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Talking Turkey – Natural Gas Demand Booster?

Haven’t you always wondered how much natural gas is consumed by cooking turkeys on Thanksgiving?  No?  Well, we did.  Before proclaiming that we should eat whole roasted turkeys on a regular basis in order to balance out incremental gas production and support prices, I thought I should see exactly (see: approximately) how much natural gas is consumed cooking my feathered friends on my favorite of all holidays.

First, I had to get a handle on my variables.  I’m now an authority on natural gas burned by ovens per degree hour, total turkeys consumed, average turkey size, total ovens in the US and the percentage of those ovens that are gas fired.

Thanks to the “Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings”, I now know that the average gas oven burns roughly 11,000 BTUs per hour when heating at 350 degrees.  Seeing that the average turkey consumed by Americans is 15 pounds (thanks to the University of Illinois for their Turkey Facts) and one typically allots 20 minutes for every pound of turkey, cooking one turkey should burn approximately 56,000 BTUs.  So far, so good, right?  Next we take the total turkeys bought on Thanksgiving (46 million) and compare that with the number of gas fired ovens.  The EIA has an Appliance by Census Region report that was crucial to the next piece of analysis.  According to that report, roughly 37% of ovens nationally are primarily gas fired.  After some crude math, we see that solely calculating gas fired oven cooked turkeys, we burn somewhere in the neighborhood of 950 billion BTU’s…HUGE NUMBER, GREAT!  Not so fast…converting that to more digestible units (MMcf) that number turns into 950 and my dreams of a Turkey Demand Renaissance are dealt a tough blow.   I went one step further and assumed that the vast majority of electric powered ovens are actually backed by natural gas fired power plants (I’m reaching, I know).  Assuming this, I almost double that number to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.7 Bcf which is equal to the daily liquefaction capacity of Cameron’s facility set to come online in 2018.   To break it down in simpler terms:


So what’s the conclusion?  The unfortunate fact is that natural gas demand typically decreases over holiday weekends because of business closures.  So enjoy your tryptophan induced naps, eat as many turkeys as you like, turn on your big screens, open up your windows and start your gas fireplaces because we’re going to need a record setting Thanksgiving to make a dent in today’s production levels!

Happy Thanksgiving from BTU Analytics.

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Mason Ender is a partner at BTU Analytics, LLC and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining BTU Analytics, he was the Manager of Sales for Bentek Energy, a division of Platts. Mason has worked with energy companies both domestically and internationally to implement effective fundamental energy analytic solutions. Mason also routinely presents energy market dynamics informing the market of upcoming risks and opportunities.

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