U.S. blizzard to test gas, electric markets

Commodity group Platts said wholesale prices for natural gas jumped 80 percent in some markets ahead of the storm.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Jan. 4, 2018 at 6:33 AM
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Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Severe winter weather hitting the eastern half of the United States will lead to a spike in short-term natural gas and power prices, market analysis finds.

The U.S. National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Boston on Thursday, with wind gusts as high as 48 miles per hour expected by the afternoon. As much as 17 inches of snow is possible. Expecting far less snow, parts of New Hampshire will see wind chill values as low as -12 degrees Fahrenheit.

Market analysis emailed from commodity pricing group S&P Global Platts said the wholesale price for natural gas in the Boston area on Wednesday jumped more than 80 percent from Tuesday's close. On Monday, meanwhile, the U.S. total demand for natural gas was the highest level in more than a decade, while total natural gas production dropped 6 percent from this time last year.

"Recent temperatures have simultaneously lifted demand and cut U.S. production owing to freeze-offs at the wellhead in some of the largest shale plays, including the Permian basin of West Texas and the Bakken shale," Platts analysis read.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh put the city in a state of emergency on Wednesday in anticipation of severe winter weather. Schools are closed and City Hall is staffed Thursday with only emergency personnel.

"We are encouraging residents to stay off the roads, assist the elderly and disabled, and be sure to use caution during the cold weather," Walsh said in a statement.

National Grid, the investor-owned utility covering Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island said it's expecting "extensive damage" to its electrical systems and was bracing for a multi-day restoration effort.

Jeff Merritt, who will serve as the incident commander during the storm, said it will take a region-wide effort to keep consumers and employees safe during what's been dubbed Winter Storm Grayso.

"We are confident that these partnerships will help us to restore power safely and as quickly as possible," he said in a statement.

For market prices, Platts said it expects natural gas demand to fall just short of a single-day record on Saturday.

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