Natural gas exports exceed coal exports in record milestone

Total energy production in the U.S. was down in 2016, the first decrease since 2009, according to a note released by the EIA today. U.S. primary energy production totaled 84.1 quadrillion BTU in 2016, 4% below the 88 quadrillion BTU produced in 2015.

18% drop in coal drives decrease

Most of this decrease was due to declining coal production. Low natural gas prices and flat electricity demand resulted in an 18% decrease in coal production in 2016. According to the EIA, coal production has fallen to its lowest level since 1978. The 14.8 quadrillion BTU of coal produced in 2016 is down 38% from peak levels in 2008.

The low price environment also caused decreases in oil and natural gas produced. The EIA reports that crude oil production declined 5% in 2016, and natural gas dropped 2%. Oil prices have increased since bottoming out in early 2016, and are currently just above $50/bbl WTI. U.S. producers are almost all taking advantage of the increased prices with expanded 2017 spending. Assuming planned spending programs are carried out, national crude production will increase in 2017.

Renewable energy production increased by about 7% in 2016, reversing the decline seen in 2015. Wind energy made up half of the overall increase, while solar accounted for a quarter. Almost all of the remaining increase was supplied by hydroelectric power.

Slowing Demand For Coal Sees Total Energy Production Fall 4%: EIA

Source: EIA

Petroleum products exports continue sharp increase

Despite the decrease in production, exports of energy increased by 7% in 2016. Refined petroleum products are by far the largest energy export of the U.S. Exports in these products have risen sharply in the last ten years, growing threefold in that period. The 8.8 quadrillion BTU of refined products exported last year represents 63% of the total exported energy.

Notably, 2016 was the first year natural gas exports exceeded coal exports. Gas exports rose by 30% last year to 2.3 quadrillion BTU, while coal fell by 18% to 1.5 quadrillion BTU. The EIA projects that the U.S. will be a net natural gas exporter by 2018 as domestic production and export capacity increase.

Slowing Demand For Coal Sees Total Energy Production Fall 4%: EIA

Source: EIA

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