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US natural gas inventory exceeds five year average

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

For the first time in over a year, working natural gas storage in the US has surpassed five year average levels, according to the US EIA. At 2157 billion ft2, as of February 12, stocks are 58 billion ft3 greater than the five year average. Recent extremely cold weather may result in high stock withdrawals for the week ending February 20, which could again push stocks below their five year average. However, natural gas production in February and March is forecast to average 5 billionft3/d above the year ago level is likely to contribute to healthy inventories and moderate prices as the nation moves from winter into spring.

At no point during last year did inventories surpass the five year average; the most recent excess was on November 22 2013. Inventories ended the 2013 – 14 winter withdrawal season last March at a 10 year record low of 837 billion ft3. After a record injection seasons in 2014 between April and October, weekly working as inventories reached a seasonal peak on November 7 of 3.611 billion ft3, but were still 237 billion ft3 below the five year average of 3848 billion ft3 for that week.

While there had been several near record withdrawals early in the most recent heating season in the US, withdrawals so far have been significantly lower than the record levels of last winter, and 16% lower than the five year average. Recent production growth and moderate demand have allowed for the increase in storage, and have also led to relatively low prices.

Increasing natural gas production has reportedly helped to displace some of the need for storage during peak use periods. Dry natural gas production has averaged 71.7 billion ft3/d since November 1, as reported by Bentek Energy, approximately 6.3 billion ft3/d more than production for the same period last winter. This higher level of production is forecast to continue through the end of the heating season.

At a national level, lower natural gas consumption this winter has also reduced the need to withdraw natural gas from storage. Above average temperatures experienced in the western half of the US so far this winter have helped to offset the effects of colder weather in other parts of the country, dampening overall natural gas consumption. According to data from Bentek Energy, Since November 1, US natural gas consumption has averaged 88.4 billion ftt3/d, which is 3.3 billion ft3/d lower than the same period last year. With closer to normal temperatures reducing residential and commercial consumption, the EIA forecasts that total natural gas consumption in the US will average 88.1 billion ft3/d for the remainder of the heating season this year, compared with an estimated 90.0 billion ft3/d during that period last year.

Edited from press release by Claira Lloyd

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