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Mild Weather Pushes Natural Gas Spot Prices Lower

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(Photo: © iStockphoto/naumoid)

Staff Writer |

WASHINGTON — Mild weather over the past winter contributed to natural gas working inventories that continue to set new record seasonal highs, with April ending at an estimated 2.61 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), about 46% more than the same time last year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) average 2012 Henry Hub natural gas spot price forecast is $2.45 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), a decline of $1.55 per MMBtu from the 2011 average spot price. EIA expects that Henry Hub spot prices will average $3.17 per MMBtu in 2013.

EIA expects electricity generation from coal to decline by about 15% in 2012 as generation from natural gas increases by about 24%. EIA forecasts that electricity generation from coal will increase by about 4% in 2013, as projected coal prices fall slightly while natural gas prices increase, allowing coal to regain some of its power generation share.

With global crude oil prices falling over the past month, EIA has lowered the average regular gasoline retail price forecast for the current April-through-September summer driving season to $3.79 per gallon, 16 cents per gallon below the level in the previous Short-Term Energy Outlook Report.

EIA expects regular gasoline retail prices to average $3.71 per gallon in 2012 and $3.67 per gallon in 2013, compared with $3.53 per gallon in 2011.

EIA’s current forecast of the average U.S. refiner acquisition cost of crude oil in 2012 is $110 per barrel, which is $2.50 per barrel lower than in last month’s Outlook, but still about $8 per barrel higher than last year’s average price. EIA expects the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil to average about $104 per barrel in 2012, about $2 per barrel lower than the forecast in last month’s Outlook, but $9 per barrel higher than the 2011 average price. EIA expects crude oil prices to remain relatively flat in 2013.

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