Western energy prices generally contracted after winter storm extremes elevated values and greater demand tapped natural gas in storage.
Regional natural gas prices posted the largest week-over-week dips in the nation during the U.S. Energy Information Administration's March 8 to March 15 report week. Sumas values fell $3.74 to $3.42/MMBtu in Wednesday-to-Wednesday trading.
Between March 9 and March 16, Sumas posted the greatest drop among Western hubs, falling $3.09 to $2.51/MMBtu.
Eight Western natural gas hubs moved lower in trading. The two exceptions were PG&E CityGate, which added 17 cents to reach $7.05/MMBtu, and El Paso-Permian Basin, which rose 57 cents to $2.64/MMBtu.
Natural gas use in the Pacific Northwest decreased 7 percent week over week, which the EIA said was the result of a decrease of 14 percent, or 0.2 Bcf per day, in residential and commercial use. In California, natural gas demand dropped by 18 percent, or 1.2 Bcfd, week over week.
The EIA also noted that California natural gas supplies increased by 0.3 Bcfd, which it attributed to an 11-percent, or 0.2-Bcfd, increase in Pacific Northwest imports.
A total of 9 Bcf of natural gas was withdrawn from Pacific region storage, bringing the amount in regional storage to 72 Bcf by March 10. This is almost 54 percent less than the amount in storage a year ago, which was 156 Bcf, and 56.4 percent less than the 165-MMBtu five-year average.
A total of 380 MMcf was withdrawn from Aliso Canyon storage on the gas days between March 9 and March 15, according to ENVOY.
Henry Hub natural gas values shed 6 cents to $2.45/MMBtu in trading.
Western peak power prices dropped across the board, led by North of Path 15 daytime power. That hub lost the most value, down $39.90 to $69.90/MWh. California-Oregon Border daytime power, which shed a dollar, posted the highest regional price at $98/MWh.
Off-peak power values followed suit, with Palo Verde nighttime power losing $25.70 to $65.75/MWh.
With the natural gas storage season on the horizon, analysts are assessing the state of supplies. Energy GPS in a March 14 analyst note said the combination of "one of the coldest winters in the past three decades" and a lack of Pacific Northwest hydro increased natural gas usage for power across the West.
PG&E storage currently has "little room for error" in balancing. Recovering from reclassification and the increased demand means "it is highly unlikely they will be able to fully recover the winter drawdown prior to next winter," analysts said.
The immediate concern is that if low temperatures persist into April, "an extension of the cold will create a reliability concern."