US sees steady oil and gas prices through 2010, gains in 2011

10 February 2010 17:54  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Department of Energy (DOE) said on Wednesday it expects US prices for oil and natural gas to hold mostly steady through 2010, with a slight gain for crude and larger increases for natural gas prices in 2011.

The department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its monthly short-term energy outlook (STEO) that the price of US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude will show an annual average price for this year of about $81/bbl.

That estimate is just a dollar higher than the administration’s 2010 crude price forecast of a month ago.

The administration said it expects WTI prices to average about $84/bbl next year, the same estimate it issued in its January outlook.

“The world oil market should gradually tighten in 2010 and 2011 as the global economic recovery continues and world oil demand begins to grow again,” the administration said.

However, the outlook report said, “the combination of high commercial inventories among members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and ample OPEC surplus production capacity should help dampen the likelihood of any large upward surge in prices”.

The OECD is made up of the major industrialised countries.

In natural gas, the administration said it expects the Henry Hub spot price to average $5.37/m Btu in 2010.

Although that forecast is essentially even with last month’s EIA outlook for a 2010 average of $5.36/m Btu, the price forecast is still $1.42 above the 2009 average price of $3.95/m Btu.

The price and availability of natural gas are of crucial importance to the US petrochemicals industry and downstream chemical makers because gas is a principal feedstock for the sector and a key energy fuel as well.

The EIA said that an increase in coal-fired electric power generation in the US and higher natural gas prices through the remainder of this year should reduce the share of natural gas-fired generation in the nation’s base load power mix in 2010.

“The projected 1.3% decline in electric power sector natural gas use is offset by growth in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors in the 2010 forecast,” the outlook said. “The outlook for growth in total natural gas consumption in 2011 comes from increases in the industrial sector as a result of improved economic conditions.”

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