RBN Energy

Thursday, 5/19/2022

The race is heating up for building natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian. Associated gas production from the crude-focused basin is at record highs this month and gaining momentum, which means that without additional pipeline capacity, the Permian is headed for serious pipeline constraints — and potentially negative pricing — by late this year or early next, which would, in turn, limit crude oil production growth there. Midstreamers are jockeying for the pole position to move surplus gas from the increasingly constrained basin to LNG export markets along the Gulf Coast. One of the contenders, Matterhorn Express Pipeline (MXP), a joint venture (JV) between WhiteWater, EnLink Midstream Partners, Devon Energy and MPLX, announced its final investment decision (FID) late yesterday. In today’s RBN blog, we provide new details on the greenfield project.

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Daily energy Posts

Wednesday, 05/18/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

In the nearly 60 years since its inception, the LNG industry has changed significantly. Once a market in which cargoes were sold under long-term, point-to-point contracts in dedicated ships, it has evolved into one in which destination flexibility accounts for an increasing share of LNG trade, with more volumes being sold under short- and medium-term contracts. The changes reflect a trend toward the increasing commoditization of LNG, with the similarities between the LNG and crude oil markets becoming apparent. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the differences in how the oil and LNG markets have developed, whether LNG might achieve the same commodity status as oil, and why the major market players may not want LNG to follow the path of its older cousin.

Tuesday, 05/17/2022
Category:
Renewables

Hydrogen has been touted as a zero-emissions vehicle fuel, as a clean power generation source and, more generally, as a big part of the move toward decarbonization. Much of the current interest in hydrogen is its possible role as a grid-scale energy storage solution — one that might help support the growth of wind and solar renewable power generation. However, if we convert renewable energy to hydrogen, how do we store it? And how do we get it to end-use markets? As appealing as a hydrogen solution may be, these questions require thoughtful answers given some of hydrogen’s unique characteristics. With this in mind, a new set of stakeholders are beginning to take an interest in the natural gas pipeline network with an eye toward repurposing it to include hydrogen blends. In today’s RBN blog, we look at some reasons why hydrogen blending is being discussed and even being implemented on a limited basis in Europe and North America. 

Monday, 05/16/2022
Category:
Petroleum Products

It took a while, but domestic air travel is finally returning to pre-pandemic levels and international travel to and from the U.S. is showing signs of recovering too. As a result, U.S. production of jet fuel has been rising steadily in recent months and, since most jet fuel needs to be transported long distances from refineries to airports, so have flows of jet fuel on U.S. refined products pipelines. All of that is good news, but as pipeline flows rise, so may the stresses on some elements of the U.S. refined products/jet fuel distribution network, including pipelines, storage facilities and “last mile” jet fuel delivery trucks. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at jet fuel, this time with a look at the extensive web of U.S. refined products pipelines.

Sunday, 05/15/2022
Category:
Renewables

Since the first OPEC oil embargo nearly a half-century ago — and more recently with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — energy producers and consumers alike have learned important lessons about the significance of energy commodity sourcing. It all comes down to this, really: (1) know what you’ll need going forward; (2) diversify your sources of supply, focusing on suppliers who are reliable and friendly; and (3) don’t screw up by becoming overly dependent on suppliers who could prove to be sketchy. For decades, the industry’s focus was on oil and gas — which is still critical, as Europe knows all too well. But as policymakers attempt to transition to renewables and electrification, a whole new set of commodity-supply concerns is coming to the fore. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the challenges associated with securing the key materials required to build the machinery of the energy transition.

Thursday, 05/12/2022
Category:
Renewables

Electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S. may be at a turning point, with high gasoline prices prompting would-be car buyers to give them a second look — or a first look, in many cases. EV adoption has been slow to pick up speed in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, including the lack of a nationwide charging network and concerns about “range anxiety.” But a major factor has always been that gasoline-fueled cars have been cheaper to purchase and operate than EVs. The recent run-up in gasoline prices, amplified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has changed the math in those comparisons, at least in the short-term. Is the pace of EV adoption about to accelerate, or will trends in gasoline and electric power prices put the transition into cruise control, or even neutral? In today’s RBN blog, we look at how forecasts for power and gasoline prices might shape the conversations around EVs through 2030.

