Providing another sign of continued growth in industrial demand for natural gas, two European companies announced earlier this month that they would form a joint venture to build an ammonia plant on the Gulf Coast. BASF, a German chemicals company, and Yara, a Norwegian agricultural company, plan to build the plant on an existing BASF site in Freeport, Texas. The plant would have a capacity to produce 750,000 metric tons of ammonia per year and could use up to 77 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) of natural gas as a feedstock. BASF and Yara announced in October that they were planning an ammonia plant, and cited relatively low natural gas prices over the past several years as a reason for locating the plant in the United States.
Natural Gas Overview
Natural gas spot prices were flat to moderately increasing over the report period. The Henry Hub spot price rose by 16 cents per million British thermal units (MMBtu), moving from $4.41/MMBtu last Wednesday to $4.57 yesterday.
At the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex), the June contract increased by more than 10 cents, beginning the report week at $4.367/MMBtu last Wednesday and settling at $4.473/MMBtu yesterday.
Working natural gas in storage rose to 1,266 Bcf as of Friday, May 16, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report (WNGSR). A net increase in storage of 106 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the week resulted in storage levels 37.9% below year-ago levels and 42.7% below the 5-year average.
Active oil and natural gas drilling rigs totaled 1,861 as of May 16, up by 6 rigs from the previous week, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc. The number of gas and oil-directed rigs each increased by 3 to 326 and 1,531, respectively. The oil rig count is currently 123 higher than this week last year, and the gas rig count is 28 lower.
The weekly average natural gas plant liquids composite price decreased for the fourth week in a row (covering May 12 through May 16), falling 1.4% from $9.78/MMBtu to $9.64/MMBtu. The Mont Belvieu spot prices of ethane, propane, butane, and isobutane drove the decline, falling by between 1% and 4%. The natural gasoline spot price increased by 1.1%.
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