Why natural gas prices have surged to some of their highest levels in years

Natural gas prices have climbed to some of their highest levels in years, with the increases expected to ripple into people’s gas bills as winter fast approaches.

A marriage of factors in North America and Europe — from summer storms to an overseas supply crunch — have contributed to sharp rise in the price of the fossil fuel.

Martin King, senior analyst at RBN Energy, said the Alberta spot price for natural gas was around $4.80 a gigajoule on Thursday morning. With the exception of a February price spike amid a nasty North American cold snap, it’s some of the highest prices he’s seen in years.

“It’s pretty astounding,” King said. 

“We’re seeing seven-year highs for natural gas both in the U.S. and Canada and, on the international front, we’re seeing pretty much close to all-time highs in many markets worldwide.”

While those prices will help natural gas producers, it’ll have consumers facing higher gas bills at a time when they’re already paying more for housing, transportation and food

“We’ll see how the spring and summer next year shape up,” King said. “But in the very short term, going into the winter, we’re all going to be facing higher natural gas bills.

It’s part of an international story.

Natural gas is used for home heating, power and is used by appliances like stoves and gas dryers. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

In the U.S. futures market, the natural gas contract for October climbed to over $5 US per one million British thermal units — a level not seen since February, 2014. 

Reuters reported Thursday that U.S. natural gas futures slipped as storage levels improved, but one analyst told the news service it wasn’t “enough to put a ceiling on the recent rise in prices.”

Meanwhile, the price of natural gas in Europe has risen fivefold since last year, pushing power prices across the continent to their highest in over a decade.

In North America, views range on how high prices might still climb.

King said it seems like the price could potentially go a “little bit higher” into October, adding much depends on how cold things get at the start of the winter heating season. 

Higher commodity prices prompted Saskatchewan’s natural gas distribution company this week to apply for an increase in the price of natural gas in the province. 

SaskEnergy said the market price for natural gas has doubled since the Crown decreased its prices back in 2019. 

It pointed to increased natural gas demand for power generation coupled with higher liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports are contributing to increased commodity prices.

In Ontario, Enbridge Gas has applied to the regulator for an increase ranging from six to eight per cent in the rates paid by its 3.8 million customers. On an annualized basis, that represents about $60 to $80 more for the average residential customer, the company said.  If approved, it would take effect on Oct. 1. 

Spokesperson Andrea Stass said that through the…

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