Wednesday, 05/11/2022
Category:
Petroleum Products

Just over two years ago, the jet fuel market experienced an almost existential shock. In the space of only six or seven weeks, demand for the refined product plummeted by more than 70% as COVID-related lockdowns and air-travel restrictions were implemented. Fortunately, life in the U.S. has been returning to normal — albeit with some bumps along the way — and demand for jet fuel (a.k.a. “jet”) has been rebounding to near pre-pandemic levels. That re-emphasizes a nagging challenge, though, namely transporting large volumes of jet from refineries and import docks to hundreds of major and minor airports. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at jet fuel, this time with an examination of where it's produced and consumed, and how it gets from refineries to airports.

Tuesday, 05/10/2022
Category:
Crude Oil

Brace yourself for it. Over the next few weeks, there’s a good chance that a tsunami of crude oil will be released from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and it’s likely that much (if not most) of that oil will be piped to Gulf Coast export docks and loaded onto supertankers. If that happens, the export capacity of crude-handling terminals from Corpus Christi to coastal Louisiana will be stress-tested on their ability to send out much larger volumes than they’re used to dealing with. And that’s only the beginning. Over the next year or two, while U.S. E&Ps ratchet up production in response to higher prices as Europeans and others scramble to replace Russian crude oil, Gulf Coast export terminals may well be called upon to load and ship out even more oil (in addition to refined products) on a regular basis. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impending SPR releases and the ability of Gulf Coast ports and individual terminals to handle increasing volumes.

Tuesday, 05/10/2022
Category:
Sponsored

Efforts to limit the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate while meeting growing energy demand rest largely on key partnerships between the oil and gas industry and emerging climate technology companies. The transition to responsibly sourced gas — natural gas that is produced, gathered, processed, transported and distributed utilizing methods that meet the highest environmental standards and practices — does more than just lower emissions as part of that net-zero goal.

Monday, 05/09/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

Production bottlenecks and global energy security concerns stemming from the Ukraine war have flipped the script on various aspects of the U.S. energy markets. One of them is the softening of Wall Street and regulatory resistance to investment in new hydrocarbon infrastructure. That’s been particularly good news for the swarm of LNG export projects looking to move forward. It’s also improved somewhat the prospects for the embattled Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the last major greenfield project for moving natural gas out of the Northeast from the Appalachian Basin. A court vacated three of the project’s key federal authorizations earlier this year, but the project recently got a greenlight when the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) approved MVP’s amendment certificate application. Equitrans Midstream said last week that it would pursue new permits and target in-service in the second half of 2023. But the prospect of more legal challenges looms, and the question is, will it get across the finish line before severe constraints arise? In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on the Appalachian gas market.

Friday, 05/06/2022
Category:
Petroleum Products

Over the past few weeks, many U.S. refiners reported even-stronger-than-expected first-quarter results, and it’s likely their good fortune will continue. Why? Despite the skyrocketing price of crude oil — refiners’ primary feedstock — the prices of the gasoline and diesel they produce have risen even more. And it’s that now-yawning gap between crude oil and refined-products prices that’s been driving refining margins — and refiners’ profits — to near-historic levels. Refining margins, like the character and capabilities of thoroughbreds like “Rich Strike” in Saturday’s amazing Kentucky Derby, are unique to each refinery because of their different sizes, equipment and crude slates (among other things), but there’s a tried-and-true way to estimate the refining sector’s general profitability, as we discuss in today’s blog on U.S. refiners’ sky-high crack spreads.

