Commission Told to Expect Lower Natural Gas Prices

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Natural gas customers in Oregon can look forward to lower gas prices this coming winter. That was the message Oregon Public Utility Commissioners received during the Commission’s annual Natural Gas Price Outlook meeting in Salem last week.

NW Natural and Cascade Natural gas officials both said prices would be “lower” but did not release percentage estimates at this time. *(NW Natural provided customers a one-time $35 million gas price adjustment refund in June). An Avista Utilities official echoed the other gas company representatives that their gas costs would also be lower.

NW Natural serves northwest Oregon. Avista serves portions of southwest and northeastern Oregon. Cascade Natural Gas serves the Bend region in central Oregon and parts of northeast Oregon.

The companies will submit filings to the Commission no later than August 31st, requesting Commission approval to adjust customer rates effective November 1, 2012.

Highlights from the gas forecast meeting:

  • Prices are at or near the bottom
  • There are more factors to influence prices to go up rather than down
  • The slow recovery from the recession continues to dampen demand
  • Strong gas supply is bolstered by “unconventional sources,” primarily shale gas
  • Less gas is being imported from Canada to Oregon
  • New demand:

o       Demand for gas to generate electricity has increased due to growing wind capacity

o       Gas switching from coal to generate electricity

o       Natural gas being used for trains, trucking and mass transit.

Oregon imports its natural gas through pipelines from gas fields in Canada and the Rocky Mountain region to serve its approximately 760,886 residential and commercial customers.

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