The energy production boom in the United States over the last seven years has led to a very interesting and dynamic relationship between natural gas and crude oil. From the vantage point of units of energy, the price spread between natural gas and crude oil is significant, with natural gas giving a lot more energy bang per buck compared to oil. In BTU terms, $1 of natural gas can obtain 200,000 units of energy (at a spot rate of $5/million BTU) compared to $1 of WTI oil which garners 60,000 units of energy (at a spot rate of $97/barrel). This is a whopping 330% energy content price gap – even after the polar vortex and deep freeze have raised natural gas prices. This massive energy price gap raises questions about how long it may persist, and our read of the market consensus appears to measure the time required to narrow the gap in decades, while our own base case scenario is that it could happen in just three to five years. Our objective in this report is to frame the issues that may decide the future of the energy price gap between US natural gas and crude oil.
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