JM Dutton & Associates has issued a research report on the outlook for oil and gas prices in 2003 prepared by energy analyst Les Childress. According to the report, the average price for natural gas in the United States in 2003 will continue to increase from the strong upward trend established in the late fourth quarter of 2002.

JM Dutton & Associates believes that natural gas prices could spike to $6.50 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) during the 2003 winter season.

In the short term, the group said that spot market natural gas prices are currently running well over $4.60 per mcf, and that levels may spike to $6.50 per mcf during this winter. The recent price run-up is believed to be due in part to colder winter weather that arrived earlier than expected.

In the long-term, the organization said that natural gas supply and demand is difficult to predict. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) forecasts that natural gas consumption in the United States will grow by more than 50 percent between now and 2020. This is equivalent to an annual consumption of 34.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf).

JM Dutton & Associates also said that of the electric generation power plants currently under construction or planned, 90 percent will be fueled by natural gas.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is anticipating an overall percentage share of U.S. electric generation derived from natural gas to double to 32 percent by 2020 from 16 percent in 2000.

— By J.J. Siegel

Publication date: 02/10/2003