Propane Prices to Ease on Mild Weather

Though winter is upon us, a mild start to the winter heating season means homeowners could be in for lower than expected propane heating bills, the EIA says. (image: csmonitor.com)

National propane stocks dipped slightly in the last week, falling by 100,000 barrels and average residential propane prices gained less than a cent.

But homeowners who rely on propane for their winter heating could be in for a slight reprieve, with a mild start to winter forecast to bring slightly lower heating bills, nasdaq.com reports.

Figures released yesterday by the US Energy Information Administration show there are now 58.7 million barrels of propane gas in storage – the equivalent of 45.9 days’ supply. At the same time last year there were 63 million barrels in storage – the equivalent of 56.8 days’ supply at last year’s lower rate of consumption.

Reserve US propane supplies have been tracking well below last year’s levels for months. Experts put the lag in inventories down to strong export demand for the gas from countries like China and India. This is despite a boom in domestic propane production thanks to our significant shale reserves and an increase in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling extraction methods.

Though the US experienced an unseasonal cold snap in Autumn, bringing snow storms to some areas, the EIA says a milder than expected start to winter could result in lower than predicted winter heating bills for homeowners. Propane users in the Northeast and Midwest will still spend an extra 6.7 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, on higher prices this year but lower consumption, the EIA said. But the price increases are smaller than the 9.8 percent and 8.1 percent jumps projected last month.

Current average residential propane prices are 25 cents higher than at the same time last year.

In terms of inventories, Midwest stocks led the charge last week, falling by 200,000 barrels. East Coast stocks declined by 100,000 barrels, as did reserves in the Rocky Mountains/West Coast region. But warmer weather saw Gulf Coast inventories rebound last week, adding 300,000 barrels.

Propylene non-fuel use inventories, which are used to produce plastics, made up 7.8 percent of total propane inventories