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June 20, 2011

Strong Pacific Northwest hydro conditions affect natural gas used for power generators

graph of Natural gas used for power generators in the Pacific Northwest, 2005-2011, as described in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration based on Bentek Energy, LLC

It is not unusual for the output of natural gas-fired generators to drop during the spring water run off season in the Pacific Northwest. What is unusual this year is that the hydro season began in mid-January and is expected to continue into August.

The chart shows last year's volume (green line) of natural gas use at selected natural gas-fired power plants in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon and this year's volume (dark blue line) to date, along with the 5-year range from 2005 to 2009 (shaded region). Natural gas use at these plants dropped almost to zero during the third week of May. This coincides with the curtailment of wind generators discussed in a previous Today in Energy article. Natural gas use for power generation in 2011 is down 68%, or about 300 million cubic feet per day, relative to the comparable 2010 period (January 1 - May 25).