Natural Gas (again)

Open and general public discussions about things outside of Lakewood.

Moderator: Jim DeVito

Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:34 pm

I’ve written about natural gas prices and “choice” 2-3 times over the years, most recently in a post about how cold last winter was. I thought a follow-up might be helpful.

As I had predicted, natural gas did fall from a winter high of about $6.00 per MMbtu to about $4.50 in the spring. Though I thought it would fall a little farther. But it has remained remarkably close to $4.50 for a couple months now.

Until today. Today, natural gas has spiked up 22 cents to $4.73, or almost 5%. That’s “wholesale” if you will. A couple months ago I selected a new gas supplier, Censtar Energy. They had a 24-month plan for $5.60 per 1000 cubic feet “retail.” They have upped that now to $5.75. They since added a 12-month plan at $5.85. They actually had a 48-month plan but they discontinued that. Sort of shows where they think things are headed. BTW Censtar’s early termination fees are very steep.

I’m not certified to give financial advice in any way, shape or form. But now, and I mean today or tomorrow, might be a good time to lock in a price for the upcoming winter. Or might not be, but you get a 22 cent head start if you lock it in before they update their prices.

I presume you are a Dominion customer for delivery, so click here for what is being offered today (scroll down). (Sometimes these suppliers discontinue plans but the chart does not get immediately updated.)

Dominion itself is at $5.59 / 1000 CF and no early termination fee for a 12-month plan. There are others that are in the $5.69-$5.79 range. But I’d try Dominion first. Don’t be fooled by the low prices on the 6-month plans, they won’t get you through the winter and then they convert you to a high variable rate and hope you don’t notice. If you think prices could head up sharply, I see that Integrys has a 3-year plan….

Like I said, I don’t have a crystal ball and I could be dead wrong. But I think prices particularly in the long run are going higher. Remember when natural gas was $14 / 1000 CF? Short run prices? Harder to tell….

If anybody is foolish enough to believe in the “100-year supply” myth then I have some swampland for you. There may be 100 years worth of natural gas but much of it is not cost-effective to extract. Which is to say it will take more than a unit of energy to extract that unit of energy. Heck already we are resorting to fracturing, horizontal drilling and the like when it hasn’t been that long ago that we just stuck a pipe in the ground (or burned it off!). Plus, generators of electricity are increasingly being pressured into using natural gas instead of coal.

But the real point of my post is, it really pays to keep an eye on the gas prices and take your shot. If you on Dominion’s variable rate plan, and prices stay the same next winter, you win. If prices go up, you lose. Natural gas was no cheaper than $4.50 last winter and got to about $6.00 at one point. Good luck!


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Fri Jul 15, 2016 12:39 pm

So the contract I secured two years ago didn't work out as well as I'd hoped. Oh well.

Last month (June 23) I knocked around the Apples to Apples site and found that Ohio Natural Gas (ONG) was offering $2.17 per MCF for six months. $2.17 is crazy cheap, and even though it is only six months, I bit. It won't go into effect probably until August (next month) and so won't expire until February or later. They're hoping that come February I won't have renewed with anyone else and they can move me into a costly variable rate plan for the rest of the winter. Think again....

I switched electric companies today at the other place I own, and took a second to see if ONG was still offering $2.17 to Dominion EO customers. They're not. It's now $2.47 for six months. But that is still a solid bargain, and a month later, so if it expires in March or April and they slip you into a crappy variable rate plan, because you didn't take a half hour to look and switch again, well the winter heating season is mostly over by then. $2.47 is a great rate for next winter. I guarantee you'll be paying more than that unless you switch to it, or to something else. Natural gas at wholesale remains low.

Here's the web site if you are interested (click here). Dominion is at $2.88 and that won't last. It really pays to keep an eye on gas and electric choices.

Your call. See you in six months.

PS check your electric bill and if you are at around $.07 per KWH you should look into electric as well. The same day last month I got mine down to $.0499, again for only six months. So I'll take an hour and renew both gas and electric at the same time, hopefully for at least six months. Seems like the suppliers are offering their best rates for only six months now, which is sort of a different strategy for them.


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Wed Nov 23, 2016 6:21 pm

Yesterday was about as soon as I could renew for natural gas for my Lakewood home. So I checked the rates on the Apples to Apples site (click here) and found that Ohio Natural Gas, my current supplier, is at $2.67 per MCF so I called and grabbed it. Six-month term. I don't think that's changed much, and natural gas at the wholesale level has jumped about 10% in the last 10 days. Seems to happen this time of year. (When you have the chart up, click on the $/MCF heading to sort by price, lowest to highest. Ignore the one-month stuff, look for 6 months or more.)

