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Last Updated: March 13, 2020
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Forecast HighlightsGlobal liquid fuels

  • EIA delayed the release of the March STEO update by one day to incorporate recent significant global oil market developments. On March 9, Brent crude oil front-month futures prices fell below $35/b, a 24% daily decline and the second largest daily price decline on record. Prices fell following the March 6 meeting between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its partner countries, which ended without an agreement on production levels amid market expectations for declining global oil demand growth in the coming months. In addition to the following highlights, EIA has provided a short summary of the March STEO forecast in the crude oil section of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Markets Review (PNGMR).
  • As a result of the outcome of the March 6 OPEC meeting, EIA’s forecast assumes that OPEC will target market share instead of a balanced global oil market. EIA forecasts OPEC crude oil production will average 29.2 million barrels per day (b/d) from April through December 2020, up from an average of 28.7 million b/d in the first quarter of 2020. EIA forecasts OPEC crude oil production will rise to an average of 29.4 million b/d in 2021. The OPEC production data in the March STEO include Ecuador, which finalized its withdrawal from OPEC at the March 6 meeting. Beginning with the April 2020 STEO, EIA will include Ecuador’s production volumes in non-OPEC data.
  • EIA expects global petroleum and liquid fuels consumption will average 99.1 million b/d in the first quarter of 2020, a decline of 0.9 million b/d from the same period in 2019. EIA expects global petroleum and liquid fuels demand will rise by less than 0.4 million b/d in 2020 and by 1.7 million b/d in 2021. Lower global oil demand growth for 2020 in the March STEO reflects a reduced assumption for global economic growth along with reduced expected travel globally because of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
  • EIA expects that global liquid fuels inventories will grow by an average of 1.0 million b/d in 2020 after falling by about 0.1 million b/d in 2019. EIA expects inventory builds will be largest in the first half of 2020, rising at a rate of 1.7 million b/d because of slow oil demand growth. Firmer demand growth as the global economy strengthens and slower supply growth will contribute to balanced markets in the fourth quarter of 2020 and global oil inventory draws in 2021. EIA expects global liquid fuels inventories will decline by 0.4 million b/d in 2021.
  • EIA forecasts Brent crude oil prices will average $43/b in 2020, down from an average of $64/b in 2019. For 2020, EIA expects prices will average $37/b during the second quarter and then rise to $42/b during the second half of the year. EIA forecasts that average Brent prices will rise to an average of $55/b in 2021, as declining global oil inventories put upward pressure on prices.
  • EIA forecasts U.S. crude oil production will average 13.0 million b/d in 2020, up 0.8 million b/d from 2019, but then fall to 12.7 million b/d in 2021. The forecast decline in 2021 is in response to lower oil prices and would mark the first annual U.S. crude oil production decline since 2016. EIA models show oil prices affect production after about a six-month lag. Despite forecast annual average growth of 0.8 million b/d in 2020, EIA expects monthly U.S. crude oil production to begin declining around May, with production falling from 13.2 million b/d in May to 12.8 million b/d in December 2020.
  • Based on the lower crude oil price forecast, EIA expects U.S. retail prices for regular grade gasoline to average $2.14 per gallon (gal) in 2020, down from $2.60/gal in 2019. EIA expects retail gasoline prices to fall to a monthly average of $1.97/gal in April before rising to an average of $2.13/gal from June through August.
Natural gas
  • In February, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $1.91 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). Warmer-than-normal temperatures in February reduced demand for space heating and put downward pressure on prices. EIA forecasts that prices will begin to rise in the second quarter of 2020 as U.S. natural gas production declines and natural gas use for power generation increases the demand for natural gas. EIA expects prices to average $2.22/MMBtu in the third quarter of 2020. EIA forecasts that Henry Hub natural gas spot prices will average $2.11/MMBtu in 2020. EIA expects that natural gas prices will then increase in 2021, reaching an annual average of $2.51/MMBtu.
  • U.S. dry natural gas production set a record in 2019, averaging 92.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). Although EIA forecasts dry natural gas production will average 95.3 Bcf/d in 2020, a 3% increase from 2019, EIA expects monthly production to generally decline through 2020, falling from an estimated 96.5 Bcf/d in February to 92.3 Bcf/d in December. The falling production mostly occurs in the Appalachian and Permian regions. In the Appalachian region, low natural gas prices are discouraging producers from engaging in natural gas-directed drilling, and in the Permian region, low oil prices reduce associated gas output from oil-directed wells. In 2021, EIA forecasts dry natural gas production will rise from December 2020 levels in response to higher prices. Forecast dry natural gas production for 2021 averages 92.6 Bcf/d.
  • EIA estimates that total U.S. working natural gas in storage ended February at 2.1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), 9% more than the five-year (2015–19) average. EIA forecasts that total working inventories will end March at 1.9 Tcf, 12% more than the five-year average. In the forecast, inventories rise by almost 2.1 Tcf during the April through October injection season to reach almost 4.0 Tcf on October 31.
Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
  • EIA expects the annual share of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas-fired power plants will remain relatively steady through the forecast; it was 37% in 2019, and EIA forecasts it will average 39% in 2020 and 37% in 2021. Coal’s forecast share of electricity generation falls from 24% in 2019 to 21% in both 2020 and 2021. Electricity generation from renewable energy sources rises from a share of 17% last year to 19% in 2020 and to 21% in 2021. The increase in the renewables share is the result of additions to wind and solar generating capacity. The nuclear share of generation averaged 20% in 2019 and is expected to remain about the same in 2020 and 2021.
  • EIA forecasts that U.S. coal production will total 573 million short tons (MMst) in 2020, down 117 MMst (17%) from 2019. Lower production reflects declining demand for coal in the electric power sector and lower demand for U.S. exports. EIA forecasts that electric power sector demand for coal will fall by 86 MMst (16%) in 2020. EIA expects that U.S. coal production will stabilize in 2021 as export demand rises and U.S. power sector demand for coal increases slightly because natural gas prices increase.
  • After decreasing by 2.8% in 2019, EIA forecasts that energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will decrease by 2.2% in 2020 and by 0.4% in 2021. Declining emissions in 2020 reflect forecast declines in total U.S. energy consumption because of energy efficiency and weather effects, particularly as a result of warmer-than-normal temperatures in January and February. A forecast return to normal temperatures in 2021 results in a slowing decline in emissions. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, energy prices, and fuel mix.

