Residential propane prices have been on a long climb since the heating season started, topping historic highs and setting new ones. But despite a disruption at the country’s largest propane hub in Texas last week, and a new record in the latest federal numbers, the retail side is losing momentum.
The average gallon price rose a half-cent last week, according to this afternoon’s report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). That’s good enough for a new record in residential propane, and the ninth in as many weeks — though the haypenny increase is the smallest of the heating season. The East Coast put the oomph behind the cost increase, rising a penny. The Midwest stayed flat, with prices in a handful of states even sliding a bit.
Meanwhile, wholesale propane dropped more than a penny, making it the fourth week of declines on the quantity side. So there is plenty of room for retail prices to soften, too.
It’s been more than a week since an explosion sparked a huge fire at a natural gas liquids (NGLs) plant and storage facility in Mont Belvieu, Texas. When a misunderstanding over a yacht can goose crude oil prices, the 24-hour blaze looked like it was going to rattle the market. Hub prices are up a few pennies in the last two days, but retail prices looked steady through Monday, suggesting the industry carries on. (Ethane and butane haven’t fared as well, posting modest but lingering gains since the blowout.)
Second, we’re calling it: Retail prices will be flat next Wednesday. The stocks aren’t great, hovering below the average range, and we’d feel better if they were. But the sun’s out, the meteorologists say it will be sweater weather on Friday, and a big thaw should melt these propane prices, too.