Crude oil production in the Permian Basin is now approaching 4 MMb/d, and with more than 2 MMb/d of new pipeline takeaway capacity out of the resource-rich play set to come online over the next 12 months, there soon will be plenty of room for more production growth. To efficiently transport crude to takeaway pipes, however, producers and shippers need ever-growing networks of gathering systems in the Permian’s sweet spots where much of the drilling and completion activity is occurring. Ideally, these systems offer their users a high degree of optionality — that is, interconnections with multiple takeaway pipelines to different markets — so they can capture the best prices for their oil. Today, we continue our review of major gathering networks in the Permian with a look at Reliance Gathering’s nearly 250-mile system in the Midland, TX, area.
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Daily energy Posts
Only a few months after major crude oil takeaway constraints out of the Permian Basin caused price spreads to widen, the pipeline network serving the U.S.’s most prolific shale play may be on the brink of becoming overbuilt. We’ve already seen a number of new expansions and pipeline conversions completed in the past six months, and construction is underway on another 2 MMb/d of new pipeline capacity scheduled to come online between now and the first quarter of 2020. Beyond that, a few remaining projects have been proposed but have not yet reached final investment decisions. No midstream group wants to build a pipeline that will be half full, and no producer wants to make a 10-year commitment to a pipeline if there are going to be plenty of other options available. So who blinks first? In today’s blog, we review the Permian pipeline projects that are still on the fence and examine what factors will determine whether they end up being a “go” or a “no.”
Nowadays, the hydraulic fracturing of a typical Permian well with a 10,000-foot lateral requires about 12,500 tons of frac sand — enough sand to fill more than 500 large sand trucks. That sand needs to be at the ready — delivered, offloaded, stored, and set for blending and use. If it’s not, the well completion and the start of production would be delayed or the hydraulic fracturing process would be shut down after starting — a mortal sin in the shale world. With reliable, seamless access to frac sand at the well site being so critical, E&Ps and their pressure pumpers are understandably doing all they can to optimize their “last-mile” sand logistics. This involves everything from minimizing truck-delivery congestion to maximizing the speed at which sand is transferred from truck to storage, as well as the type of storage used. It’s all much more high-tech than you might think. Today, we conclude our series with a look at the latest in last-mile logistics, which can account for as much as one-third of the total delivered cost of sand.
The rapid development of the Permian’s vast hydrocarbon resources that we expect will continue through the 2020s and beyond can’t happen if there’s insufficient gathering-pipeline infrastructure in place to transport crude from well sites to takeaway pipelines. Similarly, the favorable pricing that Permian producers hope to receive for their crude oil is possible only if their gathering systems are interconnected to two or more long-haul, big-bore pipelines that offer them some serious destination optionality. The need for new gathering pipes with multiple links to Gulf Coast- and Cushing-bound takeaway pipes is the driving force behind the Beta Crude Connector, a planned 100-mile-plus pipeline network in the heart of the Permian’s Midland Basin that was unveiled on Monday (April 15) by a joint venture of Concho Resources and gathering specialist Frontier Energy Services. Today, we kick off a new blog series on crude-gathering projects in the Permian with a look at the Concho/Frontier plan.
It’s said that everything is bigger and better in Texas, and when it comes to the magnitude of negative natural gas prices, the Lone Star State recently captured the crown by a wide margin. By now, you’ve probably heard that Permian spot gas prices plumbed new depths in the past couple of weeks, falling as low as $9/MMBtu below zero in intraday trading and easily setting the record for the “biggest” negative absolute price ever recorded in U.S. gas markets. Certainly, that was bad news for many of the Permian producers selling gas into the day-ahead market. But every market has its losers and winners, and negative prices were likely “better” — dare we say much better — for those buying gas in the Permian. Today, we look at some of the players that are benefitting from negative Permian natural gas prices.
