Freeze prompts largest fall in U.S. gas production
By Keefe Borden10 May 2021
The brutal freeze in February led to a sharp increase in gas demand and record prices in parts of the U.S. The effect of the freeze on gas prices is well documented, but new statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that production in February saw the single largest monthly decline on record.
Total gas production in the U.S. in February, as measured by gross withdrawals, averaged 104.8 bcf/d, down 7% from January. That decline is the largest on record. Texas saw the largest decline, with that state’s production down to 21.5 Bcf/d down 4.3 bcf/d, or 15% from January.
From Feb. 8 – 17, gas production in Texas fell more than 10 bcf/d. The decline was mostly the result of freeze-offs, which occurs when the flow of gas is blocked as water and other liquids in gas wells freeze at the wellhead or in gas gathering lines. The natural gas infrastructure in Texas is more susceptible to the effects of extreme cold because it is not winterized to the extent seen in colder areas of the U.S.
Dry gas production in the U.S. fell to as low as 69.7 bcf/d on Feb. 17, a decline of 21% or 18.9 bcf/d from the week ending Feb. 13. Gas production in Texas fell nearly 45% from 21.3 bcf/d during the same week. To a low of 11.8 bcf/d on Feb. 17, the EIA reported, citing estimates from IHS Markit.
After reaching a record low on Feb. 17, Texas gas production began to recover as regional temperatures rose. The state’s production reached 20.8 bcf/d on Feb. 24, just 0.3 bcf/d lower than the average for the week ending Feb. 13.
Texas is the largest gas consumption state in the nation because of the size of its industrial sector. Typically, U.S. residential consumption of gas typically decreases from January, but the extreme cold snap and decline in production in Texas reversed the usual trend. Residential gas consumption in Texas rose abruptly because of the weather. Residential consumers in Texas reached a monthly record high of 1.8 bcf/d, up 53% from a year ago and 64% from the five-year average, the EIA reported.
Power producers in Texas consumed 4.5 bcf/d in February, an increase of just 1% from February 2020. More than 60% of homes in Texas use electricity for home heating, leading many analysts to expect the freeze should have led to an increase in electricity consumption. However, electricity failures throughout the state limited overall consumption, the EIA reported.