electricity coal renewables emissions natural gas global liquid fuels EIA
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The United States consumed a record amount of renewable energy in 2019

In 2019, consumption of renewable energy in the United States grew for the fourth year in a row, reaching a record 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), or 11% of total U.S. energy consumption. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) new U.S. renewable energy consumption by source and sector chart published in the Monthly Energy Review shows how much renewable energy by source is consumed in each sector.

In its Monthly Energy Review, EIA converts sources of energy to common units of heat, called British thermal units (Btu), to compare different types of energy that are more commonly measured in units that are not directly comparable, such as gallons of biofuels compared with kilowatthours of wind energy. EIA uses a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate primary energy consumption of noncombustible renewables such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal.

U.S. renewable energy consumption by sector

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Wind energy in the United States is almost exclusively used by wind-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector, and it accounted for about 24% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. Wind surpassed hydroelectricity to become the most-consumed source of renewable energy on an annual basis in 2019.

Wood and waste energy, including wood, wood pellets, and biomass waste from landfills, accounted for about 24% of U.S. renewable energy use in 2019. Industrial, commercial, and electric power facilities use wood and waste as fuel to generate electricity, to produce heat, and to manufacture goods. About 2% of U.S. households used wood as their primary source of heat in 2019.

Hydroelectric power is almost exclusively used by water-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector and accounted for about 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. U.S. hydropower consumption has remained relatively consistent since the 1960s, but it fluctuates with seasonal rainfall and drought conditions.

Biofuels, including fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels, accounted for about 20% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. Biofuels usually are blended with petroleum-based motor gasoline and diesel and are consumed as liquid fuels in automobiles. Industrial consumption of biofuels accounts for about 36% of U.S. biofuel energy consumption.

Solar energy, consumed to generate electricity or directly as heat, accounted for about 9% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019 and had the largest percentage growth among renewable sources in 2019. Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, including rooftop panels, and solar thermal power plants use sunlight to generate electricity. Some residential and commercial buildings heat with solar heating systems.

October, 20 2020
Natural gas generators make up largest share of U.S. electricity generation capacity

operating natural-gas fired electric generating capacity by online year

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) annual survey of electric generators, natural gas-fired generators accounted for 43% of operating U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2019. These natural gas-fired generators provided 39% of electricity generation in 2019, more than any other source. Most of the natural gas-fired capacity added in recent decades uses combined-cycle technology, which surpassed coal-fired generators in 2018 to become the technology with the most electricity generating capacity in the United States.

