After bottoming out at 822 billion cubic feet (Bcf) the week ending Mar. 28—the lowest level since April 2003—U.S. inventories of natural gas in underground storage have risen sharply this summer, though levels remain below recent averages, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.

Following a severe winter in which the country burned through a staggering 3 Tcf of gas, low storage levels this spring sparked fears of price spikes and significant volatility in the gas market. Instead, prices have remained stable around $4.50/MMBtu all year, and gas buyers have rapidly rebuilt stocks this summer.

Though the 2014 injection season began slowly in April, it has picked up since then, with more than 1 Tcf being added to storage during May and June. Natural gas inventories totaled 1,929 Bcf as of June 27, more than doubling the low point in March.

Still, this level is 666 Bcf lower than the same point in 2013 and 790 Bcf lower than the previous five-year average. Though the EIA projects that the strong buildup will continue this summer and fall, it will likely not be enough to return stocks to the ample levels seen in recent years. The EIA projects that this year’s injection season will end with stocks at 3,430 Bcf, 380 Bcf lower than last year and well below the record 3,929 Bcf in 2012.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor