Natural gas storage levels as of March 31, or the end of the 2017-2018 heating season, declined 50.7% to 1.351 trillion cubic feet, from the same time in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It was the lowest level for U.S. working gas stocks since March 31, 2014, when the levels fell 103.8% to 837 billion cubic feet, from the same time in 2013.
As of March 31, 2018, natural gas storage levels were 21% lower than the previous five-year average at the end of the heating season. On Nov. 1, 2017, the 2017-2018 heating season started, and colder than normal temperatures led to increased withdrawals in natural gas storage. In January, the withdrawals set a weekly record of 359 billion cubic feet, according to the EIA. Natural gas is used in colder months for heating homes and businesses directly and for fueling natural gas power plants, which are used to meet winter electricity demand.
During the 2017-2018 heating season, net withdrawals from storage were 2.427 trillion cubic feet, second to the record withdrawal level of 2.958 trillion cubic feet in the 2013-2014 heating season — an even colder winter.
This summer, injections into storage are expected to exceed the average in the previous five injection seasons, which run April through October. Injection seasons typically end with natural gas storage levels similar to the previous five-year average of about 3.8 trillion cubic feet because many of the larger storage operators are obligated to provide winter heating service. Meeting this storage level would require injections to rise about 30% from the previous five-year average to nearly 2.5 trillion cubic feet.
The EIA expects natural gas levels will be 3.767 trillion cubic feet at the end of October 2018, and require net injections of about 2.416 trillion cubic feet over the injection season, or 11.3 billion cubic feet per day.
Over the injection season, dry natural gas production is expected to rise 11%, or by 8.3 billion cubic feet per day, to 81.6 billion cubic feet per day, from the same period in 2017. This would more than offset projected increases in natural gas consumption, exports and the requirements to refill storage levels.