Withdrawals from natural gas storage this winter were lowest since 2015–16
Working natural gas in storage in the Lower 48 states as of March 31, 2020, totaled 2,008 billion cubic feet (Bcf), 19% more than the previous five-year (2015–19) average for the end of the heating season, according to EIA’s Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report. The 2019–20 heating season, which ran from November 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, ended with the most working natural gas in storage since the 2016–17 winter, with 1,718 Bcf in net withdrawals, the least in four winters. Continued growth in natural gas production and relatively mild winter temperatures accounted for relatively higher inventory levels.
Working U.S. natural gas stocks entered the heating season at 3,575 Bcf, nearly the same as the average over the previous five years. The 2019–20 U.S. heating season was characterized by periods of significantly warmer-than-normal temperatures. Heating degree days (HDD), a temperature-based indicator of heating demand, were 10% less this winter than the 30-year normal (1981–2010) and were higher than normal for only one week in November during this heating season.
EIA expects total working gas inventory to remain higher than the previous five-year average through the 2020 refill season (April 1–October 31). EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecasts natural gas production to decline from year-ago levels this summer. These production declines, combined with growth in natural gas exports, will lead to smaller net injections into working gas storage through the refill season.
EIA expects that inventories will total 3,904 Bcf by the end of the 2020 refill season, or 185 Bcf more than the previous five-year average and 252 Bcf more than last year. EIA’s April 2020 STEO forecast is subject to heightened uncertainty because of economic slowdown and significant recent changes in energy markets.