The rise in unconventional natural gas supplies in Western Canada has forced the region to again confront a dilemma that it faced in the 1990s and early 2000s: not enough export pipeline capacity to move all that gas to market. Although demand for natural gas has been growing in Alberta’s oil sands and power generation markets, it has not kept pace with provincial gas supply growth, leading to oversupply conditions and historically low gas prices. The need to export more of the gas to other parts of Canada and the U.S. is driving some pipeline expansions in the region. The question is, will they be enough? Today, we provide an update on the utilization of existing export routes, as well as the prospects (or lack thereof) for takeaway expansions, starting with Westcoast Energy Pipeline.
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Daily energy Posts
In May 2019, the first-ever propane unit train from the Bakken to Mexico reached its destination, and since then, three more of these 100-car, single-commodity “bulk” trains have made the same trip. Facilitating these shipments by Twin Eagle Liquids Marketing is Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s (MPC) unit train-loading terminal in Fryburg, ND, which was initially set up to load crude oil but was recently expanded to handle propane too. And soon, the terminal in Torreón, Mexico, that has been receiving these unit trains will have a new loop track too, enabling producers and marketers to take full advantage of the bulk transport option. Today, we look at the economics and challenges of this relatively new propane export route.
Finally, after what seemed like a long period of crude oil pipeline takeaway constraints out of the Permian, significant new takeaway capacity is coming online this month. Just last week, Plains All American’s Cactus II pipeline from the Permian’s Midland Basin to the Corpus Christi area entered service. And on Monday, EPIC Midstream announced that it has begun interim crude service on its EPIC NGL Pipeline, which will move crude from the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins — also to Corpus — until the company’s EPIC Crude Pipeline starts up in January 2020. With takeaway constraints alleviated, the focus on the crude-oil front now shifts to gathering system capacity, and it’s being added in spades. So much so that we’re writing two full Drill Down Reports (one on the Midland and one on the Delaware) to cover them in detail. Today, we discuss highlights from the first of our new Drill Down Reports, which focuses on crude oil gathering systems in the fast-growing Midland Basin.
Natural gas production in the U.S. Northeast has been increasing steadily through the 2010s and now averages about 32 Bcf/d — 12% higher than last August and nearly double where it stood five years ago — despite the lowest regional spot gas prices since early 2016. This run-up in production volumes wouldn’t have been possible without the new gas-processing and fractionation capacity that MPLX and other midstream companies have been bringing online at a steady pace in the “wet” or NGLs-rich parts of the Marcellus and Utica shales. Today, we begin a short blog series on recently completed and planned gas-processing and fractionation projects in the nation’s largest gas-producing region, and the gas production growth they will help enable.
In May 2019, Twin Eagle Liquids Marketing shipped a 100-car train filled with propane from North Dakota to Mexico, marking the first-ever single-commodity train — i.e. “unit train” — between the Bakken and the U.S.’s southern neighbor. As it turns out, it was also the first of what appears to be a regularly scheduled run to Mexico. Since May, three more unit trains have made the journey south from the Bakken’s first unit train terminal for propane. Rail shipments of propane to Mexico as part of mixed-goods trains aren’t new, but figuring out how to economically ship large quantities of propane via unit trains has long evaded NGL marketers and producers — that is, until now. What are the economics and other factors that finally made it possible, and what are the prospects and challenges ahead for unit-train exports to Mexico? Today, we look at how the first all-propane train to Mexico came to pass and what the outlook might be for these shipments to continue.
Well, it’s finally going to happen! Without major fanfare, Plains All American and Marathon Petroleum announced earlier this month that they have sanctioned the reversal of the 40-inch-diameter Capline crude oil pipeline, a move that will enable light crude to flow south on that pipe from the Memphis area to St. James, LA, starting late next year and light and heavy crude to do the same from Patoka, IL, by early 2022. Also, Plains said it has committed to expanding the existing Diamond Pipeline between Cushing, OK, and Memphis, and extending that eastbound crude pipe from Memphis to a new interconnection with Capline. Light-crude service on the expanded, extended Diamond will commence in late 2020. Today, we review the newly sanctioned projects and their significance to U.S. and Canadian producers, Louisiana refiners and Gulf Coast exporters.
TC Energy’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf natural gas transmission systems’ recent expansions out of the Northeast — the Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress projects, both completed in March — are responsible for a large portion of the uptick in Marcellus/Utica production in the last few months and they’ve added an incremental 860 MMcf/d of capacity for Appalachian gas supplies moving south to the Gulf Coast. The two projects join a number of other expansions in recent years that have inextricably tied Marcellus/Utica supply markets to attractive demand markets along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Where is that latest surge of southbound supply ending up? Today, we look at the downstream impacts of the completed projects, namely on Louisiana gas flows and LNG feedgas deliveries.
Of the many midstream companies with Permian crude oil gathering systems, a few also own bigger-diameter pipelines that shuttle crude to regional hubs as well as even larger takeaway pipelines to the Gulf Coast. Noble Midstream Partners is one of those that employs this “well-to-water” strategy, which enables midstreamers to participate in multiple links of the value chain; it can also give them better control over oil quality as crude makes its way from wells in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico to coastal refineries and export docks hundreds of miles away. Today, we conclude our series on Permian crude gathering with a look at the master limited partnership’s (MLP) mix of gathering, shuttle and long-haul pipelines.
