NBP: Weather conditions and coal are weighing on prices
Winter is near, but the NBP is not going up. On the contrary, it is continuing a steady decline that began back in March 2015, when it stood at €22.3/MWh ($7.1/MBtu). It remained in the neighborhood of €18.4/MWh ($6.1/MBtu) in October and averaged €17.3/MWh ($5.6/MBtu) in early November. These prices are respectively 15% and 27% lower than the previous year. Very mild weather is one reason why prices are so low.
The trend in the coal price has also played a key role. It stands at €49/t ($53/t) for November, down 18% in one year. This is on the same order of magnitude as the price reported in 2009. Back then, the NBP price was about €10/MWh ($4/MBtu) and had even sunk as far as €7.7/MWh ($3.3/MBtu) in September. If the coal price remains at its current level, should the NBP be expected to fall that low? The business environment is different, especially in the United Kingdom, where a carbon tax (Carbon Price Support) of €25/MWh (£18/t) helps support the NBP price by making natural gas more competitive with coal. However, on the Continent, the CO2 price is €8/t and the equilibrium price compared with coal is lower, estimated at only €12/MWh($4/MBtu). This may give rise to downward pressure, especially if the winter is mild, hence to a low inventory draw. This being said, the markets are not anticipating such a pronounced downtrend, but prices of €18.5/MWh for winter 2016 and €17/MWh for next summer.
Indexed European price: the trend is down
The indicative European price (LT77%) stood at €19.5/MWh($6.4/MBtu) in October,down by 3.6%for the month and 20% for the year. The current trends shown by the NBP (below €18/MWh) and the Brent ($52/b) would yield LT prices of between €17.5and19/MWh ($5.5-6/MBtu) for next year.
The U.S. market (Henry Hub):below $2/MBtu
The Henry Hub price averaged $2.3/MBtu in October, down 11% in one month. It dropped below the $2 mark ($1.92/MBtu) at the end of the month and, in early November, has been hovering around $2/MBtu. This level, exceptionally low, has only been reached twice in the last ten years: on September 3, 2009 ($2.09/MBtu) and April 18, 2012 ($1.89/MBtu). Such low points have usually been followed by fairly sharp rises, which explains why the annual averages are higher ($2.8 to 4.6/MBtu since 2010). The markets are expecting a similar scenario, with prices rising to about $3/MBtu at year-end 2016, which would yield an average price for 2016 of only $2.7/MBtu. Of course, these trends will be influenced by how harsh this winter will be.
By Guy Maisonnier, Senior Economist – IFPEN