RBN Energy

Thursday, 2/26/2015

Freezing weather along the Atlantic Coast has disrupted refinery operations threatening supplies of refined products – in particular distillates – in an already tightly balanced market. The resultant spike in heating oil prices has encouraged European traders to ship cargoes to New York – a reversal of flow patterns seen in recent years. Today we look at northeast distillate fundamentals and explain why European imports are headed across the pond.

Daily energy Posts

Wednesday, 02/25/2015
Category:
Natural Gas

Will hold-by-production (HBP) drilling by producers acting to preserve their leases for the longer term end up sending U.S. oil and gas production volumes higher when energy fundamentals and prices suggest production should slow down? This has happened before, with one of the highest profile instances in the Haynesville Shale between 2009-13, leading to even lower natural gas prices. Could it happen again in the Marcellus this year?  Today we continue our look at HBP lease provisions with a focus on the Marcellus.

Tuesday, 02/24/2015
Category:
Hydrocarbons

Producer rates of return are far below where they were a few months back, and the Baker Hughes crude rig count is down 553 since November. A third of pre-crash crude rigs are now idled. That means that crude oil production will be falling soon, right?  Not necessarily.  There are a number of factors working to keep production up, not the least of which is the rapidly declining cost for drilling and completion services.  Today we examine the impact of these factors, review RBN’s crude oil production scenarios and consider what it all means for the long-term relationships between prices, returns and production volumes.

Monday, 02/23/2015
Category:
Petroleum Products

Arnold Schwarzenegger said “Hasta la vista, baby” to the governor’s office in Sacramento four years ago, but his 2007 executive order establishing a low-carbon standard for transportation fuels is only now starting to have a real effect on California refineries. Some refiners say the rule aimed at reducing “life-cycle” greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation fuel sector 10% by 2020 is unrealistic and could result in refinery closings and gasoline and diesel shortages. Others say California’s goal is achievable. Today, we consider the Golden State’s low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) and what it may mean for refiners.

Sunday, 02/22/2015
Category:
Crude Oil

While producers are licking their wounds after a more than 50% oil price crash, refiners have continued to enjoy healthy margins – even in the face of the largest refinery strike since 1980. Strong refining margins, supported by an ongoing boom in refined product exports, continue to encourage high levels of refinery utilization in the Gulf Coast region – home to more than 50% of U.S. refining capacity. Today we look at how Gulf Coast refiners are faring after the oil price crash.

Thursday, 02/19/2015
Category:
Natural Gas

The much-discussed shortfall in natural gas pipeline capacity into New England has been largely mitigated this winter because generators—encouraged by low oil prices and incentives to lock in backup supplies of oil and LNG—are ready, willing and able to switch their dual-fuel power plants away from pipeline natural gas and onto oil and LNG-sourced gas if market conditions warrant. But now that prices for those fuels are more attractive, could switching to oil and imported LNG during winter’s coldest days and nights actually be a longer term solution to New England’s pipeline capacity problem instead of just a stopgap until new pipelines are built? Today, we begin a look at the changing economics of burning oil and LNG-sourced gas to help power New England when the region turns arctic, and what they may mean for proposed pipeline expansion projects.

Wednesday, 02/18/2015
Category:
Hydrocarbons

Can it make sense for a producer to drill a well in today’s low price environment even if the rate of return on that well is below zero?  Surprisingly the answer is yes, and the issue has important implications for the impact lower prices will ultimately have on U.S. oil and gas production volumes.   Factors such as lease requirements can incentivize drilling and cause production levels to continue growing, even when spot prices don’t seem to support it.  As the new economics of lower oil, NGL and natural gas prices suggest that production declines are just down the road,  the market’s quest to nail down when and how much production will decline  has brought the role of “hold by production” (HBP) drilling into the spotlight. Questions about HBP status and its role in producers drilling strategies have been a staple in the latest round of earnings calls.Today we take a closer look at HBP drilling.

Tuesday, 02/17/2015
Category:
Crude Oil

While many companies in the energy sector – particularly in the producer community – are licking their wounds and reporting lower profits and reduced capital expenditure to their stockholders this quarter, refiners have continued to thrive. Lower refined product prices have begun to increase domestic consumption of gasoline and diesel in the face of longer-term decline trends. And strong refining margins continue to encourage high levels of refinery utilization. Today we start a two-part look at how U.S. refiners are faring after the oil price crash.

Monday, 02/16/2015
Category:
Crude Oil

Since December the first significant volume of Canadian heavy crude - an average of 240 Mb/d - has flowed to the Gulf Coast on the Seaway Twin pipeline. It’s been a rocky road to the Gulf Coast for Canadian heavy crude producers – beset with delays and congestion that they probably never envisioned when they planned their oil sands projects (including the wider political battle over Keystone – currently back in the President’s hands.) And Canadian crude that does make it to Gulf Coast refineries faces stiff competition from incumbent suppliers. Today we chart the progress of the Seaway Twin and Flanagan South pipelines and look at price competition for heavy crude at the Gulf.

Thursday, 02/12/2015
Category:
Crude Oil

A new light sweet crude oil trading market is developing in Houston at the Magellan Midstream Partners East Houston terminal – delivery point for that company’s Longhorn and BridgeTex (50/50 owned with Plains All American) pipelines delivering crude from the Permian Basin. Light sweet crude from the Permian is also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) the domestic U.S. benchmark crude - widely traded at Cushing, OK where it underpins the CME NYMEX futures contract.  Today we review the developing market and the price relationships that underpin it.

Wednesday, 02/11/2015
Category:
Natural Gas

Exports of U.S.-sourced natural gas as liquefied natural gas (LNG) will likely begin within a year’s time, and will ramp up through the 2016-19 period. That much seems certain. What’s less clear is whether the capacity of U.S. liquefaction/export projects will plateau at the roughly 6 Bcf/d in the “First Four” projects now under construction or continue rising higher. Yesterday’s decision by the BG Group to delay it’s commitment to the 2 Bcf/d capacity of the Lake Charles LNG terminal until 2016 certainly casts doubts on those further expansions. Prospects for additional export projects hinge on a few interrelated factors, including the higher capital costs associated with some next-round projects; the costs and challenges of shipping LNG through the expanded Panama Canal; and the possibility of competing LNG export projects being developed elsewhere, including western Canada. Today we consider these factors and handicap the handful of export projects on the cusp of advancing.

Tuesday, 02/10/2015
Category:
Crude Oil

It seems logical to maintain stockpiles of critically important commodities like crude oil, heating oil and gasoline. After all, supply can be cut off suddenly by acts of God or man, causing price spikes, cold houses and empty gas tanks. Worries about supply interruption led to the creation of a federal Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) and Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve (NEHHOR) and, more recently, both federal and state reserves for motor fuels, again in the Northeast. But does the SPR as currently configured still make sense, given how much has changed in crude production and flows? Should we set up heating oil or motor fuel reserves in regions beyond the Northeast? And what about a strategic reserve for propane—an important fuel for millions of American homes and businesses? Today, we continue our look at the challenges of stockpiling hydrocarbons in a changing, unpredictable energy world.

Monday, 02/09/2015
Category:
Crude Oil

At the end of last year the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued clarifications designed to clear the way for greater U.S. exports of processed condensate. More companies have received BIS approvals to export – the latest being Plains All American last Thursday. Last year expectations were that as much as 230 Mb/d would be shipped in 2015. But narrowing price differentials have reduced the arbitrage necessary to make exports economic. Nevertheless midstream companies continue to invest in infrastructure to deliver processed condensate to marine docks. Today we review the state of the export market and ongoing infrastructure plans.

Sunday, 02/08/2015
Category:
Hydrocarbons

If you work for a producer or oil field services company, you might have a bit of an issue with that title.  But just for a moment, put your worries aside and consider the silver lining – huge improvements in our industry’s productivity over the last few years.  Things are getting better and better.  In fact that is part of the problem.  Producers have just become too productive for their own good. We’ve seen the consequences of this kind of productivity improvement before, not in the energy industry, but in electronics.  Moore’s law, remember?  In today’s posting we’ll look at some of the evidence of huge productivity improvements, what it has meant for production volumes, and the implications for U.S. producers now facing many of the same issues that electronics companies have dealt with for decades.

Thursday, 02/05/2015
Category:
Natural Gas

The Dominion South Point strip price for the balance of 2015 (March-December) has been settling consistently under $1.90/MMBtu, while Transco Zone 6 in New York is averaging around $2.80/MMBtu in this week’s forwards market. Meanwhile, Northeast and US gas production remain near record levels. The breakeven price environment and looming oversupply leaves producers and the industry vulnerable to the downside. Where and when will prices bottom out? What, if anything, would trigger a rebound?  Today Part 4 of our Forward Curve Series, focuses on fundamental factors driving Northeast forward curves over the next few years.

Wednesday, 02/04/2015
Category:
Natural Gas

There were—and still are—reasons to be optimistic about the potential for U.S. LNG exports. Worldwide demand for LNG is rising, the U.S. has vast reserves of cheap natural gas, and Asian LNG buyers in particular have been looking to diversify their sources and shift away from oil-indexed LNG pricing. But the collapse in oil prices has shaken the LNG world and undermined confidence in the U.S.’s LNG-exporting future. Today we continue our look at what’s ahead for liquefaction/export projects, given the topsy-turvy nature of today’s energy markets.