It’s no secret by now that Permian oil markets have struggled over the last two years as nagging takeaway-pipeline constraints put a damper on production growth and, at times, hammered pricing in the basin. Like the Houston Astros’ opponents in the AL West, though, the days are numbered now for Permian oil market constraints, as two new large-diameter pipelines from West Texas to Corpus Christi will be in-service by the end of the month. One of those pipes, Plains All American’s Cactus II, is set to enter service this week. Today, we assess the potential implications of the latest Permian long-haul pipeline expansion, and introduce RBN’s new weekly publication, Crude Oil Permian!
For a few days in late July, the price differential between propane stored at Enterprise Products Partners’ salt caverns in Mont Belvieu, TX, and propane stored at facilities owned by others a few hundred yards away quickly widened to as much as 10 cents/gallon. That’s by far the biggest spread of its type we can recall, and while we can’t say for certain what caused the “Enterprise-vs.-others” propane differential to blow out, there’s a likely — and familiar — culprit: NGL infrastructure constraints. Something else this unusual pricing event confirmed is that, no matter where the NGL storage, fractionation or pipeline constraint may occur, it almost always has an outsized effect on the much smaller NGL storage and fractionation hub in Conway, KS. What’s with that? Today, we look at the recent, rapid slide in propane prices at Enterprise’s Mont Belvieu storage facility and discuss what it tells us.
The Niobrara production area in the Rockies is a complicated place to determine crude oil supply and demand balances. It’s at the crossroads of a number of supply areas, with volumes coming in from Canada and the Bakken, as well as locally from the Powder River and Denver-Julesburg basins. And in terms of destinations, there are well-established local markets, or you can send the molecules to Salt Lake City, or southeast to the Cushing, OK, hub and beyond. The Niobrara is one of the few growth areas we look at where there is substantial pipeline capacity for inflows and outflows, with the option to service multiple markets. Now, there are a couple of new pipeline projects ramping up in the Rockies, and given the region’s interconnectivity, it’s a good bet that the status quo in the Niobrara is in for some big changes. Today, we recap the new pipeline projects and then dive into what it could mean for the midstream balance in the Powder River and D-J.
It’s been nine months since Plains All American’s Sunrise II crude oil pipeline started service out of the Permian to the Wichita Falls, TX, crude hub. In that time, it has transformed the balance of supply versus downstream takeaway capacity at Wichita Falls and become a critical conduit of Permian crude to the Cushing and Gulf Coast markets. What’s more, Plains is planning to build the Red Oak Pipeline from Cushing through Wichita Falls to the Gulf Coast in 2021, which will further solidify Sunrise II as an important outlet for Permian oil for some time. With two other new long-haul Permian crude pipelines — EPIC and Cactus II — days away from starting interim service to the Gulf Coast, an analysis of Sunrise II’s impacts thus far provides some clues as to how future expansions will reshape the region. Today, we discuss how Plains’ Sunrise II project has affected crude oil flows from the Permian to Wichita Falls, and from there to Cushing and the Gulf Coast, as well as what its role will be when Red Oak comes online.
U.S. Northeast natural gas producers in recent months got a substantial boost in pipeline capacity to receive and move incremental gas production volumes to attractive Gulf Coast markets. TC Energy’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf transmission systems in March completed the Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress pipeline expansions, respectively, increasing the combined system’s Marcellus/Utica receipt capacity by 2.7 Bcf/d in the producing region, while also bumping up the Marcellus/Utica’s takeaway capacity to the Gulf Coast by nearly 900 MMcf/d. The duo of expansions is among the biggest takeaway capacity additions to be completed out of the Northeast, volume-wise, and among the handful that inextricably connect Marcellus/Utica supply markets to well-sought-after LNG exports markets along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. One of the export terminals these projects are designed to serve is Sempra’s Cameron LNG, where Train 1 began commercial operations in recent weeks. Today, we provide an update on the upstream and downstream implications of the recently installed Northeast-to-Gulf Coast pipeline capacity.
Rising U.S. production of NGLs and so-called “purity products” like ethane and propane, as well as growth in steam cracker capacity and NGL and ethylene exports, are giving added importance to NGL and ethylene storage capacity in underground salt caverns along the Gulf Coast. Mont Belvieu, TX, has long been the epicenter of both fractionation and salt-cavern NGL storage — and it will remain so — but there are other areas along the Texas coast with frac capacity and NGL storage, as well as steam crackers and export docks. The questions now are, is there enough in the right locations, and can what’s stored there be received and quickly sent out? Today, we begin a look at existing and planned NGL storage facilities along the Texas coast that are not in Mont Belvieu.
The news has been out for a few days now: Enterprise Products Partners announced last Tuesday, July 30, that, thanks to new agreements with Chevron, the midstream company has made a final investment decision to proceed with its Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) about 30 miles off the coast of Freeport, TX, pending regulatory approvals. Being out front on this is critically important; even with significant growth in crude oil export volumes through the early 2020s, only one or two new export terminals capable of fully loading Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) are likely to be needed. What was it that enabled Enterprise to move first among a wave of proposed projects? And what does that tell us about the VLCC-ready export terminal projects being advanced by others? Today, we look at the SPOT project and the important roles that existing pipeline and storage infrastructure play in export terminal development.
Growing natural gas supplies in Western Canada have been pressuring gas prices and export pipelines in the region, but there are signs that at least some of that supply-growth pressure is being offset by rising gas demand. Though the region is pegged as primarily a winter gas market — where local demand only rises when the temperature falls into the winter extremes — non-weather-related demand for natural gas has been growing in Western Canada and looks to have further upside in the years ahead. Today, we delve into Alberta and British Columbia’s gas demand trends and their potential to help balance the region’s oversupply conditions.