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Dec 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday said domestic natural gas production in 2015 was expected to reach 79.58 billion cubic feet per day, just off the 79.61 bcfd it forecast last month.
The figure however would still top 2014's record high of 74.89 bcfd and would be the fifth consecutive annual record high for U.S. gas production, according to EIA's Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) in December.
EIA also forecast U.S. gas consumption would rise to 76.49 bcfd in 2015, up from the 76.29 bcfd it forecast in November.
That would top the 2014 record high for gas demand of 73.14 bcfd and would be the sixth annual record high in a row.
For 2016, EIA forecast more record highs with production expected to rise to 81.05 bcfd and consumption up to 76.66 bcfd.
EIA forecast increases in power sector consumption would drive total demand growth in 2015, with gas consumption by the power sector expected to rise 18.6 percent in 2015 before declining 2.3 percent in 2016.
Despite the projected decrease in 2016, EIA said it expects gas consumption for power generation to remain more than 3 bcfd above 2014 levels due to continued low gas prices compared with coal.
EIA said industrial gas consumption was flat in 2015 but is expected to increase by 3.9 percent in 2016, as new industrial projects, particularly in the fertilizer and chemicals sectors, come online.
In 2016, EIA forecast gas production would increase by 1.5 bcfd due to rising drilling efficiency despite low gas prices and declining rig activity.
Most of the production growth is expected to come from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania and West Virginia as drillers reduce the backlog of uncompleted wells and new pipelines come online to deliver Marcellus gas to other higher priced markets.
Continuing increases in domestic gas production are expected to reduce demand for imports from Canada and to support growth in exports to Mexico, EIA said.
Exports to Mexico, particularly from the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas, will continue to increase because of growing demand from Mexico's power sector coupled with flat gas production in Mexico, EIA said.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) gross exports were expected to increase to an average of 0.7 bcfd in 2016, with the startup of Cheniere Energy Inc's Sabine Pass LNG plant planned for early 2016, EIA said. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy)