OPEC shudders as shale revolution could spell demise


Natural gas continues to rock. In the short end demand is supporting prices. Naureen Malik of Bloomberg News reports, “Near-record natural gas demand from U.S. electricity generators is driving prices back up toward $4 for the first time since September 2011 even as output climbs to an all-time high for the sixth straight year.  Producers including Duke Energy Corp., NRG Energy Corp., Southern Co. and Dynegy Inc. say they plan to run their gas- fired units this year at close to the top rates of 2012. Plants burned 24.96 billion cubic feet of gas a day last year, up 4.21 billion from a year earlier and a bigger gain than in the five previous years combined. Gas futures have rebounded 94% since trading at a 10-year low last April as utilities switched from coal and unusually hot weather spurred cooling demand. Power-plant consumption of gas may come close to, or even exceed, 2012 levels as the fuel retains a cost advantage over coal in the eastern U.S. and the economy grows, according to BNP Paribas SA and ConocoPhillips. That contrasts with an Energy Information Administration projection that demand for gas will slide 7.5% this year.

The EIA also is reporting that nuclear outages in 2012 were generally higher than in recent years because of extended forced and planned outages at four nuclear power plants, and they continued into the new year. Coupled with the beginning of spring refueling outages, outage levels in early 2013 are above those seen in the previous five.

Big picture the demand outlook is improving as U.S. exports will start to happen. In a small way they are already happening! The Energy Information Administration is telling us that U.S. natural gas exports to Mexico have already reached a record high in 2012. This was a country we were looking to depend on for natural gas just a few years ago. U.S. natural gas exports to Mexico grew by 24% to 1.69 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2012, the highest level since the data collection began in 1973. With imports now accounting for over 30% of its total supply, Mexico's natural gas use is also at its highest level ever.

Natural Gas consumption is rising faster in Mexico than natural gas production, and as a result, Mexico is relying more on natural gas imports from the United States. Between 2007 and 2011, natural gas consumption in Mexico rose 4% per year on average, while average annual natural gas production climbed only 1.2%. Growing demand in the industrial sector drove the increases in natural gas consumption in Mexico to a record-high level in 2011, according to Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX)—the state-run oil and natural gas producer in Mexico.

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