WASHINGTON — As working natural gas inventories continue to set new seasonal record highs amid an unusually warm winter, January spot prices hit the lowest average monthly price since 2002, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Short-Term Energy Outlook report. The natural gas spot prices averaged $2.67 per MMBtu at the Henry Hub in January, down $0.50 per MMBtu from the December 2011 average, the report says.
Abundant storage levels, as well as ample supply, have contributed to the recent low prices, EIA says. The agency expects the Henry Hub spot price will begin to recover after this winter’s inventory draw season ends and will average $3.35 per MMBtu in 2012 and $4.07 per MMBtu in 2013, down $0.18 per MMBtu and $0.07 per MMBtu from last month’s Outlook, respectively.
EIA expects that natural gas consumption will average 68.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2012, an increase of 1.6 Bcf/d (2.4 percent) from 2011.
Regular-grade gasoline retail prices averaged $3.53 per gallon in 2011, according to the report, which was $0.74 per gallon (27 percent) higher than the 2010 average. EIA expects the regular-grade gasoline retail price to average $3.55 per gallon in 2012. Forecast regular-grade gasoline prices increase to an average $3.59 per gallon in 2013.