Coal And Natural Gas Even In Energy Production
July 8, 2012

Coal And Natural Gas Even In Energy Production

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

For the first time since officials began keeping track of the numbers, US power plants fired by natural gas are producing approximately the same amount of electricity as those powered by coal, the Department of Energy's statistical branch announced on Friday.

The record-setting performance came in April, as both coal-fired plants and natural gas-fired plants provided 32% of the country's total generation, the Energy Information Association (EIA) announced in a July 6 report. Coal technically still outperformed natural gas, but only barely -- 96.0 million megawatt hours versus 95.9 million megawatt hours.

Part of the reason for the trend is that natural gas prices as delivered to power plants were at their lowest in a decade, the EIA explained, according to USA Today's Wendy Koch.

In addition, coal's output decreased 19% between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter this year, due to lessened demand due to mild spring and winter conditions and new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated pollution-control guidelines, she added.

"There are strong seasonal trends in the overall demand for electric power," the EIA said. "In April 2012, demand was low due to the mild spring weather. Also in April, natural gas prices as delivered to power plants were at a ten-year low. With warmer summer weather and increased electric demand for air conditioning, demand will increase, requiring increased output from both coal- and natural gas-fired generators."

"The mix of fuels used to generate electricity--and specifically the competition between natural gas and coal--is dependent on several factors“¦ decreasing coal share of generation, increasing coal stockpiles, rising coal exports, effect of natural gas prices, and natural gas consumption by sector," they added.

In related news, late last week the EIA also announced that the country's natural gas supplies are on the rise. According to the Associated Press, the amount of natural gas in storage increased by 39 billion cubic feet to 3.102 trillion cubic feet for the week ending June 29. That marked a 22.7% increase over the five-year average, they added.