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Last Updated: December 13, 2017
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Short-Term Energy Outlook

December 12, 2017 Release


Highlights  


Global liquid fuels



North Sea Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $63 per barrel (b) in November, an increase of $5/b from the average in October. EIA forecasts Brent spot prices to average $57/b in 2018, up from an average of $54/b in 2017.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices are forecast to average $4/b lower than Brent prices in 2018. After averaging $2/b lower than Brent prices through the first eight months of 2017, WTI prices averaged $6/b lower than Brent prices from September through November.

NYMEX WTI contract values for March 2018 delivery traded during the five-day period ending December 7, 2017, suggest that a range of $48/b to $68/b encompasses the market expectation for March WTI prices at the 95% confidence level.

·        EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil production averaged 9.7 million barrels per day (b/d) in November, up 360,000 b/d from the October level. Most of the increase was in the Gulf of Mexico, where production was 290,000 b/d higher than in October. Higher production in November reflected oil production platforms returning to operation after being shut in response to Hurricane Nate. EIA forecasts total U.S. crude oil production to average 9.2 million b/d for all of 2017 and 10.0 million b/d in 2018, which would mark the highest annual average production, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970.


·        U.S. regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.56 per gallon (gal) in November, an increase of nearly 6 cents/gal from the average in October. The increase in November primarily reflected increasing crude oil prices. EIA forecasts the U.S. regular gasoline retail price will average $2.59/gal in December, 34 cents/gal higher than at the same time last year. EIA forecasts that U.S. regular gasoline retail prices will average $2.51/gal in 2018.


Natural gas


·        U.S. dry natural gas production is forecast to average 73.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017, a 0.7 Bcf/d increase from the 2016 level. EIA forecasts that natural gas production in 2018 will be 6.1 Bcf/d higher than the 2017 level.


·        In November, the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $3.01 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), up nearly 14 cents/MMBtu from October. Expected growth in natural gas exports and domestic natural gas consumption in 2018 contribute to an increase in EIA’s forecast Henry Hub natural gas spot price from an annual average of $3.01/MMBtu in 2017 to $3.12/MMBtu in 2018. NYMEX contract values for March 2018 delivery that traded during the five-day period ending December 7, 2017, suggest that a range of $1.98/MMBtu to $4.27/MMBtu encompasses the market expectation for March Henry Hub natural gas prices at the 95% confidence level.


Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions


·        EIA expects the share of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas will average about 32% in 2017, down from 34% in 2016 as a result of higher natural gas fuel costs and increased generation from renewable energy sources. EIA projects the 2017 share of generation from coal will average 30%, about the same as last year. The forecast 2018 generation shares for natural gas and coal remain relatively unchanged from 2017, averaging 32% and 31%, respectively. Generation from renewable energy sources other than hydropower grows from about 8% in 2016 to a forecast share of nearly 10% in 2018. Nuclear power’s forecast share of total electricity generation averages about 20% in both 2017 and 2018, similar to its 2016 level.


·        Estimated U.S. coal production for the first 11 months of 2017 is 719 million short tons (MMst), 54 MMst (8%) higher than production for the same period in 2016. Annual production is expected to be 791 MMst in 2017, falling to 771 MMst in 2018 because of lower exports and no growth in coal consumption.


·        U.S. coal exports for the first three quarters of 2017 were 69 MMst, 68% (28 MMst) higher than exports for the same period in 2016. This total for the first three quarters of 2017 is already 14% (8 MMst) higher than total annual coal exports in 2016. EIA expects that exports will total 89 MMst in 2017 and 74 MMst in 2018.


·        U.S. wind electricity generating capacity at the end of 2016 totaled 81 gigawatts (GW). EIA expects wind capacity additions in the forecast to raise total wind capacity to 88 GW by the end of 2017 and to 96 GW by the end of 2018.


·        Total U.S. utility-scale solar electricity generating capacity at the end of 2016 was 22 GW. EIA expects solar capacity additions will bring total utility-scale solar capacity to 27 GW by the end of 2017 and to 30 GW by the end of 2018.


·        After declining by 1.7% in 2016, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to decrease by 0.8% in 2017 and then to increase by 1.8% in 2018. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, and energy prices.

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