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U.S. Natural Gas Physical Trading Volume and Marketed Production Reach Record Highs

COVID-19 pandemic expected to reduce U.S. LNG exports in 2020.

Both physical natural gas trading activity and marketed production in the United States reached record highs in 2019, according to a Cornerstone Research report released today. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused global consumption to contract and storage to build up in the first half of 2020. The effects on demand in the second half of 2020 and beyond remain uncertain.

The report, Characteristics of U.S. Natural Gas Transactions: FERC Form 552 Submissions as of July 2020, found that trading activity reported by 676 respondents in 2019 rose 5% over the previous year, to 153,249 tBtu. Annual marketed production increased by 10% in 2019, surpassing 40,000 tBtu for the first time.

The United States has been a growing net exporter of natural gas since late 2017, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports making up most of this growth. In 2019, LNG’s share of total U.S. natural gas exports increased to 39%, up from 30% in 2018. But 61% of U.S. natural gas exports are still exported via pipeline to Canada and Mexico.

2020 Midyear Review: A Look at COVID-19’s Impact

The International Energy Agency forecasts a 4% drop in global natural gas demand in 2020 as a result of global lockdowns to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and low heating demand due to warm weather.

LNG export volumes remained high in the first four months of 2020, with average daily U.S. LNG exports 54% higher than in 2019, but they declined by 17% between April and May 2020. More than 100 U.S. LNG cargoes scheduled for loading in June onwards have been canceled to date, causing U.S. LNG exports to operate at less than half capacity.

“LNG-driven export growth is expected to slow in the second half of 2020 due to COVID-19, leading to a storage buildup,” said Nicole Moran, a Cornerstone Research principal and report coauthor. “While global demand for natural gas has decreased, consumption remains relatively resilient in the United States, as power generation continues to shift from coal to natural gas.”

Key 2019 Findings

  • The 20 companies with the largest transaction volumes (by purchases and sales) accounted for approximately 42% of total reported volume.

  • Index-priced transactions comprised around 82% of all Form 552 transactions in 2019, compared to 67% in 2008. 

  • Aggregate exchange trading of natural gas contracts decreased on the two main futures exchanges: CME Group Inc. volume fell by 11%, and Intercontinental Exchange’s volume declined by about 12%.

  • The ratio of next-day to next-month transactions was nearly unchanged between 2018 and 2019, with next-day equaling 51.2% and next-month at 48.8%. The percentage of volume based on next-month transactions has decreased by 12 percentage points between 2008 and 2019.

  • For the fifth straight year, companies that declined to report fixed-price volume to the indices made up a larger share of fixed-price volume than did companies that chose to report.

  • In 2019, about 14% of Form 552 respondents reported transaction information to the price index publishers for themselves or at least one affiliate.

  • The volume of reported transactions indicates that, on average, a molecule of natural gas was traded through approximately 2.6 transactions from production to consumption.

Read the report, Characteristics of U.S. Natural Gas Transactions: FERC Form 552 Submissions as of July 2020.

Copyright ©2020 Cornerstone ResearchNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 225


About this Author

Greg Leonard European Finance Cornerstone Research London, UK
Vice President

Greg Leonard heads Cornerstone Research’s European finance practice. Dr. Leonard has nearly two decades of experience consulting for clients in complex litigation and regulatory proceedings. On behalf of clients, he has led regulatory investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, managing teams and simultaneously supporting experts across multiple related matters. Dr. Leonard has substantial experience directing analyses of large and complex high-frequency financial data sets, from both private entities and trading exchanges.

Dr. Leonard’s expertise includes high-profile matters at...

Nicole M. Moran, Finance, Economy, Commercial Litigation, Cornerstone Research

Nicole Moran provides financial and economic analysis in complex commercial litigation and regulatory proceedings. She supports experts in preparing for deposition and trial testimony. Her experience spans several industries, including energy, agriculture, FX, consumer lending, and electronics. Dr. Moran has a leading role in Cornerstone Research’s research on cryptocurrency exchanges, derivative contracts and initial coin offerings. Her case experience includes arbitration, regulatory investigations, market manipulation, antitrust, consumer finance, and financial institutions. 

Dr. Moran focuses emphasis is on derivative markets for both exchange-traded and over-the-counter products that involve trading activity, order book data, and evaluation of market design that affect market participant behavior. She has extensive experience working with a variety of different types of large, complex transactional datasets from financial institutions. On behalf of clients, she has appeared before enforcement staffs at the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Reserve, and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

In cases related to market manipulation and antitrust, Dr. Moran has:

  • Analyzed trading in foreign exchange products by one of the top foreign exchange broker-dealers facing multinational investigations of collusion and manipulation of foreign exchange markets
  • Analyzed trading in interest rate derivatives by a major multinational bank under investigation in several countries for possible manipulation of LIBOR and similar financial benchmarks
  • On behalf of numerous crude oil trading companies, analyzed physical and financial product trading activity in response to government trading investigation
  • On behalf of a futures exchange, investigated trading and positions in response to a government investigation
  • On behalf of a large food company, investigated purchasing, production, and hedging behavior in response to government and civil proceedings
  • On behalf of a joint defense, investigated price-fixing allegations for indirect purchasers of optical disk drives
  • Analyzed valuation of municipal bonds
  • Analyzed and developed rebuttal arguments regarding antitrust claims and market manipulation claims brought in civil cases

Dr. Moran leads the firm’s research related to analysis of U.S. natural gas transactions from FERC Form 552 submissions. She has published chapters in various books, including “Agriculture” in Commodities: Markets, Performance, and Strategies, Oxford University Press and “Bubbles, Food Prices, and Speculation: Evidence from the CFTC’s Daily Large Trader Data Files” in The Economics of Food Price Volatility, University of Chicago Press. Her research has also been published in leading journals, including the Journal of Futures and the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Prior to joining Cornerstone Research, Dr. Moran was a research economist at the CTFC, where she conducted statistical and econometric analyses on derivative markets and agricultural futures.

Laurent Samuel Energy Cornerstone Research Washington, DC


  • Characteristics of U.S. Natural Gas Transactions: FERC Form 552 Submissions as of June 2019
  • Battle of the Benchmarks: Brent Crude Oil and West Texas Intermediate
  • Characteristics of U.S. Natural Gas Transactions: FERC Form 552 Submissions as of June 2018


  • Harvard University, M.B.A.
  • McGill University, B. Comm. (with distinction)