Natural gas has dropped 28 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange this year, the most since 2006, as improved drilling technology and profits from selling gas liquids encouraged producers to pump record amounts of the fuel from shale formations from Texas to Pennsylvania. Futures have dropped in each of the past three years, the longest stretch of declines since the contracts began trading on the Nymex in 1991.
Slowing demand from households, factories and power plants are poised to send prices down for an unprecedented fifth year in 2012.
Gas may tumble 8.2 percent from its 2011 average next year, as output rises 2.8 percent to a record 67.72 billion cubic feet a day, according to the Energy Department. Demand will probably climb 1.7 percent, after a 1.8 percent increase this year, the department said in its Dec. 6 Short-Term Energy Outlook.
“It’s been practically impossible to turn off the shale-gas tap,” Adam Sieminski, chief energy economist at Deutsche Bank AG in Washington, said in a telephone interview Dec. 14. “Industrial demand has been rising, but it’s not enough.”