Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fill er up: Pa's natural gas storage nearing capacity

With natural gas being drawn at record levels from the Marcellus shale, the once-distant prospect of using up Pennsylvania's vast underground spaces — listed at nearly 777 billion cubic feet statewide — could be reached briefly this year, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Industry analysts point to mild winter weather and a near fourfold bump in natural gas production as reasons.

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Gavin Roberts, an energy analyst for Colorado-based Bentek Energy, predicts that a hotter summer will force electricity producers to rely more on natural gas as a power-generation fuel.

That could help lessen the demand for gas storage space underground, where energy companies use natural geologic formations to hold the extracted fuel.

staff writer Adam Smeltz reports:
"The federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) has not released June storage totals in Pennsylvania, but national data for May show the upward trend stretches across the country. At month’s end, working natural gas inventories nationwide hit about 2.9 trillion cubic feet, 31 percent higher than May 2011 levels, according to the agency.

"That number is likely to swell to 4.2 trillion cubic feet by autumn, up from 3.9 trillion cubic feet last year, according to Bentek’s projections. Roberts estimated the national storage capacity at 4.5 trillion cubic feet.

"Storage levels have been high since spring, helped along by moderate winter temperatures that kept a lid on heating fuel demands. Meanwhile, EIA data show natural gas production in Pennsylvania has more than quadrupled since 2009.

"And “there’s still a lot of capacity that’s been drilled and developed but is not online,” said Thomas Murphy, co-director of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. He pointed to state numbers, which show about half of the Marcellus shale wells drilled in Pennsylvania are not yet feeding pipelines."

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