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Western Price Survey

December 11, 2015
Wet Weather Dampens Energy Prices

Wet weather attributed to a Pineapple Express -- a weather system that moves moisture from an area near Hawaii to the continental United States -- dampened energy prices and disrupted power across the Western United States as storms continue to batter the region.

The system is indicative of El Niño conditions. Forecasters said in a Dec. 10 report that this El Niño is likely to be ranked among the three strongest since 1950.

Strong winds, record rainfall and a tornado in the Pacific Northwest caused a series of power outages. Puget Sound Energy was the hardest hit, with roughly 199,000 customers affected. Portland General Electric reported 55,000 customers without power. Natural gas consumption for electric generation in the Pacific Northwest was down, which the EIA attributed to "demand destruction from the storm."

Lees Camp, Ore., saw 18 inches of rain in a three-day period, according to the National Weather Service's Portland office. Bonneville Dam recorded more than 14 inches over that same span, while the Portland airport saw more than five inches. Northern California saw rain and snow with unsettled weather along the coast.

Working natural gas in storage was 3,880 Bcf as of Dec. 4, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This is a net decrease of 76 Bcf compared to the previous week. The Pacific region recorded a net withdrawal of 14 Bcf of natural gas from storage.

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Henry Hub gas spot values shed 20 cents in Thursday-to-Thursday trading, ending at $1.92/MMBtu Dec. 10. "Prior to this week the Henry Hub spot price has only closed below $2.00/MMBtu on 20 trading days since 2002," EIA stated, including a few days in the summer of 2012. Abundant supplies that summer were "absorbed in large part by the electric power sector," according to EIA.

Average prices at Western hubs moved lower this week, down between 2 and 20 cents in Thursday-to-Thursday trading. Southern California Border gas was the exception, up 4 cents to $2.33/MMBtu by Dec. 10.

Meanwhile, Western peak power prices lost between a dollar and $2.80 in the Dec. 4 to Dec. 11 trading period. Prices at the end of trading ranged from $18.10/MWh at Mid-Columbia to $30/MWh at North of Path 15.

Nighttime power prices fared similarly, with prices falling between $1.35 and $3.90, on average, by Friday. Prices ranged from $15.40/MWh at Mid-Columbia to $18.10/MWh at Palo Verde.

What's ahead: More storms are expected to bring cool weather and more rain across the Western United States in the week ahead. Saturated soil in the Northwest and high winds expected starting Dec. 11 could lead to downed trees causing power outages [Linda Dailey Paulson].

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 Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey content.

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