Wilmoth: Natural gas data release is an exact science

The U.S. Energy Information Administration takes reporting natural gas storage data seriously. Like characters in a spy movie, administration officials sync watches before releasing the weekly storage numbers to ensure they don't tip off lucky traders too early.
by Adam Wilmoth Published: March 29, 2013
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Synchronize watches.

Check.

Copy the top secret data.

Check.

Move it swiftly and securely to the drop location.

Check.

In a procedure familiar to all who have seen “Mission Impossible,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration follows a strict schedule to ensure that the country's natural gas storage numbers are released at 10:30 Eastern Time every Thursday morning.

Exactly.

Not a microsecond early, and not a microsecond late.

“At 10:15 every Thursday morning, we reset our clocks to the atomic clock at the naval observatory,” EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski said at the University of Oklahoma Energy Symposium this month.

“We're pretty sure that we release it at exactly 10:30, down to the microsecond.”

Fractions of a second can mean the difference of millions of dollars.

“There's a lot of algorithmic, high-frequency trading that takes place,” Sieminski said. “The algorithms trade against each other. This is all happening literally on a microsecond basis.”


by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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