Thursday, 05/05/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

A tight coal market and record-high coal prices in the Eastern U.S. have suppressed gas-to-coal switching in recent months, despite the gas market also contending with a supply squeeze and gas prices trading at Shale Era highs. The coal-market constraints have contributed to record, or near-record, gas demand in the power sector, with gas gaining market share of total generation fuel demand — in spite of wind and solar increasing their share of the pie. Generation fuel dynamics were a driving factor in the tighter gas market balances this past winter and also play a role in how power grids balance cost and reliability during times of extreme customer demand, such as the record-breaking heat wave expected to hit Texas in the coming days. In today’s RBN blog, we take a look at power generation fuel economics, particularly the fuel-switching phenomenon and its underlying drivers.

Wednesday, 05/04/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

The first Saturday in May is only a couple of days away, so brush off your seersucker jacket or find that Kentucky Derby hat, as it’s the only time of year most Americans watch an actual horse race. That’s kind of how it goes with the Permian natural gas market as well, with only intermittent interest from general gas market participants, usually when there’s a pipeline capacity issue leading to a noticeable impact on prices. Now is one of those times. Permian gas production is racing higher and the pipelines to get gas to market are quickly getting jammed up. Daily prices in the Permian are trading about 10% lower than those in Louisiana and the forward basis markets suggest they will deteriorate further in the months ahead. Naturally, midstream companies are quickly trotting out new pipeline projects, but sorting out the contenders is much like picking the winner on Saturday. You need data and at least a little luck, and we’re here to help out with the former. In today’s RBN blog, we lay out what we know and how we view the Permian gas pipeline derby.

Tuesday, 05/03/2022
Category:
Renewables

The energy market has been in chaos for some time. Even before Russia’s horrific attack on Ukraine, the multinational push to decarbonize the global economy was slow-motion-crashing into reality. Of course, global supply shortages only got worse following the invasion and the widespread response to it. The disruptions highlight the critical need for a balanced energy policy, both in the U.S. and abroad. This became evident in Europe last year, when a heavy, early reliance on renewable energy, largely wind, left much of the continent short on fuel and scrambling for natural gas when the wind didn’t blow enough. The overall supply-demand balance caused prices to rise steadily as the global economy climbed out of its COVID-induced recession. Then the situation became more dire as embargoes on Russian crude oil and gas were planned and implemented. In the U.S., the Biden administration, eager to both “green” the economy and keep gasoline prices in check, has been giving mixed signals to E&Ps and their investors, telling them to both ramp up investments in production and expect to play a smaller and smaller role going forward. It’s a confusing world. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the current energy environment, the policy roller-coaster, challenges to the increased usage of renewables that remain unaddressed, and how the politics of decarbonization are making the ongoing energy transition a very difficult row to hoe.

Monday, 05/02/2022
Category:
Renewables

Carbon-capture projects have been slow to take root in the U.S., but that may be changing as a number of companies are now advancing plans to capture the carbon dioxide that results from ethanol production in the Midwest. Ethanol plants are an obvious choice, given that the CO2 resulting from ethanol fermentation is highly concentrated, which makes capturing it more efficient (and less expensive) compared to many other industrial processes. But while the relative ease and economy of capturing those emissions might seem like a no-brainer, convincing the public to go along with those plans has been more difficult. In today’s RBN blog, we look at what’s being planned.

Sunday, 05/01/2022
Category:
Petroleum Products

The jet fuel market has been on a wild ride the past two-plus years. First, demand for the refined product took an unprecedented, COVID-induced nosedive in February and March 2020. By May 2020, Gulf Coast prices for jet fuel had plummeted to less than 50 cents/gal (from just under $2 at the start of that year) and refiners had slashed production to 505 Mb/d (from just under 1.9 MMb/d). It was a tough few months — the recovery from the market’s bottom was neither quick nor consistent. Domestic air travel is finally back, but with international travel slower to rebound, total jet fuel supply and demand are still off of their pre-pandemic levels. Jet fuel prices are taking off, though, last week hitting their highest mark since July 2008. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the jet fuel market: how it’s rebounding, how it works and how it’s changing.