Crude oil exports out of the U.S. are the topic du jour these days. At the heart of the discussion are the who, what, where and when of how the export capacity will be developed. Who is going to build the next crude oil export terminal, what type will it be (offshore or onshore), where are they going to put it (Corpus Christi, Houston, Louisiana — the list goes on), and when will that new capacity be available? Everyone seems to have a different answer, and for good reason. Crude oil export terminals aren’t easy to develop, any way you look at them. Today, we examine the financial and logistical hurdles that export terminals must clear in order to reach a final investment decision, and what those obstacles mean for what kind of terminal gets built, where it gets built, who builds it and how soon.
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Daily energy Posts
Most crude oil gathering systems in the Permian — and elsewhere — have a relatively simple aim: to reliably and efficiently deliver crude from the lease to larger pipelines downstream that provide their shippers a high degree of destination optionality — end of story. A select few systems, though, have evolved into key elements of their owners’ larger value chain. With these, crude flows through gathering systems and takeaway pipes to export terminals — maybe even refineries — all held by the same company or its affiliates. By integrating assets from the site of crude production to the refinery or export dock, such owners add value each step of the way. Today, we continue our series with a look at Marathon Petroleum/Andeavor Logistics’ Permian crude gathering system, which started out relatively small and isolated but has evolved into something much bigger and better connected.
This much seems clear: natural gas demand along Texas’s Gulf Coast will be rising sharply, as will gas supply from the Permian and other inland plays to the coast. The catch is that, like clumsy dance partners, the increases in demand — mostly from new liquefaction/LNG export terminals and Mexico-bound gas pipelines — and the incremental supply to the coast via new, large-diameter pipes from the Permian are likely to be out of sync. That shifting imbalance, in turn, may well cause volatility in Houston Ship Channel gas prices as they relate to Henry Hub. In fact, we’re already seeing signs of what’s to come. Today, we continue our look at upcoming gas infrastructure expansions and their potential impact on the greater Texas Gulf Coast gas supply-demand balance.
A few months back, we discussed the quandary that crude oil shippers face when deciding whether to commit to proposed new pipeline capacity out of the Bakken and the Niobrara, and from the Cushing, OK, hub to the Gulf Coast. The dilemma boils down to this: more capacity is needed, based on current constraints or projected growth (or both), but there’s some reluctance among shippers to make long-term commitments. Their worries are that production gains might slow and too much takeaway capacity might be built, resulting in bidding wars for barrels at the lease to fill shipper commitments. Well, in recent weeks there’s been a bit of a break in the project logjam; among other things, P66 and its partners have decided to proceed with the construction of both the Liberty Pipeline, from the Bakken and Niobrara to Cushing, and the Red Oak Pipeline, from Cushing to Houston and Corpus Christi via Wichita Falls, TX. And that’s not all. Today, we provide an update on efforts to develop new pipeline capacity from North Dakota and the Rockies to Oklahoma and beyond.
Natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity additions out of the Northeast over the past year or two, along with suppressed gas production growth in recent months, have relieved years-long and severe constraints for moving Marcellus/Utica gas out of the region and even left some takeaway pipelines less than full. That, in turn, has supported Appalachian supply prices. Basis at the Dominion South hub in the first five months of 2019 averaged just $0.26/MMBtu below Henry Hub, compared with $0.46 below in the same period last year and nearly $1.00 below back in 2015, when constraints were the norm. Today, we continue our series providing an update on pipeline utilization out of the region, and how much spare capacity is left before constraints reemerge.
