The woes for natural gas drillers continue, with forecasts for prices over the next few years showing a market stuck with oversupply.
“Any hope of higher peak winter prices likely hinges on sustained cold weather,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a note last week. “Even then, we believe the upside in prices is limited.”
Rising production has more than offset the steady increase in demand from coal-to-gas switching. Inventories have climbed this year at a faster pace than in 2018, replenishing what had been depleted stocks. For the week ending on October 18, U.S. gas stocks stood at 3,606 billion cubic feet, or roughly 519 bcf higher than for the same week in 2018.
Unlike last year, when natural gas prices briefly spiked, the U.S. is heading into the winter season with ample supplies on hand. “A mild winter across the northern hemisphere or a worsening macro backdrop could be catastrophic for gas prices in all regions,” Bank of America said.
Due to a variety of factors, gas markets could remain in this subdued state for the next few years. By 2021, the U.S. could be sitting on 4.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in storage, according to Bank of America, which would be a record high. As a result, there is little room for prices to rise.
The bust in coal markets could also keep a lid on any price increase for natural gas. “With the implosion of Appalachian coal prices (down over 40% YoY), we estimate the soft cap on natural gas prices is currently just over $3/MMbtu, compared to $5/MMbtu a year ago,” Bank of America said. “As such, we lower our 1Q20 price forecast $0.5/MMbtu to $2.5/MMbtu.”