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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: September 12, 2017  |  Next Release Date: October 11, 2017  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures


Forecast Highlights

Global liquid fuels

  • Significant disruptions in the U.S. energy market have occurred in recent weeks as a result of Hurricane Harvey. At the time of publication, continuing uncertainty exists regarding the timeline for the return to normal operations for a broad range of upstream production, refining, pipeline, and terminal and distribution infrastructure. The severity and duration of these outages create additional uncertainty about the path of energy prices in the coming weeks and months. Although this STEO attempts to incorporate a baseline scenario for energy production, flows, and prices, actual outcomes could deviate significantly from this forecast. This month's forecast does not include any projected effects from Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in Florida on September 10. At the time of publication, it was too early to have meaningful information on the extent to which Hurricane Irma will cause disruptions to the U.S. energy system.
  • U.S. regular gasoline retail prices reached $2.69 per gallon (gal) on September 11, up 29 cents/gal from August 28 and the highest weekly average since August 2015. EIA forecasts the average U.S. regular gasoline retail price to be $2.61/gal in September and then fall to $2.40/gal in October, which are 25 cents/gal and 10 cents/gal higher, respectively, than projected in the August STEO. EIA forecasts the regular gasoline retail price to fall to $2.23/gal in December.
  • Refinery operations declined significantly following Hurricane Harvey. Based on EIA's Weekly Petroleum Status Report, U.S. gross refinery runs averaged 14.8 million barrels per day (b/d) the week ending September 1, down by 3.1 million b/d from the previous week. EIA forecasts refinery runs to average 15.3 million b/d in September, down from an estimated average of 17.1 million b/d in August. Refinery runs are forecast to increase to 15.9 million b/d in October.
  • EIA expects much of the reduction in refinery production of petroleum products to be offset by a decline in petroleum product net exports. EIA expects net petroleum product exports to average 1.1 million b/d in September, down from an average of 2.9 million b/d during the first eight months of 2017. A reduction in net exports can either come from a decrease in exports or an increase in imports. Additionally, the reduction in production of petroleum products could contribute to larger-than-typical inventory draws for September.
  • U.S. crude oil production is estimated to have averaged 9.2 million b/d in August, down about 40,000 b/d from the July average. Crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico fell to a monthly average of 1.6 million b/d in August, down by 70,000 b/d from the July level. At the time of publication, many oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico had returned to operation, and EIA forecasts overall U.S. crude oil production will continue to grow in the coming months. EIA forecasts total U.S. crude oil production to average 9.3 million b/d for all of 2017 and 9.8 million b/d in 2018, which would mark the highest annual average production in U.S. history, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970.
  • North Sea Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $52 per barrel (b) in August. EIA forecasts Brent spot prices to average $51/b in 2017 and $52/b in 2018. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) average crude oil prices are forecast to be about $2/b lower than Brent prices in both 2017 and 2018. NYMEX contract values for December 2017 delivery that traded during the five-day period ending September 7 suggest that a range of $39/b to $63/b encompasses the market expectation for December WTI prices at the 95% confidence level.

Natural gas

  • U.S. dry natural gas production is forecast to average 73.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017, a 1.4 Bcf/d increase from the 2016 level. Natural gas production in 2018 is forecast to be 4.4 Bcf/d higher than the 2017 level.
  • In August, the average Henry Hub natural gas spot price was $2.90 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), down 8 cents/MMBtu from the July level. Expected growth in natural gas exports and domestic natural gas consumption in 2018 contribute to the forecast Henry Hub natural gas spot price rising from an annual average of $3.05/MMBtu in 2017 to $3.29/MMBtu in 2018. NYMEX contract values for December 2017 delivery that traded during the five-day period ending September 7 suggest that a range of $2.39/MMBtu to $4.34/MMBtu encompasses the market expectation for December Henry Hub natural gas prices at the 95% confidence level.

Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions

  • EIA expects the share of U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas to fall from an average of 34% in 2016 to about 31% in 2017 as a result of higher natural gas prices and increased generation from renewables and coal. Coal's forecast generation share rises from 30% last year to 31% in 2017. The projected generation shares for natural gas and coal in 2018 average 31% and 32%, respectively.
  • Coal production for August 2017 is estimated to have been 74 million short tons (MMst), 6 MMst (8%) higher than last August. August is also the first month that had production higher than 70 MMst since October 2015. Production for the first eight months of 2017 is estimated to have been 528 MMst, 64 MMst (14%) higher than production for the same period in 2016. Production is expected to increase by 8% in 2017 and by 2% in 2018.
  • Coal exports for the first six months of 2017 were 55% higher than exports over the same period last year. EIA expects growth in coal exports to slow in the coming months, with exports for all of 2017 forecast at 73 MMst, 21% higher than the 2016 level.
  • Wind electricity generating capacity at the end of 2016 was 82 gigawatts (GW). EIA expects wind capacity additions in the forecast to bring total wind capacity to 88 GW by the end of 2017 and to 96 GW by the end of 2018.
  • Total utility-scale solar electricity generating capacity at the end of 2016 was 22 GW. EIA expects solar capacity additions in the forecast will bring total utility-scale solar capacity to 29 GW by the end of 2017 and to 33 GW by the end of 2018.
  • After declining 1.7% in 2016, energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to decrease by 0.5% in 2017 and then to increase by 2.6% in 2018. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, and energy prices.
Price Summary
  2015 2016 2017 2018
a West Texas Intermediate.
b Average regular pump price.
c On-highway retail.
d U.S. Residential average.
WTI Crude Oila
(dollars per barrel)
48.67 43.33 48.83 49.58
Brent Crude Oil
(dollars per barrel)
52.32 43.74 51.07 51.58
Gasolineb
(dollars per gallon)
2.43 2.15 2.36 2.35
Dieselc
(dollars per gallon)
2.71 2.31 2.61 2.72
Heating Oild
(dollars per gallon)
2.65 2.10 2.48 2.58
Natural Gasd
(dollars per thousand cubic feet)
10.36 10.06 11.05 11.02
Electricityd
(cents per kilowatthour)
12.65 12.55 13.01 13.39

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