U.S. and Canadian natural gas prices soar during arctic blast

Feb 11 (Reuters) - Natural gas prices across North America soared to their highest in years on Thursday as homes and businesses crank up their heaters to escape the arctic blast moving from Canada to the eastern half of the United States.

“The weather pattern is beginning to sound like a broken record for many residents of the eastern half of the U.S. as snowy and cold weather shows no signs of letting up anytime soon,” meteorologists at AccuWeather said.

High temperatures in Chicago were expected to remain below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit or zero degrees Celsius) from Feb. 5-21 with the coldest weather set to come this weekend when overnight lows plunge to -6 F on Sunday, AccuWeather said. The normal high in the city at this time of year is 34 degrees F.

That cold air will move to the East Coast over the next day or two where it could drop up to six inches (15.2 centimeters) of snow on parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.

Next-day gas for Thursday rose to its highest since January 2018 at the Waha hub NG-WAH-WTX-SNL in the Permian basin in Texas where prices turned negative as recently as October. When prices turn negative, it means some producers are paying other to take their gas.

That was before Kinder Morgan Inc’s 2.1-billion- cubic-feet-per-day (bcfd) Permian Highway and WhiteWater Midstream/MPLX LP’s 1.8-bcfd Agua Blanca gas pipes in Texas entered service in January, which helped free up much of the gas trapped in the Permian shale region.

One billion cubic feet is enough gas to supply about five million U.S. homes for a day.

Spot prices in other regions, meanwhile, soared to their highest since March 2019, including the AECO hub NG-ASH-ALB-SNL in Alberta, Dominion South NG-PCN-APP-SNL in southwest Pennsylvania, Chicago NG-CG-CH-SNL and the U.S. Henry Hub benchmark NG-W-HH-SNL in Louisiana.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino Editing by Chizu Nomiyama