U.S. Consumes More Energy In 2018 Than Ever Before

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that primary energy consumption in the U.S. reached a record-high 101.3 quadrillion Btu in 2018, up 4% from 2017 and 0.3% above the previous record set in 2007. The increase last year was the largest, both in absolute and percentage terms, in energy consumption since 2010.

Consumption of fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—grew by 4% in 2018 and accounted for 80% of U.S. total energy consumption. Natural gas consumption reached a record high, rising by 10% from 2017. This increase in natural gas, along with relatively smaller increases in the consumption of petroleum fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear electric power, more than offset a 4% decline in coal consumption.

Petroleum consumption in the U.S. increased to 20.5 MMbbld, or 37 quadrillion Btu, in 2018, up nearly 500,000 bbld from 2017 and the highest level since 2007. Growth was driven primarily by increased use in the industrial sector, which grew by about 200,000 bbld last year. The transportation sector rose by about 140,000 bbld in 2018 as a result of increased demand for fuels such as petroleum diesel and jet fuel.

Natural gas consumption in the U.S. reached a record-high 83.1 Bcfd, the equivalent of 31 quadrillion Btu, in 2018. Natural gas climbed across all sectors last year, primarily driven by weather-related factors that increased demand for space heating during the winter and for air conditioning during the summer. As more natural gas-fired power plants came online and existing natural gas plants were used more often, consumption in the electric sector advanced 15% compared to 2017 levels to 29.1 Bcfd. Natural gas consumption also grew in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors in 2018, increasing 13%, 10%, and 4% compared to 2017 levels, respectively.

Coal consumption in the U.S. fell to 688 million short tons, or 13 quadrillion Btu, in 2018, the fifth consecutive year of decline. Almost all of the reduction came from the electric power sector, which retreated 4% from 2017 levels. Coal-fired power plants continued to be displaced by newer, more efficient natural gas and renewable power generation sources. In 2018, 12.9 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity were retired, while 14.6 GW of net natural gas-fired capacity were added.

Renewable energy consumption in the U.S. reached a record-high 11.5 quadrillion Btu last year, rising 3% year over year, largely driven by the addition of new wind and solar power plants. Wind electricity consumption increased by 8%, while solar consumption rose 22%. Biomass consumption, primarily in the form of transportation fuels such as fuel ethanol and biodiesel, accounted for 45% of all renewable consumption in 2018, up 1% from 2017 levels. Increases in wind, solar, and biomass consumption were partially offset by a 3% decrease in hydroelectricity consumption.

Nuclear consumption in the U.S. increased less than 1% compared with 2017 levels, but still set a record for electricity generation in 2018. The number of total operable nuclear generating stations decreased to 98 in September 2018 when the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey was retired. Annual average nuclear capacity factors, which reflect the use of power plants, were slightly higher at 92.6% in 2018 compared with 92.2% in 2017.

(SOURCE: The Weekly Propane Newsletter, May 13, 2019)