RBN Energy

Tuesday, 2/20/2018

After a three-year hiatus, winter returned to the U.S. natural gas market this year in the form of a “Bomb Cyclone” and more than a week of frigid temperatures. The cold weather pushed Henry Hub prices above $6/MMBtu and East Coast prices higher than $100/MMBtu on some days. This winter, the pain wasn’t just confined to New England. Prices at Williams’ Transcontinental Gas Pipeline (Transco) Zone 5, which includes the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland, hit all-time highs on January 5. Exports from Dominion’s Cove Point terminal in Maryland are only just getting started so it’s not liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the East Coast that are driving prices higher. Instead, it’s gas’s increasing role in winter power generation that has been putting pressure on East Coast gas pipeline deliverability. Today, we begin a series explaining why prices have been so high on very cold days this winter and why more price spikes may be ahead.

Daily energy Posts

Monday, 02/19/2018
Category:
Crude Oil

With Western Canadian crude oil production rising, available pipeline takeaway capacity shrinking and crude-by-rail volumes rebounding, midstream companies are ramping up their efforts to get long-planned pipeline projects built. But that’s no easy task. Virtually every plan to add new takeaway capacity out of Alberta — Canada’s #1 energy-producing province — continues to face regulatory hurdles, and it remains to be seen which of the pipeline projects will be completed, and when. We can’t just throw up our hands, though, and say, “Who knows?” With pipeline constraints out of Western Canada worsening by the month and having profound negative effects on the price of Western Canadian Select (WCS), there’s real value in reviewing in some detail what these pipeline projects are up against. Today, we discuss what’s being planned on the takeaway front and where these projects stand.

Thursday, 02/15/2018
Category:
Natural Gas Liquids

With ethane prices remaining below 30 c/gal, making it only slightly more valuable than natural gas at Henry Hub on a Btu equivalence, most natural gas processors/producers can earn a greater profit when ethane is sold with natural gas (rejected) than when it is extracted and sold with the NGLs. How much more money you may be wondering? The answer is — it depends. Are there downstream pipeline contracts and sunk costs impacting the decision making? Are the contracted volumes on an ethane-only pipeline or a raw mix pipeline? How far away is the producing basin from the Gulf Coast market? How do all these factors come together to determine whether ethane is produced or rejected and the value created? Today, we continue our discussion of the MQQV gas processing model — this time focusing on the Value principle. This is our final blog focusing on the MQQV model and, with it, we are making it available to all Backstage Pass holders should you want to run scenarios of your own.

Wednesday, 02/14/2018
Category:
Natural Gas

Canada’s natural gas exports — which have been pushed out of the supply-rich U.S. Northeast in recent years — are also facing challenges in Western U.S. markets. Growing supply from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale is increasingly competing for capacity on the same transportation routes as imports and is targeting the same downstream markets. Meanwhile, the rise of renewable energy in the West region from wind and solar farms is limiting gas demand in those target markets. What does that mean for imports from Canada? Today, we look at how these factors are affecting Canada’s exports to the Western U.S.

Tuesday, 02/13/2018
Category:
Natural Gas

2017 saw some tumultuous times for Asian butane. What started the year as a tight market, with butane trading at $120/ton over propane — a 25% premium — flipped to a surplus market in the second quarter, with the products trading about even, then reversed again later in the year. In the middle of it all was India, whose relationship with butane as a cooking fuel suffered a spring break-up before reconciling in the fall. It was a textbook example of how today’s energy markets are buffeted by changes in production trends, government intervention and the growing influence of U.S. exports, which are becoming a much bigger deal in the global butane trade. Today, we continue our discussion of the supply and demand dynamics that shaped Asian butane markets in 2017, and what these trends may mean for 2018.

