New Natural Gas Record for Power Generation Set

Tom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW

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A new natural gas record was recently set for use of this energy source in producing electric power that sustains our way of living in this nation, says EIA.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) put out a fascinating article last week that should make the hair go up on the back of fractivists and warm the hearts, not to mention the homes, of others. Of course, lately we’ve needed to cool our homes rather than warm them, but natural gas converted to electricity does that for us, too. We just set a new natural gas  record, in fact, for doing that.

Here is the story about our new natural gas record (emphasis added):

The United States likely set a new daily record on Friday, July 19, of 44.5 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for natural gas consumption by electric power plants, according to S&P Global Platts. U.S. power sector natural gas consumption exceeded the previous record of 43.1 Bcf—set on July 16, 2018—on five days in July. Higher-than-normal temperatures and relatively low natural gas prices contributed to increased natural gas consumption by electric generators.

new natural gas record

Higher electricity demand for air conditioning during a heat wave from July 15 through July 22 drove the increased power generation, especially from natural gas-fired generators. Although the highest temperatures occurred during the weekend, most states east of the Rocky Mountains experienced warmer-than-normal weather in the days leading up to the heat wave. From July 16 through July 21, the average maximum temperature exceeded 85°F in most parts of the country.

Relatively low natural gas prices have also led to higher natural gas-fired generation this summer. According to Natural Gas Intelligence, natural gas spot prices at the Henry Hub in Louisiana averaged $2.33 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) from July 16 through July 21. So far this summer (June 1–August 1), Henry Hub prices have averaged $2.31/MMBtu, 19% lower than during the same period last year.

Spot natural gas prices elsewhere in the country have been even lower than those at Henry Hub. Natural gas prices at the Chicago Citygate—the regional price benchmark for Midwestern states—have averaged 19¢/MMBtu lower than Henry Hub prices so far this summer. Regional spot prices in the Northeast (such as Dominion South in western Pennsylvania) have traded 30¢/MMBtu lower than Henry Hub.

In recent years, many natural gas-fired generators have come online throughout the country, especially in the PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization (RTO) responsible for managing wholesale electricity in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Based on data in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, more than 12 gigawatts (GW) of new natural gas-fired electric generation capacity―primarily highly efficient combined-cycle units―have entered service in PJM since the beginning of 2018. The new capacity has increased total natural gas-fired capacity in the region by 17% and accounts for 55% of the total natural gas combined-cycle capacity added in the nation.

new natural gas record

For the past few years, natural gas-fired power plants have been dispatched in PJM at higher levels during periods of increased demand. On July 19, in the hour ending 6:00 p.m. ET, PJM dispatched a total of 155 GW, 66 GW (or 43%) of which was met by natural gas-fired generators. In comparison, 43 GW of coal-fired generation capacity, the second-highest fuel source on that day, was dispatched in that hour.

new natural gas record

Notice how combined-cycle natural gas plants are contributing to the new natural gas record? That’s because these plants have capacity factors roughly twice those of renewables and they offer immediately dispatchable power right when it’s needed. Renewables can’t do that. This is why they amount to nothing in the big picture as far as the PJM is concerned. Coal will do the same thing as gas, of course, but then you have the CO2, the SO2, the NOX, the PM 2.5, etc. That’s why natural gas is setting records for electric power production and why fractivists are sitting at a bar somewhere crying to a bartender who’s sick of them already.

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One thought on “New Natural Gas Record for Power Generation Set

  1. Even natgas – hating New England has routinely been getting 60%+ of their electricity from Combined Cycle plants … highest percentage – actually – than anywhere else in the country.

    The efficiencies of these new plants are just blowing away all competition.
    Quickly dispatchable with ramp times measured in minutes, these plants do not burn fuel, in general, unless they are selling electricity into the pricier demand hours of mid morning, early evening.

    In a somewhat related vein, the Gas to Power movement is taking off on a global scale.
    From tiny Benin and New Caledonia ranging up to the massive Sergipe, Brazil project, deliverable LNG via floating regasifiers (FSRUs) are offering economical electricity in far flung regions heretofore deemed not viable.

    Different world rapidly opening up before our eyes, folks.

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