National Fuel’s forecast for 2017-18 winter heating bills expected to be up compared to past two winters

WILLIAMSVILLE — While many may not be thinking about winter yet, National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation (referred to as National Fuel or the Utility) has its eyes set on the upcoming winter heating season. The outlook for residential bills during the upcoming months of November through March — the winter heating season — is up from the past two winters that featured unseasonably warm temperatures and historically low natural gas commodity prices.

National Fuel, in its annual winter forecast, predicts that customers should expect to pay on average nearly 27 percent more than last winter when a typical customer paid $464 for the five-month heating season. Assuming this year’s winter sees normal average temperatures, a typical residential customer should expect to pay about $588. An increase was in the making after customers saw the lowest natural gas bills in nearly 20 years in the past two winters thanks to a fortunate combination of mild winter weather and rock-bottom natural gas prices.

“Customers will likely pay more to heat their homes this winter than they did the last two years, but that should be expected with back-to-back record warm winters and historically low natural gas pricing,” said Karen L. Merkel, spokesperson for National Fuel. “Higher commodity prices and colder weather add up to an increase in heating costs.”

Nearly all of the natural gas consumed by National Fuel’s customers in recent years comes from domestic Northeast production from the Marcellus Shale. This region of New York state benefits in several ways from its prime location close to both Pennsylvania shale gas supplies and to the interstate natural gas pipelines that carry the lower-cost shale gas to local utilities for customer benefit.

National Fuel’s customers have been particularly advantaged because of the Utility’s access to and contracts with multiple interstate natural gas pipelines that deliver lower-cost shale gas. As well, the Utility contracts for natural gas storage service, which allow supplies to be stored in nearby underground storage fields to help cushion the impact of high demand during cold weather.