The hypothetical NGL barrel at Mont Belvieu, Texas, rose again last week, remaining above $20 for the seventh straight week despite another hit to the price of ethane.

Mont Belvieu propane continued to inch up, as well, and is now 20.5% above its low for the year, reached in mid-August. Propane fundamentals are improving and prices could be primed for a seasonal pickup. EnVantage Inc. noted in a recent report that Midcontinent inventories have declined, crop drying is underway and temperatures are cooling.

frac spread table

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude jumped 2.7% on news that oil inventories were reduced by 1.7 million barrels in the week ending Oct. 18. Increased refinery runs and traders took into account the chances that OPEC will trim output.

EnVantage attributed ethane’s recent troubles to market impatience over when the Sasol, Shintech and Indorama crackers will be fully operational. Outages at Exxon Mobil’s Baytown crackers aren’t helping, either.

NGL price table

“In this demand vacuum, ethane prices are rudderless and are basically trending with natural gas prices, which have been drifting lower,” the analysts said. The Mont Belvieu ethane margin also contracted last week from almost 3 cents per gallon (gal) to less than 2 cents/gal.

Mont Belvieu normal butane’s price rose 5.3% last week to its highest point since late April. The margin also widened by 8.4%. The reason goes beyond winter gasoline blending season, said EnVantage.

“Export arbs remain very strong for n-butane with the price spread between Northwest Europe and Mont Belvieu is around 34 cents/gal, indicating that exports of n-butane should increase now that Enterprise’s export terminal expansion is online,” the analysts wrote.

Resin price table

In the week ended Oct. 18, storage of natural gas in the Lower 48 experienced an increase of 87 billion cubic feet (Bcf), the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported. That compared to the Stratas Advisors expectation of an 85 Bcf build and the consensus expectation of 86 Bcf. The EIA figure resulted in a total of 3.606 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). That is 16.8% above the 3.087 Tcf figure at the same time in 2018 and 0.8% above the five-year average of 3.578 Tcf.