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Natural gas futures surged past $3 Wednesday morning after the Energy Information Administration reported a storage withdrawal that was not what the market was expecting.

The U.S. active rig count rose by five from a week earlier in the short holiday week ending Wednesday, with three rigs raised for oil and two for natural gas -- all horizontals -- bringing the domestic count to 593, Baker Hughes Inc. said. Canada lost 10 rigs for the week, and its total count stood at 174.

U.S. natural gas operators hoisted two rigs ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, while oil operators raised three for the week, Baker Hughes Inc. said Wednesday.

After climbing three straight sessions, natural gas prompt-month forward prices rose an average 15.6 cents between Nov. 18 and 22 as cold weather systems are finally making their way across large portions of the U.S., bringing rain and snow to some areas.

A spate of natural gas pipeline projects that are nearly through the regulatory process and close to starting construction could dramatically increase the Utica Shale's takeaway capacity over the next two years, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.


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