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Western Price Survey

December 19, 2014
Storms Lessen State Drought Severity

Just before mid-month, just over 55 percent of the state was in exceptional drought status, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. By Dec. 16, that figure had fallen to just under one-third.

"[A] wet December (to date) has provided California a foothold for drought recovery, but 3 straight winters of subnormal precipitation will take time (possibly several consecutive wet winters) to fully recharge the reservoir levels and subsoil moisture back to normal," a U.S. Drought Monitor report on California noted. "With several more months still left in the wet season, it is possible that additional storms similar to the ones that just occurred will continue to chip away at the long-term hydrological drought, and the addition of lower temperatures would help build the snow pack.

"Cautious optimism, but still a long way to go would be the very short summary for this week's California drought picture," the report added.

More snow would be welcome. In a new report, NASA said 2014 has had one of the three lowest snowpack measurements on record, and the worst since 1977.

Working gas in storage reached 3,295 Bcf as of Dec. 12, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates, a net decrease of 64 Bcf from the previous week. Storage levels are now 0.2 percent greater than a year ago and 7.3 percent less than the five-year average.

Strong production and moderate weather are credited with eliminating the year-over-year deficit.

Natural gas values generally rose, with Henry Hub gas spot values adding 2 cents since Dec. 11 to trade Dec. 18 at $3.69/MMBtu. Western natural gas prices gained between 2 and 29 cents by the end of trading. Southern California Border was the exception, falling 13 cents to $3.79/MMBtu, while Sumas led gainers, up 29 cents to end Dec. 18 at $3.54/MMBtu.

Western peak power prices fell in Dec. 12 to Dec. 19 trading. Mid-Columbia led losers, down $5.95 to $26.45/MWh. By Dec. 19, average daytime prices ranged from $26.45/MWh at Mid-C to $32.65/MWh at Palo Verde. Neither South or North of Path 15 posted daytime power trades Friday.

Off-peak prices also dipped, losing between 95 cents and $6.35. California-Oregon Border night-time power values lost $6.35 to $24.30/MWh. Average off-peak prices Friday ranged from $22.85/MWh at Mid-C to $34.50/MWh at SP15 [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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