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December 10, 2015

Heating oil and propane prices are lower this winter

graph of weekly propane and heating oil prices to residential customers, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, State Heating Oil and Propane Program

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's State Heating Oil and Propane Program (SHOPP) collects state-level residential heating oil and propane price data in 38 states during the winter heating season. SHOPP is a joint effort between EIA and state energy offices in regions (especially states in the Northeast and Midwest) where heating oil and propane are commonly used as heating fuels. In all of the states surveyed, propane and heating oil prices are lower than they were at this time last year, and EIA expects prices will remain at lower levels throughout the winter.

Weather forecasts for the current winter season predict warmer temperatures in regions east of the Rocky Mountains compared with last year. Based on those predictions and higher inventory levels, EIA expects propane and heating oil prices to be lower this season. In contrast, during the winter of 2013-14 persistent cold temperatures in much of the country increased demand for these and other heating fuels, depleting inventories. The economic consequences of those conditions on consumers were evident in SHOPP's national-level prices for residential propane and No. 2 heating oil, which set record highs in February 2014.

Unlike retail natural gas and electricity, which are both distributed through utility companies, retail heating oil and propane are sold by independent dealers. These dealers and their customers can face considerable supply and price uncertainty, particularly in the event of inclement weather or supply disruptions.

SHOPP data provide timely information that allows government and industry to more effectively monitor propane and heating oil prices. Further, state officials use these data to help develop and operate programs that provide financial assistance to low-income residents to help cover home heating costs. Last year, EIA expanded collection of propane price data from 24 states to 38 states to better serve consumers, industry, and policymakers.

SHOPP data are published on Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. EDT in EIA's Heating Oil and Propane Update. EIA's Winter Heating Fuels website presents these and other state, regional, and national data for fuels used for home heating.

Principal contributors: Maureen Klein