As 2022 approaches, expect big swings in already-elevated natural gas spot prices at Henry Hub, says the Energy Information Administration’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook.
The Henry Hub spot price will average $5.53 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) from November through February before generally declining through next year, according to the EIA.
Because of weather uncertainties, “we expect natural gas prices to remain volatile over the coming months with winter temperatures to be a key driver of demand and prices,” said the November report.
In October, the natural gas spot price at Henry Hub averaged $5.51/MMBtu, which was up from the September average of $5.16/MMBtu and the average of $3.25/MMBtu in the first half of 2021.
“Despite high prices, demand for natural gas for electric power generation has remained relatively high, which along with strong global demand for U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) has limited downward natural gas price pressures,” the EIA said.
As a result of the higher expected natural gas prices, the forecast share of electricity generation from coal rises from 20% in 2020 to about 23% in 2021 and 22% in 2022.
Typically, when natural gas prices rise, coal makes up a greater share of electricity generation. But this time, the coal increase is smaller than EIA projections made earlier this year.
“The lower price responsiveness of coal for electricity generation, which is likely the result of constraints on coal supply and low coal stocks, is contributing to upward pressure on natural gas prices,” the report said.
The share of electric generation from wind and solar will continue to rise due to planned additions of those sources. This year, 17 gigawatts of new wind capacity will come online, followed by 6.9 GW in 2022. Utility-scale solar capacity is expected to increase by 15.7 GW in 2021 and 18.2 GW in 2022.
Holiday motorists can expect some relief at the pump, as the November outlook indicates average prices for regular gasoline will fall over the next several months. This month, a gallon of regular gasoline is expected to average $3.32, compared to $3.16 in December and $3 during the first quarter of 2022.