For some time, U.S. motor fuel exports to Mexico had been increasing at a healthy pace, reliably filling the void created by a series of production setbacks at Pemex’s refineries south of the border. From 2014 to 2018, U.S. gasoline exports to Mexico soared by more than 160%, from an average of 197 Mb/d five years ago to 517 Mb/d last year. Diesel exports rose by nearly 130%, to 279 Mb/d, over the same period. But that export-growth momentum has since sagged — in fact, export volumes for both gasoline and diesel actually declined in the first few months of 2019, primarily due to logistical challenges within Mexico. Also, Mexico’s new president has proposed ambitious plans to boost state-owned Pemex’s refining capacity, possibly posing a longer-term threat to U.S. exporters. So, is the boom in refined-product exports to Mexico over? Today, we examine what’s behind the downshift, and what the Mexican government’s effort to reinvigorate Pemex’s existing refineries — and build an entirely new one — may mean for U.S. gasoline and diesel exports in the 2020s.
When it comes to Texas natural gas markets, the Permian has been getting much of the attention lately, with its rapid supply growth, limited pipeline takeaway capacity and sometimes negative prices. However, a wave of gas infrastructure development just starting to come online along the Texas Gulf Coast is set to steal some of the Permian’s spotlight over the next few months. Two large liquefaction/LNG export facilities are ramping up on the coast, as are the pipeline reversal projects designed to supply them. Also, three announced Permian-to-Gulf-Coast gas pipelines slated for completion over the next 24 months will move supply cross-state to destinations spanning the area from the Houston Ship Channel to the Agua Dulce Hub near Corpus Christi. That’s a lot of change ahead for these key Texas gas markets. Today, we turn our attention downstream of the Permian to the Houston Ship Channel market, including upcoming gas infrastructure expansions and their potential impact on the greater Texas Gulf Coast gas supply and demand balance.
For evidence of America’s unwavering entrepreneurial spirit, look no further than smaller midstream companies that develop crude oil gathering systems in the Permian. These midstreamers — many of them backed by private equity — scramble to identify production areas on the cusp of needing gathering lines, propose systems to serve them, convince producers to dedicate acreage, then lay pipe, install tankage and get things up and running. All of this occurs in an atmosphere of intense competition. A number of new and growing crude gathering systems are under development today in southeastern New Mexico, an area that has experienced more than its share of production growth in the past couple of years. Today, we continue our series with a look at 3 Bear Energy’s Hat Mesa Oil Gathering System in the northern Delaware Basin, which was developed from scratch in Lea County and now serves 10 producers there.
Three months ago, the Pacific Northwest natural gas market recorded the highest trade in U.S. spot gas price history. The region at the time was dealing with extreme winter heating demand, a pipeline outage that limited access to gas supply and storage deliverability issues –– all of which were compounding constraints in the power markets. The result was a feeding frenzy that led gas prices to skyrocket to as much as $200/MMBtu at the Sumas, WA, hub on March 1. Fast forward to today — prices there have crumbled, falling to as low as $0.80/MMBtu in trading last week. Winter demand has dissipated, pipeline and storage constraints have eased, and the region is now dealing with an entirely different — even opposite — set of problems. Today, we take a closer look at the factors behind these latest price moves.
Keyera Corp. and SemCAMS Midstream, two major midstream players in Western Canada, in mid-May announced they are proceeding with the construction of their joint-venture project — a new NGL and condensate pipeline system out of the liquids-rich Montney and Duvernay plays of Alberta. The planned Key Access Pipeline System would provide the first direct competition for the transportation of NGLs and condensate out of these producing regions, currently dominated by Pembina Pipeline Co. Any and all transportation options for the movement of condensate and other NGLs out of the Montney and surrounding plays will likely be welcomed by Western Canadian natural gas producers, who are looking to capitalize on oil-sands producers’ growing demand for homegrown sources of condensate for use as diluent in bitumen transportation. Today, we provide key details about the project and how it fits into the region’s existing condensate/NGLs market.
Crude oil production in the U.S. continues to rise — it currently stands at 12.4 MMb/d, up more than 1.6 MMb/d from 12 months ago, according to the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). New pipeline projects from Cushing and West Texas to the Gulf Coast are being developed to ensure there is enough flow capacity to move all those barrels from the wellhead to refineries and export docks. Which leads to two critical questions — namely, how much actual crude oil export capacity is already in place at the Gulf Coast, and how much more needs to be developed? Today, we begin a series presenting our latest analysis of crude oil export capacity in the U.S., our forecast for total export demand, and our view of what it all means for the large slate of potential projects.
