Richard Meyer Natural Gas Storage Capably Poised As Winter Approaches

One of the largest slices of the United States’ natural gas supply pie is underground storage. Natural gas withdrawals from storage during winter months and injections during summer help manage seasonal swings in demand, a critical feature of meeting physical supply needs as well as helping stabilize natural gas prices.

natural gas supply polar vortex 2014 Natural Gas Storage Capably Poised As Winter ApproachesThe critical importance of having adequate gas in place to meet winter heating demand is one reason market observers focus on storage volumes and gauge the pace of injections each summer.

After last winter’s polar vortex, which brought persistent cold and record natural gas demand, storage stocks hit troughs not touched in a decade. Given the depths that storage levels plunged by winter’s end, many observers wondered or even worried whether storage refills would put sufficient supplies in place for the following winter.

Well, the market responded and supplies have returned to a strong position. But what happened between then and now?

First is that natural gas production has continued to grow steadily. Dry gas production is up five percent or three Bcf per day during the past year (March through October). New production volumes mean more flowing gas is available for storage.

The second reason is that cooler summer weather eased demand. Summer temperatures were down four percent compared with 2013. Those areas of the country that happen to have the most storage fields, such as the Gulf Coast, Upper Midwest, Northeast and even the Mountain region, coincidentally saw steeper drops in temperatures year over year. Cooler weather meant less air conditioning and electric demand, which led to lower volumes of natural gas directed to power generation.

natural gas supply map Natural Gas Storage Capably Poised As Winter Approaches

Regional Temperatures Relative to 2013
(May – Sept % Change in Cooling Degree Days)

The confluence of record production and reduced demand has led to a record injection season. Since the end of April, natural gas volumes directed into storage have averaged nearly 14 Bcf per day. This is a considerably strong pace of injections compared with the five-year average of only 10 Bcf per day.

natural gas supply storage build and incremental production Natural Gas Storage Capably Poised As Winter ApproachesSo where does that put us? As of October 10, the U.S. has about 3,300 Bcf of working gas in storage. Before the end of the injection season, stocks are likely to climb to about 3,500 Bcf or perhaps even more. While this level is below last year’s pre-winter storage peak, which was about 3,800 Bcf, this amount of working gas in storage is still a healthy position for the market when additional production is factored in.

Production since June is about 2.3 Bcf per day above last winter’s average volumes. These incremental production volumes could serve an additional 350 Bcf or more though the winter. When considered alongside storage, the country’s natural gas supply portfolio is robust.

Recent reports suggest another polar vortex could be in store this winter. Weather prognostication is a tricky business, but either way the industry appears ready. Last year’s polar vortex was a stress test and the industry performed. Looking ahead toward this winter, the industry is capably poised yet again to meet another winter.

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Lisa Dundon Certified Green

AmGasMagCoverWebOct2 232x300 Certified GreenThe work sites of many natural gas compressor stations, storage facilities, and transmission and distribution lines sit on thousands of acres of land. Thanks in part to partnerships between the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) and America’s natural gas utilities, the land has become a healthy habitat for desirable wildlife and vegetation.

The cover story for the October issues of American Gas magazine, titled “Certified Green,” focuses on the ways the WHC helps a range of businesses develop good environmental stewardships practices for their working lands. While many of the energy companies WHC works with are already using the techniques they espouse, having a stamp of approval from an objective third party help build credibility and goodwill with customers, employees and regulators. Among the AGA member utilities that have met WHC’s “Wildlife at Work” program standards, which exceed state and federal regulatory requirements, are DTE Energy, Spectra Energy and Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE).

Nearly three dozen DTE work sites have been WHC-certified over the past decade, including an 80-acre compressor site and a nearby 2,360-acre underground natural gas storage reservoir. Deer and wild turkey wander on the site of pipes, engines and equipment, while waterfowl paddle around a lake and an on-site cooling pond.

In 2007, WHC helped EQT develop a plan to assuage the concerns of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the local community when the natural gas producer built a pipeline through eastern Kentucky. As part of the plan to ensure biodiversity, EQT used a native seed mix for its erosion control and vegetative cover requirements. Since 2011, when Spectra Energy acquired the pipeline from EQT, the utility has planted saplings along the right-of-way and remained a certified Wildlife at Work habitat.

