EIA Releases February’s Short-Term Energy Outlook
Global Liquid Fuels
- North Sea Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $69 per barrel (b) in January, an increase of $5/b from the December level. Monthly average Brent prices have increased for seven consecutive months, and, on January 11, spot prices moved higher than $70/b for the first time since December 2014. EIA forecasts Brent spot prices will average about $62/b in both 2018 and 2019 compared with an average of $54/b in 2017.
- EIA expects West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices to average $4/b lower than Brent prices in both 2018 and 2019. NYMEX WTI contract values for May 2018 delivery traded during the five-day period ending February 1, 2018, suggest a range of $55/b to $77/b encompasses the market expectation for May 2018 WTI prices at the 95% confidence level.
- EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil production averaged 10.2 million barrels per day (b/d) in January, up 100,000 b/d from the December level. EIA estimates that total U.S. crude oil production averaged 9.3 million b/d in 2017 and will average 10.6 million b/d in 2018, which would mark the highest annual average U.S. crude oil production level, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970. EIA forecasts that 2019 crude oil production will average 11.2 million b/d.
- EIA estimates that global petroleum and other liquid fuels inventories declined by 0.5 million b/d in 2017. In this forecast, global inventories grow by about 0.2 million b/d in both 2018 and 2019.
- EIA estimates that U.S. dry natural gas production averaged 73.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017. EIA forecasts that natural gas production will reach 80.3 Bcf/d in 2018, establishing a new record. That level would be 6.7 Bcf/d higher than the 2017 level, and the forecast 2017 growth would be the highest annual average growth on record. EIA expects natural gas production will also increase in 2019, with forecast growth of 2.6 Bcf/d.
- In January, the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $3.88 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), up $1.06/MMBtu from December. Cold temperatures east of the Rocky Mountains in early January contributed to high levels of natural gas consumption as well as a reduction in production because of well freeze-offs. This combination resulted in record-high natural gas inventory withdrawals in mid-January, which contributed to rising prices.
- EIA expects natural gas prices to moderate in the coming months, based on a forecast of record growth in natural gas production. EIA expects Henry Hub spot prices to average $3.34/MMBtu in February and $3.20/MMBtu for all of 2018. In 2019, EIA forecasts prices will average $3.08/MMBtu. NYMEX contract values for May 2018 delivery that traded during the five-day period ending February 1, 2018, suggest that a range of $2.26/MMBtu to $3.67/MMBtu encompasses the market expectation for May Henry Hub natural gas prices at the 95% confidence level.
Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
- EIA expects the share of U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas-fired power plants to rise from 32% in 2017 to 33% in 2018 and to 34% in 2019. The forecast generation share from coal in 2018 averages 30%, about the same as in 2017, but then falls to 29% in 2019. The nuclear share of generation was 20% in 2017 and is forecast to average 20% in 2018 and 19% in 2019. Nonhydropower renewables provided slightly less than 10% of electricity generation in 2017 and is expected to provide about 10% in both 2018 and 2019. The generation share of hydropower was almost 8% in 2017 and is forecast to be about 7% in both 2018 and 2019.
- EIA estimates U.S. coal production was 772 million short tons (MMst) in 2017, 44 MMst (6%) higher than in 2016. Forecast coal production declines by 2% to 760 MMst in 2018 and then increases slightly to 762 MMst in 2019. Lower expected global demand for U.S. coal exports (down 16% in 2018 and another 4% in 2019) and lower forecasts of coal use in the electric power sector (1% lower in 2018 and another 2% lower in 2019) contribute to the forecast of lower coal production.
- Wind generated an estimated 691,000 megawatthours per day (MWh/d) of electricity in 2017. EIA projects that generation from wind will rise to an average of 705,000 MWh/d in 2018 and 765,000 MWh/d in 2019. If project conditions hold, generation from conventional hydropower is projected to average 730,000 MWh/d in 2019, which would make it the first year that wind generation exceeds hydropower generation.
- EIA projects that total solar electricity generation will increase from an estimated average of 209,000 MWh/d in 2017 to 240,000 MWh/d in 2018 and to 287,000 MWh/d in 2019.
- After declining by 0.8% in 2017, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to increase by 1.8% in 2018 and by 0.4% in 2019. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, and energy prices.