Shale Drives Gas Production And Long-Term Outlook

November 2012, Vol. 239 No. 11

Rita Tubb, Managing Editor

Pipeline & Gas Journal’s 32nd Annual 500 Report provides the industry’s most detailed statistical listings of the nation’s energy pipeline system. As in past years, this report ranks the top distribution, liquids and gas transmission companies. Gas transmission companies are ranked by total miles of pipe while liquids pipeline companies are ranked by yearly crude deliveries. Distribution rankings are based on the number of gas customers.

Additional statistical data are based on operating revenue; net income; total throughput of natural gas; barrels of crude and refined products delivered and miles of main and service lines.

P&GJ makes every effort to ensure the latest statistical information available is included. If your company’s information is incorrect, let us know. We also need to know about any change of address or contact information.

According to the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook, 2012 (AEO2012), growth in the nation’s natural gas production is a result of the application of recent technological advances and continued drilling in shale plays with high concentrations of natural gas liquids and crude oil, which have a higher value in energy equivalent terms than dry natural gas. Shale gas production was 5 Tcf in 2010 (23% of total dry gas production) and is projected to reach 13.6 Tcf in 2035 (49% of total dry gas production).

The EIA report projects the U.S. to become a net exporter of LNG in 2016 and a net pipeline exporter in 2025. It shows an increased use of LNG in markets outside of North America, strong domestic natural gas production, reduced pipeline imports and increased pipeline exports, and relatively low natural gas prices in the U.S. compared to other global markets.

The report indicates wellhead prices for natural gas remaining below $5 Mcf (2010 dollars) through 2023. The projected prices reflect continued success in tapping the nation’s extensive shale gas resource. The resilience of drilling levels, despite low natural gas prices, is in part a result of high crude oil prices, which significantly improve the economics of natural gas plays that have high concentrations of crude oil, condensates, or natural gas liquids.

After 2023, natural gas prices are projected to generally increase as the numbers of tight gas and shale gas wells drilled increase to meet growing domestic demand for natural gas and offset declines in natural gas production from other sources.

Natural gas prices are projected to rise as production gradually shifts to resources that are less productive and costlier. Natural gas wellhead prices (in 2010 dollars) reach $6.52 Mcf in 2035 compared with $6.48 Mcf (2010 dollars) in 2020.

As to current and near-term natural gas prices, EIA’s recently released Short Term Energy Outlook indicates natural gas spot prices averaged $2.85 per MMBtu at the Henry Hub in September 2012, up $0.01 per MMBtu from the August average and $1.05 per MMBtu (27%) lower than the September 2011 average.

While abundant supplies have kept prices relatively low, a hot summer and associated increases in demand for natural gas for power generation contributed to Henry Hub spot price increases this summer, from the monthly average low of $1.95 per MMBtu in April 2012. EIA expects the Henry Hub natural gas price will average $2.71 per MMBtu in 2012 and $3.35 per MMBtu in 2013.

The report notes that natural gas futures prices for January 2013 delivery (for the five-day period ending Oct. 4, 2012) averaged $3.84 per MMBtu. Current options and futures prices imply that market participants place the lower and upper bounds for the 95% confidence interval for January 2013 contracts at $2.77 per MMBtu and $5.31 per MMBtu, respectively. At this time last year, the January 2012 natural gas futures contract averaged $4.10 per MMBtu and the corresponding lower and upper limits of the 95-percent confidence interval were $3.10 per MMBtu and $5.40 per MMBtu.

On domestic crude production, the EIA’s AEO2012 reports an increase over the past few years, reversing a decline that began in 1986. U.S. crude oil production increased from 5.1 MMbpd in 2007 to 5.5 MMbpd in 2010. Over the next 10 years, continued development of tight oil, in combination with the ongoing development of offshore resources in the Gulf of Mexico, pushes domestic crude oil production in the reference case to 6.7 MMbpd in 2020, a level not seen since 1994. Even with a projected decline after 2020, U.S. crude oil production remains above 6.1 MMbpd through 2035.

