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U.S. gas production, consumption may have set records in 2012

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Natural gas production and consumption in the U.S. may have set new all-time highs in 2012.

Production may have reached 24 trillion cubic feet, or tcf, for the first time ever — topping 2011 production of 22.9 tcf by 5 percent.

At the same time, consumption may have hit 25 tcf for the first time, exceeding 2011 consumption by almost 5 percent.

The numbers are State Journal projections from the U.S. Energy Information's Natural Gas Monthly data through October 2012, released Jan. 7. The data include revisions for 2010 and 2011.

Historically, the U.S. natural gas industry set records in both production and consumption in 1972, with 21.6 tcf produced and 22.1 tcf consumed. It bottomed out in both in 1986, with production at 16.1 tcf and consumption at 16.2 tcf.

Consumption has exceeded production in the U.S. every year since 1966, with the gap increasing dramatically after the 1986 bottom.

The shale gas boom that got under way in the last decade is now setting new records and closing the gap.

Production finally topped its 1972 record in 2011, before likely setting another record in 2012.

Consumption hit new highs in the 1990s, contributing to a record gap between production and consumption of 4.2 tcf in 2000 — but then slowed down in the 2000s as that gap translated to higher prices.

With the shale gas production boom, the gap is narrowing, prices are low and consumption set new records in 2010 and 2011 before what appears to be another record in 2012.

Activity in 2012 leaves a projected gap of just 1.5 tcf, similar to 2011's gap — together the smallest gaps since 1990.

The EIA also released numbers Jan. 7 showing that shale gas made up 30 percent of U.S. natural gas production in 2011, up from only 8 percent just four years earlier in 2007. Detailed numbers on gas production by type in 2012 likely will not be available until 2014.