U.S. natural gas consumers drew a new No. 3 record 326 Bcf from storage in last week’s deep freeze that blanketed the Lower 48 to the southernmost tip of the Texas-Mexico border.

U.S. Temperatures, Jan. 16, 2024 (Source: The Weather Channel)
U.S. temperatures on Jan. 16, 2024. (Source: The Weather Channel)

The draw also wiped out nearly all of the 350 Bcf (12.4%) overhang in the year-over-year gas in storage, taking working gas to 2,856 Bcf, which is 4% more than the 2,746 Bcf in storage a year ago, according to new U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

The draw failed to overcome the No. 1 draw: the 359 Bcf taken during a Category 1 winter storm the week ending Jan. 5, 2018, according to research firm East Daley.

In the No. 2 spot for total draw is the 338 Bcf of the week of Feb. 13-19, 2021, during Category 3 Winter Storm Uri. That system also froze the U.S.; however, the Texas power grid, ERCOT, was taken offline before collapsing under the stress of demand, thus the week’s draw did not include what Texas would have used.

Prior to this past week, “those are the only two weeks in recorded history with 300-plus Bcf withdrawals,” East Daley noted in a report.

While U.S. gas production rose to a new record of more than 106 Bcf/d in December, output during Heather resulted in only 97.7 Bcf/d of supply as more than 54 Bcf was offline during the week due to equipment freeze-offs, according to Arun Jayaram, analyst for J.P. Morgan Securities, citing Wood Mackenzie data.

Freeze-Off Volume (MMcf), Jan. 1-18, 2024 (Source: J.P. Morgan Securities)
Freeze-off volume (MMcf) in the time period of Jan. 1-18, 2024. (Source: J.P. Morgan Securities)

A record one-day demand level of 144.4 Bcf was set on Jan. 16, he added. “To put this number in context, month-to-date demand has averaged 120.9 Bcf/d,” he wrote. December demand averaged 107.0 Bcf/d.

LNG exports declined to some 12 Bcf/d during Heather from more than 15 Bcf/d reached recently. Various reports suggest plant operators were rejecting new tanker loading and selling their gas feedstock to Gulf Coast users instead.

Exports to Mexico were mostly unchanged at some 6 Bcf/d, according to Jayaram.