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Natural gas consumption to hit record high today

The Northeast is burning a record-breaking amount of natural gas this week amid numbing cold and unending snowstorms.

Bentek Energy, a Denver-based analysis company, said the demand for natural gas in 14 northeastern states hit 43.1 billion cubic feet on Monday, about 3 percent more than the peak demand recorded during last year’s brutally cold polar vortex.

Luke Jackson, a Bentek analyst, said demand was especially high in New England. For example, he said, the main pipelines serving Boston were pumping natural gas at 97 percent and 98 percent capacity on Friday morning. Bentek’s projections showed that total gas demand on Friday was on its way to top Monday’s record, mostly because of the huge demand from households and workplaces that use natural gas for heat.

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“February’s average temperature has been about 18 degrees” in Boston, Jackson said. “That’s about 15 degrees below normal for this time of year.”

Prices for natural gas on the volatile spot market aren’t shooting to their heights they reached last year, however. Although gas companies contract their supplies in advance, gas-burning power plants are vulnerable to price spikes, which can get passed along to consumers.

According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the price of natural gas in Boston last peaked at $23.50 per million Btus on Friday, February 19, less than a third of the peak price hit last winter. Jackson attributed the drop to a program by ISO New England, which manages the region’s electricity grid, to pay gas-burning power plants to keep extra fuel on-site.

A record-setting week for natural gas
Three of the top five days for burning natural gas in the Northeast have occurred in the last week. Friday's figure is a forecast.
February 20, 2015
43.4 billion*
February 16, 2015
43.1 billion
January 7, 2014
41.9 billion
January 22, 2014
41.5 billion
February 19, 2015
41.0 billion
DATA: Bentek
Jack Newsham/Globe Correspondent

Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.