Colder-than-normal temperatures in the eastern half of the United States drove up natural gas demand across all sectors during January 7 through January 10. During this period, average U.S. natural gas consumption rose 23% compared to the average consumption for the week preceding this cold snap. The high demand was met by continued strong production, increased storage withdrawals, and more imported natural gas.
Total U.S. consumption averaged more than 122 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) through the four-day cold spell, peaking at more than 130 Bcf/d on Thursday, January 8, according to data from Bentek Energy. Consumption on Thursday was the third-highest level since 2005, the start of Bentek’s data series. The largest demand increase came from the residential/commercial sector because of increased space heating requirements. Consumption grew for this sector during the cold spell by more than 27% over the previous week.
Power burn (natural gas used for electrical generation) rose by 19% during the four-day period. The Southeast, a region where electricity is used as the primary energy for space heating, showed a significant increase in demand during the cold spell, averaging 9.5 Bcf/d from January 7 through January 10, an increase of 35% from the previous week.
The increase in consumption was met by a combination of storage withdrawals and increased imports. Net natural gas inventory withdrawals for the week ending January 9 totaled 236 Bcf, according to EIA’s Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report. This is the highest withdrawal so far this winter. In addition to the increase in storage withdrawals, imports of natural gas from Canada grew by 21% during the four-day cold snap compared to the prior week, averaging 7.8 Bcf/d. LNG sendout more than doubled during that period, ramping up to more than 2 Bcf/d on January 8.
The largest source of U.S. natural gas supply is domestic dry gas production. Freeze-offs of natural gas producing wells contributed to slight declines in production, on average, from January 7 through January 10, compared to the previous week. Production during the four-day period averaged 70 Bcf/d, but that is more than 8% above the average daily production recorded for January 2014. The relatively high level of domestic production is reducing the reliance on natural gas storage and may also be contributing to moderating prices on peak-demand days.
Despite the heightened demand on January 7 through January 10, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price remained relatively low. For most days during the cold snap, the price at Henry Hub was below $3 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). Although prices in the Northeast increased to around $12/MMBtu during the cold snap, this is significantly less than the prices that occurred during the cold spells experienced this past winter.