Monday, 02/12/2018
Category:
Natural Gas

Mexico’s natural gas market continues to evolve rapidly. New pipelines are being built to move increasing volumes of U.S.-sourced gas to Mexican power plants, industrial customers and other end users. Gas exports from the U.S. to Mexico already average 4.5 Bcf/d and those volumes are sure to rise as more pipelines and power plants come online. Just as important, the government of Mexico has been taking aggressive steps to undo what had been state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos’s (Pemex) near-monopoly on gas pipeline capacity and to encourage a large and diverse group of gas marketers to enter the fray. Today, we examine ongoing efforts to increase transparency, pipeline access and competition in the gas market south of the border, and look at how Comisión Federal de Electricidad’s (CFE) marketing affiliate, CFEnergía, is growing its gas marketing business within Mexico.

Sunday, 02/11/2018
Category:
Crude Oil

Permian crude oil production continues to march steadily upward, headed toward 3.0 MMb/d sometime in the next few months. Most of the recent growth responsible for pushing total U.S. output past 10 MMb/d has come from increases in Permian volumes. Pipeline capacity out of the super-hot play is on the ragged edge of maxing out, and a myriad of new projects to relieve capacity constraints are in the works. Why then has the price differential between Midland, TX, and the Gulf Coast dropped over the past few weeks? Why did the Brent vs. WTI/Cushing spread crater? And what does this all mean for Midland-to-Gulf Coast transport deals getting struck for $2.00/bbl or less? Today, we look at these developments, try to make sense out of the Permian/Midland crude oil market, and consider what the future might hold for West Texas barrels moving to the Gulf Coast.

Thursday, 02/08/2018
Category:
Financial

The recent rise in crude oil prices to levels not seen since late 2014 certainly has captured everyone’s attention, and generally boosted the financial prospects for U.S. producers and midstreamers alike. But while it’s often said that a rising tide lifts all boats, the fact is that accurately assessing the relative value of — and prospects for — specific midstream energy companies requires a deep, detailed analysis. Where are their assets located? How do they complement each other? Do their contractual obligations help or hinder? Sure, things may be looking up in the midstream sector in a big-picture sense, but that hardly makes every midstream company a winner. Today, we review highlights from a new East Daley Capital report that shines a bright light on 28 U.S. midstream companies.

Wednesday, 02/07/2018
Category:
Crude Oil

Producers in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) are in a bind. Crude oil output in the WCSB has risen by more than 50% over the past seven years to about 4 MMb/d and is expected to increase to 5 MMb/d by the mid-2020s. But there has been only a modest expansion of refinery capacity within the region and pipeline capacity out of the WCSB, and lately takeaway constraints have had a devastating effect on the price relationship between benchmark Western Canadian Select (WCS) and West Texas Intermediate (WTI). What’s ahead for WCSB producers and WCS prices? Today, we continue our series on Western Canadian crude and bitumen markets, this time focusing on WCSB refinery capacity and existing pipelines out of the region.

Tuesday, 02/06/2018
Category:
Natural Gas Liquids

It was a wild ride for Asian butane in 2017, driven by a range of diverse market factors, including U.S. ethane and LPG exports, a government program in India to encourage switching from firewood to LPG, the OPEC/NOPEC crude oil production cuts and LPG contract pricing set by Saudi Arabia. It was a textbook example of how today’s energy markets are buffeted by changes in production trends, government intervention and the growing influence of exports. Today, we introduce a series on the supply and demand dynamics that shaped Asian butane markets in 2017, and that will drive LPG markets in Asia, Europe and the U.S. in coming years. 

Monday, 02/05/2018
Category:
Natural Gas

In 2017, the U.S. Northeast sent more natural gas to Canada than it received, making the region a net exporter for the first time on an annual average basis. That marks another milestone in the ongoing flow reversal happening in the Northeast, led by the growth of local gas supply from the Marcellus/Utica shales. For now, the region still relies on Canadian gas during the highest winter demand months, but imports from Canada in all the other months are increasingly unnecessary as Northeast gas production balloons further. Today, we look at evolving dynamics at the U.S.-Canadian border in the Northeast.

