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A Pivotal Moment For Natural Gas Demand

power lines

US natural gas-fired combined-cycle capacity overtook coal-fired capacity in 2018, the US Energy Information Administration reported on Wednesday.

In the United States, natural gas-fired combined-cycle (NGCC) capacity has increased for years, finally overtaking coal-fired capacity, which has seen a steady decline over the last decade.

To compare, as of January 2019, NGCC capacity in the US reached 264 gigawatts (GW), while coal plant capacity fell to 243 GW.

Overall natural gas-fired capacity overtook coal-fired capacity long ago.  NGCC power plants, which are less efficient than other forms of natural gas-fired capacity, accounted for about half of all natural gas-fired capacity in the United States as of the end of 2018.

While natural gas has been gaining traction, coal capacity is steadily declining, shedding about 40 GW of capacity in the last 4 years. Over that same time, about 30 GW of NGCC has been added into the mix.

New NGCC capacity additions include Duke Energy’s $1.5 billion, 1640MW Citrus Combined Cycle Station in Florida, which is marketed as a means of offering cleaner fuel to millions of homes,  and Dominion Energy’s $1.3 billion, 1,588MW Greensville station in Virginia.

Future plants include Virginia’s 1,650MW Chickahominy Power Station, which garnered few objections during its permitting comment period.

Still, new utility-scale capacity will be led by wind, not gas, power. Wind is expected to account for 46% of future additions, while natural gas will account for 34%. Solar will account for just 18%.

According to the EIA, new natural gas capacity for 2019 should add 6.1 GW of electric capacity with most of the capacity additions going to Pennsylvania, Florida, and Louisiana.

Fifty-three percent of all planned electric plant retirements this year will come from coal, at 4.5 GW.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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