Natural gas price spikes: More than “pipeline capacity”
After posting copies of the energy price charts for January 22, 2014 and highlighting the three delivery points in the eastern US where daily spot market natural gas prices have skyrocketed to more than $70.00/MMBTU (1840 euros/1000 cubic meters), I received the following comment:
Doesn’t this have more to do with there not being enough pipeline capacity in the Northeast region? It is not a matter of being unable to extract enough gas out of the ground. The problem is not enough pipes, which is a problem that can be corrected.
That is certainly what the natural gas marketers would like people to believe, but there is a little more to the story. Here is an image showing the trends in natural gas storage in the US. This graph is updated each week on Thursday, so the last number on the graph reflects the somewhat warmer than average week ending January 17.
Pipeline constraints and price spikes serve to cap the use of natural gas during periods when customers want and need it the most. Even with that cap, the storage report is showing that production is not keeping up with demand. It also show that the US risks approaching the end of the winter heating season with empty reservoirs.
As of the week ending January 17, total gas in storage was 2,423 Bcf, which is 19.8% lower than the same time in 2013 and 13.2% lower than the five year average. The weather people tell us that there are more cold weeks coming. Here’s a quote from January 23, 2014 article on SFGate.com titled Natural Gas Heads for Biggest Weekly Jump Since 2012 on Cold, that shows I’m not the only analyst who has noticed the risk.
Stockpiles may slide to 1.385 trillion cubic feet by March 31, Michael Hsueh, a strategist at Deutsche Bank AG in London, said in a note to clients today. Supplies totaled 1.687 trillion as of March 29 last year.
“We view the U.S. natural gas market as one prone to price spikes, particularly given that storage is already at a low level and we have two more months of winter remaining,” Hsueh said.
Part of the challenge these days is that the physical storage systems and operating procedures were established at a time when there was less gas used in electricity production. Then, storage could be filled during the summer and shoulder seasons to be ready for winter. Now, because more gas is used year round in power generation, there is less excess available to go into storage. The reservoirs were already below the five year average annual peak when winter started.
Of course, this winter’s higher prices will encourage some drillers to move equipment and teams out of shale oil into shale gas, but oil prices are high enough to discourage that decision until gas prices are substantially higher. Moving drilling rigs is a high inertia enterprise; it happens over a period of months, not days or weeks.
When natural gas prices go high enough to encourage more production, what is the implication era of “cheap gas?” Once investments are made into more storage capacity, more production and more drilling, what happens to the value of those investments when we experience several mild winters in a row?
Please understand my point; I don’t dislike gas or even gas drillers. I dislike the marketers who have seduced so many people into believing that we can base our energy system on a single, volatile fuel whose price has always been subject to wild fluctuations when near the balance between supply and demand.
It should be no surprise to anyone that I don’t believe that more wind is the answer. I’m also pretty safe in saying that solar panels don’t function underneath snow.
We need a diverse, resilient energy system, not one that acts like an undamped system.
Energy markets should be boring; they should not take customers on wild rides.
I did not expect problems with natural gas supply to become so evident so quickly. Im no expert of course but it hasn’t been all that tremendously unusual a cold winter everywhere in the US and we are moving forward with multiple NG export ports and more pipeline export ( http://www.ohio.com/blogs/drilling/ohio-utica-shale-1.291290/u-s-shipments-of-natural-gas-to-mexico-are-soaring-1.435134 ) as well as vehicle conversion to NG.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, if not a bit scary.
Im not sure of the role of gas curtailments from the freezing wellhead/coal bed issue in this. It could be significant.
India seems to be having some gas supply issues as well. Hopefully it will give pause to anti nuclear political movements there: 850 industries run out of gas ( http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2014-01-23/surat/46512907_1_textile-dyeing-gas-supply-units ).
I wonder if this is it Rod? The beginning of the end of cheap gas? Internationally it seems likely. The last story listed Japan and China as a factor. Given the slowness of the nuclear restart and the growth of demand in China and Asia. I dont see how supply can really catch up.
” Moreover, the supply shortage has been aggravated due to skyrocketing demand of LNG in China and Japan due to the cold season.”– From the Times of India story.
