RBN Energy

There’s never been any reason to question the drivers for energy infrastructure development — until now.  Historically, the drivers were almost always “supply-push.” The Shale Revolution brought on increasing production volumes that needed to be moved to market, and midstreamers — backed by producer commitments — responded with the infrastructure to make it happen. But now things seem to be different. U.S. energy infrastructure investment is soaring across crude oil, natural gas and NGL markets and, as in previous buildouts, midstreamers are bringing on new processing plants, pipelines, fractionators, storage facilities, export terminals and everything in between. We count nearly 70 projects in the works. But crude production has been flat as a pancake, natural gas is down, and lately NGLs are up — but as you might expect, only in one basin: the Permian. So what is driving all the infrastructure development this time around? In today’s RBN blog, we’ll explore why that question will be front-and-center at our upcoming School of Energy: Catch a Wave. Fair warning, this blog includes an unabashed advertorial for our 2024 conference coming up on June 26-27 in Houston. 

Analyst Insights

Analyst Insights are unique perspectives provided by RBN analysts about energy markets developments. The Insights may cover a wide range of information, such as industry trends, fundamentals, competitive landscape, or other market rumblings. These Insights are designed to be bite-size but punchy analysis so that readers can stay abreast of the most important market changes.

By Taylor Noland - Tuesday, 5/21/2024 (1:00 pm)
Report Highlight: Crude Voyager

Crude oil loadings across the U.S. Gulf Coast dropped to 3.7 MMb/d last week from 3.9 MMb/d the previous week, shifting the 4-week moving average (blue line in chart below) to 3.9 MMb/d. Last week’s average was 478 Mb/d below the Q1 2024 average.

By Taylor Noland - Tuesday, 5/21/2024 (12:45 pm)
Report Highlight: Crude Oil Permian

Crude oil flows from the Permian Basin to the U.S. Gulf Coast reached a record high in December 2023 at 5.64 MMb/d (see graphic below), according to our Crude Oil Permian report.

Recently Published Reports

Report Title Published
U.S. Propane Billboard U.S. Propane Billboard Weekly - May 22, 2024 17 min 56 sec ago
Crude Voyager Crude Voyager Quarterly Report – May 22, 2024 41 min 54 sec ago
NATGAS Billboard NATGAS Billboard - May 22, 2024 4 hours 31 min ago
Canadian Natgas Billboard Canadian NATGAS Billboard - May 22, 2024 5 hours 16 min ago
Hydrogen Billboard Hydrogen Billboard - May 22, 2024 5 hours 32 min ago

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Daily Energy Blog

Category:
Crude Oil

Energy Transfer, which is championing its Blue Marlin Offshore Platform (BMOP), may have been the last developer to pursue its critical deepwater export license, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the hunt. Of the four offshore crude oil export projects, BMOP stands out as the sole brownfield initiative, which should hold down costs and expedite its construction timeline. Further, a recent non-binding agreement with TotalEnergies underscores the industry’s interest in this unusual but compelling facility. In today’s RBN blog, we explore Energy Transfer’s unconventional approach. 

Category:
Natural Gas

Permian production may have plateaued over the past few months — the shale play’s crude oil output has bounced between 6 MMb/d and 6.3 MMb/d for almost a year now, and natural gas production has hovered around 18 Bcf/d for about as long. But producer-backed plans to continue adding gas processing capacity in the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins strongly suggest that E&Ps in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico see a lot more production growth “up around the bend.” As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, midstream companies haven’t tapped the brakes on their plans for new gas processing capacity in the Permian — in fact, they’ve been keeping the pedal to the metal. 

Category:
Financial

The transition of U.S. E&Ps to capital discipline has led to historic shareholder returns and won back legions of investors who had virtually abandoned the industry until a few years ago. But while it might be tempting to conclude producers must finally have their financial houses in good order, a lot of us have witnessed a few boom-and-bust cycles in our time and remain hypervigilant for any signs of financial instability, especially considering that commodity prices could weaken at any time. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze the impact of lower price realizations and capital allocation decisions on the balance sheets of the major U.S. independent oil and gas producers. 

Category:
Renewables

Rising global interest in clean ammonia — plus the potential for earning generous federal tax credits — spurred a host of project announcements over the past couple of years, with the first new production capacity slated to start up as soon as 2025. But reality is setting in regarding the pace of clean-ammonia demand growth and the financial, regulatory and other challenges of developing complicated, big-dollar projects, particularly those involving carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on the major clean ammonia proposals we’ve been tracking. 

Category:
Natural Gas

The growing number of energy-intensive data centers coming online across the U.S. is spurring utilities to ramp up their plans for adding new sources of power generation — including a slew of gas-fired plants — and also complicating their efforts to rely more on renewable resources and decarbonize the power grid. The push to quickly develop new energy infrastructure is also running into well-documented issues with permitting such projects. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the proliferation of massive data centers — many of them catering to the surge in interest in artificial intelligence (AI) — and what that means for utilities and power-related demand for natural gas. 

Category:
Crude Oil

For the past decade, producers in the Permian Basin have been the driving force in domestic production growth, but lately there has been a hard-to-miss slowdown in incremental production rates for crude, gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs). While Permian producers are primarily motivated by crude oil economics, those volumes also come with a lot of associated natural gas and NGLs. These commodities are therefore fundamentally interlinked. So if there’s a hangup with one, the effects will be felt across the upstream and then cascade downstream. There is a lot of money riding on these markets and the impacts of an extended slowdown in the Permian could be monumental, not just in the energy industry but also in the broader U.S. and global economies. In today’s RBN blog, we will examine what’s to blame for plateauing production in the U.S.’s most prolific basin and gauge what its big-picture implications might be. 