Until just a few years ago, the rise and fall of U.S. propane inventories each year was driven in large part by winter weather: the colder the temperatures in the major propane-consuming areas, the bigger the draw on stocks. Things have gotten much more complicated lately, though, thanks to a combination of rapid NGL production growth, a generally booming propane export market, and the vagaries of petchem margins. Now, to get a handle on propane stocks, you not only need to be able to forecast the weather, you also need to monitor international propane arbs and steam cracker economics — oh, and crude prices too, because they have a significant effect on NGL output and propane supply. Today, we discuss the many factors that impact propane inventories and prices in this sometimes chaotic market.
What a deal! Take as much butane as you want — all for the low, low price of less than 10 cents/gallon (c/gal). That was the situation in Edmonton, AB, last November and the price stayed dirt cheap until a few days ago. Given a decline in demand for butane in crude blending, along with growing NGL production, the NGL processing and storage hub in Western Canada was awash in butane as winter approached. It remains flush with product today — and the price for Alberta butane is still low. How did this happen, and how will it play out over the next few months? Today, we examine the factors that led the Edmonton NGL market to see a price fall to near zero c/gal for the second time this decade.
The winter 2018-19 natural gas market was one of the most chaotic in recent memory, with the NYMEX Henry Hub futures contract last fall rocketing up to nearly $5/MMBtu in a matter of weeks, only to collapse in late 2018/early 2019 to an average $2.60 in January. The physical gas market also swung to extremes in recent months, setting both the highest ($200/MMBtu at the Sumas, WA, hub) and lowest (negative $9.00/MMBtu at the Waha hub) trades ever recorded in the U.S. These anomalies occurred amid steep supply growth from the Marcellus/Utica and Permian producing regions and rapidly advancing demand, particularly from burgeoning LNG exports along the Gulf Coast, while infrastructure scrambled to keep pace to bridge the two. And there’s more of that volatility ahead. Close to 5 Bcf/d more LNG export capacity is being added this year alone, and Lower-48 gas production is poised to continue growing. Today, we lay out our view of the recent volatility and the biggest factors shaping the gas market over the next five years, based on Rusty Braziel’s Backstage Pass Fundamental Webcast last week.
Rising natural gas liquids production in the Niobrara is increasingly straining existing pipeline capacity out of the region and has spurred midstreamers to propose various combinations of new pipelines, expansions to existing pipelines and pipeline conversions in order to ease constraints. One of the latest entrants is a joint venture of Williams and Targa Resources that would expand Rockies producers’ ability to move mixed NGLs to the Mont Belvieu, TX, hub for fractionation and marketing/export. Williams plans to build a 188-mile pipeline — Bluestem — that would extend from its Rockies-to-Conway, KS, Overland Pass Pipeline to Kingfisher County, OK. For its part, Targa will build a 110-mile extension of its new Grand Prix NGL pipeline from southern Oklahoma north into Kingfisher to connect with Bluestem. As part of the deal, Williams has also contracted substantial volumes on Grand Prix as well as at Targa’s fractionation facility at Mont Belvieu. Today, we discuss Williams and Targa’s plan.
Crude differentials in the Permian are getting squeezed. The spread between Midland and WTI at Cushing widened out to near $18/bbl at one point in 2018, when pipeline capacity was scarce. But that same spread averaged a discount of only $0.25/bbl in March 2019. Differentials between Midland and the more desired sales destination at the Gulf Coast are also in a vise. What gives? Production in the Permian continues to climb, but the rapid pace of growth we saw in 2018 has slowed down a bit lately, with fewer rigs in service and fewer new wells being brought on each month. More importantly, we’ve seen several new pipeline expansions and pipeline conversions come online in bits and bursts — in some cases, ahead of schedule — and this new chunk of pipeline space has compressed Midland pricing. In today’s blog, we begin a series on Permian crude takeaway capacity and differentials, with a look at the handful of new projects that have come online in the past few months and what has happened to Permian prices as a result.
