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Western Price Survey / Archives

August 24, 2001
Prices Break Through Psychological Floors

Western power prices continued to defy seasonal expectations, with peak energy slipping below 30 mills/KWh at the California/Oregon Border and Mid-Columbia. Palo Verde was a decade higher and mid- California points arranged themselves somewhere in between.

By Thursday's trading it was difficult to scare up price quotes for off-peak energy at many hubs because transactions were few and far between. "There's no interest," said one trader. "The price is too low and you can't even cover your transmission costs." Mid-C was said to be as low as 19.5 mills/KWh, and the last verified transactions at other hubs were around 23 mills to 24 mills/KWh.

There was also some unit contingent power from the new Klamath Falls generating station going for 21 mills at COB, but the other new plant at Sutter took the end of the week off for planned tweaking. It was not the only unit deemed superfluous this week, and the California list of outages swelled to over 5,000 MW, though no one especially missed the units that were off line. Among larger units reported out for scheduled maintenance was the 400 MW Helms pumped storage facility owned by Pacific gas & Electric. Otherwise, usual outage suspects included units at Moss Landing, Morro Bay, Redondo, South Bay, El Segundo, Long Beach, and Los Alamitos. More capacity was under planned outages than unplanned.

Peak loads were low to moderate, and beginning Tuesday the California Independent System Operator generally found actual loads lower than revised forecasts at around the 33,000 MW level.

The biggest outage of the week was at Palo Verde No. 3, which last Friday was taken off following discovery of a boron-infused water leak within the containment vessel. The 1,270 MW unit was out of service over last weekend and climbed back to near full power as the week wore on.

The updated report on the San Juan No. 3 unit has it returning to service by September 10. Loss of lubricant flow might have spelled a big problem for the turbines, but sources say things are better than expected.

Sellers who have been watching prices drop are hopeful that a return of warm weather next week will liven the market. just about everyone else is thinking about vacations [Arthur O'Donnell].

Storage revision Throws gas for a Loop

The national gas market shifted into reverse midweek after the American Gas Association issued a bearish storage report and revised last week's figures to correct what everyone had assumed had to be a serious error because it showed only 3 Bcf of fuel put into the ground. AGA hemmed and hawed and finally changed that to 50 Bcf, which together with this week's 86 Bcf injection added up to a whole lot less interest in buying gas at higher prices.

"Things really fell off," said one California trader. The national benchmark price dropped by 10 percent, but some western hub figures fell even harder. The SoCal Border price lost $0.25/MMBtu and the Canadian benchmark slipped $0.30 in Canadian dollars. But the biggest reported fall was a Opal, Wyoming, where gas prices plummeted $0.54 to $2.30/MMbtu late in the week.

As a result, normally active sales spots, such as Malin and the PG&E CityGate were all but abandoned this week. The last reliable quote at the CityGate was $3.52 to $3.55/MMBtu and Malin was as much as a dollar lower. "Nothing is flowing down to Southern California," reported one utility.

There was a only a dime difference between SoCal Gas/Topock and PG& E/Topock. with the border price dropping from a mid-week high of $3.40 to $3.12/MMBtu.

The Southwest basins also took a dive. San Juan had approached $3.00 but fell to $2.42/MMBtu. Permian prices peaked at $3.16 before slipping to the $2.75 to $2.81/MMBtu range.

The Alberta index price weakened substantially from $(C)3.95/Gigajoule to $3.40/Gj [A. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week of August 20-24, 2001
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 47-107 26-50
Mid-Columbia 29.5-43 19.5-27
COB 29.25-43 21-28
NP 15 32.5-45 23-30
SP 15 33.5-45 22-28
Palo Verde 39.25-45 20-25

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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