October 18, 2023
Natural gas plays a vital role in US energy supply, energy security, and industrial competitiveness.
As we’ve written elsewhere, it will remain a hugely important part of the energy mix for decades to come, even as we seek to decarbonize both energy supply and manufactured goods.
This means that natural gas will come up in conversation a lot—often for good reasons but sometimes under more contentious circumstances.
To help frame the conversation and keep it within the guardrails of reality, here is a smattering of facts and figures to consider and introduce, when it makes sense.
We realize that not all participants in the natural gas debate are rational or pay heed to real world data, but many people do, so it’s for those folks that we’ve compiled this list.
Numbers constantly change, so please consult a primary source before making any significant promises, bets, or decisions based on this information!
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) is an excellent and regularly updated resource, from which we’ve drawn many of the datapoints that follow.
As of 2020, the US had over 500 Tcf of proven natural gas reserves.
Advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have contributed to the US becoming the world’s largest natural gas producer.
Even though the gas-directed rig count has dropped to about 120 rigs, daily natural gas production still sits at about 100 Bcf/d.
The country also operates about 4 Tcf of underground gas storage capacity, which typically holds between 1-3.5 Tcf of working natural gas, depending on the time of year.
In 2022, the US consumed about 32 Tcf of natural gas, or almost 90 Bcf/d, with Texas (15.2%), California (6.8%), Louisiana (5.9%), Pennsylvania (5.7%), and Florida (5.0%) being the top five consuming states on an annualized basis.
The largest slice of the pie goes to electricity generation at just over 33 Bcf/d, 38% of the total. Natural gas surpassed coal in 2019 to become the largest source of electricity generation.
Industrial consumption accounts for another 28.5 Bcf/d, or 32% of the total.
Residential consumption comes in at almost 14 Bcf/d (15%), followed by non-industrial commercial uses at 9.5 Bcf/d (11%).
The remaining 4% is consumed by pipeline and distribution operations.
Less than 1% of domestic natural gas is used for transportation, with only about 250,000 LNG-fueled vehicles on the road out of over 280 million total vehicles.
As an interesting point for comparison, liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the US have been steadily increasing, averaging about 12.6 Bcf/d in September 2023 (below the record of 14 Bcf/d set in April).
As we wrote in a recent post, exports are projected to exceed 20 Bcf/d by the end of the decade, which could imperil supplies to domestic consumers.
Breaking down the huge industrial slice, the largest consumers are bulk chemical manufacturers, where natural gas is used both for fuel and as a feedstock for a huge array of intermediate and finished products, including fertilizers.
Next comes refining and petrochemicals, where natural gas is again used both to fuel the refining process and as a feedstock for producing ethylene, propylene, and other widely used basic petrochemicals.
Industrial processes with high heat intensity, such as steel and aluminum smelting and treating and cement production, account for the next largest share.
The remainder is distributed between food processing, paper and pulp processing, and a host of smaller consumers.
The US has a vast, highly integrated network of pipelines that deliver natural gas to residential consumers—about 3 million miles in total.
About 60% of households count on natural gas for at least one energy end use, up from about 40% in the 1980s.
The average residential customer consumes about 40 Mcf of natural gas annually.
About 58% of US homes use natural gas for water heating, 53% have a natural-gas powered clothes dryer, nearly 40% use it to power their stove, and about 21% have a natural gas-fired fireplace (although it’s unclear how many actually get used).
Over half of US homes (~51%) use natural gas as their main heating source, with natural gas-fired forced air furnaces accounting for the lion’s share (47% of households).
A small but growing number of households use natural gas-powered backup generators for electricity during power outages.
January typically records the highest monthly residential natural gas consumption, primarily due to the colder weather, with states in the Midwest and Northeast recording higher residential consumption, topped by Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
For those concerned about safety, natural gas-related incidents in homes result in an average of only 17 fatalities each year.
Bcf, Bcf/d - Billion standard cubic feet (per day)
Mcf, Mcf/d - Million standard cubic feet (per day)
At Trellis Energy, we believe that a modern natural gas supply chain should be digital, efficient, and easy to manage, ensuring the delivery of clean energy when and where it’s needed. We’re in business to make that a reality for natural gas in North America.
Talk to us about Digital Simplification for your climate, trading, and logistics goals.