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EIA Expects to Publish Results of New Producer Survey Starting in May

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects to publish the first natural gas production estimates from its new survey of 280 domestic gas producers (about 90% of total U.S. production) in May, said John Wood, director of reserves and production in the EIA's Dallas office. Wood said the May report will estimate domestic gas production for January and February 2005 and that by the end of September EIA will be estimating production on a two-month delay.

The new survey form EIA is using, Form 914, is expected to lead to a significant improvements compared to the current data collection system, which provides the information published in EIA's Natural Gas Monthly, Natural Gas Annual and contributes to the forecasts in the Short Term Energy Outlook, among other government reports. Wood said that not only will gas production estimates be more timely and more accurate, they also will lead to better forecasting. All of those improvements should benefit the gas market as a whole, he said.

"We shouldn't have those 6% errors any more," he said in an interview with NGI. "We ought to easily be able to stay within 2% [of total actual production]. And the absolute error that we tested is below 1%. But it will depend on our analysis and estimating techniques, and things can dramatically change." He also noted that the supply information will be more timely and will be subject to fewer revisions.

The EIA's production data will come out two months earlier than it does currently. The data EIA collects currently is compiled and edited by the states which submit revisions for years after initial reports. "The early preliminary data we get [currently] is incomplete and it takes too long to get edited and be made available to us," Wood noted. "There's also variability in the sample size in the current data." EIA never knows initially whether it is getting 85% or 90% of production.

The new producer survey, which was announced last year, will include requests for two main sets of data, gas gross withdrawals and natural gas lease production, from up to as many as 350 producers if needed, representing about 90% of the natural gas production in the Lower 48 states. EIA expects to be able to achieve a high degree of accuracy in estimating domestic gas production

The first submissions from producers will come in slow because EIA is giving producers time to make adjustments during the first six months. "But we'll be producing numbers that will available about 60 days after the actual production month by the July number," said Wood.

He said EIA expects to use its existing publications as the vehicles for reporting the new production estimates. "All of the series will be the same series that we have been trying to estimate [since 1977]."

Just as the natural gas storage report has gained a tremendous public interest, EIA expects this new supply report also will be watched closely.

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