I'd recommend you do likewise. That's a very good rate and ONG is an established supplier. Watching and renewing is a pain but well worth it financially. I'll bet ONG is higher than $2.67 a week from now.

I also checked on my electric but my contract doesn't expire for just over two months so it's still a little too soon to renew. Unfortunately, with gas and electric, you can't know when your contract ends without calling a couple months into your contract. AEP is at 5.39 cents per KWH. I'd renew at that but they won't offer it to me quite yet. Maybe you can get it. There are slightly lower electric rates available but I'm not familiar with the companies offering them.


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:53 am

As predicted, ONG is no longer offering the $2.67/MCF rate. They're effectively no longer in the residential market. There are a couple suppliers at $2.79 (including Ohio-based AEP) but they are not going to last with natural gas now wholesaling at $3.35/MMBTU. You'd still be advised to lock in $2.79 IMO. But by the time you actually start paying $2.79, half the winter will have passed. And since it's a 12-month contract, you're taking a chance on the first half of next winter. Though the cancellation fee is pretty small, $10 per remaining contract-month.

Wholesale natural gas prices are up 25% in the last 20 days....

It takes a half-hour to do this....


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Fri Dec 02, 2016 9:09 am

AEP dropped out overnight. Their 6-month contract is now $3.09/MCF (thousand cubic feet). The only one left at $2.79 is North American Power & Gas and they won't be around if natural gas continues to wholesale at $3.45/MMBTU (million BTUs). They'll disappear too, like the others. That is if they are answering their phones today. It'worth a try. You'll likely save a couple hundred bucks this winter over the Dominion SCO which will rise dramatically a little later this month, following the steep rise in wholesale rates.


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Tue Dec 06, 2016 9:41 am

I just called, North American Power & Gas is still honoring the $2.79/MCF 12-month contract. The wholesale price of natural gas reached $3.68/MMBTU this morning. (MCF and MMBTU are about equivalent.) I spoke very briefly with "Beverly." She answered right away and speaks perfect English....

If someone offered you the chance to buy stock at the prices before the election, you'd do it, right? Then why are you not locking in 12 months of natural gas well below today's wholesale price?

http://www.energychoice.ohio.gov/Apples ... RateCode=1

Go grab your latest utility bill and call them. 877-572-9965.

There is one catch. This 12-month contract expires the middle of next winter and YOU MUST CANCEL ABOUT 45 DAYS BEFORE IT ENDS or they might move you into a really expensive plan. That's the only reason I can think of why they are still offering it. Watch your bills to see what billing month they move you.

Oh, and of course natural gas prices could drop 25% in the next month just as they increased 33% this last month. But that won't cost you anything, it will just mean you didn't make out like a bandit. But a quick 25% drop from here is very, very unlikely. My guess for the Dominion SCO rate, now $2.71/MCF is about $3.25/MCF when it renews in a few days. Your $2.79 will look pretty sweet....


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Wed Dec 07, 2016 10:50 am

OK, $2.79/MCF is officially a thing of the past as North American P&G took it off the table last night for obvious reasons. The best now available is $2.99/MCF from two companies, one of which (Centerpoint) claims no early termination fee, which is a NO LOSE proposition. Though it is doubtful, with wholesale rates ($3.74/MMBTU as I write) continuing to rise. Maybe it's the projection of an arctic blast, I don't know. Both are 12-month contracts.

But at this point, if I was on Dominion's SCO rate (which many people are by default) I'd be inclined to look into Centerpoint's $3.09/MCF 24-month contract. Natural gas has been extraordinarily low for a few years now, maybe we're seeing a secular upswing in prices. Of course nobody can predict that for sure, certainly not me, but the termination fee is only $10 per remaining month. I don't like to go 24-months out but in this case I think it's worth the chance.

I still think Dominion's SCO rate will be at least $3.25/MCF in a few days, based on wholesale price trends. Probably higher....


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Sun Dec 11, 2016 10:39 am

OK so AEP discontinued the $2.99 fixed, and Centerpoint turned their $2.99/MCF into a "12-month variable rate" contract, whatever the heck that is. The cheapest multi-month fixed-rate contract is back to Ohio Natural Gas at $3.17. Nobody knows what's next for wholesale prices, but I doubt they're headed back down. And my new projection for the Dominion SCO rate is now $3.50/MCF, given that wholesale is up to $3.75/MMBTU. The new SCO rate should be posted in the next day or so. So even $3.17 looks pretty good now.


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:46 am

So now I notice, at some point in the last week or so Ohio Natural Gas discontinued their $3.17/MCF rate. They are still the cheapest multi-month fixed-rate contract though at $3.37/MCF for six months. Though I think you’re better off with North American Power & Gas for $3.39/MCF for 12 months. Take your pick. But winter could be largely over by the time you get either one in place depending on when your meter is read next. At this point you’re betting on next winter’s prices, but the $10 per remaining month early termination fee on the $3.39/MCF contract is not very daunting. I’d still go that route. It could be a terrific deal and if it's not it will only cost about $30 next fall to terminate.