There are not just issues there either (today):
Solvay Sees Southern France Gas Shortage on Asia Shipments
Solvay SA (SOLB), a Belgian chemicals maker, said a natural gas shortage has emerged in southern France as suppliers bypass the region in favor of faster growing markets in Asia. ( http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-01-23/solvay-sees-southern-france-gas-shortage-as-supplies-go-to-asia )
Mexico, Argentina and Brazil recently stepped up LNG imports. As international supplies dwindle it will put increased pressure on US pipeline exports to Mexico (and on development of their own NG). ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/09/energy-lng-mexico-idUSL6N0DP24F20130509 )
This leads directly back to the Energy Crisis related also to the heatwave in Argentina recently that I posted on a couple weeks ago. There is a Gas shortage there. So much so it is also restricting the petrochemicals industry and starting a fracking initiative : ( http://www.platts.com/latest-news/petrochemicals/buenosaires/argentinas-petchem-sector-investing-in-shale-21116178 )
“The decline coupled with rising demand has sparked shortages in a country that relies on oil and gas to meet about 90% of its energy needs.”
Cheap gas was only in the US. Europe price was high, and Asia very high since 3/11.
As a consequence, we’ve recently seen both Bolivia and Algeria talk about building nuclear plants.
I plan to go to this seminar at Dartmouth Engineering today, and others can watch streaming (or it will be posted later)
A quote from the seminar description:
This ebullience (about oil and gas production) is, unfortunately, founded on gross ignorance about the physical realities involved in the production of fossil fuels from tight formations. I will summarize some relevant data to suggest that the surge of oil and gas from fracking is a short-lived bubble and explain why there is prevalent optimism about our energy future. It is essential that engineers who will practice in the 21st century design their services and products to be compatible with persistent high energy prices.
Rod’s statement :
Energy markets should be boring.
Right. And have a considérable Government présence. I think it works best that way.
“And have a considérable Government présence. ”
Housing already does and look at the pathetic result: permanent high prices.
What exactly were the terms of your bet with Steve Skutnik? It looks like you may have a shot at winning it here in the next few months. The Henry Hub price spiked up to $5.35/MMBtu this morning.
That is about $0.70-some more than it has been since about the summer of 2011.
And the highest that it has reached since January or February of 2010.
The terms of the bet was that I would wind if there was at least one month during 2014 in which HH average price exceeded $10 per MMBTU.
Admittedly, that seems like a real stretch, but I have not tossed in the towel. Prices are moving rapidly, the system is not properly damped and there is continued cold weather driven demand coming.
A sustained cold February and halfway through March could possibly do it, but if it doesn’t happen before then, I would have to say you’re toast.
It is going to end up being a whole lot closer than it looked back when the HH price dipped under $2.00 in April 2012. I recall that the 2011-12 winter was historically warm after a few bitterly cold December days, which led up to that price dip.
Spiked up to $5.75/MMBtu today at the Henry Hub.
2 more extreme cold snaps after this one, and I could easily see a short-term spike to $7 or $8 dollars. Of course if the storage number becomes dire………..things could get kind of bad for a lot of people.
“We need a diverse, resilient energy system, not one that acts like an undamped system.
Energy markets should be boring; they should not take customers on wild rides.”
Well that sure as heck isn’t LWR’s. Only a few manufacturers in the world have the expertise in forging large pressure vessels. Strike one on diversity.
LWR’s certainly aren’t boring because they are borne out of military (submarine) objectives. How many countries are not using LWR’s? 1. Canada.
If you actually wanted a boring nuclear system, the world would be using CANDU. But its not. Nobody wants CANDU. Strike two on boring.
Fact: The people only want cheap electricity. Cheap means you shut down uneconomic nuclear reactors and abandon them completely. How can a LWR be fundamentally safe utilizing high pressures and the fact there is not possible way of preventing steam and hydrogen explosions in principle? The Gen 4 sodium reactors are even way worse. Kirk Sorensens LFTR is based on his belief that LWR’s are fundamentally unsafe because of high pressures.
How can nuclear ever be boring?
