Today in Energy

Feb 26, 2015

Rise in salt cavern storage capacity for natural gas offsets declines in other capacities

graph of demonstrated maximum working gas volume, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Natural Gas Underground Storage Report

With natural gas storage at low levels in most of 2014 and production relatively high, minimal new natural gas storage capacity was built, except for salt facilities in the Producing region. Capacity in the East region of the United States fell slightly, resulting in relatively unchanged national total capacity.

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Feb 25, 2015

Wind generation seasonal patterns vary across the United States

graph of monthly median wind plant capacity factors by region, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Forms EIA-860 and EIA-923
Note: Data include facilities with a net summer capacity of 1 MW and above only.

Wind plant generation performance varies throughout the year as a result of highly seasonal wind patterns. Nationally, wind plant performance tends to be highest during the spring and lowest during the mid- to late summer, while performance during the winter (November through February) is around the annual median. However, this pattern can vary considerably across regions, mostly based on local atmospheric and geographic conditions.

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Feb 24, 2015

Large reduction in distillate fuel sulfur content has only minor effect on energy content

graph of daily spot prices of wholesale gasoline, ethanol, and RINS, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly, Monthly Energy Review
Note: Distillate fuel volumes with sulfur content below 15 parts per million produced before 2004 are included in the 'between 15 and 500 ppm' category. Distillate fuel supply for 2014 includes estimated volumes for December 2014 from the Short-Term Energy Outlook, February 2015.

Republished February 24, 2015, 9:30 a.m. to correct an error.

Distillate fuel oil supply consists primarily of diesel fuel used for transportation and of heating oil burned in furnaces and boilers. Over the past 20 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has regulated the amount of sulfur contained in diesel fuel to enable reductions in harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from diesel engines. Since 2006, most distillate fuel has had less than 15 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur, a drastic change from the early 1990s, when high-sulfur diesel had an average sulfur content of 3,000 ppm. This change has improved air quality by reducing sulfur emissions with only a minor effect on the average energy content of distillate fuel consumed in the United States.

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Feb 23, 2015

Higher RIN prices support continued ethanol blending despite lower gasoline prices

graph of daily spot prices of wholesale gasoline, ethanol, and RINS, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Oil Price Information Service, Thomson-Reuters
Note: RBOB is reformulated blendstock for oxygenate blending.

With the exception of two short periods in late 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, when winter-related logistical bottlenecks drove up ethanol prices, spot ethanol prices have consistently been lower than gasoline prices from December 2011 through October 2014. However, with the sharp decline in crude oil and gasoline prices in the latter months of 2014, gasoline spot prices fell below ethanol spot prices in early November. For most of December through mid-January, ethanol was priced about 30 cents per gallon more than wholesale gasoline; since that time, the gap between the spot prices of ethanol and gasoline has narrowed.

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Feb 20, 2015

Natural gas inventory exceeds five-year average for first time since November 2013

graph of daily spot prices of wholesale gasoline, ethanol, and RINS, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report, Short-Term Energy Outlook

Working natural gas in storage has surpassed five-year average levels for the first time in more than a year. At 2,157 billion cubic feet (Bcf) as of February 13, stocks are 58 Bcf greater than the five-year average. Recent extremely cold weather may result in high stock withdrawals for the week ending February 20, which could again push stocks below their five-year average. However, natural gas production in February and March that is forecast to average 5 Bcf/day above the year-ago level is likely to contribute to healthy inventories and moderate prices as the nation moves from winter into spring.

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Feb 19, 2015

Wind generates more than 10% of Texas electricity in 2014

graph of Texas (ERCOT) annual electricity generation mix, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)

In 2014, more than 10% of the electricity used in the grid covering most of Texas came from wind generation, according to the grid's operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Wind's share of the ERCOT generation mix grew from 6.2% in 2009 to 10.6% in 2014 as total electricity generation increased over the same period by 11.3%. The growth in wind generation is a result of new wind plants coming online and grid expansions that have allowed more wind power to flow through the system to consumers.

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Feb 18, 2015

Energy efficiency improvements have largely offset effect of more, larger homes

graph of factors influencing changes in residential delivered energy between 1980 and 2009, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Drivers of Household Energy Consumption

The growth in residential energy use has slowed to below the rate of household growth, meaning that per-household energy consumption has decreased. Analysis of EIA's Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) conducted since 1980 shows how improvements in energy efficiency reduced energy intensity enough to offset more than 70% of the growth in both the number of households and the size of dwellings.

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Feb 17, 2015

Proposed efficiency standard may eliminate noncondensing gas furnaces

Graph of certified gas furnace models by efficiency rating, as explained in the article text
Source: EIA, based on Department of Energy Compliance Certification database, accessed February 2015

Republished February 17, 2015, 9:35 a.m. to clarify those involved in legal challenges to the standards.

Following a court challenge that caused a previous proposal to be sent back for further analysis, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a new proposed rulemaking to increase the minimum efficiency standards for gas furnaces, which are mostly fueled by natural gas but also include propane furnaces. Gas furnaces are one of the largest energy consumers in the residential sector, accounting for about one-fifth of the energy delivered to homes and apartments in the United States. The proposed standard would increase the minimum efficiency standard for these furnaces for the first time since 1992.

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Feb 13, 2015

Shale gas and tight oil are commercially produced in just four countries

Graph of type of estimated natural gas and crude oil production in four countries in 2014, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration calculations with data from DrillingInfo, Canadian National Energy Board, Cedigaz, Fact Global Energy China Monthly, Chevron, and Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales
Note: Actual production from Canada through October 2014. November and December 2014 totals estimated. Canadian shale gas production total includes the Montney formation.

Republished February 13, 2015, 10:30 a.m. to clarify China and Argentina's production of shale gas and tight oil, respectively.

The United States, Canada, China, and Argentina are currently the only four countries in the world that are producing commercial volumes of either natural gas from shale formations (shale gas) or crude oil from tight formations (tight oil). The United States is by far the dominant producer of both shale gas and tight oil.

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Feb 12, 2015

Saudi Arabia budget insulated from effects of lower oil prices

Graph of Saudi Arabia budget and sovereign wealth fund, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Bloomberg, International Monetary Fund

Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of crude oil and other petroleum liquids in the world, and their oil exports accounted for 89% of the country's total revenue in 2014. The recent decline in global oil prices is decreasing the value of these exports, leading to a potential budget shortfall. In its 2015 budget, Saudi Arabia plans to spend about $230 billion but expects to take in $190.7 billion in revenue, resulting in an overall deficit of $38.6 billion. While the oil price assumption was not specified in Saudi Arabia's budget, the budget was crafted in December 2014, when crude oil prices were between $55 and $70 dollars per barrel.

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