EIA marks 2019 as the year with the lowest natural gas prices for the past three years, as although monthly average natural gas prices at most key regional trading hubs in 2019 reached their highest levels in February, and they were relatively low and stable from April through December.
Specifically, natural gas spot prices at the national benchmark Henry Hub in Louisiana averaged $2.57 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), about 60 cents per MMBtu lower than in 2018 and the lowest annual average price since 2016.
Moreover, the lower natural gas prices supported a higher consumption and higher natural gas exports. In the meantime, the domestic production of natural gas continued increasing in 2019 supported by lower natural gas prices.
Natural gas consumption in the residential and commercial sectors rose by 2% through October and estimates for November and December. Similarly, EIA reports that the use of natural gas increased mostly i July and August as the heat wave hit the Midwest and the Northeast led to record-high generation by natural gas-fired power plants.
In addition, the monthly average natural gas prices at most key regional trading hubs accomplished their higher levels in February, but were low and stable from April through December.
In the Northeast, additional imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) into New England limited price spikes during the winter of 2018–19. Despite a cold snap in the Midwest in February 2019, natural gas prices at Chicago Citygate were lower than during previous extreme weather events.
In the Pacific Northwest, unseasonably cold weather at the end of winter coupled with regional supply constraints and decreased storage inventories led to significant price spikes at the Northwest Sumas hub in March.
In the meantime, the unseasonable cold weather in the Pacific Northwest at the end of winter, along with regional supply constraints and decreased storage inventories, resulted to major price increases at the Northwest Sumas hub in March. Additional pipeline takeaway capacity in the Permian region eased some infrastructure constraints and increased regional prices at the Waha hub in western Texas after six consecutive months of prices lower than $1/MMBtu (March through August).
It is also stated that during summer the natural gas prices were lower, averaging $2.33/MMBtu in June through August (the lowest summer average Henry Hub natural gas price since 1998), supported higher natural gas-fired generation in the summer months.
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The dry gas natural gas production has increased since 2016, with increased production by 7.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) (9%) through the first 10 months of the year after record growth in 2018. Sustained growth in natural gas production put downward pressure on prices, which continued to decline for most of 2019.
Natural gas storage inventories ended the withdrawal season at the end of March at their lowest levels since 2014. However, record natural gas production growth supported near-record injection activity during the injection season through October. The injection season ended with the second-highest net injection volume since 2014.
In 2019, natural gas exports—both by pipeline to Mexico and as LNG—continued to grow. U.S. natural gas exports to Mexico by pipeline averaged 5.1 Bcf/d in the first 10 months of 2019, 0.4 Bcf/d more than the 2018 average. Following an expansion in U.S. cross-border pipeline capacity, several new pipelines in Mexico continued to experience delays, limiting growth in exports.
Most new pipelines placed in service in 2019 were located in the South Central and Northeast regions. These pipelines provide additional takeaway capacity out of the Permian and Appalachian supply basins and will serve growing demand for LNG exports, pipeline exports to Mexico, and U.S. natural gas-fired power generation.
U.S. LNG exports set a new record in 2019, averaging an estimated 5.0 Bcf/d (69% higher than in 2018) as the United States became the third-largest global LNG exporter. Several new LNG facilities were placed in service in 2019.