Did you know that at one time, the natural gas industry was under monopolistic control? Let’s take a look back at how it evolved toward “common carrier status” and how that has encouraged competition and growth in the natural gas market.
U.S. natural gas prices could very well be looking at a volatile year in 2019.
While U.S. dry gas production is soaring, natural gas demand is also growing, most notably as a global fuel source with exports to Mexico and through liquefaction terminals on the Gulf Coast and East Coast consuming more and more gas each month.
What do these developments mean for natural gas supply, demand, storage and price?
Several important developments emerged in 2018. First, natural gas dry production in the Lower 48 repeatedly set new records on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. In every month but December, production levels set a new record, usually by a wide margin. This allowed the U.S. to build its position as the world’s top producer of natural gas.
Second, from a demand perspective, fuel switching in the electric power sector was less affected by price than in prior years. During summer 2018, natural gas prices remained above the levels that traditionally had incentivized power generators to switch to coal operations. But the switching didn’t occur last year, and gas demand remained strong even at higher price levels. In short, gas-generated power has become more inelastic as it relates to competing fuels, particularly coal.
Third, higher and steady prices in summer 2018 affected the pace of injections of natural gas into storage during the summer. End-of-summer inventory levels were 13% below the five-year average and their lowest since 2002. As fall began, however, those low inventories led to another effect: increased volatility.
Top Natural Gas Price Trends in 2019
As we look to 2019, OPIS PointLogic has several key questions we will be asking:
- Will the recent gas price volatility continue into 2019?
- Will inventories remain below the five-year average?
- Will nat gas demand eclipse 2018’s records – and can supply keep up?
These are important issues to watch on a national and regional basis. For price volatility, OPIS PointLogic will be watching both Henry Hub and the regional markets, which are affected differently by the forces driving the natural gas industry. The Northeast and West Texas are now the centers of production in the Lower 48, with the Southeast and Midcontinent largely relegated as demand centers. The Rocky Mountains are facing mounting pressure on production without much systemic demand growth, while the Western market’s view on natural gas dependency looks tenuous at best.
Below are some key issues that our regional analysts will be following this year.
Natural gas storage inventories in the U.S. Lower 48 have been 20%-25% below normal for almost all of 2018, despite record U.S. natural gas production.
OPIS PointLogic, tracking natural gas storage, notes that firm contract commitments for that storage are exhibiting patterns that were not expected several years ago.
Much can be learned about market sentiment by looking at firm storage contract commitment trends. (more…)
My colleagues and I are excited to organize and attend the North American Export Coal & Gas Summit on October 9-11 in San Francisco. It is unique among North American energy conferences in that the sole focus is the export markets for coal and natural gas. The timing is auspicious. Coal exports have been exceedingly strong, and the development of the export LNG market is one of the most compelling subjects on the global energy scene.
A decade ago, something dramatic — and largely unanticipated — began to emerge in the US natural gas industry. At the time, we dubbed it the “Shale Gale.” (more…)
U.S. natural gas exports to Mexico are growing. Exports were a record 4.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017, or more than twice the level in 2013.
Growth will continue. OPIS PointLogic is forecasting that exports will rise to 4.6 Bcf/d this year. And yet, Mexico holds much more potential as a natural gas destination than the current exports are providing.
What’s holding it back? Infrastructure.
Thanks to record natural gas production and growing production capacity for liquefied natural gas (LNG), the United States is becoming a global player in natural gas markets.
As summer 2017 wound down, the U.S. Northeast experienced record natural gas production output and depressed consumption.
This set the stage for recently expanded pipeline routes to make their mark on the Lower 48 market.