America's natural gas production is on track to break records this year, according to federal energy experts.

In its Short-Term Energy Outlook (PDF) issued March 6, the Energy Information Administration forecasts natural gas production will average 81.7 billion cubic feet per day in 2018.

"That level would be 8.1 Bcf/d higher than the 2017 level and the highest annual average growth on record," EIA noted. And looking ahead to 2019, EIA is forecasting growth of 1.0 Bcf/d.

At the same time, natural gas prices are heading in the right direction, as far as customers—including electric co-ops—are concerned.

EIA said February's spot price at Louisiana's Henry Hub averaged $2.66 per million British thermal units, down $1.03/MMBtu from January, when bitter cold gripped much of the nation. In fact, EIA noted that "U.S. heating degree days were an estimated 17 percent lower than the 10-year average for February, which contributed to lower consumption and prices."

Looking ahead, the report calls for moderating natural gas prices in the coming months, with a 2018 Henry Hub average forecast at $2.72/MMBtu.

That less expensive natural gas is likely to play an increasing role in where the nation's electricity comes from.

"EIA expects the share of U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas-fired power plants to rise from 32 percent in 2017 to 34 percent in both 2018 and 2019," the report said.

"The forecast generation share from coal in both 2018 and 2019 averages 29 percent, down from 30 percent in 2017. The nuclear share of generation was 20 percent in 2017 and is forecast to average 20 percent in 2018 and 19 percent in 2019," the report added.

Meanwhile, drivers looking for relief at the pumps will have to hold on a bit. A gallon of regular averaged $2.59 last month, with EIA forecasting it will top out for the year at $2.71 in May before slowly backing off.

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