U.S. power generators burn record amounts of natural gas on hottest day of summer

(Reuters) - U.S. power generators will likely burn a record amount of natural gas for a second day in a row on Friday, the hottest day so far this summer, as homes and businesses crank up their air conditioners to escape a brutal heatwave blanketing much of the country this week.

Extreme weather reminds consumers of the fatal freeze in February 2021 that left millions of Texans without power, water and heat for days and a brutal heatwave in August 2020 that forced the California power grid operator to impose rotating outages that affected about 800,000 customers over two days.

As soaring demand stresses electric grids this summer, next-day power prices soared to their highest since January in Southern California <EL-PK-SP15-SNL> and their highest since February in New England <EL-PK-NPMS-SNL>, according to data provider Refinitiv.

Scientists have long warned that climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions mainly from burning fossil fuels, will make heat waves more frequent, severe and deadly. They have urged governments to drastically reduce emissions to prevent climate catastrophe.

Meteorologists forecast Friday will be the hottest day of the summer so far in the U.S. Lower 48 states and the second hottest on record.

Temperatures across country will average 82.8 degrees Fahrenheit (28.8 Celsius) on Friday, just shy of the 83.0 F record set on July 20, 2022, according to Refinitiv data going back to 2018.

To keep air conditioners humming, Refinitiv forecast power generators would burn about 52.9 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas on Friday, which would top the current record of 52.3 bcfd on Thursday and recent highs of 50.3 bcfd on July 14 and 49.6 bcfd on July 20, 2022.

One billion cubic feet of gas is enough to supply about five million U.S. homes for a day.

It's hot everywhere

AccuWeather meteorologists forecast temperatures on Friday would reach the 90s Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston and over 110 F in Phoenix.

That compares with normal highs of 85 F in New York, 83 in Los Angeles, 85 in Chicago, 95 in Houston and 106 in Phoenix.

Electric grid operators across the nation declared hot weather alerts this week and told energy companies to put off unnecessary maintenance so all available generating plants and power lines would be ready for service.

Despite the extreme heat, however, no U.S. grid operators has taken more extreme actions to manage supply and demand - like calls for conservation or rotating outages - and none were projecting that power use would break all-time highs this week.

In Texas, however, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state's grid operator, did forecast that demand would set new records next week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as the heatwave lingers.

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