Record-Breaking NatGas Inventory-Build Paints Bearish Picture For Prices

Natural gas inventories rose by 132 bcf last week, more than expectations.

Reviewed by: Sumit Roy
Edited by: Sumit Roy

Natural gas inventories rose by 132 bcf last week, more than expectations.


Natural gas was last trading down by 2 percent to $2.58/mmbtu after the Energy Information Administration reported that operators injected 132 billion cubic feet into storage last week, above most analyst estimates, which ranged from 121 to 125 bcf.

The latest injection was above last year’s build of 119 bcf and above the five-year average build of 93 bcf.



In turn, inventories now stand at 2,233 bcf, which is 734 bcf above the year-ago level and 15 bcf above the five-year average (calculated using a slightly different methodology than the EIA).





The weather last week was close to seasonal norms.

According to the Edison Electric Institute, utilities generated 75,282 GWh in the week ending May 30, up 0.83 percent from a year ago.



Looking forward, the NOAA’s 6- to 10-day outlook calls for warmer-than-normal temperatures across much of the country.





Meanwhile, Baker Hughes reported that the number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the U.S. rose by three to 225 last week.


Natural Gas Rig Count


Natural Gas


Bottom Line: The latest inventory data from the EIA were bearish, as the inventory deficit against the five-year average turned into an inventory surplus of 15 bcf, and the inventory surplus against a year-ago increased from 721 to 734 bcf.

The Memorial Day week typically features the largest inventory-build of the year, and last week was no exception. The 132 bcf injection was a whopper, surpassing even last year's massive 119 bcf injection. In fact, it was the largest inventory increase of the past decade.

With weather a nonfactor, the spring shoulder season is a good time to get a handle on the underlying supply and demand fundamentals of the market. In that context, the fact that last week's injection was a stunning 39 bcf (5.6 bcf/d) above the five-year average paints a very bearish picture.

It's becoming increasingly clear that this injection season will be a record breaker and that inventories will peak in November at exceptionally high levels, well above 4,000 bcf. Prices must correct to balance the market and dampen the rapid production growth that is flooding the market. Barring a sustained and severe heat wave this summer, prices are likely to make new lows in the coming weeks below $2.50/mmbtu.

Sumit Roy is the senior ETF analyst for, where he's worked for 12 years. Before joining the company, Roy was the managing editor and commodities analyst for Hard Assets Investor. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he enjoys climbing the city’s steep hills, playing pickleball and snowboarding.