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July 6, 2011

Natural gas use in the electric power sector is growing

graph of Natural gas consumption in electric power sector, as described in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Natural Gas Monthly
Note: Summer is defined as May through September; winter is defined as November through March.
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Natural gas consumption in the electric power sector in the summer of 2010 was nearly seven billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) greater than during the summer of 2001—an increase of 38%. The volume of natural gas used to generate electric power during the winter also grew 38% over that same period—up nearly five Bcf/d since 2001. Natural gas-fired electrical generation increased 44% between 2001 and 2010; the disparity between increases in gas burn and generation is due to increased efficiency in natural gas-fired units.

The increased use of natural gas for electricity generation is driven by many factors. These include:

  • Nearly 237 gigawatts of natural gas-fired power generation capacity were added between 2000 and 2010, representing over three-fourths of total generation capacity additions over that period.
  • Since 2005, the Nation's fleet of natural gas combined-cycle power plants is contributing significantly more to baseload electricity needs. Additionally, natural gas combined-cycle power plants operate highly efficiently, allowing plants to generate a greater volume of electricity per unit of natural gas burned.
  • Largely due to gains in domestic natural gas production from shale plays, natural gas prices in 2010 were relatively low.