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Western Price Survey / Archives

May 3, 2002
Loads and Prices Flatten in West

Load profile charts flattened out and the spread between peak and off-peak prices narrowed considerably late in the week. Despite a big jump in the unit maintenance list caused by the scheduled refueling outage for 1,110 MW Diablo Canyon No. 1 starting last Sunday, the eventual lifting of transmission constraints on the California/Oregon Intertie helped keep price pressures in check.

The COI was held to 2,400 MW southbound for the past two weeks on springtime repair work and to help accommodate the flow of California hydroelectricity. That had built something of a wall between the hydro- soaked Northwest and Northern California and increased the spread between peak period prices in the two trading regions. Off-peak prices saw less of a shut-in effect, as demand has been low and relatively more hydro seeped into the resource mix.

With the restoration of border transfer capability to 4,000 MW this week, the difference between Mid- Columbia and California/Oregon Border prices shrank. By Thursday's trades, COB was down to 24 mills and Mid-C fell in the 20.5 mills to 22.5 mills/KWh range.

After having touched 34 mills earlier, NP15 and SP15 both gave way to downward pressure and showed a range of 25 mills to 28.5 mills/KWh for Friday/Saturday deliveries. Palo Verde ended up in the lower end of that range, but it had not been higher than 32 mills/KWh.

Somewhat surprisingly, off-peak prices took a jump, moving from 14 mills to 18 mills/KWh at Mid-C and from 16.5 mills to 18 mills/KWh in Northern California. SP15 and Palo Verde were seen in the 14.5 mills to 16.25 mills/KWh vicinity.

The Columbia Generating Station is on the margin in the Northwest, but Bonneville Power Administration has been backing off excess sales so it seems the nuke unit is filling a need at top output. BPA will offer just 50 MW during weekend hours, after having been out of the market altogether for a few days. For Sunday and Monday, BPA also made a 50 MW off-peak offer at market prices.

Planned maintenance at Morro Bay Nos. 1-4 took out an additional 1,000 MW from available resources, but that was just one chunk of the 16,000 MW outage list put out by the California Independent System Operator. The unplanned outage list swelled to 2,700 MW Thursday as the 750 MW Moss Landing No. 7 tripped from planned to unplanned outage status, signaling a problem with restart.

Cal-ISO's daily peak period has shifted to the 11 am to noon period, with a secondary shoulder period after 8 pm. Regional schedulers found that to be an unusual pattern, but also noted that overall loads have been quite low at 29,500 MW or less each day. Moderate weather and daylight-saving time appear to have softened the evening peak [Arthur O'Donnell].

Gas Turnaround Spns Traders' Heads

Natural gas prices collapsed at many Western hubs heading into the weekend after a steep climb propelled by the start of a new trading month. As a result, the weekly spread of prices at hubs was quite broad and thanks to a huge fluctuation in Southwestern basin supplies, the regional differentiation was equally pronounced. Traders said they were "perplexed" by the sudden shifts and a little concerned by the jittery pricing that moved up and down by $0.20/MMBtu in a single session. National traders also noted the growing gap between expectations for June prices and the reality of slack May demand. NYMEX June contracts bounced around in the $3.50 to $3.76/MMBtu range late in the week even as daily prices slid.

Topock, the main Western pricing point was all over the place, dropping from a midweek high of $3.43 to a low point of $3.06/MMBtu. The Permian Basin price stretched even higher to $3.52 and did not fall quite as far but landed at $3.12/MMBtu.

Where Permian and San Juan basin prices frequently play tag with each other, the New Mexico fields were far out of reach this week in the $2.20 to $3.09/MMBtu range. There have been continuing deliverability problem on the El Paso system and the slack demand for power generation fuel in California is pushing lots of supply into storage.

This will be the last week that the American Gas Association reports on storage/withdrawal figures, giving the job up to the federal Energy Information Administration starting next week. AGA saw a total 38 Bcf add to storage this week, with 13 Bcf of that in Western reserves. The EIA surveys will increase the number of reporting entities to 45 out of the 110 national storage operators, but the weekly report will come out on Thursdays rather than midweek.

The Alberta gas price hiked to $(C)4.62/Gigajoule midweek before giving back ground to settle at $4.38/Gj [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of April 29-May 3, 2002
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 30.5-92 8-29.75
Mid-Columbia 18-23 14-18
COB 24-30 16-18
NP 15 25.75-34 16.5-20
SP 15 25.5-34 14.75-18
Palo Verde 24.75-31.75 15-18

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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