US natural gas consumption
In the week ended September 16, total US natural gas consumption fell 5.3% week-over-week. The fall was led by a 15% decrease in power sector consumption of natural gas.
Residential and commercial consumption saw an increase of 11.2% week-over-week.
Industrial consumption rose 1.2% in the same period.
Lower natural gas consumption is bearish for natural gas prices (UNG), which are bearish for gas producers such as Devon Energy (DVN), Southwestern Energy (SWN), Range Resources (RRC), and QEP Resources (QEP). These companies make up ~3% of the Vanguard Energy ETF (VDE). The lower consumption number is another likely reason for the drop in prices on Thursday, September 17.
Natural gas consumption forecasts for 2015
In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (or STEO) released on September 9, the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration) forecasts that total natural gas consumption will average 76.52 Bcf (billion cubic feet) per day in 2015 and 76.6 Bcf per day in 2016, compared to an estimated 73.5 Bcf per day in 2014.
The EIA forecast assumes that greater consumption in 2015 will result from increased demand from the industrial and electrical power sectors. Demand from the power sector is forecast to grow 14.4% in 2015. It’s then expected to fall 3.3% in 2016. Lower natural gas prices are expected to result in increased natural gas consumption for electricity generation in 2015.
Industrial consumption is forecast to rise 0.9% in 2015 and 6.4% in 2016 as a result of new industrial projects coming online, predominantly in the fertilizer and chemical sectors. Demand from the residential and commercial sectors is projected to fall in 2015 and 2016 due to better efficiency.