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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
November 3, 2006
Western Prices Dip on Change in Weather

The vagaries of the weather and the loss of the Columbia Generating Station took traders of Mid-Columbia power on a bit of a roller-coaster ride this week. Lower-than-normal temperatures in the Northwest played a role in boosting power costs early in the week, but wet and warmer weather moved in from the Pacific to exert downward pressure on power values on Thursday and Friday.

The 1,250 MW Columbia nuclear power plant shut down automatically during the early-morning hours on Tuesday due to "low auto stop oil pressure," stated the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's event report. According to an October 31 news release issued by plant owner and operator Energy Northwest, Columbia will likely be off line for a few days as operators take this opportunity to do some planned repairs and maintenance in addition to resolving the reason for the shutdown.

In response to the outage, peak-time power values at the Mid-Columbia hub hit a high of 79.50 mills/KWh on Tuesday, 4 mills to 12 mills/KWh greater than Monday's spread. The rest of the week saw Mid-C prices steadily decline, from between 64.50 mills and 76.50 mills/KWh during Wednesday's session down to a range of 58 mills to 66.50 mills/KWh on Friday. Off-peak power prices at Mid-C also received a boost on Tuesday, ranging from 64 mills to 70 mills/KWh that day. The value of nighttime power quickly faded, however, dropping as low as 51.50 mills/KWh in the latter half of the week.

California-Oregon border prices felt the influence of Columbia's shutdown as well. The price of peak-time power at COB topped out at 79.75 mills/KWh on Tuesday before sliding back to a range of 68 mills to 76 mills/KWh the following day. By the end of the week, peak power at COB was moving for between 62.50 mills and 66.85 mills/KWh. Nighttime power at COB opened the week trading for between 58 mills and 62.50 mills/KWh. The price hit 68 mills/KWh on Tuesday, but faded to a low of 53.50 mills/KWh on Thursday.

The price of daytime deliveries in the North of Path 15 zone hovered between 68.50 mills and 73.75 mills/KWh during the first part of the week. Trading for power scheduled for weekend delivery dragged the price down as low as 64.50 mills/KWh on Thursday before closing for between 66.50 mills and 70.05 mills/KWh on Friday. Off-peak power at NP15 changed hands for between 48.50 mills and 58.50 mills/KWh on Tuesday. That spread narrowed to between 48.75 mills and 50.75 mills/KWh in Thursday's transactions. Next-week deliveries moved for between 50 mills and 54 mills/KWh on Friday.

There was little to distinguish NP15 power values from those recorded in the South of Path 15 region this week. After opening on Monday trading for between 68 mills and 71 mills/KWh, daytime power prices mustered next to no movement during the next two days of the week. Daytime power packages scheduled for weekend delivery traded for between 63.75 mills and 68.75 mills/KWh on Thursday before hitting 70.75 mills/KWh the following day. Off-peak power at SP15 attracted a low of 47.50 mills/KWh for weekend deliveries before tacking on about 5 mills more on Friday, closing the week in the range of 52.30 mills to 54 mills/KWh [Shauna O'Donnell].

Gas Prices Dip on Lower Demand

The effect of a cold snap across much of the country last week was reflected in the Energy Information Administration's weekly update of natural gas storage activity. Figures released by EIA on Thursday showed a rare October withdrawal from storage last week.

Since the EIA began issuing weekly updates more than a decade ago, there has been only one other withdrawal recorded as early as October. Last week's withdrawal of 9 Bcf stood in sharp contrast to the five-year average injection of 30 Bcf for the same time period.

As demand waned, the price of gas in Western spot markets this week dropped below last week's costs, particularly at the producing basins. While gas traded at the Permian Basin attracted as much as $7.19/MMBtu last week, the spread ranged from $5.85 to $6.87/MMBtu this week. San Juan gas hit a high of $6.70/MMBtu on Thursday, but quickly dropped down to between $5.75 and $6.44/MMBtu the following day.

At the Southern California receipt point at Topock, gas cost as much as $7.51 last week, well above this week's spread of between $6 and $7.08/MMBtu [S. O'D.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: Oct. 30 - Nov. 3, 2006
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 47.88-599.99 41.63-443.86
Mid-Columbia 58-79.50 51.70-70
COB 62.50-79.75 53.50-68
NP 15 64.50-73.75 48.50-58.50
SP 15 63.75-73.25 47.50-58.50
Palo Verde 53-64 40-48.50

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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