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Northeast Households Picking Gas, EIA Says

Northeast Households Picking Gas, EIA Says

Although the Northeast consumes a lower percentage of natural gas than does the rest of the nation, it ranks as the most popular energy fuel in regional households, according to a new study issued by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Natural gas accounted for 23%, or 3.27 quadrillion Btus (quads), of the 14 quads of energy that the region consumed in 1997, the most recent figures available, reported the Department of Energy's EIA last week in its "Regional Energy Profile: Northeast Data Abstract." This compares to natural gas' share of 24% of total U.S. energy consumption (94 quads) in 1997.

However, of the 20 million households in the Northeast region, natural gas was used in 9.2 million homes as the main heating fuel, and was followed by fuel oil in 7.1 million homes, and electricity in 2.3 million homes, said Barbara Fichman, an EIA energy industry specialist who authored the report. At the same time, about 45% of the commercial floor space was heated with natural gas, and 34% with fuel oil.

In contrast, the EIA study revealed that the demand rate for fuel oil (distillate, residual and home heating oil) as a heating fuel was significantly greater in the Northeast, accounting for 15.4% of total regional consumption in 1997, or 2.2 quads, compared to 9.7% nationwide in 1997. The study tracks energy demand in the Northeast Census Region, which includes the six New England states and three Middle Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania).

Overall, the study estimated that household energy consumption in the Northeast region was 2.4 quads, with the key sources listed as electricity (0.1 trillion kWh); natural gas (1 Tcf); and fuel oil 5.8 billion gallons. Significantly, it pointed out that while gas was used in more households, the region's consumption of electricity was greater. Also, Northeast customers paid more for electricity in 1997 ($17 billion), with natural gas coming in second at $9 billion and fuel oil next at $6 billion.

The unit costs for electricity, natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are higher in the Northeast than in the rest of the nation, according to EIA, but the average cost of energy, $13.64 per MMBtu, is similar because of the region's heavy dependency on fuel oil, which is the least expensive fuel on a Btu basis.

The EIA put the commercial energy demand in the Northeast at 1 quad in 1995, compared to 5.3 quads nationwide. Of that market, electricity accounted for 128 billion kWh, natural gas' share was 289 Bcf, and fuel oil's demand was 1.2 billion gallons. Annual expenditures by commercial customers for electricity were $13 billion, far exceeding those for gas ($2 billion) and fuel oil ($0.8 billion).

The study pegged energy by the Northeast manufacturing sector at 1,964 trillion Btu in 1994. EIA's Fichman conceded the figure was very low because it didn't include energy feedstocks for a number of industries, including forestry, mining, construction, agriculture, and fisheries. Also, it didn't factor in the energy demand (distillate, residual and gas) for public transportation fleets, railroads, aircraft, barges and gas pipelines.

Of the 1,964 trillion Btu demand figure, the EIA reported natural gas accounted for 518 trillion Btu; coal 458 trillion Btu; electricity 321 trillion Btu; residual fuel oil 152 trillion Btu; distillate fuel oil 42 trillion Btu; and LPG 34 trillion Btu. Again, the biggest annual expenditures were for electricity ($6 billion), followed by natural gas ($2 billion), and coal ($0.08 billion).

Susan Parker

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