“Cheap means you shut down uneconomic nuclear reactors and abandon them completely.” and “How can a LWR be fundamentally safe utilizing high pressures and the fact there is not possible way of preventing steam and hydrogen explosions in principle?” and “LWR’s are fundamentally unsafe because of high pressures.”
How can you be so freaking stupid? Does it hurt? All thermal generation and engines involve pressure and or steam. The engine you are one foot away from in your car does.
Seriously WTH are you talking about now? Do you even know? What is “uneconomic nuclear reactors.”?? Some may call you anti science but really you are so anti establishment and clandestinely anti nuclear that any possibly of productive conversation that could go from A to C is immediately undermined at B by these lunatic fringe anti nuclear/anti establishment rants. And I mean ALWAYS.
The anti nukes pushing fear in Japan and gas backed up renewables have likely unleashed another coal renascence in much of the world (as we are already seeing in Europe) by economic pressures and nuclear shutterings. That is already having terrible consequences.
So STFU troll. Sorry all but Im done with this circular garbage. (rod delete this and/or ban me, no hard feelings, Im tired of this fraud and I feel it to be unethical to allow it to continue in what is a very reasonable and important forum. Even and especially at the price of civility.)
Anyway back to the topic at hand I guess; this WSJ article gives a possible value to US gas curtailments/production issues during the cold:
Natural Gas Tops $5 for First Time Since 2010
Production on Thursday was 1.8 billion cubic feet a day lower than it was Monday, before the current cold freeze hit…
….Wintry weather can cause “freeze-offs,” when liquid freezes inside pipes at wellheads, limiting the pipes’ capacity, Ryan Smith said. Power outages near production basins can also halt drilling…. ( http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304632204579340641374156138?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304632204579340641374156138.html )
The US daily production of NG is around 80 bcf so that number probably isn’t as big a issue as it may seem. The electric power sector is expected to grow to 22.6 Bcf/d in the US this year.
It’s impossible to have non-volatile energy markets based on high pressure hence volatile LWR’s. Its funny that there are a lot of LFTR fans here, yet they still believe any kind of nuclear system makes good economic and safety sense despite the obvious fact that most nuclear systems are destined for shutdown for various reasons. Even Kirk Sorensen is promoting his reactor design based on the inherent (and likely fatal) consequences of existing (water reactors) and future designs. Here are his own words:
Metric 9: Sabotage resistance assessment
“Perhaps the goals of the saboteurs is not fissile material removal but instead the release of radioactive material to terrorize the public. Here again they would be thwarted by the physical aspects of the reactors. The reactor operates at low pressure, so there is no pressure term to release through a compromised pressure vessel. ”
“Gas-cooled reactors and water-cooled reactors have to contend with a loss of pressure, fluoride reactors do not.”
Metric 12: Safety
“The real issues for safety have to do with decay heat management and reactivity control. These have been the bases for the real nuclear accidents that have taken place in the world. Three Mile Island-2, Windscale, and Fukushima were all related to decay heat management, and Chernobyl and SL-1 were accidents related to reactivity control.
Compounding both of these issues is the operational state of the reactor, specifically whether or not the reactor operates at high pressure. High pressure compounds the management of decay heat removal because emergency core cooling systems (ECCS) in water-cooled reactors must operate at a variety of different pressurization conditions in the reactor, from fully pressurized to fully depressurized to every state in between.
It is absurd that a high-pressure light-water reactor could have a HIGH rating on this metric while MSR has MED.”
Metric 15: Low uncertainties on dominant phenomena assessment
“A great deal of this has to do with the fact that so many of the safety-related phenomena present in other reactors, like high-pressure in water-cooled and gas-cooled reactor, or chemical reactivity in metal-cooled reactors, simply are not present in the MSR design.”
Metric 38: Ease of construction
“The simplified approach to decay heat removal, utilizing the freeze plug and drain tank concept, also reduces construction challenges when compared to the multiple reactor-grade emergency core cooling systems required in a high-pressure reactor. This is particularly evident when comparing with a reactor whose high-pressure coolant can undergo a phase change in the event of depressurization—a water-cooled reactor.“
Dont see a SINGLE reference to it being “unsafe.” No – Not a single one.
