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Short-Term Energy Outlook December 6, 2011


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  • EIA expects the U.S. average refiner acquisition cost (RAC) of crude oil to increase slightly over the next year, averaging about $101 per barrel in 2011 and $102 in 2012.  West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil has been trading at a discount to RAC for most of 2011, contrary to the traditional relationship.  The forecast WTI price discount relative to the RAC narrows from an average $11 per barrel in the third quarter of 2011 to $3 per barrel by the fourth quarter of 2012, supported by the recently announced reversal of the Seaway pipeline in 2012 (see This Week in Petroleum, Nov. 30, 2011).
  • The warm start to this heating season has lowered the forecast of average household heating expenditures for heating fuels by about 3 percent from last month’s Outlook.  Average household heating oil and propane expenditures are now expected to increase by 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively, this winter (October 1 to March 31) compared with last winter.  In contrast, natural gas expenditures are projected to decline by 3 percent while electricity expenditures are 2 percent lower than last year’s levels. 
  • Monthly average regular-grade gasoline retail prices in November 2011 averaged $3.38 per gallon, 52 cents per gallon below their 2011 peak monthly average in May.  EIA expects that gasoline pump prices will remain at or below current levels until early spring 2012, when prices begin their normal seasonal rise.  Projected regular gasoline retail prices average $3.45 per gallon in 2012.
  • Natural gas working inventories ended November 2011 at a record high for that date, about 1 percent above the same time last year.  The projected Henry Hub natural gas spot price averages $4.02 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) in 2011, $0.37 per MMBtu lower than the 2010 average.  EIA expects that Henry Hub spot prices will continue to decline in 2012, averaging $3.70 per MMBtu, $0.43 per MMBtu lower than in last month’s Outlook.


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