WSI: Coldest Temperatures in North-Central and Northwestern US during January-March Period; Slightly Warmer than Normal in Southeast

Expect Total US Gas Heating Demand during February-April Period To Be 7% More Than Last Year and 2-3% More Than 1971-2000 Average

Andover, MA, January 25, 2011 — WSI (Weather Services International) expects the upcoming period (February-April) to average colder than normal across the northern and western US, with above-normal temperatures expected across the Southeast. The WSI seasonal outlooks reference a standard 30-year normal (1971-2000).

“The end of the recent long-lived and extreme North Atlantic blocking episode, along with a return to more dateline blocking typical of late winter La Nina regimes, should result in a return of colder weather to the western half of the US in February while the eastern US finally experiences more moderate temperatures,” said WSI Chief Meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford.

“As we head into March, the odds of more widespread cold become more likely as the La Nina event winds down, with below-normal temperatures again becoming more likely into the northeastern US.” For the February-April period as a whole, we are forecasting 1868 gas weighted heating degree days, 2-3% higher than the 1971-2000 mean and about 7% higher than the same period last year.”

In February, WSI predicts regional temperature anomalies as follows:
Northeast* – Warmer than normal
Southeast* – Colder than normal
N Central* – Colder than normal
S Central* – Warmer than normal
Northwest* – Colder than normal
Southwest* – Warmer than normal

Chris Kostas, Senior Power and Gas Analyst at ESAI said, “With the brief respite in cold temperatures that is expected in the South Central and Northeast regions in February, delivered natural gas prices along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions are likely to soften (briefly) from the firm levels seen in January. Natural gas prices for the New York City area (i.e. TZ6-NY) have averaged above $8.50/MMBtu for much of January, but would likely fall to just below $6.00/MMBtu while the milder temperatures move through. Despite the cold weather that has plagued the country for much of the winter so far, natural gas inventories remain robust. Current inventories are 1.9 percent above the 5-year average, and 2.8 percent above last year’s level for the same period. These levels should provide ample supply for the cold weather that is expected for the second half of the winter heating season. In February, however, the much-colder-than-normal temperatures that are expected to be centered over the northern Rockies and extend from California to Ohio should offset the slight decrease in demand associated with the milder temperatures in the Northeast, however, keeping aggregate gas demand firm.”

In March, WSI sees the monthly breakdown as:
Northeast – Colder than normal
Southeast – Warmer than normal
N Central – Colder than normal
S Central – Colder than normal
Northwest – Colder than normal
Southwest – Colder than normal

Kostas added, “Above-normal space heating demand is expected throughout most of the country in March. The only exception should be the Southeast. The reduction in heating demand in the Southeast won’t offset the increases expected in the North and West, however, and natural gas withdrawal rates should end the winter season above normal. Despite the EIA’s most recent revision to their historical production figures, natural gas production in March will most likely outpace the levels seen in March 2009; offsetting to some degree the reliance on inventoried gas and tempering the increases in withdrawal rates. Given the forecast for a much-colder-than-normal March, however, we have lowered our estimates for final natural gas storage to the 1,650 Bcf range. Delivered gas prices are likely to be firm at least through the middle of in March as a result of the above-normal late-season heating demand.”

In April, WSI forecasts:
Northeast – Colder than normal
Southeast – Warmer than normal
N Central – Colder than normal
S Central – Warmer than normal
Northwest – Colder than normal
Southwest – Colder than normal

“While delivered natural gas prices in April will be less sensitive to the colder-than-normal temperatures expected due to seasonal moderation, gas demand will likely be marginally bolstered by the onset of the power generation maintenance period. With an increasing number of coal and nuclear plants using the softer electrical loads in April to perform seasonal refueling and maintenance, natural gas will be used to fill in the gaps left by the offline generators. The colder-than-normal temperatures expected in April would marginally firm electrical loads and underpin on-peak implied market heat rates in PJM, New York, and New England as a result. Above-normal snowpack in the Northern Rockies will likely remain in place through the winter and should provide abundant hydro generation from the Northwest this spring. This would offset some of the increase in gas demand along the West Coast given the slightly above-normal electrical loads that will coincide with the beginning of the generator maintenance season,” Kostas noted.

WSI, which provides customized weather information to energy traders, will issue its next seasonal outlook on February 22.

*To view the map defining WSI’s US regions, click here.

About WSI
WSI (Weather Services International) is the world's leading provider of weather-driven business solutions for professionals in the energy, aviation, and media markets, and multiple federal and state government agencies. WSI is a member of The Weather Channel Companies and is headquartered in Andover, Massachusetts with offices in Birmingham, England. The Weather Channel Companies are owned by a consortium made up of NBC Universal and the private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Bain Capital.

About ESAI
Since its inception in 1984, Energy Security Analysis Inc. (ESAI) has been dedicated to monitoring, analyzing, and synthesizing information about world-wide energy markets. Tapping the talents of its senior-level staff, ESAI provides clients with unparalleled insight into where the markets have been and where they are headed. ESAI provides ongoing systematic analysis of energy prices in the oil, natural gas, and energy markets. For more information on ESAI services, see www.esai.com.

Contacts:
Linda Maynard
WSI
(978) 983-6715
lmaynard@wsi.com

Tommy Sutro
Energy Security Analysis, Inc.
(781) 245-2036
tsutro@esai.com

Editorial Contact:
Barbara Rudolph
Rudolph Communications, LLC
(781) 229-1811
bjr@rudolphcommunications.com