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Natural gas storage levels drop

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The United States finished the winter with the lowest natural gas storage levels since 2014 amid changing national and global usage patterns.

The country's storage stocks dipped to 1.14 trillion cubic feet at the end of March, down 491 billion cubic feet, or 30 percent, from the five-year average for that time of year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report.

The winter withdrawal season is considered to be Nov. 1 through March 31. Stocks began the winter with almost 3.2 trillion cubic feet in storage, the lowest level since 2002.

Winter storage usage largely is dependent on weather patterns. The withdrawal season started early with colder-than-normal temperatures in November, which led to larger-than-normal withdrawals of 206 billion cubic feet, which is almost twice the five-year average of 106 billion cubic feet for the month, the report stated.

Withdrawals slowed in December, dipping to 320 billion cubic feet, compared to the five-year average of 523 billion cubic feet for the last month of the year.

The largest weekly net withdrawal of the season was the week ending Feb. 1, when withdrawals reached 237 billion cubic feet and total U.S. natural gas consumption was about 899 billion cubic feet, the report stated.

Natural gas demand still is stronger in the winter months than in the summer, but the patterns are changing. The fuel increasingly is being used for electricity generation — which increases in the summer — and for year-round chemicals production and as a transportation fuel.

Producers also hope the growing liquefied natural gas export market will increase year-round usage, helping to level out the seasonal demand swings.

The export effort received a boost Thursday when the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved two new export terminals along the Gulf Coast.

The Driftwood LNG facility in Louisiana is scheduled to export up to 3.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, while Sempra Energy's Port Arthur LNG in Port Arthur, Texas, is expected to have a capacity of about 1.8 billion cubic feet per day.

Adam Wilmoth

Adam Wilmoth returned to The Oklahoman as energy editor in 2012 after working for four years in public relations. He previously spent seven years as a business reporter at The Oklahoman, including five years covering the state's energy sector.... Read more ›

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