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U.S. Natural Gas Storage Capacity Hardly Increased Since Start Of Shale Boom

Underground storage capacity for natural gas in the United States has stayed essentially flat between 2012 and 2020, and was little changed from 2019 to 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Thursday.

Last year, design capacity, or the total working natural gas capacity for all active facilities in the Lower 48 states, rose by 4 billion cubic feet (Bcf), or by 0.1 percent compared to 2019.

Demonstrated peak capacity, or the total of the highest storage levels reached by each storage facility during any month during the most recent five-year period, dropped by 8 Bcf in 2020 versus 2019, or by 0.2 percent, according to the EIA estimates.

The largest regional annual change in either measure of underground natural gas working storage capacity was a decrease in demonstrated peak capacity in the Pacific region.

In terms of design capacity, the increases last year occurred primarily in the South Central region, where working natural gas design capacity rose by 5 Bcf, the EIA said.

It was in the South Central region—which includes Texas—that a record amount of natural gas, 156 Bcf, was withdrawn from storage in the week to February 19 due to the winter storms this year. 

The extreme winter weather resulted in the second-largest withdrawal ever of natural gas from storage in the U.S. as demand spiked, the EIA said at the end of February. In the week to February 19, natural gas stocks fell by 338 Bcf, nearly three times the average withdrawal for the middle of February. 

Due to the winter storms in February, net natural gas withdrawals from storage this heating season exceeded the five-year average by 10.6 percent, the EIA said in April. The first few months of the 2020/2021 winter heating seasons saw milder temperatures than normal, but the cold snap in February resulted in record demand for heating, while wellheads froze and reduced natural gas production in the United States.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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