Natural gas futures declined in New York for the second time in three days as the outlook for milder weather called for reduced demand for the heating fuel. Gas fell as forecasters predicted that a cold blast this week will be followed by a warming trend in the central and eastern states over the next two weeks. 2012 is likely to overtake 1998 as the warmest on record in the US, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Natural gas for February delivery dropped 7.4 cents, sinking to $3.39 per million British thermal units on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday. US gas inventories totaled 3.652 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in the week ended December 21 — 12.8 percent above the five-year average for the period, according to the US Department of Energy. Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi declared that his ministry will begin striking gas deals with “different countries,” adding that Iran's gas output will increase to 1.4 billion cubic meters (bcm) in the next three years, according to Fars News Agency. "We are finalizing (agreements for) gas exports to different countries," said Qassemi, adding, "[t]he world is big and we have our own buyers." China's largest natural gas supplier has vowed to increase output to meet the surging domestic demand that the colder winter is causing. The company confirmed that it has requested that its major oil and gas fields operate at full capacity. It also began purchasing liquefied natural gas to meet rising demand, a spokesperson with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) told local media sources. CNPC added that it will also boost gas imports from Central Asia to address the shortage. Chevron (NYSE:CVX) announced that its Australian subsidiary achieved drilling success in the Exmouth Plateau area of the Carnarvon Basin, Australia.