The shutdown of natural gas production from the Sable Offshore Energy Project on Canada’s East Coast as of January 1, 2019, increased the Canadian Maritimes’ reliance on gas exports from New England this winter as consumers worked to link up with fresh supply to replace SOEP. The tightening supply in the region has prompted expansion plans from TransCanada to move more Western Canadian and Marcellus/Utica gas to New England utilizing its Mainline and other eastern systems. Today, we conclude our series examining the potential impacts of SOEP’s demise by examining new plans to bring more gas to the region.
Ten weeks after an explosion crippled a key natural gas takeaway route out of the Marcellus/Utica, the capacity finally has been fully restored. Texas Eastern Transmission two days ago said it’s lifting all restrictions on the affected section of pipe. The outage began on January 21 and partial service resumed eight days later, but TETCO’s Northeast production receipts during the event averaged about 700 MMcf/d lower than usual and the line’s flows to the Gulf Coast were cut by 30-40%. That, along with two severe polar-vortex periods in January that overlapped with the outage, caused a reshuffling of flows across other pipelines in the region. Today, we wrap up this series with a look at the implications of the outage on the Northeast gas market and what to expect now that it’s ended.
A primary focus of E&Ps during the Shale Era has been driving down the cost of drilling and completing wells — doing so lowers producers’ break-even costs and increases their profitability. With the volumes of frac sand being used in the Permian and many other plays having grown dramatically in the past five years, a big push is on not only to minimize the cost of the sand itself, but to maximize the efficiency of sand delivery and sand management at the well site. All this has been spurring E&Ps to assume responsibility from oilfield service companies for the frac sand supply chain — anything from directly sourcing the sand to managing “last-mile” logistics. Today, we continue our series on the rapidly changing frac-sand world, this time concentrating on producers’ growing involvement in sand procurement and management.
Crude oil and natural gas prices went through a lot of ups and downs in the 2014-18 period, but the general trend was down. The average price of WTI crude topped $100/bbl in the first half of 2014; by year-end 2018 it stood at $45/bbl. Similarly, the NYMEX natural gas price topped $6.00/MMBtu in early 2014 but fell to a low of about $2.50/MMBtu last year and averaged little more than $3.00/MMBtu. The 44 major U.S. E&P companies we track sought to weather this storm of declining prices by drastically repositioning their portfolios and slashing costs to stay competitive in a new, lower price environment. Their efforts appear to have worked: 2018 profits surged in comparison with 2017 results and approached returns recorded in 2014, when commodity prices were much higher. So why are E&P stock prices languishing? Today, we look at the divergence between investor sentiment and the actual financial performance of U.S. E&P companies.
Some shipowners plan to comply with the IMO 2020 deadlines for limiting sulfur in ship emissions by installing scrubber devices to clean the exhaust generated by burning less expensive high-sulfur bunker fuel. For many, this may work out to be more economical, at least in the interim, than using more costly IMO 2020-compliant fuel with sulfur content of no more than 0.5% or converting the vessel to run on an altogether different fuel such as liquefied natural gas. However, narrowing “sulfur spreads” this year have put that compliance strategy at risk by tripling the time it would take for shipowners to recoup their scrubber investments. Today, we continue an analysis of the changing economics of scrubber installation in the run-up to IMO 2020.
Midstreamers have been struggling to keep processing and natural gas pipeline constraints at bay in Oklahoma’s SCOOP/STACK plays, and the situation hasn’t gotten any easier in the past 18 months or so. Associated gas production from the Cana-Woodford has surpassed expectations, climbing 1 Bcf/d in that time to new highs near ~4.5 Bcf/d. Efforts by pipeline operators to keep pace with production gains have largely been on a piecemeal basis, mostly to tie in processing plants or modify/expand existing systems. Cheniere Energy’s Midship Project is looking to change that. The greenfield project, which received its final notice to proceed with construction from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) late last month, will level-shift takeaway capacity out of Oklahoma up by 1.44 Bcf/d in one fell swoop by the end of 2019. Today’s blog provides an update on Midship and other expansions in the region.