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Natural gas power generation on par with coal

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Healthcare Care and the Euro Surprise

Yesterday it appeared that oil and health care have a lot more in common than you’d think. No, I am not talking about oil being used for medical purposes like it was in the old days but the impact on the price of oil after the surprise Supreme Court provision to uphold the Obama-care individual mandate. Chief Justice Roberts, in the majority opinion, held that the law was a valid exercise of Congress’s power to tax.

Which goes to show you that if Obama called the “individual mandate” a tax in the first place, then the Supreme Court might not had to go to all of that trouble. Except that they might not have ever heard it because the record shows there were many more Democrats that would not have voted for another tax increase so this all may have been a moot point. In fact many business and high ranking financial officials also are blaming the uncertainty over the health care-bill for the jobless recovery we have been having in this country. The market is saying quite clearly that this law is going to slow the economy, slow job creation and add a burden to an already overburdened economy. While the ruling is a major victory for Obama and his legacy, he may start wishing the Supreme Court threw the law out if the private sector freezes up and sends the economy into a tailspin, driving the President out of office.

Of course just when the markets looked their bleakest rumors out of the Euro Summit helped bring them back. I guess Chancellor Angela Merkel talks tough and then gives just a bit and for the markets expecting nothing I guess any little thing gives them hope. As Bloomberg reported  in Brussels today, leaders of the 17 euro countries dropped requirements that taxpayers get preferred creditor status on aid to Spain’s banks and opened the way to recapitalize lenders directly without bailout funds. More than $4.9 trillion has been erased from global equity values this quarter amid concern that a worsening debt crisis will stifle the global recovery.

“It was a moment of high drama,” said Jonathan Garner, Hong Kong-based chief strategist at Morgan Stanley. “France sided with Spain and Italy and all three of those countries made it very clear they weren’t pursuing with the long-term goals around fiscal union and or growth measures unless one dealt with the short-term problem of stability in the bond markets and the Spanish banks problem.”

Well this gave the markets a ray of hope in an otherwise dismal day. I guess when you get beaten down so bad it does not take much to give you a lift!

Lost in all the drama over healthcare was a historic moment for natural gas and the shale gas revolution. For the first time in recorded history as reported by Reuters, “Gas-fired power plants in April produced the same amount of generation as coal using data from the Energy Information Energy Agency.

Since the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) began compiling monthly statistics, natural gas and coal had the same share of total net power generation, 32% during April, the agency said in a monthly update. Historically, coal has been the fuel of choice for power generation because coal prices have been lower than natural gas prices for much of the last decade. But sliding gas prices over the last year or so has made gas a more economic choice, allowing gas plants to increase their share of the nation’s generation.

The EIA said the output of coal-fired units declined in all regions, while the output from natural gas-fired combined-cycle plants increased across the board. Coal consumption fell almost 23% to 51.5 million tons in April 2012 from the same month in the prior year. Natural gas consumption meanwhile increased to 744 million cubic feet, up almost 36% from the same month in the prior year.

With the switch to gas, coal stocks topped 203 million tons in April 2012, up almost 17% from the same month last year. That is just below the all-time record of 204 million tons in November of 2009. The biggest decline in coal-fired generation was in the Northeast where output dropped 88% in April, cutting coal’s share of total generation in the region to less than 1%. The Northeast consumed around 110,000 short tons of coal in April 2012 down from around 600,000 tons in April last year. EIA said the biggest shifts from coal to gas were occurring in several regions, including the Southeast, Central, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. As for fuel prices, EIA said eastern coal from the Central Appalachian region in April remained more expensive than natural gas prices at both the Henry Hub and Transco Zone 6 in New York. But western coal from the Powder River Basin was still cheaper than either eastern coal or gas, EIA said. The Southeast, Florida, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast regions use mostly bituminous coal, generally found in Appalachia. The West, Texas and Central regions use mostly sub bituminous coal, primarily from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.

In the heat of the day natural gas fell. The EIA showed a bigger injection than expected reporting. Working gas in storage was 3,063 Bcf as of Friday, June 22, 2012, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 57 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 653 Bcf higher than last year at this time and 613 Bcf above the 5-year average of 2,450 Bcf. In the East Region, stocks were 288 Bcf above the 5-year average following net injections of 34 Bcf. Stocks in the Producing Region were 240 Bcf above the 5-year average of 890 Bcf after a net injection of 14 Bcf. Stocks in the West Region were 84 Bcf above the 5-year average after a net addition of 9 Bcf. At 3,063 Bcf, total working gas is above the 5-year historical range.

Add to that is sizzling hot temperatures across our land so demand might not be as strong as some expected. With production coming back from Tropical Storm Debby, the bulls are running out of momentum. Now they may get some momentum next week as another storm brews in the Atlantic.

Futures Mag

5 Comments on "Natural gas power generation on par with coal"

  1. anonymous on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 8:39 pm 

    But the surplus coal is exported.

    Worldwide coal production is just 0.3 % behind Oil and will exceed Oil this year.

  2. Mike999 on Fri, 29th Jun 2012 9:37 pm 

    How Much Water does “Natural Gas” use? Too Much. We need to Switch to Wind and Solar NOW.

    Texas Utilities have already shut down Nuclear because of low water level shortages, the only thing running was WIND.

  3. BillT on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 2:23 am 

    Soon the natural gas bubble will pop and prices will climb back to normal levels, coal will come back, more expensive than ever, and life will go on for a while longer. The stock market is psychotic these days and does not reflect realty.

    As for water, yes, that is the topic that will gain higher importance in the coming years, not oil. As the folks in Texas and other locations are finding out, you need water for many things and not just washing the car.

  4. DMyers on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 3:08 am 

    IF you want to see the mother of all natural gas bubbles, search for the Indiana Gas Boom. It promised to fuel prosperity for eternity. But, alas, it lasted only about twenty years. That was at the turn of the twentieth century. Natural gas has failed expectations for many, many years now. When will we ever learn?

  5. Kenz300 on Sat, 30th Jun 2012 1:17 pm 

    We have now begun to realize that coal, nuclear and natural gas fired power plants use huge amounts of water as water is becoming scarce and more precious. It is time to switch to wind, solar, wave energy and geothermal for a greater portion of our energy needs.

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