The amount of natural gas used to produce electricity, which is known as power burn, reached 41 billion cubic feet July 20, the highest level so far in 2017, according to data from PointLogic Energy.
Power burn usually reaches a peak at the end of July or the start of August because of the high demand for air conditioning.
Power burn hit a record high of more than 42 billion cubic feet Aug. 11, 2016. In 2017, power burn is expected to decline 9% to an average of 25.9 billion cubic feet, from 2016.
Between April 1 and July 25, power burn declined 7% to 27.1 billion cubic feet per day, from the same period in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Although power burn in 2017 is lower than in 2016, it is still relatively high compared with the previous five-year average for that period.”
Some of the decline can be attributed to higher natural gas prices. Between April 1 and July 25, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price has risen to an average of $3.03 per million British thermal units, from $2.27 per million Btu in the same period in 2016, according to the EIA. “Average natural gas prices at power plants were $1.02 (per million Btu) higher in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016, while coal prices were about the same in the first half of both years.”
In 2016, natural gas generated 34% of U.S. electricity, and coal generated 30%. It was the first year natural gas-fired plants generated more electricity than coal-fired plants. Between January and April, natural gas-fired plants have provided 28% of U.S. electricity, and coal has produced 30%. Natural gas- and coal-fired plants are each expected to produce 31% of U.S. electricity in 2017.