Natural gas use for power generation will grow throughout the country over the next 25 years, but for different reasons across different regions, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said this week.
The agency said it expects natural gas-fired electric power generation for the lower 48 states to grow to 1.6 billion megawatt hours by 2040, up about 1.3 percent a year. The growth is projected to be fueled by a 56 percent boost in domestic natural gas production from 2012 to 2040.
The Southwest Power Pool — which is comprised of Oklahoma and parts of five surrounding states — is expected to see the smallest gain, although even here natural gas-fired power is expected to grow by more than 70 million megawatt hours.
The relatively slight growth likely is because the region already relies heavily on natural gas, which represents about 41 percent of Oklahoma’s power mix.
The three regions with the highest-projected growth are the western part of the country, Texas and much of the eastern half of the country, excluding Florida and New England. The eastern and western regions currently have the highest levels of coal-fired generation in the United States.
The EIA forecast shows coal power continuing to grow in the east along with natural gas, while the western region will include growth in natural gas and renewables. In Texas, natural gas is projected to represent almost all of the new power generation over the next quarter century.
While natural gas-fired power is expected to grow in the lower 48, another EIA report this week shows that Hawaii and the country’s island territories also are hoping to diversify their energy consumption.
Nationwide, petroleum represents about 38 percent of total energy use, followed by natural gas at about 23 percent and coal with about 18 percent. In Hawaii and the other islands, energy almost exclusively comes from petroleum, mainly because oil is easier to transport than other energy sources.
Because of the dependence on oil, residential electricity prices on the islands average three to five times more than in the rest of the country.
But with domestic natural gas production booming and companies building liquified natural gas export terminals, the islands may soon have more options.
Puerto Rico already has added an LNG terminal next door to a petroleum-fired power plant that has been converted to run on natural gas.
Hawaii utilities also are experimenting with LNG, receiving the first shipment in April. The state has used natural gas for a while, but until this year the fuel was synthetic gas made in one of Hawaii’s two crude oil refineries.
Besides the increased use of natural gas, Hawaii and the other islands also increasingly are investing in solar power.
The country’s energy diversification and increased adoption of natural gas promise both financial and environmental benefits to consumers.
The trend also could be a boon to Oklahoma, which is one of the top natural gas-producing states, accounting for 8.4 percent of the country’s marketed natural gas production in 2013.