Managing natural gas demand for free consumers under uncertainty and limited storage capacity
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Demand for energy sources depends on several factors such as population growth, urbanization, industrialization, and climate. Among fundamental energy sources, natural gas is characterized by storage limitations and take-or-pay contracts, which makes it especially critical to forecast the demand accurately for cost management policies. Suppliers of natural gas require take-or-pay contracts to ensure that consumers pay for any unused amount up front; and if the demand exceeds the agreed amount, they pay for over-use as well. Consumers with a demand above the eligible consumer limit are categorized as free consumers; and they have to specify their daily, monthly, and annual demand in these take-or-pay contracts. In residential areas, natural gas is used predominantly for heating, hence its consumption has a strong seasonality. In winter, the variability in the atmospheric temperature leads to fluctuations in the demand, while in summer, weekend effects dominate. In order to take these features into account, a demand forecasting model based on a modulated expansion in Fourier series, supplemented by deviations from comfortable temperatures, is used in this study to determine the threshold value for the onset of natural gas usage for heating purposes. The upper and lower bounds for consumption are obtained as a function of temperature only, after analyzing the details of the temperature-consumption relationship using historical data. Moreover, a temperature-based simulation methodology is proposed and simulation results that provide guidelines to manage the costs of storage under uncertainty are presented by suggesting the minimum storage capacity required and showing the distribution of the costs.