Natural gas stocks at record good news for prices

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European natural gas reserves are 59 percent full. That is a record at the end of the heating season, when stocks are traditionally at their lowest level.

Because natural gas consumption is much higher in winter than in summer – families mainly use gas for heating – energy companies build up a large stock in the warm months to get through the winter months. Since the start of the war in Ukraine in 2022 and the loss of most of the supply of pipeline gas from Russia, this stock has become more important to ensure supplies in the winter.

The essence

  • European gas supplies are 59 percent full at the end of the heating season, a record for this time of year.
  • The high inventory last year and less consumption by families and companies are the causes.
  • The high inventories are one of the reasons that gas prices are under less pressure. Europe also starts with a good starting position to replenish stocks by next winter.

The end of March is traditionally the period when stocks are at their lowest level. The heating season is then coming to an end and energy companies are starting to prepare for stocking up for next winter. Today, those stocks are very well stocked in Europe. At the end of March they were 58.7 percent full, an absolute record. In the period 2015-2021 – before tensions with Russia started – the reserves were only 33 percent full on average.

The Belgian gas supply is also well full for this time of year, with a filling level of 53.6 percent. Belgian storage represents very little at European level because our country has only one small underground storage, the site of the gas network operator Fluxys Belgium

in Loenhout in Kempen.

53.6%

The Belgian gas supply is 53.6 percent full.

The high European inventories are good news for gas supplies and prices. If stocks are very high after winter, there is much less pressure to replenish them. This relaxed attitude has been leading to natural gas prices relaxing for some time since the crazy records in the summer of 2022. The price for gas delivery in the coming winter is 31.90 euros per megawatt hour on Tuesday. That is 44 percent lower than a year ago. Analysts expect the gas price to fluctuate around this level for some time to come.

Weather

There are several reasons why stocks are at record levels. Last summer the stocks were already packed. In addition, Europeans have used much less gas than normal, says Tom Marzec-Manser, analyst at the consultancy ICIS. ‘Both this winter and the previous one were warmer than normal, which resulted in less demand for gas for heating.’


Full screen display

The fact that the mild weather also played a role in our country is evident from the analysis of the degree days, a parameter that energy companies use to estimate the need for heating. The last heating season (the period from the beginning of October to the end of March) there were 1,517 degree days. That is less than in the cold period the year before. The number of degree days in the 2023-2024 heating season was even 18 percent lower than the normal long-term average (1,855 degree days).

In addition to households, European companies also used less natural gas, Marzec-Manser notes. Energy prices are still higher than before the crisis and are putting pressure on consumption by companies. “Businesses and households are responding to higher prices from energy suppliers and to campaigns to save money because Russia uses energy as a weapon,” says Marzec-Manser.

Thanks to these high stocks, Europe is starting to prepare for next winter in a good starting position. ICIS analysts expect that stocks will be 95 percent full again by early September. That is a lot better than the European obligation to achieve 90 percent filling by November 1. It is crucial that sufficient ships carrying LNG (liquefied natural gas) continue to come to European ports.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Natural gas stocks record good news prices

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