Pennsylvania could reach full gas storage capacity
(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; July 2) -- After a mild winter and a fourfold bump in production, Pennsylvania's underground natural gas storage fields could briefly reach capacity this year - a mixed milestone for the state's booming gas industry. With natural gas being drawn at record levels from the Marcellus shale and other deposits, the once-distant prospect of using up the vast spaces -- listed at nearly 777 billion cubic feet statewide -- has become a serious question among industry watchers.
The development, however temporary, could force prices paid to gas producers to drop even further. Still, the odds that storage facilities will reach capacity remain uncertain, influenced heavily by the weather, said Gavin Roberts, an energy analyst for Colorado-based Bentek Energy. He said a hotter summer will force electricity producers to rely more on natural gas as a power-generation fuel. That could help lessen the demand for gas storage space underground.
Pennsylvania gas producers are not alone in this dilemma. At month's end, working natural gas inventories nationwide hit about 2.9 trillion cubic feet, 31 percent higher than May 2011 levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That number is likely to swell to 4.2 trillion cubic feet by autumn, up from 3.9 trillion cubic feet last year, according to Bentek's projections. Roberts estimated the national storage capacity at 4.5 trillion cubic feet.