So lets see how many civilian deaths due to this in the US ? None? As in Zero??
Do you have any comments about Gas or is this some kind of performance art demonstration of the concept of too much of it?
I think the troll might be 14 years’ old. I just ignore his posts.
Now thats humorous because I got the information from a 2011 post YOU made on energyfromthorium.com:
Paul Wick: “AREVA has about 100 engineers working on a submersible design, but with old-fashioned PWRs. At approximately 70x atmospheric pressure; huge material requirments to contain all of this, large amounts of redundant safety engineering to deal with the pressure, and so forth. Atmospheric pressure TMSRs are orders of magnitude better for this.”
As NP is the safest means of power production by far he does look, at the very least, incredibly foolish. I think we can all sleep at night without fear of generic “High Pressure.”
Grumpy lion doesn’t know when a quote is gemane to the discussion and when it’s only useless filler. But we knew that already. He (I guess it’s a he) almost makes me long for the trolls we had before. Their level is sinking fast.
They make it sound like green glowing goo from Homer Simpson but can’t comment here!
I wrote a couple of comments to balance things out a bit. Even got a like! So that board isn’t solely populated with people who are scared to death by every decay reaction.
The growth comments there are disturbing. There is a whole universe out there waiting for us.
Well, I see problems with unlimited or mindless growth too. But clamping down on energy use isn’t helping there. I think a lot of cheap energy can help enormously with a circular economy. Using it to make our own waste the basis of our economy, instead of extracting and discarding, would be a good start.
There is just one Earth but also there is plenty of energy, plenty of matter and plenty of space as long as we go in the right directions. Plenty of room for mistakes even, if we can try to do better and learn from them.
The Known Universe by AMNH ( http://youtu.be/17jymDn0W6U )
Thanks John, that was a lovely sight.
But we have to do things right, here on Earth before we can go outwards. That includes growth in the right way.
Such as conquering the atom? -which we are never going to accomplish being fearful of radiation and fixated on energy conservation and efficiency.
Our cognitive abilities, tools and behavior exist outside of the Earths natural realm now. We should limit our interactions with life on this planet whenever possible. Not immerse ourselves in it, extend disruptive low energy technology across its surface, use resource and energy inefficient low tech farming and forestry practice and micromanaging species like we own them.
If there is one collective decision we should be making its that its past time we moved on and made our own way.
Mind you all TM thats all easy for me to say as I live in the middle of a forest and sometimes don’t even see other people for weeks.
Of course the glorious mostly “natural” option should be there for whoever wants it, even intermittent renewable energy if you are into that kind of thing, its just with billions of people, limited terrestrial resources and stressed ecosystems its probably not a good idea to advocate that everyone embrace it.
I think we are always going to find some issue that needs fixing if we look. Our ancestors lived under worse issues and conditions, but nonetheless found reason to venture out into what was the unknown for them. Thankfully.
Yes of course that starts with conquering the atom. There’s no other way to get enough energy.
I don’t think we exist outside Earth natural realm, I think we stepped out of the boundaries that are limiting the other species, trhough our technical culture. No species on its own closes its circle of food -> waste -> food, a complete ecosystem with all species together does that. We need to behave like an ecosystem, because there’s no chain of species that can close our circle, it has expanded beyond the ability of nature to handle.
We need to use the most concentrated forms of energy production, food production (GM in best practises agriculture) and living (dense cities), so we can grow in our own ecosystem, and expoit Earth in a much lower speed going to zero in the long run.
A less marketing driven economy would be helpful too. I can’t imagine anyone needing a santa claus figure singing “Happy X-mas and a good 2014” making sure that it gets thrown away within weeks at most.
I’ll be without internet for the next couple of days, afterwards I’m all yours if you want to discuss this a bit more. I’ve just started to think in this direction, and my ideas can use a bit of debate.
Its worth a lot more thought and discussion. In our generation the green platitudes were just assumed to be correct or desirable in environmentalism. They were never adequately challenged or disused on reasonable or foundational levels. The incoming generations were indoctrinated in them.
