Demand strains the biggest energy problem after U.S. snowstorm

Wind chills expected tonight at around -19°F after nearly 2 feet of snow dropped on some parts of the northeast.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Jan. 5, 2018 at 6:13 AM
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Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The powerful winter storm socking northeastern U.S. states continued to strain the nation's demand for energy and fuel supplies, a market snapshot shows.

Parts of Massachusetts are buried under almost 19 inches of snow after a cold winter storm moved through the area Thursday. The situation is the same for much of the northeast, with snowfall totals further north in New Hampshire around 12 inches.

By Friday, much of the snow had cleared out of the area and temperatures were elevating, though windy conditions continued to put a bite in the air. According to the National Weather Service, the wind chill overnight in Boston could be as low as -19 degrees Fahrenheit.

National Grid, the investor-owned utility covering Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island said earlier in the week it was expecting "extensive damage" to its electrical systems and was bracing for a multi-day restoration effort. By Friday, however, the utility was reported only a few outages in Massachusetts and the situation was more or less the same across the region.

Commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts said in an emailed survey of the regional market that demand strains and price hikes were the most prevalent problem for the area.

Regional production for natural gas in general is lower than last month. For the northeast, Platts said total gas production so far this year was about 6 percent less than the December average. Regional demand, however, was up 30 percent. Cold weather across much of the eastern half of the United States has stifled production of some energy products in general.

Platts found that much of the supply infrastructure was functioning more or less as designed. Pipeline company Kinder Morgan, which carries about 30 percent of total U.S. natural gas consumption through its networks, was reporting record demand, though few weather-related disruptions.

At the Cove Point liquefied natural gas facility in Maryland, which carries both imports and exports of the super-cooled liquid gas, Platts found the flow may approach levels that would be lower than necessary to provide reliable service, however.

They were few refinery problems in the region.

For market prices, meanwhile, natural gas in the New York market jumped from the December average of $5.67 per million British thermal units to $137.73.

One Btu is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree and is the U.S. standard.

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