Category:
Natural Gas Liquids

For years, the South Texas NGL market was a world of its own — a self-contained liquids ecosystem centered around the refineries and petrochemical plants in the Corpus Christi area. But that all changed about six years ago when EPIC Midstream built a new NGL pipeline from the Permian into Corpus and a new fractionator to process those liquids. Corpus morphed into a vibrant NGL market in its own right. But nothing with South Texas NGLs is easy. Before the EPIC system was even up and running, a consortium calling itself BANGL — short for Belvieu Alternative NGL — announced another pipeline to compete for Permian NGLs that would parallel EPIC’s route out of the Permian, but then make a hard left toward Sweeny and Texas City, setting up a battle of the pipes for Permian NGLs. 

Category:
Refined Fuels

How can a business survive and thrive while spending $5.30 to make a product that sells for $1.90? That’s what’s happening in the booming renewable diesel (RD) market, where government subsidies allow RD to compete directly with petroleum diesel even though RD is inherently more costly to produce. But as new plants keep coming on stream, RD profit margins are coming under closer scrutiny. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze RD profit margins and show how they are changing as the market continues to expand. 

Category:
Crude Oil

The Corpus Christi crude oil market is pulling as much volume as it can from the Permian Basin via pipelines that are running nearly at capacity. That explains why two midstream companies are responding with plans to boost the capacities of their respective pipelines from the Permian to refineries and export terminals in the Corpus area. But the situation is complicated by the very real possibility that one or more deepwater export facilities capable of fully loading a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) may be built off the Texas coast. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine current and proposed pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian and the potential for proposed offshore export facilities to impact pipeline flows from West Texas to the coast. 

Category:
Crude Oil

Mexico’s efforts to start up the newest addition to its refining system — the Olmeca refinery — are causing headaches for global buyers of its crudes. Few are convinced that the plant near the country’s key Dos Bocas oil port is ready for service. Yet its operator, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), surprised many with cuts to its crude exports in April, which were reportedly made to ensure the complex will have enough feedstock and could continue through 2024. In today’s RBN blog, we will discuss what led to the export cuts, the implications for importers, and potential replacement options. 

Category:
Crude Oil

The U.S. has become an oil-exporting powerhouse in recent years, propelled by booming shale production, notably from the Permian Basin. U.S. crude oil now flows more freely than ever to help meet global demand, including to Europe, which increasingly turned to the U.S. following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two-plus years ago, but exports have slowed recently. In today’s RBN blog, we examine a half-dozen reasons why the export surge has tapered off and why it may not change much in the weeks ahead. 

Category:
Financial

U.S. E&Ps’ dramatic strategic shift from prioritizing growth to focusing on cash flow generation and shareholder returns has resulted in more earnings-call talk about dividends and share buybacks and less discussion about efforts to replenish and build their proven oil and gas reserves — a critically important factor in establishing company value. The emphasis on financial results has largely masked a sizable increase in the costs E&Ps are incurring to organically replace their reserves and a significant decrease in the volumes replaced. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll analyze the weakening in reserve replacement metrics over the last two years, a trend that has led many producers to grow their reserves through M&A. 

Category:
Refined Fuels

The new 650-Mb/d Dangote refinery in Nigeria instantly became Africa’s largest and the world’s seventh-largest by capacity when it finally began processing crude into diesel and aviation fuels in January after years of delays and cost overruns. Long touted as Nigeria’s ticket to ending refined fuels imports by supplying its own markets — with plenty to spare for exports — the Dangote facility could substantially impact trade flows and global supply if it lives up to years of homegrown ballyhoo. In today’s RBN blog, we will examine Dangote’s long road to production, and why we see a slow ramp-up to full capacity through 2026. 

Category:
Natural Gas

LNG Canada, under construction for nearly six years on Canada’s West Coast, is rapidly approaching the time when first gas will be entering the plant for testing and calibration of equipment, marking an important transformation for the Western Canadian natural gas market. This will kick off what will likely be about a yearlong testing process before officially entering commercial service in mid-2025. In today’s RBN blog, we consider daily gas flow data from the startup of similar-sized LNG plants on the U.S. Gulf Coast and develop a conjectural timeline for LNG Canada to help assess how much gas will flow to the site — and how soon — and when LNG exports might begin. 

Category:
Crude Oil

The prospect of decreased crude oil supplies from Mexico, the top international supplier to the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC), is creating uncertainty among heavy crude-focused refineries. Mexico’s state-owned energy company, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), instructed its trading unit to cancel up to 436 Mb/d of crude exports for April to supposedly focus on processing domestic oil at its new 340-Mb/d Dos Bocas refinery and/or its existing plants. While the refinery’s startup is likely not nearly as imminent as Pemex says, the cancellation of Mexican crude imports could be problematic for U.S. refiners with plants built to run heavy crude, a necessary ingredient to optimize operations and yields. Adding to the complexity of the situation is the upcoming startup of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX) and the recent reinstatement of U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan crude. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine the potential fallout resulting from Pemex’s decision at a time when heavy crudes elsewhere are also becoming less available.