The off-peak price at both Mid-C and COB ranged between 29.25 mills and 32.50 mills/KWh during much of the week. Friday brought a bit of life back into the market, but only because packages were being traded for Monday delivery. Off-peak power prices gained 2 to 3 mills in in the Northwest.

As usual, prices at the California hubs were a bit higher than their Northwest counterparts. The price for peak power at NP15 opened the week at between 42.75 mills and 43.50 mills/KWh, lost ground throughout the week and closed for weekend deliveries at between 39.50 mills and 40 mills/KWh. Low-demand offerings were moving for between 33 mills and 34.50 mills/KWh early in the week, then slipped to between 29.25 mills and 32.50 mills in Thursday trading. As with low-demand power at Mid-C and COB, trades at NP15 gained on Friday, reaching a high for the week of 37.50 mills/KWh.

Power prices at SP15 also moved little during the first have of the week. They did, however, range about 5 mills higher than NP15 power for peak deliveries. Peak-load power at SP15 ranged from 46 mills to 48 mills/KWh during the Monday and Tuesday trading periods before slipping to a low of 45 mills/KWh on Wednesday. SP15 prices shaved off another few mills in late-week trading, dropping to a low of 42 mills/KWh for weekend packages. Off-peak power at SP15 hit a high of 33.90 mills on Monday before slipping to between 30.50 mills and 32.50 mills/KWh on Wednesday. By the end of the week, low-demand power was changing hands just for just under the 30 mills/KWh mark, though the price swelled to 37.50 mills/KWh for deliveries the beginning of next week.

Pacific Gas & Electric's Diablo Canyon No. 1 unit was taken off line at the beginning of the week for a scheduled refueling outage that is slated to last about 45 days. PG&E had previously announced Diablo Canyon No. 2 will go down for a refueling sometime after the summer peak.

Southern California Edison's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station No. 2 unit is also down for a refueling. As the unit was being heated up on Thursday in preparation for full ramp up, operators noted an equipment problem that required the unit to be shut down again. The 45-day outage was scheduled to end March 25, but will now continue for about another week, said SONGS spokesperson Ray Golden.

The two nuclear units contributed to the more than 9,500 MW off line on scheduled outage in the Cal-ISO control territory this week. This is the time of year many plant operators focus on maintenance, as the winter demand begins to taper off and the summer demand is still a number of months off. As for forced outages, Cal-ISO recorded less than 1,000 MW off line during the early part of the week.

A Bonneville Power Administration interstate transmission line was out of service for eight hours last Sunday after gunfire inflicted heavy damage on two towers carrying it. At the time of the outage, on March 21, the direct-current line was lightly loaded and BPA was able to shift the power to other lines until repairs were completed. The repairs cost about $10,000. No reports were received that customers lost power.

With the weather in California cooling off a bit this week, peak demand for power stayed in the entirely manageable range of 30,100 MW and 30,705 MW in the California Independent System Operator control area [Shauna O'Donnell].

Gas Prices Continue to Tumble

Natural gas prices throughout the Western region continued their downward slide this week, with most hubs losing close to $0.50/MMBtu between Monday and Friday.

Permian Basin trading opened the week between $4.84 and $4.90/MMBtu. Prices stayed close to $4.75/MMBtu during the next two days of trading, but then dove. By Friday, the price was down to $4.43/MMBtu. San Juan gas followed a similar pattern. Opening Monday between $4.73 and $4.75/MMBtu, by the end of the week the price had slipped to between $4.33 and $4.36/MMBtu. Deliveries a Malin dropped in price from a high of $4.93/MMBtu on Monday to a low of $4.53/MMBtu on Friday.

Pacific Gas & Electric's California Gas Transmission system continued to call systemwide operational flow orders this week. A stage 2 OFO with a zero tolerance band was called for March 25 because of high inventory in the system. Also that day, an unplanned outage of a compressor at the Los Medanos storage field reduced maximum storage injection capability by 120 MDth/day through April 5 [S O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of March 22 - 26, 2004
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 32.81-174.70 10.32-62.69
Mid-Columbia 32.75-39.25 27-33
COB 35.50-40.75 28.25-35.75
NP 15 39.50-43.50 29.25-37.50
SP 15 42-49 29-37.50
Palo Verde 37.50-43.50 26-34

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 Shauna O'Donnell, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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