U.S. ethane exports have risen steadily over the past five years, from next to nothing in early 2014 to an average of 255 Mb/d in 2018 and 269 Mb/d in the first three months of this year. But unlike its heavier NGL siblings propane and butane, which are in demand globally as fuels and feedstocks, ethane’s only established use is in steam crackers specifically equipped to process it, so there are only a few countries where exported ethane is likely to end up. Also, the waterborne transport of ethane is generally limited to specially designed ethane carriers, and there aren’t many of those around because of ethane’s restricted market. All this makes for an export commodity that stands apart. Today, we review the evolution of U.S. ethane exports and the challenges to export growth posed by the U.S./China trade war.
The Northeast natural gas market turned a new leaf in 2018, when takeaway pipeline capacity to move supply out of the Marcellus/Utica producing region finally caught up to — and even began outpacing — production growth. More than 4 Bcf/d of takeaway expansions entered service in 2018. Prices at the region’s Dominion South supply hub improved relative to Henry Hub and other downstream markets. And for the first time in years, Appalachian gas producers and marketers caught a glimpse of what an unconstrained, balanced market driven by market economics (as opposed to transportation constraints) could look like. 2019 will be the first full year of operation for many of those takeaway expansions that came online in 2018. Northeast production growth flattened through the first few months of 2019, but has ticked up in the past couple of months, albeit modestly, and the slate of future takeaway expansion projects has shrunk to just a couple stalled projects. Where does that leave capacity utilization out of the region this summer, and how long will it be before production growth hits the capacity wall again? Today, we begin a series providing an update on the Northeast gas market and prospects for balancing takeaway capacity with production growth.
By their very nature, crude oil gathering systems in the Permian are works in progress. They often start out small, serving only a few wells owned by a single producer — or maybe two or three. Over time, the systems typically branch out to serve more producers and more wells, and they add capacity as drilling activity picks up. Sometimes, they evolve into much larger systems with multiple gathering hubs and regional transport pipelines that shuttle large volumes of gathered crude long distances to big marketing hubs like Crane, TX, and Midland, where the oil can flow into any number of takeaway pipelines to Cushing or the Gulf Coast. Today, we continue our series on Permian crude gathering systems with a look at Oryx Midstream’s 860-mile gathering and regional transport network in the super-hot Delaware Basin.
Global demand for propylene is rising, but lighter crude slates at U.S. refineries and the use of more ethane at U.S. (and overseas) steam crackers has reduced propylene production from these plants. That has led to the development of more “on-purpose” propylene production facilities — especially propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plants — in both the U.S. and Canada. More than 2 million metric tons/year of new PDH capacity has come online in North America since 2010, another 1.6 MMtpa is under development, and propane/propylene economics may well support still more capacity being built by the mid-2020s, maintaining the U.S. and Canada’s position as propylene and propylene-derivative exporters. Today, we begin a series looking at “on-purpose” production of propylene by PDH plants and what the development of these facilities will mean for U.S., Canadian and overseas markets.
U.S. oil and gas producer share prices got a nice boost in mid-April from the Chevron/Occidental Petroleum bidding war for Anadarko Petroleum, which sold for more than a 40% premium to its price before Chevron’s opening bid. But the optimism was only temporary; the S&P E&P stock index has since retreated 13% to mid-February levels, during a month in which companies released their first quarter 2019 earnings reports. That suggests that, despite a 38% quarter-on-quarter increase in the pre-tax operating profit of the 44 E&Ps we track, investors found nothing in the first quarter results to dispel the generally negative sentiment that has hung like a dark cloud over the oil and gas industry since late 2014. Today, we analyze the first quarter financial performance of our 44 E&Ps and review the outlook for an industry ripe for further consolidation because of depressed equity valuations.