I misused the system at my work to post my ideas at alternet, in the thread about fracking and tenorm (and to write this short comment). Let’s see what happens.
Damn, it disappears! And I put it in twice. Let’s assume it’s because it’s an ‘old’ thread.
Quicky in my lunch break: my comment in alternet did come through, but I don’t see any reactions. Jon (and others), if you’re still visiting this page, I’d really like to get some critical remarks about my idea of humanity as an ecosystem. It needs discussion to become more than a vague notion.
Yes but we make the rules. We are a separate ecosystem that overlaps some with the natural world and natural world ecosystems. I dont believe they are fundamentally compatible as ours requires a continuous influx of resources for technological advancement and expansion.
I guess the most notable gas explosion within the last couple of days here in the US was a gas well on the 23rd in Boston heights Ohio that incinerated some vehicles.
Of course the year started off with a bang in Asheville on the 10th with that pipeline explosion that sent flames over 50 feet into the air, caused evacuations and cut power to thousands of residents.
But the worst so far in 2014 was likely that Cedar-Riverside Minneapolis explosion on the first that left 3 dead and at least fourteen injured and was most likely natural gas.
There have been numerous other incidents as well like at that explosion at a Reno apartment complex on the 6th.
But of course our resident safety expert is fixated on “high pressure” in reactors at NPPs that hasn’t killed anyone for over 50 years of use.
As a matter of fact one of the worst US power plant disasters was the 2010 Connecticut GAS power plant explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems that killed 6 and left over 50 injured.
Also the Cleveland gas explosion that resulted from a LNG tank rupture in 1944 killed probably over 130 and destroyed a square mile of that city.
Boy, bad day for stocks.
One thing that could bring down gas prices perhaps is a economic downturn and changes in coal supplies. I dont quite understand the problems Chinese coal is facing (how it got so involved in derivatives ). I imagine as this plays out, along with what is looking like a downturn in the Chinese economy, it will affect gas supplies and prices somehow.
China Bank Regulator Said to Issue Alert on Coal Loans
“The coal industry has come under scrutiny as investors seek repayment of a 3 billion-yuan ($496 million) trust product that’s facing default because the miner that borrowed the funds collapsed. A default threatens to shake investor faith in China’s $1.67 trillion trust industry and add to challenges to the Communist Party’s ability to ensure stable growth in the world’s second-biggest economy
Moody’s Investors Service estimates the size of lending outside China’s banking sector, know collectively as shadow banking, at $4.8 trillion, or as much as 55 percent of the nation’s 2012 economic output.” ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-24/china-bank-regulator-said-to-issue-alert-on-loans-to-coal-miners.html )
Or even in a downturn we may see more gas demand:
China to Cut Dependence on Coal for Energy as Smog Chokes Cities
The nation is aiming to get less than 65 percent of its energy from coal this year, according to a government plan released today.
More than 600 million people were affected by a “globally unprecedented” outbreak of smog in China that started last January and spread across dozens of provinces, the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs based in Beijing said Jan. 14. ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-24/china-to-cut-dependence-on-coal-for-energy-as-smog-chokes-cities.html )
Its a good article with lots of facts and figures.
@John T Tucker
One thing western observers need to understand about the drivers behind China’s push to clean its energy system is that the decision makers must breathe the same air as everyone else. They cannot escape the smog.
I strongly suspect that China will be moving nuclear forward in surprising directions. For example, their HTR-PM project seems like a test bed for reactors that can serve as boiler replacements in some of those brand new coal fired steam plants that they’ve been building at such a high rate for so many years.
That is interesting. I didn’t know it was possible but if so it makes good sense to repurpose those sites especially as they already have workforce, industrial, transportation and grid infrastructure.
@John T Tucker
I would not call it “repurpose,” that implied reuse of a site after the existing plant was torn down. I would call it “conversion” that is not much different from the way that many existing gas fired combined cycle plants have been converted oil or coal burning steam plants. A major portion of the steam plant is retained, gas turbines are installed and a heat recovery steam generator replaces the boiler.
There are a couple of fossil plants operating today that were originally built as nuclear heated steam plants and later converted. Ft. St. Vrain is the most pertinent example; it went from a high temperature gas cooled reactor driven steam plant to a natural gas fired steam plant.
