The year 2012 was one for the record books, with US natural gas production reaching an all-time high and average gas demand hitting 70 Bcf/d, the highest level on record, staff at the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Thursday.
At the same time, natural gas prices fell to a 10-year low last year, with the spot price at Henry Hub averaging $2.74/MMBtu, down 31% from 2011, staff said at the commission's monthly meeting.
"Contributing to the price decrease was a 5% growth in US natural gas production, a 10% drop in residential and commercial natural gas demand due to one of the warmest winters on record in the first quarter of 2012, and high storage levels," staff said.Natural gas demand for power generation grew to a record 25 Bcf/d in 2012, a 21% increase from 2011, FERC staff said. "For the first time ever, natural gas used for power generation was greater than the combined residential and commercial gas demand."
Pipeline exports of gas to Mexico increased 24% in 2012 and exports of Marcellus shale gas to Canada started in the last half of the year, staff said.
In response to a question from Commissioner John Norris, staff said exports to Mexico are on par with the capacity of Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas export project under construction in Louisiana.
"When I look at exports to Mexico, 1.7 Bcf/d is very close to Cheniere's 2 Bcf/d export capacity," Omar Cabrales of FERC's Office of Enforcement said.
Electricity prices nationwide dropped in 2012, with prices in the East 10%-31% lower than 2011 and prices in the West 6%-23% lower, staff said.