Unseasonably cold temperatures this week led to big increases in heating demand for natural gas from the residential and commercial sectors. Weather forecasters expect the cold to continue into next week, which will likely result in more natural gas consumption.

Bentek Energy estimated residential and commercial consumption yesterday hit 36.3 billion cubic feet (Bcf), the highest level since March, and then an estimated 42.1 Bcf today. An early winter storm blew through much of the central part of the United States, bringing cold temperatures and snow. The Rocky Mountain region was hit particularly hard by the wave of arctic air; in Denver, the high temperature of 16° F on Tuesday set a record for being the coldest daily high for that date. On Wednesday, Denver saw snow and a high temperature of 8°. In the Upper Midwest, areas of Wisconsin and Michigan received more than 20 inches of snow, while Minnesota and Montana received more than a foot of snow.

While the storm has mostly passed and moved on to Ontario, the National Weather Service said the Great Lakes states could expect some additional snowfall, and cold temperatures are expected to remain. Bentek projected residential and commercial consumption to remain at its current level or higher through the next seven days.

The East North Central Census Division (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) is the largest natural gas consuming division in the country, making up 28% of all residential consumption and 23% of commercial consumption in 2013. Because the East North Central has the largest number of households that use gas heat, its natural gas consumption response to changes in the temperature is the greatest among all regions in the country.

Elsewhere in the United States, winter conditions are expected in the coming days, according to the National Weather Service. A section of eastern Oregon and southern Idaho were under winter storm warnings yesterday and today. In the South, freeze warnings were issued for areas of Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. On the East Coast, temperatures remained mild on Wednesday before dropping on Thursday.