The techniques used to wring increasing volumes of crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) out of shale continue to evolve, and as they do, producers are facing mounting costs for securing frac sand and for disposing of produced water from the wells. These costs are squeezing producer profits, and—in an era of sustained low hydrocarbon prices—sometimes even flip production economics from favorable to unfavorable. Today we continue our surfing-themed series on sand costs and water-disposal expenses with a look at how sand use in shale plays has evolved—and how these changes affect the bottom line.
Daily energy Posts
U.S. LNG exports via Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG export facility are poised to be a major demand driver of the domestic natural gas market in 2017. Pipeline deliveries to the terminal have more than tripled since mid-2016 and are set to climb further as more liquefaction capacity ramps up. With two liquefaction trains already operational, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month approved Train 3 to begin operations and also green-lighted the start-up of Train 4 commissioning. Today, we provide an update of Sabine Pass’s export activity and its potential effect on U.S. gas demand this year.
After cutting capital investment 71% between 2014 and 2016, the 13 diversified U.S. exploration and production (E&P) companies examined in our Piranha! market study are planning to increase 2017 capital spending by 30%. While this seems like a lackluster rebound compared to the 47% boost announced by oil-focused E&Ps, the diversified group’s totals are skewed by the pull-back strategy of giant ConocoPhillips. Excluding ConocoPhillips, the 12 other companies are guiding to a 48% increase in 2017 investment—very similar to their oil-weighted peers. Today we continue our Piranha! series on upstream spending in the crude oil and natural gas sector, this time zeroing in on E&Ps with a rough balance of oil and gas assets.
The Florida natural gas market will soon have access to another supply source. In June 2017, the Sabal Trail Transmission natural gas pipeline project is expected to begin service, bringing the market one step closer to connecting Marcellus/Utica natural gas to demand markets on the increasingly gas-thirsty Florida peninsula. The project will increase gas supply options for growing power generation demand in the Sunshine State while effectively also increasing gas-on-gas competition between producers in the Northeast, Gulf Coast and Midcontinent. Today we provide an update on Sabal Trail and its related projects.
In the past few years, producers in shale and tight-oil plays have made great strides in reducing their drilling costs and improving the productivity of their wells. But the trends toward much longer laterals and high-intensity well completions have significantly increased the volumes of sand being used—some individual well completions use enough sand to fill 100 railcars or more! An even bigger concern for many producers is the rising cost of disposing of produced water—that is, the water that emerges with hydrocarbons from these supersized wells. Today we begin a surfing-themed series that focuses on how the two key components of any beach vacation—sand and water—are impacting producer profitability.
After spending the past few years on the backburner with declining production volumes, the Haynesville Shale natural gas play, which straddles the Northeast Texas-Louisiana border, is back in the headlines. Rig counts in the region have doubled in the Haynesville in the past six months or so. Exco Resources—which has four rigs operating there currently—last week said it is divesting its Eagle Ford assets in favor of boosting drilling investment in the Haynesville. At the same time, there’s a new crop of operators in the play dedicated specifically to drilling in the Haynesville. While total basin production volumes have yet to take off, all signs point to a Haynesville resurrection of sorts. But there are also early clues that much has changed since the first go-round and the drilling profile of today’s Haynesville is likely to look much different than it did nearly 10 years ago. Today we begin a look at RBN’s latest analysis of production economics in the Haynesville Shale.
Crude oil prices are up more than $5/bbl over the past couple of weeks, mostly due to Middle East tensions and the latest readings of OPEC tea leaves. U.S. markets have contributed little to the bullish trend, with crude oil inventories hanging in there at 533.4 million barrels, just under the all-time record hit last week. U.S. production is up almost 800 Mb/d since the low last summer and a whopping 550 Mb/d since the OPEC/NOPEC deal. That’s some decidedly bearish statistics. If these trends hold, the U.S. could completely offset the 1.2 MMb/d in OPEC production cuts in another six months. But that begs the questions, where exactly do these statistics come from, and how should they be interpreted? The first answer is simple: it is the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But where do they get the numbers? And what can we learn about the crude oil market through a better understanding of the sources and assumptions behind these numbers? That is our topic in today’s blog.
The 21 oil-focused U.S. exploration and production companies examined in our Piranha! market study are planning an average 47% increase in their 2017 capital expenditures and expecting a 7% increase in production. The 47% boost in capex is huge, but due to draconian cuts in 2015 and 2016 this year’s total is still off 58% from 2014’s—an indication of the big hole the sector is still climbing out of. The Permian Basin continues to attract more capital—no surprise there—but capex in the Bakken is also on the rise after a few lean years. Today we continue our Piranha! series on upstream spending in the oil and natural gas sector, this time zeroing in on E&Ps that focus on crude.
Energy Transfer’s latest Texas-to-Mexico natural gas pipeline project—the 1.4-Bcf/d Trans-Pecos Pipeline—began service a little over a week ago (on March 31, 2017). It’s the third Tejas-to-Méjico gas transportation project to come online in the past six months, following the expansion of ONEOK’s Roadrunner Gas Transmission pipeline in October 2016 and the in-service of Energy Transfer’s Comanche Trail Pipeline in January 2017. The three projects have added a total of nearly 3.0 Bcf/d to pipeline export capacity since last October, all originating in the Permian Basin at the Waha gas trading hub in West Texas. A game-changer, right? Well, the reality is not so simple. These expansions on the U.S. side are largely reliant on takeaway capacity on the Mexico side of the border as well as the growth of power demand downstream to support flows, not all of which is coinciding with capacity additions on the U.S. side. Today we look at the latest export pipeline capacity additions and prospects for near-term export demand growth along the Texas-Mexico border.
