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Extreme cold in the US is testing power generators and grid operators like PJM who are asking customers to reduce consumption during peak demand periods. At the same time, utilities are being pressured by shareholders to close coal plants, thus increasing natural gas reliance. This piece sums up the situation in the Pittsburgh area. [Pittsburgh Business Times]

Across the Pacific in Japan where natural gas is filling in for shuttered nuke plants, the division between commodity providers and power generators continues collapsing. Japan’s Saibu Gas plans to build a CCGT power plant and last year increased its LNG offtake agreement with Russia’s Sakhalin 2 project by roughly 8 times volumetrically. [Platts]

And back in the US, cold weather-derived demand spikes are pushing futures prices higher, breaching the symbolic $5/MMBtu threshold in Tuesday trading. “The contract expires at the close of Nymex trading on Wednesday. March natural gas, which will become the front month, added 27 cents, or 5.7%, to $4.94 per million British thermal units.” [Market Watch]