The gas industry has drilled itself into this predicament. Gas production continues to ratchet higher, rapidly replenishing inventories, which had plunged to a 15-year low heading into this past winter season. Inventories are still below the five-year average, but have climbed quickly in recent months.
If the natural gas industry had hoped that a stunning heat wave sweeping over a large swathe of the East Coast would rescue prices, they are surely now disappointed. Natural gas prices continue to fall, despite the heat, and there is little prospect of a rebound. On Friday, spot natural gas prices fell by another 3 percent, dipping below $2.20/MMBtu.
Record production from the Marcellus is one of the main reasons. But oil drillers are also to blame. The frenzied pace of drilling in the Permian – which, to be sure, has been slowing as of late – has produced a wave of natural gas so large that the industry is flaring enormous volumes of gas because of the lack of pipelines. Texas regulators seem unwilling to regulate the rate of flaring over fear of hurting the industry, so the flaring continues.
Still, record levels of associated gas production from the Permian are dragging down prices. New midstream capacity later this year from the Gulf Coast Express pipeline will bring more gas to market, adding to supply woes. More pipelines are in the offing for 2020 and 2021.