Power generators have used more natural gas this winter than in recent years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Citing Bentek Energy, the EIA reports gas burn in the power sector averaged 25.0 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) between Nov. 1 and Feb. 8. That’s an increase of 17 percent from last year’s average of 21.4 Bcf/d during the same period.
Over the past five winters, natural gas consumption in the power sector averaged just 18.8 Bcf/d.
The EIA attributes the increased in consumption primarily to low gas prices but also reductions in coal capacity and the availability of efficient gas-fired generating units.
On average, the electric power sector is the largest natural gas consumer per year, with usage peaking in the summer when electricity demand is highest. The EIA reports, however, that consumption has increased in recent winters as more generation switches to natural gas and more households depend on electricity for heating.
The EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook predicts increases in natural gas prices over the next two years, resulting in a slight reduction in consumption for power generation; but the power sector is still expected to use near record high levels of natural gas for generation.