Record Natural-Gas Demand Forecast for '99

The American Gas Assn. (AGA), the Washington-based trade group of local natural gas utilities, projects that U.S. natural-gas consumption will reach a record 23.2 quadrillions Btu (quads) in 1999, indicates incoming chairman Richard E. Terry, chairman and CEO of Peoples Energy Co., Chicago. The forecast is based on "an anticipated return to more normal weather patterns" following an unusually warm 1998, Terry explained. Warm temperatures in the first 10 months of the year--the second warmest year in the U.S. since 1895--was expected to result in a 2% decrease in gas consumption in 1998, he noted. Biggest demand growth in 1999, a 13% boost to 5.3 quads, will occur in the residential market, AGA projects. The association forecasts only "modest increases" in industrial gas use, from 8.8 quads to 8.9 quads, because of "continued sluggish manufacturing output as well as the continuation of low crude-oil prices, which may encourage some switching from gas to oil in existing industrial facilities." Gas accounts for nearly one-third of all industrial-energy consumption. Terry emphasized that natural-gas supplies are "more than adequate" for the 1998-99 winter heating season.

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