The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released its Short Term Energy Outlook, which includes the Administration's Winter Fuels Outlook. Concerning the winter fuels outlook, EIA forecasts a rise in home heating expenses this year. Those price increases vary by fuel type, but are driven in part by forecasts for increased demand as more citizens work from home. In addition, EIA says the number of heating degree days will increase by 5% over year-ago, thanks to expectations for cooler temperatures. Of note, EIA says, "Home heating oil expenditures in EIA’s forecast fall by 10%, driven primarily by a combination of low crude oil prices and high distillate fuel oil supplies heading into the winter." That will likely pressure farm diesel prices as well.
The report acknowledges the uncertainty and shifting demand patterns related to COVID-19 and fully expects those changing fundamentals to have an impact on energy use and supply distribution through the winter months. The Administration expects crude oil and fuels demand to remain muted, limiting upside risk for both. The report reads, "EIA reported that U.S. crude oil production averaged 11.0 million b/d in July (the most recent month for which historical data are available), up 0.5 million b/d from June. In May, U.S. crude oil production reached a two-and-a-half-year low of 10.0 million b/d, resulting from curtailed production amid low oil prices."
Natural gas prices are expected to spike to an average of $3.38/MMBtu in January, up significantly from September's average at $1.92 on increasing demand both domestically and in the export market. EIA forecasts spot natural gas prices to hold above $3.00 on average for the entirety of 2021 on lower production forecasts amid notably higher withdrawals.
Overall, electricity and home heating prices are expected to rise through the winter. Natural gas prices are headed higher and crude oil prices carry little risk of spiking to the upside. Visit EIA.gov to view the full report. I have posted highlights from EIA's October Short Term Energy Outlook, which include more specific details on the above and more, below...
- EIA forecasts that average household expenditures for all major home heating fuels, except heating oil, will increase this winter largely because of higher expected energy consumption. Average increases vary by fuel. Compared with last winter, EIA forecasts natural gas expenditures will increase by 6%, electricity by 7%, and propane by 14%. Home heating oil expenditures in EIA’s forecast fall by 10%, driven primarily by a combination of low crude oil prices and high distillate fuel oil supplies heading into the winter. EIA generally expects more space heating demand this winter compared with last winter based on forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that indicate colder winter temperatures. U.S. average heating degree days in this forecast are 5% higher than last winter. In addition, EIA expects that ongoing 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mitigation efforts and more people working and attending school at home will contribute to higher levels of home heating use this winter than in previous years.
- The October Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) remains subject to heightened levels of uncertainty because mitigation and reopening efforts related to COVID-19 continue to evolve. Reduced economic activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes in energy demand and supply patterns in 2020 and will continue to affect these patterns in the future. This STEO assumes U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 4.4% in the first half of 2020 from the same period a year ago. It assumes that GDP will rise beginning in the third quarter of 2020, and will grow 3.5% year-over-year in 2021. The U.S. macroeconomic assumptions in this outlook are based on forecasts by IHS Markit.
- Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $41 per barrel (b) in September, down $4/b from the average in August. The decrease in oil prices coincided with slowing increases in global oil demand. Month-over-month consumption rose by 1.0 million b/d on average during August and September compared with an increase of 4.1 million b/d from May through July. EIA estimates that global oil markets have shifted from global liquid fuels inventories building at a rate of 7.3 million barrels per day (b/d) in the second quarter of 2020 to drawing at a rate of 3.1 million b/d in the third quarter. EIA expects inventory draws in the fourth quarter to be 3.0 million b/d before markets become more balanced, with inventory draws of 0.3 million b/d on average in 2021. Despite expected inventory draws in the coming months, EIA expects high inventory levels and surplus crude oil production capacity will limit upward pressure on oil prices. EIA forecasts monthly Brent spot prices will average $42/b during the fourth quarter of 2020 and will rise to an average of $47/b in 2021.
- EIA estimates that global consumption of petroleum and liquid fuels averaged 95.3 million b/d in September. Liquid fuels consumption was down 6.4 million b/d from September 2019, but it was up from an average of 85.1 million b/d during the second quarter of 2020 and 93.9 million b/d in August. EIA forecasts that global consumption of petroleum and liquid fuels will average 92.8 million b/d for all of 2020, down by 8.6 million b/d from 2019, before increasing by 6.3 million b/d in 2021. EIA’s forecast for consumption growth in 2021 is 0.3 million b/d less than in the September STEO.
- EIA reported that U.S. crude oil production averaged 11.0 million b/d in July (the most recent month for which historical data are available), up 0.5 million b/d from June. In May, U.S. crude oil production reached a two-and-a-half-year low of 10.0 million b/d, resulting from curtailed production amid low oil prices. Since then, U.S. production has increased mainly because tight oil operators have brought wells back online in response to rising prices. EIA estimates that production rose to 11.2 million b/d in September. However, EIA expects U.S. crude oil production to generally decline to average of 11.0 million b/d in the second quarter of 2021 because new drilling activity will not generate enough production to offset declines from existing wells. EIA expects drilling activity to rise later in 2021, contributing to U.S. crude oil production returning to 11.2 million b/d in the fourth quarter of 2021. On an annual average basis, EIA expects U.S. crude oil production to fall from 12.2 million b/d in 2019 to 11.5 million b/d in 2020 and 11.1 million b/d in 2021.
- In September, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $1.92 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), down from an average of $2.30/MMBtu in August. Lower natural gas spot prices reflected declining demand for natural gas from the U.S. electric power sector as a result of cooler-than-normal temperatures during the second half of September and relatively low demand for U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports amid hurricane-related activity in the Gulf of Mexico. EIA expects that rising domestic demand for natural gas and demand for LNG exports heading into winter, combined with reduced production, will cause Henry Hub spot prices to rise to a monthly average of $3.38/MMBtu in January 2021. EIA expects that monthly average spot prices will remain higher than $3.00/MMBtu throughout 2021, averaging $3.13/MMBtu for the year, up from a forecast average of $2.07/MMBtu in 2020.
