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The High-Stakes Storage Gamble

AGA decision to shut in storage survey rattles energy markets.
Fortnightly Magazine - December 2001

that might offer storage-related services in the future."

AGA emphasizes it is conferring with organizations that might be interested in launching their own weekly storage survey. "We're talking with several people," says Paul Wilkinson, AGA vice president of policy analysis, and adds that some of those discussions have been with private companies. Following Wood's recommendation, consultants and major energy news companies reportedly have expressed interest in launching fee-based weekly storage data services.

To start its weekly survey, EIA would need Congress to grant the necessary funding, and any additional surveys of the 140 storage operators in the United States would have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. In case of a supply emergency, though, EIA says it does possess standby emergency status to gather storage data from operators.

Another option is for FERC to return to the storage data gathering business. In 1995, FERC eliminated its Form 8 storage report in an effort to reduce the reporting burden on pipelines and storage operators that fall under federal jurisdiction. Storage operators were required to send the Form 8s on a monthly basis to the commission, which would then make the information available to the public. Storage operators still are required to file monthly Form 191s with EIA, but the agency keeps the company-specific data confidential, and uses the data only for purposes of developing aggregate storage estimates on a state and national basis.

As for a possible role for FERC, Wood is not optimistic the commission could put together a weekly storage survey similar to AGA's. "I have inquired about our capability to replicate that effort here, and I am not real encouraged we could step right into the shoes of AGA and do that," he said.

Fallback Survey Exists

When 2002 rolls around, EIA will have company in its new role as weekly storage reporters. Houston-based Energy Reporting Network has been providing weekly storage estimates since August 1990 through its Gasfax service. The company has maintained a low profile over the years, providing aggregated storage data primarily to those companies in the physical gas market who own storage assets and participate in its survey ().

Gil Higgins, president of Energy Reporting Network, remembers receiving a phone call from one of his clients following AGA's announcement. The client remarked that Energy Reporting Network must have been excited upon learning of AGA's decision to discontinue its storage estimate service. That couldn't have been further from the truth, Higgins says. "Holy mackerel. We're not glad," he explains. "This is something the industry really depended on. Somebody has got to do something."

Alternative Storage Data Provider Resists New Market Temptations

Lost in the hand wringing by traders and analysts over the American Gas Association's (AGA) decision to discontinue its underground gas storage survey is the existence of another weekly storage data series.

Industry members, though, shouldn't be scolded for not being entirely up to speed on this other service. The company, Houston-based Energy Reporting Network, intentionally keeps a shroud around its Gasfax supply data service because the company's goal, up to this