Beginning in 2008, BGE worked with WHC to “green” its major hub for gas distribution lines as well as maintenance and construction activity. The 72-acre site now boasts the longest continuous riparian buffer in Baltimore and adjacent wetlands, four large grassy fields inhabited by Canada geese and birds, and a pollinator garden full of plants and scrubs for bees and butterflies.

To read the full article, click here. To see more from the October issue of the magazine, click here.

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Christina Nyquist Announcing the AGA Peer Review Program: Further Elevating the Safety of Natural Gas Delivery

1 200x300 Announcing the AGA Peer Review Program: Further Elevating the Safety of Natural Gas DeliveryOn October 15, AGA announced a new voluntary safety initiative for local natural gas utilities throughout North America. The National AGA Peer Review Program is a peer-to-peer safety and operational practices review program that will allow AGA member companies to observe their peers, share leading practices and identify opportunities to better serve customers and communities. While other industries have implemented various forms of peer review processes as part of their safety efforts, this marks the first time the natural gas utility sector will undertake such an effort at the national level.

How it Works:

Beginning in January 2015, companies from the more than 200 local natural gas utilities that make up AGA’s membership will volunteer to participate in peer groups, sending experienced natural gas operators, engineers and safety experts to visit one another’s facilities and conduct detailed reviews focused on key aspects of safety culture, pipeline and employee safety. As AGA’s Vice President of Operations and Engineering Christina Sames said, the AGA Peer Review Program gives participants the opportunity to “have the absolute best minds in the industry – working professionals who are experts in their field – collaborate with other utilities to help identify what is working well and where there are opportunities for improvement.”

Elevating Safety:

This initiative is just the latest development in the industry’s continuing effort to elevate the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to homes and businesses. Safety is a core value for AGA and its member companies. There is robust oversight and regulation focused on the natural gas industry to help ensure safety and reliability, and utilities work with public officials, regulators, safety advocates and other key stakeholders continually further these efforts. Additionally, the industry advances safety even further through voluntary actions and continued improvements to delivery systems as part of their Commitment to Enhancing Safety. In total, natural gas utilities spend more than $19 billion annually to monitor, maintain and upgrade natural gas distribution and transmission systems.

How You Can Help Enhance Safety:

While the AGA Peer Review Program will add to the industry’s ongoing work to help ensure safe and reliable natural gas delivery, you are an important part of the process. As a customer or member of the community there are a few important ways to stay safe around natural gas.

  • Report the smell of natural gas immediately to your local natural gas utility. Natural gas is odorized with Mercaptan – which smells like rotten eggs – to help detect natural gas leaks.
  • Make sure natural gas appliances and fuel lines are properly maintained.
  • Call 811 before any digging or excavation project – even planting trees or flowers.
  • Spread the word about safe digging. Excavation damage is the leading cause of pipeline incidents in the United States, but progress is being made thanks to public awareness efforts.
  • Pay attention to safety communications from your local utility. Look for bill inserts, ads, or follow their social media channels to stay informed.

Learn more about the AGA Peer Review Program and Natural Gas Safety:

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Richard Meyer Natural Gas Market Indicators: Oct. 15, 2014

The supply build for the United States is strong. Increased dry gas production coupled with relatively cooler weather this summer have bolstered natural gas storage injections and strengthened underground stocks that were at decadal lows following last winter’s polar vortex.

Since the end of March, injections of natural gas into underground storage have been at a record pace and well above the five-year average. Even with the rapid rate of injections, the deep starting point that stocks began the injection season still means storage volumes are about 10 percent below last year. Despite this, production is strong too. October dry gas volumes are 5.3 Bcf per day higher than last year, an incredible eight percent gain.

With production and storage factors considered, the strong supply outlook is reflected on a relatively narrow NYMEX natural gas pricing band between $3.85 and $4.00 for the upcoming winter heating season.

Visit this link to download the full Natural Gas Market Indicators report. Topics covered in this week’s report include: Reported Prices, Weather, Working Gas in Underground Storage, Natural Gas Production, Shale Gas, Rig Counts, Pipeline Imports and Exports, and LNG Markets.

Please direct questions and comments to Chris McGill at or Richard Meyer at

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