Working natural gas in storage has surpassed five-year average levels for the first time in more than a year, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). At 2,157 billion cubic feet (Bcf) as of February 13, stocks are 58 Bcf greater than the five-year average.
Extremely cold weather may result in high stock withdrawals in late February and could cause stocks to dip below their five-year average; however, natural gas production in February and March, which is forecast to average 5 Bcf/day more than it did a year ago, is likely to contribute to healthy inventories and moderate prices as the nation moves from winter into spring.
While there were several near-record withdrawals early this heating season, withdrawals so far this season have been significantly lower than last winter’s record levels, and 16 percent lower than the five-year average. Recent production growth and moderate demand have led to increased storage and relatively low prices. The most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook projects inventories will end the injection season at 1,699 Bcf—43 Bcf more than the five-year average.
Increasing production has helped to displace some of the need for storage during peak-use periods. Higher production levels are forecast to continue through the end of the heating season. The Short-Term Energy Outlook forecasts that February and March production will average 72.7 Bcf/d—5.0 Bcf/d higher than during the same period in 2014.
At the national level, lower natural gas consumption this winter has also reduced the need to withdraw natural gas from storage. Above-average temperatures in the western half of the United States so far this winter have helped to offset the effects of colder weather in other parts of the country. EIA forecasts that total natural gas consumption in the United States will average 88.1 Bcf/d from February–March 2015, compared to an estimated 90.9 Bcf/d during the same period in 2014.