Natural gas spot prices in 2019 were the lowest they’ve been in three years, and the affordable gas spurred higher consumption in the electric sector and higher exports, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Henry Hub spot prices averaged $2.57/MMBtu in 2019, down about 60 cents from 2018. That also marks the lowest annual average price since 2016, EIA said in a recent research note.
After some price spikes at key regional hubs toward the end of the 2018/2019 winter, EIA said spot prices remained “relatively low and stable from April through December.”
Prices were lower on average in 2019, but it was also a year of extremes in the spot market, EIA said citing Natural Gas Intelligence data. Supply constraints and an intense cold blast sent Northwest Sumas soaring to a record-setting, astronomical peak of $200/MMBtu in early March. On the other end of the spectrum, the glut of associated gas in the crude-focused Permian Basin sent Waha into an abyss of negative prices.
EIA estimates show a 2% year/year increase in residential/commercial demand in 2019.
“Natural gas use in the electric generation sector also increased in 2019, particularly in July and August when a heat wave in the Midwest and Northeast led to record-high generation by natural gas-fired power plants,” the agency said.
That higher generation was supported by lower prices during summer 2019. From June through August, Henry Hub averaged $2.33, the lowest summer average Henry Hub price since 1998, according to EIA.
Dry natural gas production continued to help drive down prices in 2019, the agency noted. EIA measured 7.5 Bcf/d (9%) of incremental production for the first 10 months of 2019, which follows record 2018 production growth.
On the exports front, EIA data show pipeline exports to Mexico averaged 5.1 Bcf/d for the first 10 months of 2019, a 0.4 Bcf/d increase from 2018 levels.
“Following an expansion in U.S. cross-border pipeline capacity, several new pipelines in Mexico continued to experience delays, limiting growth in exports,” EIA said.
Of course, U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports also reached new highs in 2019 as new export facilities entered service. EIA estimates that exports averaged 5.0 Bcf/d for 2019, a new record high and 69% more than 2018 levels.
LNG exports have continued on an upward trajectory heading into 2020. Data from NGI’s LNG Insight show feed gas deliveries to U.S. LNG export facilities consistently topping 8 million Dth/d since the start of the new year.