Data Watch: US Natural Gas Monthly Production April 2013

The U.S. government agency The Energy Information Administration (EIA) issues data on U.S. natural gas production, including shale gas, on a monthly basis with a lag of roughly two months. The latest data release was made on June 28 and covers the period up until April 2013.

Data is reported in billion cubic feet (bcf). Key points:

  • April 2013 natural gas dry production: 1,985 bcf,  plus 1.1% year-on-year
  • Average monthly production for the 12 months to April 2013: 2,003 bcf, +2.2% over the same period the previous year

Since the end of 2011, the rate of production increase has levelled off (click chart below for larger image), and the 12-month moving average continues to decline.

US Dry Gas Production April 13 jpeg

Much recent media attention has centred on a so-called shale-gas revolution in the United States and, in particular, the ability of shale gas to boost overall volume of natural gas production. Many claims are made with respect to the prospective expansion in shale gas production in the coming years including the following:

  • Shale gas will provide a low-cost source of natural gas, and thus cheap energy, for decades to come. This, in turn, will boost the competitiveness of the U.S. economy.
  • The U.S. will move toward an era of energy self-sufficiency, which will help buttress the country’s geopolitical security.
  • The scale of shale gas production will be sufficient to allow the U.S. to commence natural gas exports, thus transforming energy markets outside of the U.S. such as those in Europe.
  • Increased natural gas production in the U.S. will mitigate carbon emissions through displacing coal and so reduce the risk of dangerous climate change.

For these claims to be substantiated, significant year-on-year rises in U.S. natural  gas production will be required over an extended period. Through tracking monthly production of natural gas, a non-specialist can confirm or refute whether large rises in natural gas production are being achieved and, therefore, whether the claims associated with a shale-gas revolution are credible. In short, the monthly numbers allow you to evaluate the hype. Monthly data are currently not showing any material increase in production.

2 responses to “Data Watch: US Natural Gas Monthly Production April 2013

  1. Matthew Nayler

    It would be quite funny if it wasn’t so serious. The IEA issues its “Golden Age of Gas” scenario in June 2011, in part using EIA resource numbers; the usual suspects quickly get carried away, their ink barely dry before the EIA revises down its numbers on US Shale Gas unproved reserves in April 2012 from 827tcf to 482tcf, and now this! David Hughes ‘Drill Baby Drill’ sums it all up nicely.

  2. Yes, it looks tough to see how anything can stop the year-on-year number going negative. Unless, of course, natural gas prices spike. But the idea in all the op-eds last year was that you could have your cake and eat it; i.e., big jumps in natural gas production at low prices.

    For oil, we are seeing flat global production support the price, so in turn allowing steep jumps in US oil production. But fracking does have a ‘Red Queen’ aspect to it in term of needing ever more rigs to secure production of existing output. For gas production, the year-on-year gains suddenly hit a brick wall. For oil, we haven’t seen that yet. We shall see.

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