The build-out of Houston-area crude oil storage and marine terminal capacity continues, and as it does, ship congestion in the Houston Ship Channel worsens. Which raises the question, why not develop more crude storage and marine docks outside the Ship Channel that still offers strong pipeline connectivity to crude production areas, the Cushing hub and Houston-area refineries—plus easier access to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico? That’s a key premise behind Oiltanking’s first major Gulf Coast expansion since the February 2015 sale of most of Oiltanking’s assets in the region to Enterprise Products Partners. Today we discuss Oiltanking’s plan to add crude storage and a marine terminal in Texas City, TX.
Rising natural gas exports from South Texas and increasing production of “associated” gas in the Permian Basin are driving the development of several new gas pipelines from West Texas to the Agua Dulce gas hub and nearby Corpus Christi. The age-old questions apply: How much new pipeline capacity will be needed, and how soon? The construction of these new pipelines also raises the question of how a potential flood of new gas supply from the Permian to the South Texas coast might affect plans by others to flow gas down the coast from Houston. Today we continue our look at proposed gas pipelines from the Permian to Agua Dulce and Corpus Christi with a review of two more projects and their potential impact.
At this time last year, the U.S. natural gas market was exiting an extremely bearish winter, the gas storage inventory was nearly 500 Bcf higher, and prompt month prices for the CME/NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures contract were more than $1.00/MMBtu lower. The question on our minds then was how far would production have to decline or how much demand was likely to show up to prevent storage capacity constraints by fall. In either case, the overarching sentiment was that prices would have to remain relatively low to balance the market. Now we’re exiting an almost equally mild winter, but a combination of lower production and higher exports has drawn down storage to well below year-ago levels, and the question occupying the market is more along the lines of, just how bullish could the market get this year? Today, we wrap up our look at injection season storage scenarios for the next seven months.
In connection with 2016 earnings releases, U.S. exploration and production companies (E&Ps) have announced a surge in capital spending for 2017 after slashing investment by an average 70% from 2014-16. Our “Piranha” universe of 43 E&Ps is budgeting a 42% gain in organic capital outlays with a strong focus on the major U.S. resource plays. Despite crude prices languishing at an average of ~$47/bbl since January 2015, most of the upstream industry has weathered the crisis remarkably well, primarily through the “high-grading” of portfolios, impressive capital discipline, and an intense focus on operational efficiencies. Today we review the overall outlook for 2017 upstream capital spending and oil and natural gas production, and take an initial look at expectations for our group of companies.
The combination of rising production of “associated” natural gas in the Permian Basin and rising exports of pipeline gas to Mexico—and soon, LNG on ships out of planned South Texas export terminals—is driving the need for new gas pipelines from the Permian to the Corpus Christi area, including the all-important Agua Dulce gas hub in Nueces County, TX. Yesterday (Monday, April 3), NAmerico Partners unveiled plans for Pecos Trail, a proposed 468-mile, 1.85-billion-cubic-feet-a-day pipeline aimed squarely at linking emerging gas supply with emerging gas demand. Pecos Trail joins two other projects announced within the past few weeks that target the same opportunity. Today we look at the gas side of the need for new takeaway pipelines out of the U.S.’s hottest shale play, and NAmerico’s newly announced plan to address it.
In the five years since the U.S. flipped from a net LPG importer to net LPG exporter, the vast majority of those exports have gone out from Gulf Coast marine terminals. That makes perfect sense. After all, Mont Belvieu, TX is North America’s main fractionation and storage center—most of the natural gas liquids produced in the U.S. are piped there to be fractionated into propane, butane and other “purity products.” But what’s also true is that a growing share of NGLs are produced and fractionated in the Northeast, that increasing export volumes are moving out of Sunoco Logistics Partners’ Marcus Hook, PA marine terminal, and that NGL pipeline capacity from the “wet” Marcellus and Utica production areas to Marcus Hook is about to increase significantly. Today we continue our review of the LPG export data with a look at propane and butane exports from East Coast marine terminals.
After exceptionally mild weather nearly derailed the U.S. natural gas market earlier this year, the gas supply/demand balance is set to end the 2016-17 withdrawal season relatively bullish compared to last year. Storage is finishing the season more than 400 Bcf lower than last year, albeit still 260 Bcf/d above the 5-year average. In addition, gas exports are continuing to ratchet higher. The April 2017 CME/NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures contract expired Wednesday (March 29) at $3.175/MMBtu, nearly $1.30 (67%) higher than the April 2016 contract settlement of $1.90/MMBtu and also about 55 cents higher than the March 2017 contract settlement. Yet, with the storage inventory still higher than the 5-year average and production growth on the horizon, the market remains susceptible to downside risk if incremental demand doesn’t show up. In today’s blog, we look at potential supply/demand scenarios for injection season.