There does not seem to be any substantial technical obstacle in the way of China replacing the boilers in coal plants with high temperature gas cooled reactor heat sources to make the opposite conversion.
That kind of conversion might be absurdly difficult in the US. I am not sure if our NRC would acknowledge that if a nuclear heat source can be shown to be so passively safe that nothing that happens in the secondary has any real safety impact on the nuclear steam supply system, then they have no reason to have any oversight on the steam system.
This is why I love the idea of LEADIR and MSRs. They offer the prospect of drop-in replacement boilers for coal-fired plants.
Thanks, Reading that now. It is really interesting, esp for hydrogen production and other industrial heat process. Weve figured out so much with Nuclear then just kinda dropped the ball after the 80s it seems.
I also like that hexagonal tiled refueling floor. Thats awesome.
I personally think China may be stopping coal growth because quietly they know peak coal is coming soon. The world’s largest single energy source is Chinese coal, it alone is about 15-17% of the world’s *entire* energy supply… about equal to the entire middle east’s oil and gas production combined! China produces 3-4 times as much coal as we (USA) do but have less than half our reserves.
Looking at China’s coal numbers, production and consumption (in tons) are growing much faster than the increases in Steel and electricity generation from coal. Imports are also rising which leads me to believe the energy content of the coal is dropping rapidly and producers are having an increasingly difficult time meeting demand. Chinese official statistics aren’t really worth the paper or 001101 their displayed on so you can’t really depend on them.
Believe me, when China hits peak coal it will be the biggest energy crisis ever.
Historic winter storm possible tomorrow and Wednesday. Propane and NG stockpiles will probably be further diminished.
Once-in-a-generation winter storm could paralyze Deep South ( http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/27/22466322-once-in-a-generation-winter-storm-could-paralyze-deep-south?lite )
@John T Tucker
According to this source, propane supply in some key areas is already in a crisis mode. https://rbnenergy.com/perfect-storm%E2%80%94polar-vortex-turns-propane-and-ngl-markets-upside-down
I really hate being an “I told you so” when there are lives at stake. The low inventories of propane and natural gas are partially due to the fact that those valuable fuels were indiscriminately burned during times when the supply appeared to be abundant. Now that we are experiencing a slightly colder than normal level, we do not have the cushion of well stocked storage systems.
Yesterday, I tweeted a reminder of a post I wrote in August 2012 – https://atomicinsights.com/look-out-natural-gas-prices-in-north-america-will-skyrocket-by-end-of-2014/
Managing fossil heating fuels is one reason I’d like to see massive and rapid installation of nuclear generation throughout the north of the USA. It’s very simple to use resistance heat as a dump load, and furnaces with auxiliary heating elements could just substitute juice for fuel when commanded by the utility. Leaving the nukes running at 100.0% for the heating season with dual-fuel heaters being used for DSM might make the system operator’s job easier while saving fuel and carbon.
Yea, I think I argued with you about that. It didnt seem possible after the way gas has been promoted in the exploration and fracking boom that such fluctuations would be possible so early on.
Well the cold is being extended into Feb now:
( http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/814day/ ) I guess the EIA gas supply update will come in later today.
This seemed notable in the update – amid the high prices and low supplies:
Spot prices at the Chicago Citygate, which are normally very close to the Henry Hub price, remained elevated all week. The price hit $41.96/MMBtu on Monday, far surpassing the previous record high of $18.49/MMBtu, set in February 1996. ( http://www.eia.gov/naturalgas/weekly/?src=Natural-b1 )
I didnt watch it but the SOTU address evidentially lauded NG :
The “all the above” energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades. (Applause.)
One of the reasons why is natural gas. If extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. (Applause.) Businesses plan to invest almost a hundred billion dollars in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. (Applause.) ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/full-text-of-obamas-2014-state-of-the-union-address/2014/01/28/e0c93358-887f-11e3-a5bd-844629433ba3_story.html )
Why is it that everyone ignores all of those killed due to the fire from the natural gas line rupture in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake?
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