The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released its October Short-Term Energy Outlook which includes expectations for higher energy costs ahead as consumer demand for home heat warms up. Natural gas and LP prices are both projected higher in the short term with household natgas expenditures up 13% over last winter and LP up 9% year-over. Natural gas spot prices at Henry Hub are to blame with year over increases projected in both 2013 and 2014.
Spot crude oil prices are expected to soften as tensions in North Africa ease and production restarts in Libya. Both Brent and WTI are expected to move lower pressuring retail gasoline prices which, on average, fell 18 cents/gallon in September 2013. This trend is expected to continue through the fourth quarter and into 2014.
Falling crude will also keep pressure on heating oil prices which will translate into cheaper farm diesel ahead. Meanwhile, electricity rates are seen 2% higher in 2013 based on a slight increase in power generation from coal, resulting from higher expected natgas pricing.
Complete text highlights from EIA follow...
- EIA projects average U.S. household expenditures for natural gas and propane will increase by 13% and 9%, respectively, this winter heating season (October 1 through March 31) compared with last winter. Projected U.S. household expenditures are 2% higher for electricity and 2% lower for heating oil this winter. Although EIA expects average expenditures for households that heat with natural gas will be significantly higher than last winter, they are still lower than the previous 5-year average (see EIA Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook slideshow).
- Brent crude oil spot prices fell from a recent peak of $117 per barrel in early September to $108 per barrel at the end of the month as some crude oil production restarted in Libya and concerns over the conflict in Syria moderated. EIA expects the Brent crude oil price to continue to weaken, averaging $107 per barrel during the fourth quarter of 2013 and $102 per barrel in 2014. Projected West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices average $101 per barrel during the fourth quarter of 2013 and $96 per barrel during 2014.
- The weekly U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell by 18 cents per gallon during September, ending the month at $3.43 per gallon. EIA's forecast for the regular gasoline retail price averages $3.34 per gallon in the fourth quarter of 2013. The annual average regular gasoline retail price, which was $3.63 per gallon in 2012, is expected to be $3.52 per gallon in 2013 and $3.40 per gallon in 2014.
- Natural gas working inventories ended September at an estimated 3.52 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), 0.17 Tcf below the level at the same time a year ago and 0.04 Tcf above the previous five-year average (2008–12). EIA expects that the Henry Hub natural gas spot price, which averaged $2.75 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2012, will average $3.71 per MMBtu in 2013 and $4.00 per MMBtu in 2014.
- Despite a rise in natural gas prices from their 2012 level, stable coal prices and an increase in electricity generation from coal contribute to only modest increases in retail electricity prices. EIA expects residential electricity prices to increase by 2% in 2013 and 1% in 2014.