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Western Price Survey

December 16, 2016
Cold Blast Lifts Prices

Another round of cold, stormy weather dictated Western energy prices the week of Dec. 12, but forecasts for warmer conditions in parts of the West lowered natural gas and power prices by week’s end.

Prices at most Western natural gas hubs moved lower by between a penny and as much as 29 cents between Dec. 8 and Dec. 15. Alberta natural gas posted the greatest loss, down 29 cents to $2.44/MMBtu. In contrast, Sumas natural gas gained 69 cents, ending at $4.25/MMBtu.

Seattle temperatures, which had been lingering in the 30s, should reach the high 40s and could hit the 50-degree mark early next week, while Los Angeles could see highs in the 70s.

Working natural gas in storage was 3,806 Bcf as of Dec. 9, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This is a net decrease of 147 Bcf compared to the previous week, which is the largest withdrawal in December reported since 2013 and greater than market expectations.

Storage levels are now 1.3 percent less than a year ago and 5.1 percent greater than the five-year average.

Nationwide, natural gas consumption increased 10 percent compared with the previous report week. Gas use for power generation was up 8 percent week over week, according to the EIA.

Henry Hub gas spot values dropped 11 cents between Dec. 8 and Dec. 15, ending at $3.55/MMBtu.

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Pacific Northwest peak power prices reacted wildly to the weather, with hubs falling roughly $21 between Dec. 15 and 16. Overall, Western hubs lost between $1.55 and as much as $10.90 in Dec. 9 to 16 trading.

Average nighttime power prices varied. Pacific Northwest hubs added roughly $4, while Palo Verde dropped $1.95 to $25.75/MWh.

Demand peaked on the CAISO grid at 30,322 MW Dec. 13, which should be the week’s high. Total renewable-energy generation on the grid peaked at 9,331 MW Dec. 11.Thermal generation climbed to 15,167 MW Dec. 14.

What’s ahead: Another series of storms should reach the West Coast the week of Dec. 19, bringing snow to the Cascades and rain to lower elevations. The San Francisco area may see rain late in the week, while Southern California temperatures are generally expected to remain at or above seasonal norms [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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