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EIA: January Dry Gas Production Hits New Record

Dry natural gas production in the United States rose 11.6% in January from a year earlier to 2,047 Bcf gross, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported last week.

In its monthly report for March, which included the January numbers, EIA said the "other states" category, which includes all of the gas producing states except for Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, as well as production in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) -- basically, the Marcellus Shale and some emerging unconventional plays -- recorded the biggest uplift in production both year/year (y/y) and from December 2011.

The "other states" saw production jump to 665,116 MMcf in January from 543,223 MMcf in January 2011. Output also was up from December 2011's total of 653,397 MMcf.

All of the gas producing states showed gains y/y: Alaska, 319,849 MMcf from 239,280 MMcf; Louisiana, 273,076 MMcf from 226,870 MMcf; New Mexico, 113,736 MMcf from 107,008; Oklahoma, 166,560 MMcf from 155,786 MMcf; Texas, 689,114 MMcf from 655,623 MMcf; and Wyoming 206,143 MMcf from 200,409 MMcf. In the GOM gross gas production rose in January to 2.578 Bcf from 2.309 Bcf a year earlier.

Mild weather in the first month of the year also "created the lowest residential consumption, 802 Bcf, since 2006," or down about 5.1% from a year earlier, said government analysts. Underground storage net withdrawals also were the lowest for January since 2006 at 545 Bcf.

Also last week EIA revised downward by 21% its projection for gas prices this year, citing abundant storage levels and prolific production (see related story). In its Short-Term Energy Outlook for April, EIA said 2012 gas prices likely will average $2.51/MMBtu, down from a March projection of $3.17/MMBtu. Natural gas spot prices averaged $2.18/MMBtu at the Henry Hub in March, the lowest average month price since April 1999, EIA noted.

According to the EIA's January data, gross withdrawals of gas averaged 83.2 Bcf/d in January, which were the highest output levels since records were kept beginning in 1980. Gas consumption was higher than gross withdrawal levels in January by around 6%, compared with 24.6% in January 2011, EIA noted.

Gas marketed in January averaged 69.3 Bcf/d, up 8.9% from a year earlier. Consumption topped gross withdrawals in January by just 6%, compared with 24.6% a year earlier. That was the narrowest gap between those figures in January on EIA data beginning in 2001.

The combination of weak demand and high production lifted the volume of working gas in storage at the end of January to a record of 2.916 Tcf at the end of the month, which was 26.5% higher than at the end of January 2011.

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