U.S. natgas output, demand to fall in 2021 after hitting records in 2020: EIA

(Reuters) - U.S. natural gas production and demand will decline in 2021 after hitting record highs this year, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) on Tuesday.

EIA projected dry gas production will fall to 94.11 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) in 2021 from a record 94.74 bcfd in 2020. The current all-time high is 92.03 bcfd in 2019.

“We expect natural gas production to decline in 2021, as relatively low natural gas prices contribute to a reduction in natural gas directed drilling,” EIA Administrator Linda Capuano said in a statement.

That would be the first annual decline in production since 2016.

EIA also projected U.S. gas consumption would fall to 85.70 bcfd in 2021 from a record 86.73 bcfd in 2020 due mostly to reduced power demand as renewables produce more electricity. The current all-time is 85.28 bcfd in 2019.

That would be the first annual decline in consumption since 2017.

The agency forecast U.S. net gas exports would reach 7.3 bcfd in 2020 and 8.9 bcfd in 2021, up from 5.3 bcfd in 2019. The United States became a net gas exporter in 2017 for the first time in 60 years.

EIA projected gas would remain the primary U.S. power plant fuel in 2020 and 2021 after supplanting coal in 2016.

It projected the share of gas generation would rise to 38% in 2020 before easing to 37% in 2021, the same as in 2019.

Coal’s share of generation was forecast to slide to 21% in 2020 and 2021 from 24% in 2019.

Nuclear’s share of generation was expected to hold around 20% in 2020 and 2021, while renewables would rise from 19% in 2020 to 22% in 2021, making renewables the second biggest source of the nation’s power.

EIA projected the power sector would burn 479.6 million short tons of coal in 2020, the lowest since 1977, and 464.1 million tons in 2021, the lowest since 1976. That compares with 544.4 million tons in 2019, the lowest since 1979.

U.S. carbon emissions have mostly declined since peaking at 6,003 million tonnes in 2007 as the power sector burns less coal.

EIA projected carbon emissions would slip from 5,169 million tonnes in 2019 to 5,064 million tonnes in 2020, the lowest since 1991, and 4,990 million tonnes in 2021, the lowest since 1988.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Jonathan Oatis; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang