More natural gas was withdrawn from storage than in any other point in history during the recent cold weather that impacted the eastern United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For the week ending Jan. 5, 2018, 359 billion cubic feet of natural gas was removed from storage, exceeding the previous record of 288 billion cubic feet set four years ago.
In the lower 48 states, temperatures at the end of December and in early January were lower than normal. Like in January 2014, cold temperatures led to high natural gas demand for heating, and storage withdrawals increased. “Population-weighted heating degree days, which are correlated with heating demand, increased to 273, indicating that weather was much colder than experienced during the previous record withdrawal, when heating degree days reached 255 for the week ending Jan. 9, 2014,” according to the EIA.
For the week ending Jan. 5, natural gas consumption in the residential and commercial sectors rose 29.9% to 452 billion cubic feet, from the previous week, according to PointLogic Energy. In the lower 48 states, total natural gas consumption rose 150 billion cubic feet to 961 billion cubic feet for the week. Also, another 29 billion cubic feet and 21 billion cubic feet were exported to Mexico and as liquefied natural gas, respectively.
Natural gas production declined that week as cold temperatures caused freeze-offs in the Appalachian and Permian basins. Freeze-offs happen when water vapor in the natural gas stream freezes and blocks the flow of gas. Natural gas production rose to a record high of 539 billion cubic feet for the week of Dec. 29, but fell 4% to 517 billion cubic feet the following week, according to PointLogic Energy.
The largest decline in natural gas storage was in the South Central region, which includes Arkansas. In the region, inventories of natural gas fell by 153 billion cubic feet. Nearly half of the decline was in the South Central’s salt fields, which decreased by 78 billion cubic feet or 26%, from the previous week.
In the lower 48 states, natural gas storage levels are 2,767 billion cubic feet. If 2018 withdrawals are similar to the previous five-year average, the storage levels are expected to fall to 1,310 billion cubic feet and lower than the previous five-year average of 1,697 billion cubic feet at the end of the heating season, usually running through March.