Texans boost natural gas use for driving, but not for power

HOUSTON — Texans increased their use of natural gas to fuel cars and trucks in 2013, but reduced its use to power lights and appliances, according to new federal data.

Natural gas used for vehicle fuel in Texas jumped by more than 16 percent between 2012 and 2013, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show. Meanwhile, less electricity was generated from gas in 2013, down by nearly 7 percent.

That reversed a trend seen in recent years as utilities shifted from coal-fired to natural gas-fired power plants to take advantage of low-cost natural gas, with its price in the Untied States plunging below $2 per million British thermal units. But natural gas prices rebounded in 2013, rising to about $4.23 per million British thermal units by December, making it less competitive against coal.

However, the fuel is still competitive against gasoline and diesel, driving more companies to purchase vehicles that run on compressed or liquefied natural gas.

Still, electricity is a much larger end use for natural gas than vehicle fuel. Nearly 115 billion cubic feet of natural gas was used to generate electricity in Texas in December. By comparison, cars and trucks used less than 0.2 percent of that amount of natural gas — about 205 million cubic feet in December.

About half of the natural gas consumed in Texas is used by the industrial sector, which increased its consumption by nearly 3 percent in 2013.

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