The Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas inventories held in underground storage in the lower 48 states dropped by 11 billion cubic feet to about 1.62 trillion cubic feet for the week ended March 12.
Analysts expected a draw of between 27 billion and 31 billion cubic feet, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
The inventory level was 4.7 percent above the five-year average of about 1.54 trillion cubic feet, and 2.4 percent below last year's storage level of about 1.66 trillion cubic feet, according to the government data.
Natural gas lost 16.3 cents at $4.140 per 1,000 cubic feet on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier, gas hit a new 52-week low at $4.121.