Total U.S. marketed natural gas production remains at historically high levels but flattened during the first seven months of 2012, primarily in response to lower gas prices, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said last week.

“From January through July 2012, marketed natural gas production set a record high for the first seven months of any year, averaging 68.9 Bcf/d, up nearly 4 Bcf/d, or 5.9%, from the same period a year earlier,” EIA said. “While production was higher for each month from January through July 2012 compared to the same month a year earlier, monthly production has remained close to its level at the end of 2011.”

And when data for August becomes available, it “will likely show a significant drop in average daily production as Hurricane Isaac shut in many offshore wells for several days,” EIA said.

Isaac made landfall on the evening of Aug. 28 and ultimately disrupted gas processing operations for more than 10 Bcf/d of the 13.5 Bcf/d of total processing capacity along the Gulf Coast (see NGI, Sept. 17). Just prior to Isaac’s landfall, there were 25 processing plants in the affected area that were not undergoing maintenance, accounting for 12.6 Bcf/d of available capacity. However, widespread power outages, reduced gas flows and flooding threats reduced or curtailed operations at many of those plants.

Contributing to the overall flattening of natural gas production during the first seven months of the year were lower natural gas prices and comparatively high prices for natural gas liquids, which have prompted some producers to target liquids-rich portions of shale formations, EIA said.

In NGI‘s 4Q2011 Top North American Gas Marketers Ranking a cross section of natural gas marketers reported a total of 138.85 Bcf/d in sales. That number increased to 141.75 Bcf/d in NGI‘s 1Q2012 survey, a 2.9% increase. The same marketers reported 135.86 in NGI‘s 2Q2012 survey, a decrease compared with 1Q2011 and 4Q2012, but still a 4% increase compared with 2Q2011, about the same as EIA’s estimate.

NGI‘s marketer surveys rank companies on sales transactions only. An NGI analysis earlier this year of Form 552 filings found that total combined natural gas purchase and sales volumes reached 124,752 TBtu in 2011 (see NGI, June 4). The total yearly combined volume was the highest recorded since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission began releasing the data in 2009 (see NGI, June 29, 2009).

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