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Western Price Survey / Archives

May 21, 1999
Where's The Water? Some Worry about Evaporation or Possible Flooding

Western energy prices moved to unseasonably high levels midweek, but then dropped slightly by Friday trades. Once again, the blame for elevated prices was placed on the dearth of hydroelectricity from the Pacific Northwest. "There's no runoff," a utility scheduler confirmed. "It's too darn cold."

A less official explanation being passed among some tongue-in-cheek marketers was that the spring run-off has just disappeared through "evaporation." A more plausible threat is that the weather will eventually turn warm and the region will be faced with unprecedented run-off and potential flooding.

Speculations aside, Pacific Northwest snow remains in solid form above Northwest watersheds and big power marketers, such as Bonneville Power Administration, were active only as buyers.

The California Power Exchange recorded average daily peak prices of 32 mills to 33 mills/KWh before dropping to 26.7 mills/KWh for Friday deliveries. Off-peak power was also remarkably high, coming in the 18 mills to 20 mills/KWh range throughout the region.

Mid-Columbia and California/Oregon Border prescheduled prices were strong in the 30 mills to 33 mills/KWh vicinity most of the week but eroded slightly in time for Friday/Saturday deals.

Overnight energy prices were routinely 19 mills to 20 mills at COB and only slightly less at Mid-C. The Power Exchange nighttime clearing price went as high as 21.5 mills midweek but mostly was just below 20 mills/KWh.

Palo Verde vacillated between 30 mills and 32 mills but Four Corners peaked at 32.5 mills/KWh on Tuesday before moving back in line with Palo Verde. Off-peak power in the Southwest remained strong in the 17.5 mills to 18 mills/KWh band.

In generation news, San Onofre Unit No. 3 worked through its feedwater valve problems from last weekend. The plant had nearly returned to full power after its refueling outage, but had to be taken off-line late Thursday. When operators resumed restart sequence on Saturday, the unit reached just 24 percent before having to be brought down again. With the problem solved, Unit 3 was back to full power by Tuesday morning, but Unit No. 2 dropped to 94 percent on Thursday as operators conducted feedwater heater maintenance.

A Springerville unit that had been off for repairs was brought back on-line midweek and the Intermountain Power Project decided to defer scheduled maintenance that had been set for next week.

Up north, the Alberta Power Pool had a spike in prices on Monday to 253 mills/KWh as loads peaked to 6328 MW. After that, though, things calmed down to the 36 mills to 45 mills/KWh range on lighter demand figures [Arthur O'Donnell].

Western Natural Gas Prices Hold Despite National Declines

Natural gas prices across the country descended from their high perches this week, but Western hubs remained fairly high. The big reason was said to be maintenance outages facilities in the San Juan Basin, which at one point during the week pulled as much as 1 Bcf of gas out of the delivery pipeline. By Friday morning, though, traders expected throughput to return to normal.

The Southern California Border price varied between $2.19 and $2.27 MMBtu for much of the week, centering at $2.25 MMBtu by Thursday. The Permian Basin price was between $2.12 and $2.17/MMBtu, while San Juan logged a wide range of $2.05 to $2.14/MMBtu.

The Alberta index price was fairly strong-between $(C) 2.71 and $2.77/Gigajoule-and ended the week at $2.75 [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of May 17-21, 1999
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 36-253 mills/KWh 23-32.5 mills/KWh
California PX (WAC) 26.7-33.7 18.8-21.45
Mid-Columbia 28-32 18-19.5
COB 29-33.5 19-20
Palo Verde 28-32 17.5-18

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


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