Technological improvements have led to improved efficiency of natural gas generators since the mid-1980s, when combined-cycle plants began replacing older, less efficient steam turbines. For steam turbines, boilers combust fuel to generate steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity. Combustion turbines use a fuel-air mixture to spin a gas turbine. Combined-cycle units, as their name implies, combine these technologies: a fuel-air mixture spins gas turbines to generate electricity, and the excess heat from the gas turbine is used to generate steam for a steam turbine that generates additional electricity.

Combined-cycle generators generally operate for extended periods; combustion turbines and steam turbines are typically only used at times of peak load. Relatively few steam turbines have been installed since the late 1970s, and many steam turbines have been retired in recent years.

natural gas-fired electric gnerating capacity by retirement year

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Not only are combined-cycle systems more efficient than steam or combustion turbines alone, the combined-cycle systems installed more recently are more efficient than the combined-cycle units installed more than a decade ago. These changes in efficiency have reduced the amount of natural gas needed to produce the same amount of electricity. Combined-cycle generators consume 80% of the natural gas used to generate electric power but provide 85% of total natural gas-fired electricity.

operating natural gas-fired electric generating capacity in selected states

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Every U.S. state, except Vermont and Hawaii, has at least one utility-scale natural gas electric power plant. Texas, Florida, and California—the three states with the most electricity consumption in 2019—each have more than 35 gigawatts of natural gas-fired capacity. In many states, the majority of this capacity is combined-cycle technology, but 44% of New York’s natural gas capacity is steam turbines and 67% of Illinois’s natural gas capacity is combustion turbines.

October, 19 2020
EIA’s International Energy Outlook analyzes electricity markets in India, Africa, and Asia

Countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Asia, including China and India, and in Africa are home to more than two-thirds of the world population. These regions accounted for 44% of primary energy consumed by the electric sector in 2019, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected they will reach 56% by 2050 in the Reference case in the International Energy Outlook 2019 (IEO2019). Changes in these economies significantly affect global energy markets.

Today, EIA is releasing its International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020), which analyzes generating technology, fuel price, and infrastructure uncertainty in the electricity markets of Africa, Asia, and India. A related webcast presentation will begin this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

global energy consumption for power generation

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)

IEO2020 focuses on the electricity sector, which consumes a growing share of the world’s primary energy. The makeup of the electricity sector is changing rapidly. The use of cost-efficient wind and solar technologies is increasing, and, in many regions of the world, use of lower-cost liquefied natural gas is also increasing. In IEO2019, EIA projected renewables to rise from about 20% of total energy consumed for electricity generation in 2010 to the largest single energy source by 2050.

The following are some key findings of IEO2020:

  • As energy use grows in Asia, some cases indicate more than 50% of electricity could be generated from renewables by 2050.
    IEO2020 features cases that consider differing natural gas prices and renewable energy capital costs in Asia, showing how these costs could shift the fuel mix for generating electricity in the region either further toward fossil fuels or toward renewables.
  • Africa could meet its electricity growth needs in different ways depending on whether development comes as an expansion of the central grid or as off-grid systems.
    Falling costs for solar photovoltaic installations and increased use of off-grid distribution systems have opened up technology options for the development of electricity infrastructure in Africa. Africa’s power generation mix could shift away from current coal-fired and natural gas-fired technologies used in the existing central grid toward off-grid resources, including extensive use of non-hydroelectric renewable generation sources.
  • Transmission infrastructure affects options available to change the future fuel mix for electricity generation in India.
    IEO2020 cases demonstrate the ways that electricity grid interconnections influence fuel choices for electricity generation in India. In cases where India relies more on a unified grid that can transmit electricity across regions, the share of renewables significantly increases and the share of coal decreases between 2019 and 2050. More limited movement of electricity favors existing in-region generation, which is mostly fossil fuels.

IEO2020 builds on the Reference case presented in IEO2019. The models, economic assumptions, and input oil prices from the IEO2019 Reference case largely remained unchanged, but EIA adjusted specific elements or assumptions to explore areas of uncertainty such as the rapid growth of renewable energy.

Because IEO2020 is based on the IEO2019 modeling platform and because it focuses on long-term electricity market dynamics, it does not include the impacts of COVID-19 and related mitigation efforts. The Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021) and IEO2021 will both feature analyses of the impact of COVID-19 mitigation efforts on energy markets.

Asia infographic, as described in the article text


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)
Note: Click to enlarge.

With the IEO2020 release, EIA is publishing new Plain Language documentation of EIA’s World Energy Projection System (WEPS), the modeling system that EIA uses to produce IEO projections. EIA’s new Handbook of Energy Modeling Methods includes sections on most WEPS components, and EIA will release more sections in the coming months.

October, 16 2020