Its forecast says U.S. dependence on imported petroleum liquids declines primarily as a result of growth in domestic oil production by more than 1 MMbpd by 2020; an increase in biofuels use to more than 1 MMbpd of crude oil equivalent by 2024; and modest growth in transportation sector demand through 2035. Net petroleum imports as a share of total U.S. liquid fuels show consumption drops from 49% in 2010 to 36% in 2035.

Projections in EIA’s AEO2012 report focus on the factors that shape U.S. energy markets in the long term, under the assumption that current laws and regulations remain generally unchanged throughout the projection period.

Liquids’ Top Ten.
Little change is seen in this year’s top ten liquids companies in terms of barrels of product deliveries per year. Colonial Pipeline is again ranked first, reporting 870,997,000, while Magellan Pipeline moved from the third position to second with 416,382,000. SFPP L.P. dropped from second to third with 386,981,000 and Marathon rose from fifth to fourth, reporting 330,428,000.

The sixth through eighth rankings were claimed by the following companies: Buckeye Pipe Line Company, 311,429,000; Exxon/Mobil Pipeline, 309,979,000, Mid-America Pipeline, 303,735,000 and Conoco Phillips Pipe Line, 229,305,000. Joining the top ten to claim the ninth position is Plantation Pipe Line Company, reporting deliveries totaling 189,068,000. Ranked tenth is Enterprise TE Products Pipeline with 183,501,000.

Distribution’s Top Ten. In this section, one change that needs to be noted is AGL Resources’ merger with Nicor Inc. that dramatically increased the company’s gas-only customer base. With an enterprise value of $9.5 billion, the company will now serve about 4.5 million utility customers in seven states.

At the time of the merger in December 2011, John W. Somerhalder II, chairman, president and CEO, AGL Resources said, “We have brought together two prominent companies in the natural gas industry with complementary businesses to create a company of considerable scale that is uniquely positioned for growth.”

Despite the massive increase in AGL’s customer base which went from 2,269,292 a year ago to 4,461,363 after the merger, Southern California Gas again claimed the top spot, reporting 5,801,000 customers, placing AGL in the second place. Third ranked is Pacific Gas & Electric with 4,295,741. The fourth through sixth ranks were claimed by National Grid with 3,527,868, followed by fifth-ranked CenterPoint Energy Operations at 3,282,487, while Atmos Energy claimed the sixth position with 3,169,430 customers. While some of the overall customer numbers changed for some, the seventh through tenth positions were claimed by the following companies: Oneok Inc., 2,089,930; Xcel Energy, 1,900,000; Southwest Gas, 1,859,000 and Public Service Electric & Gas, 1,793,000.

Ed. Note: Full files for the 2012 500 reports are available in the print version of the magazine and for purchase: contact A selection of findings is available below.

Distribution’s Top 10

  1. Southern California Gas Co.
  2. Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
  3. National Grid
  4. CenterPoint Energy Operations
  5. Atmos Energy Corp.
  6. AGL Resources Inc.
  7. Nicor Gas
  8. Oneok, Inc.
  9. Xcel Energy
  10. Southwest Gas Corp.

Distribution Gas Sales (MMcf)

  1. National Grid: 380521
  2. Southern California Gas Co.: 356000
  3. Atmos Energy Corp.: 292527
  4. Pacific Gas & Electric Co.: 249116
  5. Nicor Gas: 248018
  6. Consolidated Edison of New York, Inc.: 243508
  7. Integrys Energy Group: 222000
  8. Consumers Energy Co.: 217763
  9. Public Service Electric & Gas/Gas Delivery: 184700
  10. Oneok, Inc.: 156428

Distribution: Miles Of Pipe

  1. CenterPoint Energy Operations: 112201
  2. Southern California Gas Co.: 98588
  3. Atmos Energy Corp.: 89163
  4. AGL Resources Inc.: 87221
  5. National Grid: 64855
  6. Oneok, Inc.: 54580
  7. Southwest Gas Corp.: 52094
  8. Xcel Energy: 51298
  9. Pacific Gas & Electric Co.: 48779
  10. MichCon: 40865