By - Jim Vess

Natural gas storage in the U.S. at a 13-year low heading into winter season

Energize Weekly, November 21, 2018

Natural gas underground storage in the U.S. began November at the lowest levels in 13 years, 3,208 billion cubic feet (Bcf), according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The data released Nov. 8 covers storage levels in the lower 48 states. Each of seven storage regions were at their lowest levels since 2005 and “considerably lower than their previous five-year average,” the EIA said in its Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report.

The natural gas storage injection season is defined as April 1 through Oct. 31, though additional injection may take place in November.

The refill season began with reserves low and below-average net injections of natural gas contributed to the low storage levels. While there has been record U.S. natural gas production, demand has also been higher, leaving less for injection, which was below the five-year average, the EIA said.

Natural gas production averaged 83.6 Bcf a day during the 2018 refill season, up 12 percent from 2017, but high levels of consumption by the power sector in the late spring and summer combined with increased natural gas demand from U.S. export markets, left less gas for reinjection.

“Lower-than-average temperatures in April 2018 resulted in uncharacteristic, continued withdrawals from storage during the month,” the agency said. Working natural gas stocks ended the withdrawal season at 1,360 Bcf—the fourth-lowest level reported since 2005.

The EIA estimates that net injections totaled 1,848 Bcf for the season—13 percent below the five-year average. The level was the fourth-lowest net injected volume for the refill season since 2005.

The South Central region had the largest margin—15 percent—between the five-year range and the storage levels at the end of October, 932 Bcf. Only 62 percent of the region’s storage capacity is being utilized.

The Pacific region posted the largest percent difference—17 percent—between the end-of-season levels and the five-year range at 264 Bcf. Net injections were 26 percent below the five-year average, and the region had filled only 65 percent of its storage capacity.

Other regions were 3 percent to 7 percent lower than the previous five-year range. The Midwest and East had the highest storage utilization at 85 percent each. The national average is 75 percent of storage capacity being utilized.

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