Natural gas jumps to 13-week high after bigger-than-forecast supply drop

Nuclear Plants

Output from U.S. nuclear plants today totaled 86,034 megawatts, or 84% of capacity, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission data compiled by Bloomberg. Production has fallen 10% from this year’s high reached on Feb. 1.

A wet, windy storm may drop 4 to 6 inches (15 to 12 centimeters) of snow in Boston and 1 to 3 inches may accumulate in New York City after dark, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

The outlook for the eastern third of the U.S. turned colder for March 12 through March 16 with below-normal temperatures spreading from the Midwest and into the mid-Atlantic states, according to MDA Weather Services. The Gaithersburg, Maryland- based company said a “much warmer pattern” is developing for the Midwest, East and South in the 11- to 15-day forecast.

About 50% of U.S. households use gas for heating, data show from the EIA, a unit of the Energy Department.

Cold March

A 30-day outlook published by MDA last week suggested that U.S. cumulative heating degree days, a measure of weather-driven gas demand, will rise to 655 in March, the most for the month since 1999, Teri Viswanath, director of commodities strategy at BNP Paribas SA in New York, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Viswanath expects gas inventories to drop to 1.92 trillion cubic feet at the end of March, when the heating season winds down, 5% lower than her previous estimate of 2.021 trillion. A widening year-over-year supply deficit will support cash-market prices, which may “prevent a seasonal selloff in futures,” she said.

U.S. gas production in December fell for the first time in four months, capping the slowest annual growth rate in three years, according to the monthly EIA-914 report on Feb. 28. Output slipped 0.7% to 82.57 billion cubic feet a day as operators in Louisiana, Texas and the Gulf of Mexico shut wells. Production rose 0.6% from December 2011.

The boom in oil and natural gas output helped the U.S. meet 84% of its energy needs in the first 11 months of last year, government data show. If the trend continued through 2012, it will be the highest level of self-sufficiency since 1991.

Bloomberg News

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