Natural gas prices at major U.S. trading hubs for the upcoming winter are expected to remain higher than in recent years, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said on Oct. 20.

Even if domestic gas production grows faster than domestic demand, "forecasts anticipate that continued growth in net exports, including from LNG export facilities, will place additional pressure on natural gas prices this winter," the agency said.

Freeport LNG, the second-largest U.S. LNG export plant, idled for five months by a fire, must receive full approvals before a planned November restart can begin, regulators said this week.

In its annual summer assessment, the FERC said it sees the Henry Hub natural gas futures contract price averaging $6.82/MMBtu for winter 2022-2023, up 30% from last winter’s settled price.

U.S. natgas futures are currently trading just under $5.3/MMBtu, their lowest levels in about seven months.

This year, most additions to generation capacity will come from solar and wind, while most retirements will come from coal, the commission said.

"In total, the U.S. will add 43 GW of net winter capacity between March 2022 and February 2023, mostly from solar and wind generation."

However, several regions may experience coal supply and transportation constraints this winter because of ongoing rail service issues, it said, with natgas supply expected to remain constrained in New England, leading to higher gas and electricity prices.

"Natural gas pipelines in California may also face constraints this winter due to ongoing pipeline outages."

Natural gas storage withdrawals for the 2022-2023 withdrawal season are expected to fall 11.1% below the previous year's levels, the agency forecasted and predicted a 24.3% increase in net natural gas exports.

The FERC warned that this winter, international markets will likely also affect the U.S. market, as they did at times last winter.