Sunday, 02/04/2018
Category:
Energy

Crude oil production over 10 million barrels per day, just a fraction of a percent away from the November 1970 all-time record. Natural gas and NGLs already well above their respective record production levels.  And for all three commodities, the U.S. market has only one way to balance: exports. One-third of all NGL production is getting exported, 15% of crude production now regularly moves overseas, and the completion of several new LNG export facilities will soon have more than 10% of U.S. gas hitting the water. The implications are enormous. Prices of U.S. hydrocarbons are now inextricably linked to global energy markets. It works both ways — U.S. prices move in lock step with international markets, and international markets are buffeted by increasing supplies from the U.S. It’s a whole new energy market out there, and that’s the theme for our upcoming School of Energy — Spring 2018  that we summarize in today’s blog.   Warning — this is a subliminal advertorial for our upcoming conference in Houston.

Thursday, 02/01/2018
Category:
Crude Oil

The Permian is experiencing the build-out of a wide variety of midstream infrastructure: crude oil and natural gas gathering systems, gas processing plants and crude, gas and NGL takeaway pipelines. Lately, there’s also been a rush to develop pipelines to deliver water to wells for use in hydraulic fracturing, as well as pipes to transport produced water from the lease to disposal wells and produced-water recycling plants. By installing and expanding these water and produced-water pipeline systems — some of them hundreds of miles long — Permian producers and third-party water-logistics providers are reducing the need for trucks on the Permian’s congested roads and significantly reducing per-barrel water transportation costs. Today, we continue our blog series on water-related pipeline, storage and treatment infrastructure in the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins.

Wednesday, 01/31/2018
Category:
Petroleum Products

Rockies refineries have enjoyed higher margins than their counterparts anywhere else in the U.S. except California over the past four years, despite being typically smaller and less sophisticated plants. Attractive margins resulted in new investment by their owners — concentrating on the flexibility to process different crude types rather than just boosting capacity — because regional product demand is relatively stagnant. Today, we describe how some of those investments have paid off handsomely so far while others aren’t looking so savvy.

Tuesday, 01/30/2018
Category:
Crude Oil

Crude oil production in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) has risen by more than 50% over the past seven years to about 4 MMb/d, driven by new projects and expansions in the oil sands of Alberta. And while growth has slowed since the 2014-15 downturn in crude oil prices, oil sands output is expected to continue climbing — particularly over the next year as the new, 194-Mb/d Fort Hills project ramps up toward full operation. Most forecasts put total WCSB production at near 5 MMb/d by the mid-2020s. But while Western Canadian crude oil supply has been rising, there has been only a modest expansion of pipeline capacity out of the region, and lately takeaway constraints have had a devastating effect on the price relationship between benchmark Western Canadian Select (WCS) and West Texas Intermediate (WTI). Today, we continue our series on Canadian crude and bitumen production, existing and planned pipelines, and the effects of takeaway constraints on pricing, this time focusing on the supply side of the story.

Monday, 01/29/2018
Category:
Natural Gas

Canadian natural gas production has rebounded to the highest level in 10 years. At the same time, Canadian producers are facing tremendous headwinds. On the upside, regional gas demand from the Alberta oil sands is increasing too. But competition for market share in the U.S.  — which currently takes about one-third of Canadian gas production —  is ever-intensifying as U.S. shale gas production is itself at record highs and expected to continue growing. On the whole, net gas flows to the U.S. from Canada thus far have remained relatively steady in recent years, apart from fluctuations due to weather-driven demand. But the breakdown of those flows by U.S. region has shifted dramatically and will continue to evolve as Appalachia takeaway capacity additions allow Marcellus/Utica shale gas production to further expand market share in the Northeast and other U.S. regions. Today, we begin a series looking at what’s happening with gas flows across the U.S.-Canadian border and factors that will influence Canada’s share of the U.S. gas market over the next several years.