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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: Oct. 13, 2021  |  Forecast Completed: Oct. 7, 2021  |  Next Release Date: Nov. 9, 2021  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Natural Gas

  • In September, the natural gas spot price at Henry Hub averaged $5.16 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), which was up from the August average of $4.07/MMBtu and up from an average of $3.25/MMBtu in the first half of 2021. The rising prices in recent months reflect U.S. natural gas inventory levels that are below the five-year average and continuing demand for natural gas for power generation use at relatively high prices.
  • We expect the Henry Hub spot price will average $5.80/MMBtu in fourth-quarter 2021, which is $1.80/MMBtu higher than we forecast in the September STEO. In the current forecast, Henry Hub prices reach a monthly average peak of $5.90/MMBtu in January and generally decline through 2022, averaging $4.01/MMBtu for the year amid rising U.S. natural gas production and slowing growth in LNG exports. We raised our Henry Hub price forecast through the end of 2022 compared with last month. The increase reflects a higher starting point for our price forecast that incorporates recent developments in U.S. and global natural gas markets. We forecast that U.S. inventory draws will be slightly more than the five-year average this winter, and we expect that factor, along with rising U.S. natural gas exports and relatively flat production through January will keep U.S. natural gas prices near recent levels before downward pressures emerge. Given low natural gas inventories in both U.S. and European natural gas storage facilities and uncertainty around seasonal demand, we expect natural gas prices to remain volatile over the coming months, with winter temperatures being a key driver of demand and prices.
  • We estimate that U.S. LNG exports averaged 9.3 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in September 2021, down 4% from August. Despite the recent monthly decline, these were the most U.S. LNG exports for September since the United States began exporting LNG from the Lower 48 states in February 2016. Even though September exports were a record for the month, they were limited by weather conditions, which led to the suspension of piloting services for several days at Sabine Pass, Cameron, and Corpus Christi. We expect that LNG exports will average 9.1 Bcf/d in October and then increase in the coming months. Cove Point LNG terminal is scheduled to complete its annual maintenance by mid-October and resume exports this month. Through this winter, LNG exports in the forecast average 10.7 Bcf/d as global natural gas demand remains high and several new LNG export trains–the sixth train at Sabine Pass LNG and the first trains at the new LNG export facility Calcasieu Pass LNG–enter service.
  • We estimate that U.S. natural gas inventories ended September 2021 at about 3.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), 5% less than the five-year (2016–20) average for this time of year. Injections into storage this summer have been below the previous five-year average, largely as a result of more electricity consumption in June due to hot weather, and increased exports even as domestic natural gas production has remained flat. We forecast that inventories will end the 2021 injection season (at the end of October) at almost 3.6 Tcf, which would be 5% less than the previous five-year average. We expect natural gas inventories to fall by 2.1 Tcf this winter, ending March at less than 1.5 Tcf, which would be 12% less than the 2017–21 average for that time of year.
  • We estimate dry natural gas production averaged 93.3 Bcf/d in the United States during the third quarter of 2021–up from 91.6 Bcf/d in in the first half of 2021. Production in the forecast rises to an average of 94.0 Bcf/d during the winter, and averages 96.4 Bcf/d during 2022, driven by natural gas and crude oil prices, which we expect to remain at levels that will support enough drilling to sustain production growth.

U.S. natural gas consumption

U.S. marketed natural gas production

U.S. natural gas trade

Henry Hub natural gas price

U.S. Natural Gas Summary
  2019202020212022
Prices (dollars per thousand cubic feet)
Henry Hub Spot 2.672.114.334.16
Residential Sector 10.4610.7612.1012.95
Commercial Sector 7.597.498.689.51
Industrial Sector 3.903.325.525.50
Supply (billion cubic feet per day)
Marketed Production 99.8598.91100.25104.59
Dry Gas Production 92.8791.4992.5596.41
Pipeline Imports 7.376.847.296.70
LNG Imports 0.140.130.120.22
Consumption (billion cubic feet per day)
Residential Sector 13.7512.7713.3713.29
Commercial Sector 9.638.669.329.51
Industrial Sector 23.0622.2722.8123.22
Electric Power Sector 30.9331.7429.8328.46
Total Consumption 85.2983.2583.2382.59
Primary Assumptions (percent change from previous year)
Heating Degree Days 0.6-9.36.30.1
Cooling Degree Days -5.31.3-3.3-5.5
Commercial Employment 1.4-6.63.53.9
Natural-gas-weighted Industrial Production -4.1-5.75.04.9

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Related Figures
Henry Hub natural gas price XLSX PNG
U.S. natural gas prices XLSX PNG
U.S. marketed natural gas production XLSX PNG
U.S. natural gas consumption XLSX PNG
U.S. natural gas balance XLSX PNG
U.S. natural gas trade XLSX PNG
U.S. working natural gas in storage XLSX PNG
U.S. electricity generation by fuel, all sectors XLSX PNG
U.S. carbon dioxide emissions growth XLSX PNG
U.S. winter heating degree days XLSX PNG
U.S. census regions and census divisions XLSX PNG
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