- EIA estimates that total U.S. working natural gas in storage ended September at more than 3.8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), 12% more than the five-year (2015–19) average. In the forecast, EIA expects inventories to be more than 4.0 Tcf on October 31, which would be a record high. However, because expected natural gas production will be lower this winter than last winter, EIA forecasts inventory draws will outpace the five-year average during the heating season and end March 2021 at 1.7 Tcf, which would be 6% lower than the 2016–20 average.
- EIA expects that total U.S. consumption of natural gas will average 83.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2020, down 1.8% from 2019. The decline in total U.S. consumption reflects less heating demand in early 2020, contributing to residential and commercial demand in 2020 averaging 13.1 Bcf/d (down 0.7 Bcf/d from 2019) and 8.7 Bcf/d (down 0.9 Bcf/d from 2019), respectively. EIA forecasts industrial consumption will average 22.3 Bcf/d in 2020, down 0.8 Bcf/d from 2019 as a result of reduced manufacturing activity. EIA expects total U.S. natural gas consumption will average 78.7 Bcf/d in 2021, a 5.9% decline from 2020. The expected decline in 2021 is the result of rising natural gas prices that will reduce demand for natural gas in the electric power sector.
- EIA forecasts U.S. dry natural gas production will average 90.6 Bcf/d in 2020, down from an average of 93.1 Bcf/d in 2019. In the forecast, monthly average production falls from a record 97.0 Bcf/d in December 2019 to 85.9 Bcf/d in May 2021, before increasing slightly. Natural gas production declines the most in the Permian region, where EIA expects low crude oil prices will reduce associated natural gas output from oil-directed rigs. EIA’s forecast of dry natural gas production in the United States averages 86.8 Bcf/d in 2021. EIA expects production to begin rising in the second quarter of 2021 in response to higher natural gas and crude oil prices.
- EIA estimates that U.S. LNG exports averaged 4.9 Bcf/d in September, an increase of 1.2 Bcf/d from August. Higher global forward prices indicate improving netbacks for buyers of U.S. LNG in European and Asian markets for the upcoming fall and winter seasons. The increased prices come amid expectations of natural gas demand recovery and potential LNG supply reductions because of maintenance at the Gorgon LNG plant in Australia. EIA forecasts that U.S. LNG exports will return to pre-COVID levels by November 2020 and will average more than 9.0 Bcf/d from December 2020 through February 2021.
- EIA forecasts 2.2% less electricity consumption in the United States in 2020 compared with 2019. EIA expects retail sales of electricity to fall by 6.2% this year in the commercial sector and by 5.6% in the industrial sector. EIA forecasts residential sector retail sales will increase by 3.2% in 2020. Milder winter temperatures earlier in the year led to lower consumption for space heating, offset by increased summer cooling demand and increased electricity use by more people working and attending classes from home. In 2021, EIA forecasts total U.S. electricity consumption will be similar to 2020 consumption. Higher forecast electricity consumption in the first quarter of 2021 because of an increase in demand for space heating is mostly offset by lower forecast electricity consumption in the third quarter of 2021 because of less cooling demand based on NOAA forecast of fewer cooling degree days.
- EIA expects the share of U.S. electric power sector generation from natural gas-fired power plants will increase from 37% in 2019 to 39% this year. In 2021, the forecast natural gas share declines to 34% in response to higher natural gas prices. Coal’s forecast share of electricity generation falls from 24% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 and then returns to 24% in 2021. Electricity generation from renewable energy sources rises from 17% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 and to 22% in 2021. The increase in the share from renewables is the result of planned additions to wind and solar generating capacity. EIA expects 3% declines in nuclear generation in both 2020 and 2021, reflecting recent and planned retirements of nuclear generating capacity. The nuclear share of U.S. generation remains close to 20% in all years.
- In 2020, EIA expects U.S. residential electricity prices to average 13.1 cents per kilowatthour, which would be 0.4% higher than the average electricity price in 2019. Annual changes in regional residential electricity prices range from 1.4% lower prices in the South Atlantic region to 4.0% higher prices in the Pacific region.
- EIA forecasts that renewable energy will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation in 2020. EIA expects the U.S. electric power sector will add 23.3 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity in 2020 and 7.3 GW of new capacity in 2021. Expected utility-scale solar capacity rises by 13.7 GW of in 2020 and by 11.8 GW in 2021.
- EIA expects total U.S. coal production in 2020 to be 525 million short tons (MMst), compared with 705 MMst in 2019, a 26% decrease. COVID-19 and efforts to mitigate it along with reduced demand from the U.S. electric power sector amid low natural gas prices have contributed to mine idling and mine closures. EIA expects production to rise to 625 MMst in 2021, up 19% from 2020. This forecast increase reflects rising demand for coal from U.S. electricity generators because of higher natural gas prices compared with 2020.
- EIA forecasts that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, after decreasing by 2.6% in 2019 from the previous year’s level, will decrease by 10% (536 million metric tons) in 2020 as a result of reduced consumption of all fossil fuels. EIA expects emissions from coal will be down 19% from 2019 and emissions from petroleum will be down 13% from 2019. This decline in emissions is the result of less energy consumption related to slowing economic growth related to COVID-19 and efforts to mitigate it. In 2021, EIA forecasts that energy-related CO2 emissions will increase by 5.4% from the 2020 level as the economy recovers and energy use increases.