Natural gas-fuelled power generation in the United States reached its highest daily level at 41 Bcf/day on July 20 – just a tick lower than the 2016 peak of 42 Bcf/d seen on August 11 last year. Higher gas prices relative to last summer explain part of the decrease; but PointLogic Energy analysts stressed that “although power burn in 2017 is lower than in 2016, it is still relatively high compared with the previous five-year average for that period.”
July 6 - Consumption of natural gas has risen in 9 of the past 10 years, according to EIA figures. As recently as 2006, the United States consumed more coal than natural gas (in energy-equivalent terms), but as gas use has increased—particularly in the electric power sector, where gas-burn in 2016 was about twice that of coal.
June 6 – The United States’ electric power sector in 2016 consumed 35% less coal than in 2008, when domestic coal production reached its highest level. However, the share of coal shipped to U.S. power generators by rail has consistently remained near 70%. According to EIA figures, coal-burn in the power sector totalled 677 million short tons in 2016, the lowest amount since 1984.
May 24 – Germany’s total primary energy consumption dropped 1.4% yoy in the first quarter of 2017. But despite lower demand for electricity, the use of natural gas for power generation increased by 1%, while use of hard coal and lignite were 2.6% and 0.4% higher respectively, according to figures by the energy industry think tank AG Energiebilanzen (AGEB).
Falling natural gas and renewable energy prices have altered the fuel mix for power generation over the past ten years. The shift away from coal due to cheaper competing energy sources, not from regulation, yields economic benefits, argues Philip Rossetti, analyst at the American Action Forum.
In the face of gas supply shortages following a major and prolonged leak at SoCalGas’ Aliso Canyon storage facility, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) now provides timely updates in its ‘Southern California Daily Energy Report’. Withdrawal rates at Aliso Canyon have fallen sharply below the usual 1.9 Bcf/d – causing regulators to place a cap on gas-burn and spurring electricity imports from neighbouring states.
Sept 6 – The share of coal-fired power generation mix in the UK has fallen to a record low in August, at just 2.5%, mainly due to rising gas-burn and lower coal power capacity amid retirements of ageing plant. In contrast, the share of gas in the power mix surged to 45.3% in August, compared with 32.9% in the same month last year, according to data released by New Electricity Trading Arrangements (Neta).
Even though natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, the overall rise in gas-burn in the power sector – amid competitive fuel economics – has made related pollution levels surpass those of coal. The EIA expects emissions from gas will be 10% greater than those from coal over the course of 2016.
Over the summer, operators of gas storage facilities typically build up inventories – but this year inventories in Southern California remain relatively flat. High gas-burn and slightly lower natural gas production have even led to a rare summer net withdrawal from storage.
Gas demand from the US power sector has been coming down from peak summer levels as the heat wave gradually abates, ending the need to tap gas storage. Analysts at Energy Aspects see gas burns for power over the two-week period ending August 12 averaging around 37.5 bcf/d, up by a modest 0.7 bcf/d year-on-year.