I just paid my last bill at $2.17 and presumably will see $2.67 on my next bill and for the rest of the heating season. Saved probably 25% on my gas bill this winter, probably $400 or so total. I don’t always get this fortunate but most times I do save enough money to make it worth several times my effort. It really only takes a couple hours a year to keep track and make a phone call or two, though the calls are annoying (“Mr. Liston I need a clear yes or no….”).

By the way, wholesale prices have backed off some in recent days but are still 25% higher than where they were 45-60 days ago.

See you in about five months when I need to renew….


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Tue Aug 22, 2017 3:46 pm

Well I lied. It's been more than five months. When renewal time came a couple months ago the best rates were for six months. I wanted to get something to get me completely through the winter so I called Dominion and got on the monthly SCO, to avoid getting put on the Ohio Natural Gas variable rate. Not that it matters much in the summer. But I wanted to wait a couple months more before locking for six months so I could get through most of the winter.

I've been watching the Apples To Apples site (click here) and just now called Santanna Energy Services and locked in $2.66/MCF for six months. My meter gets read on the 25th and the switch won't get processed before then so I'm another (warm) month on the SCO for sure, then October through March at $2.66. That is a very favorable rate and gets me through all the cold months. Right now the SCO is $2.97 and it's gonna go up next month, I virtually guarantee it. I follow wholesale natural gas prices.

So if you don't have something comparable to $2.66 (hint: you don't) and you're not locked in you should strongly consider calling them. You'll spend a half hour on the phone but you'll save at least $200 in winter heating bills. I spend maybe three hours a year watching this stuff and I save a lot of money. Hopefully you will too.


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Sun Aug 27, 2017 9:02 pm

Sorry to say, the $2.66/MCF rate is now gone, the cheapest price for six months or more is now $3.59/MCF. OUCH! There are a couple four-month plans at $2.99 but that won't get you through the winter. Just make sure, if you choose one of these, that you call about three months after your plan kicks in to cancel. Otherwise they're gonna move you to a very high-cost plan after your four months elapses. In February. Wiping out your savings....

Frankly at this point you're probably best off staying on Dominion's SCO if that's what you're on now. Or NOPEC. They're never the best you can get but they're never a rip-off either. Or wait until after the first of the month and see if Ohio Natural Gas gets back in the thick with a half-decent offering. They might. They were very competitive until a couple months ago.

But NOPEC and the SCO are both variable rate, and natural gas usually starts creeping up this time of year. And it may be even worst this time around, with fracking starting to wane....


Tim Liston
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Aug 07, 2005 3:10 pm

Re: Natural Gas (again)

Postby Tim Liston » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:40 am

My gas meter gets read around the 24th of each month. When renewal time comes, it’s best to renew about 40-45 days in advance of end of the final billing month with your current plan. That way you won’t get switched from your current supplier to your new supplier too quickly, and thereby risk early termination fees. And it leaves plenty of time to get switched. I always note the appropriate time in my calendar.

I just renewed with Ohio Natural Gas. I was pleasantly surprised to see them come back a couple weeks ago at $2.67/Mcf. It's been since last summer that they have had a decent rate. ONG has operations in Cleveland and I have used them before. $2.67 is a very good rate, the best I’ve seen since I got my $2.66 six months ago. And actually I am renewing a month early, but my present plan with Santanna has no early termination fee. I would rather not have renewed until next month but I didn’t want to lose the $2.67 option. It might not be there next month, not for a six-month plan anyways. ONG’s six-month plan has an early termination fee ($75) I need to be aware of.

So I’ll probably end up on ONG’s variable rate plan for a month this time around, which in summer won't matter. Then I'll cherry-pick a new plan in late August or early September, so my next plan will get me through the fat part of next winter. Unless there’s a good 12-month plan available in July or early August, which is usually not the case. August/September is when you see the four-month plans, that way you’re left hanging in January/February.

Dunno if you noticed but it got very cold this winter. I figure I saved about 20% off my gas bill, so the savings for an hour of my time this winter was pretty substantial, maybe $250 or so. It’s worth an hour of everyone’s time.

Here’s the Apples to Apples web site for Dominion Energy customers….

http://www.energychoice.ohio.gov/Apples ... RateCode=1 (Scroll down to the table and click on the $/Mcf header to sort the best prices to the top.)

Think about a call to Ohio Natural Gas if you aren’t on a plan. Grab your most recent gas bill before you call. Be prepared to “give a clear yes or no” a lot. See you in 5-6 months.



Return to “Global Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest