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U.S. natural gas futures shed around 5% on Tuesday, hitting a four-week low as soaring output coupled with lower demand forecasts drags prices down, despite the fact that inventories are 11% lower than their five-year norm.
U.S. natural gas was down 5.2% at 1:10 p.m. EST, to $8.38.
Output is still holding strong after the latest report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) for the week ending August 26, which showed a natural gas inventory build of 61 billion cubic feet. While that brings inventory to 2,640 Bcf, it is still 228 Bcf below levels at the same time last year–heading into the winter season.
Also prompting the decline is the outage at the key Freeport LNG export plant on the Gulf coast.
That outage means traders are calculating some 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day that is not being consumed by Freeport for export and is remaining on the domestic market.
Freeport–which accounts for some 20% of U.S. LNG export capacity–looks set to remain offline until sometime in the first half of November, at which point we could see only a partial startup, ramping up to full capacity by the end of that month. Freeport, however, has already pushed back a restart date several times since declaring force majeure–and then revoking it–in June.
On June 8, Freeport suffered an explosion, causing the plant to shut down for damage assessment and repairs.
So far in September, even with the Freeport outage, Refinitiv data showed a rise in the average volume of natural gas being pumped into American LNG export plants to 11.2 Bcfd, up from the average of 11 Bcfd last month.
Globally, natural gas prices continue to soar on the twin developments of supply disruptions and sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Prices continue on a fast upward trajectory in the aftermath of Russia’s cutoff of flows to Germany through Nord Stream 1 last week.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com