Friday, October 24, 2014

The Big Kahuna Helps Keep a Lid on NatGas Prices

The EIA has been updating a variation of the chart below showing production from the main gas shale plays for the past couple of years (I cleaned it up by consolidating it into the major plays):

It's pretty remarkable how much shale gas has been produced over the past half decade. But, as one can clearly see, growth over the past several years has been driven mainly by the Marcellus Shale (light blue in chart above).  Taking that same data and charting the twelve month trailing trends (i.e. 12 months of trailing data from November 2011 versus 12 months of trailing data from November 2010) shows the trend more clearly:

The Marcellus (which I combined with the Utica because of proximity) has shown unyielding strong growth since the beginning of 2011.  The Haynesville grew quickly through mid-2011 but cratered through the beginning of 2014.  (While the red line above looks like an improvement it only indicates that Haynesville production is starting to level out in recent months from a steep decline.)  The Eagle Ford has had gradual growth since early 2011, but the Barnett and Fayetteville have been on a slow downward path since early 2011. As of September 2014, the Marcellus now represents 39.4% of all shale gas produced in the U.S.:

Why is this important?  As the natural gas storage injection draws to a close, the EIA expects 2014 to be a record injection season driven by mild summer temperatures that suppressed consumption and record natural gas production.  And what is driving this record production?  Certainly not the Haynesville!  It's the Marcellus/Utica.  So, looking forward, production continues to rise in the Marcellus and the NOAA predicts an uneventful winter,

which should lower consumption versus last year.

This should lead storage levels to continue to return to the range of the five year average,

which should keep a lid on natural gas prices for the next six months.

The EIA predicts that the 2014 injection season will end at 3.532 Tcf (139 Bcf higher than today) and that the winter draw-down will be 1.998 Tcf.  That prediction would leave the storage level at 1.534 Tcf in March 2015, which is about 122 Bcf below the five year average.  All of these are predictions that could be way off, but the way it looks today, an average winter and growing production from the Big Kahuna in the Northeast should conspire to moderate natural gas prices for the winter.

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