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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: March 6, 2018  |  Next Release Date: April 10, 2018  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Forecast Highlights

Global Liquid Fuels

  • North Sea Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $65 per barrel (b) in February, a decrease of $4/b from the January level and the first month-over-month average decrease since June 2017. EIA forecasts Brent spot prices will average about $62/b in both 2018 and 2019 compared with an average of $54/b in 2017.
  • EIA expects West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices to average $4/b lower than Brent prices in both 2018 and 2019. NYMEX WTI contract values for May 2018 delivery traded during the five-day period ending March 1, 2018, suggest a range of $51/b to $76/b encompasses the market expectation for June 2018 WTI prices at the 95% confidence level.
  • EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil production averaged 10.3 million barrels per day (b/d) in February, up 230,000 b/d from the January level, when there were some well freeze-offs in the Permian and Bakken. EIA has reported that total U.S. crude oil production averaged 9.3 million b/d in 2017, ending the year with production of 9.9 million b/d in December. EIA projects that U.S. crude oil production will average 10.7 million b/d in 2018, which would mark the highest annual average U.S. crude oil production level, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970. EIA forecasts that 2019 crude oil production will average 11.3 million b/d.
  • EIA estimates that inventories of global petroleum and other liquid fuels declined by 0.6 million b/d in 2017. In this forecast, global inventories grow by about 0.4 million b/d in 2018 and by another 0.3 million b/d in 2019.

Natural Gas

  • EIA estimates that U.S. dry natural gas production averaged 73.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017. EIA forecasts that natural gas production will average 81.7 Bcf/d in 2018, establishing a new record. That level would be 8.1 Bcf/d higher than the 2017 level and the highest annual average growth on record. EIA expects natural gas production will also increase in 2019, with forecast growth of 1.0 Bcf/d.
  • In February, the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $2.66 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), down $1.03/MMBtu from January. Winter weather moderated in February after extremely cold temperatures in much of the country during the first half of January. U.S. heating degree days were an estimated 17% lower than the 10-year average for February, which contributed to lower consumption and prices.
  • EIA expects natural gas prices to moderate in the coming months, based on a forecast of record natural gas production levels. EIA expects Henry Hub spot prices to average $2.72/MMBtu in March and $2.99/MMBtu for all of 2018. In 2019, EIA forecasts prices will average $3.07/MMBtu. NYMEX contract values for June 2018 delivery that traded during the five-day period ending March 1, 2018, suggest that a range of $2.16/MMBtu to $3.49/MMBtu encompasses the market expectation for June 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-fired power plants to rise from 32% in 2017 to 34% in both 2018 and 2019. The forecast generation share from coal in both 2018 and 2019 averages 29%, down from 30% in 2017. The nuclear share of generation was 20% in 2017 and is forecast to average 20% in 2018 and 19% in 2019. Nonhydropower renewables provided slightly less than 10% of electricity generation in 2017 and are expected to provide 10% in 2018 and nearly 11% in 2019. The generation share of hydropower was over 7% in 2017 and is forecast to fall below 7% in both 2018 and 2019.
  • EIA forecasts coal production to decline by almost 5% to 736 million short tons (MMst) in 2018 and then increase by 1% to 745 MMst in 2019. Lower expected global demand for U.S. coal exports (down 17% in 2018 and another 5% in 2019) and lower forecasts of coal use in the electric power sector (down 5% in 2018) contribute to the forecast of lower coal production.
  • U.S. coal exports were 97 MMst in 2017, a 61% increase from the previous year, but they are expected to decrease in both 2018 and 2019. Exports of metallurgical coal, which are used in the steelmaking process, remain at 55 MMst in 2018 and decline to 54 MMst in 2019. Steam coal exports, which were an estimated 42 MMst in 2017, are expected to decline to 26 MMst and 23 MMst in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
  • Total solar electricity generation averaged an estimated 211,000 MWh/d in 2017. EIA projects that it will reach 246,000 MWh/d in 2018 and 294,000 MWh/d in 2019.
  • After declining by 0.6% in 2017, EIA projects that energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will increase by 1.0% in 2018 and by another 0.8% in 2019. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, and energy prices.
Price Summary
aWest Texas Intermediate.
bAverage regular pump price.
cOn-highway retail.
dU.S. Residential average.
WTI Crude Oila
(dollars per barrel)
Brent Crude Oil
(dollars per barrel)
(dollars per gallon)
(dollars per gallon)
Heating Oild
(dollars per gallon)
Natural Gasd
(dollars per thousand cubic feet)
(cents per kilowatthour)

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