The United States has never entered a winter with more natural gas at the ready, according to the latest data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). During the warmer months of the year, countries pump drilled natural gas into storage, anticipating a cyclical spike in demand when temperatures start falling. As we head into those colder months now, the amount of natural gas in storage here in the United States has just hit an all-time high, as the EIA reports:
Working natural gas in storage reached a record high of 4,017 billion cubic feet (Bcf) as of November 4, according to EIA’s latest Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report. Inventories have been relatively high throughout the year, surpassing previous five-year highs in 48 of the past 52 weeks…The injection season for natural gas storage typically runs from April through October, although net natural gas injections sometimes continue for several weeks during November. In fact, the previous record for natural gas storage was set at 4,009 Bcf for the week ending November 20, 2015.
So what does this mean for American families looking to heat their homes with natural gas this winter? Well, as the EIA explains, that all depends on the weather:
Based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) winter forecast, EIA expects U.S. average household natural gas consumption to increase 8% this winter, with the largest increases in the Northeast and Midwest census regions. Under this scenario, EIA expects inventories to end the winter at slightly below 1,900 Bcf. However, temperatures so far this winter have consistently been at or above weekly average normal levels, and NOAA’s latest three-month temperature outlook forecasts that December–February temperatures will be higher than normal. In a scenario with temperatures 10% warmer than forecast, U.S. average household natural gas consumption would be 1% lower this winter compared to last winter, with inventories at winter’s end near 2,300 Bcf.
But while the exact rate at which households and businesses consume natural gas in the United States this winter remains to be seen, we do know that we’ve never been in a better position with respect to natural gas. This abundance isn’t just a boon to energy security, it also corresponds to cheaper prices, a development that is especially helpful for poorer families for whom their heating bills make up a larger slice of the monthly budget.
We’d be remiss to not give credit where credit is due for this unprecedented hoard of natural gas: Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well-drilling of shale formations around the country are entirely responsible for this resurgence in oil and natural gas production over the past eight years. It is hard to overstate the impact fracking has had on the U.S. energy landscape, and this latest glut of gas is just the latest example of its ability to shore up U.S. energy security.