The US Energy Information Administration reported that the US natural gas consumption rose by 3% in 2019, achieving a record of 85.0 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). The increase was due to new natural gas-fired electric capacity and lower natural gas prices.
Specifically, the US natural gas consumption grew in the electric power sector by 2.0 Bcf/d, or 7%, but remained relatively flat in the commercial, residential, and industrial sectors.
Exports via pipeline to Mexico and as liquefied natural gas (LNG) grew by 0.5 Bcf/d and 2.0 Bcf/d, respectively.
In the meantime, in the past year, the electric power sector consumed 31.0 Bcf/d, or 36%, of total domestic U.S. natural gas consumption. Natural gas-fired electric capacity additions grew in 2019, especially in the PJM Interconnection, which serves the U.S. mid-Atlantic region.
Also, natural gas continues to hold the largest share of electricity generation after first surpassing coal-fired generation on an annual basis in 2016. In 2019, natural gas accounted for 38% of total electricity generation, followed by 23% for coal and 20% for nuclear. The sector also sees new natural gas generation capacity additions which are to displace coal-fired power plants; about 5% of the total existing U.S. coal-fired capacity was retired in 2019.
Weather plays a major role in annual and monthly fluctuations when it comes to natural gas consumption. For instance, in Winter the U.S. natural gas consumption levels are at their highest because natural gas is the predominant fuel for space heating in the residential and commercial sectors. In 2019, demand for natural gas as a heating fuel was similar to 2018 demand.
On the other hand, during summer, natural gas consumption has a smaller peak leading to greater electricity demand. In summer, relatively high temperatures increased electricity usage and natural gas consumption. The United States set a monthly record for U.S. electric power sector consumption of 41.1 Bcf/d in July 2019, then surpassed that level to reach 41.6 Bcf/d in August. The electric power sector has been shifting toward natural gas in the past decade because of competitive natural gas prices and power plant technology improvements.
Concluding, EIA has also estimated that the net natural gas exports will keep increasing through 2050 while most of the increase will be marked in the near term.