The U.S. Northeast now produces all the propane and butane it needs on an annual basis (Energy Information Administration - EIA PADD 1 plus Utica production from Ohio), but the seasonal nature of the region’s demand—and a dearth of in-region storage—means a lot of the natural gas liquid (NGL) production needs to be railed to storage facilities elsewhere during the warmer months, then be moved back in to meet wintertime needs. This propane/butane back-and-forth raises costs and reduces producer netbacks. Surely there is a better way. Today, we continue our review of NGL storage (or the lack thereof) in the Northeast, and how proposed NGL storage facilities in the region might help.
Daily energy Posts
Over the past 20-some days, U.S. natural gas prices have gone from being the lowest in more than a decade to very close to last year’s levels. The July 2016 CME/NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures contract on Thursday (June 23) settled at $2.698/MMBtu, up about 70 cents (36%) from where the June contract expired ($1.963/MMBtu on May 26) and also up nearly 50 cents (23%) from where the July contract started as prompt month on May 27 (at $2.169). Market buying to unwind short positions initially kick-started the rally, but since then hot weather and a boost in power demand has kept the rally going. National average temperatures have averaged nearly 8 degrees (Fahrenheit, or F) higher in June to date versus May, and in the past week they’ve climbed above the peak summer levels normally not seen until mid- to late-July. Gas consumption on a temperature-adjusted basis also soared in the first half of June, led by power burn (gas use for power generation). The combination of hot weather and higher gas usage per degree of demand has been practically made-to-order for the oversupplied gas market, and has led to record power burn in June to date. But higher prices have the potential for bearish consequences—the recent gains have catapulted natural gas prices well above prices for coal on a cost-per-MMBtu basis—making the latter fuel more economically competitive in the power generation sector. That’s welcome news for coal producers, but what will it do to natural gas demand and in turn gas prices? Today, we look at the shift in the coal-gas price relationship and the potential impact to power burn and the gas market.
Tallgrass Energy Partners’ Pony Express Pipeline provides capacity to move 230 Mb/d of Bakken crude oil received at Guernsey, WY all the way to the mega-hub at Cushing, OK, making it one of the most important pipeline corridors out of the Williston Basin. Possibly because of its moniker ‘Express’, it is often thought of as a bullet line, hauling barrels 760 miles in a straight shot across Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and into Oklahoma.
After the $5 billion-plus expansion of the Panama Canal is dedicated this Sunday, June 26, the first “New Panamax” vessel scheduled to pass through the canal’s new, longer, wider locks will be the Lycaste Peace, a Very Large Gas Carrier (VLGC) that is transporting propane from Enterprise Products Partners’ Houston Ship Channel export terminal to Tokyo Bay in Japan. What remains to be seen, though, is how many other supersized vessels carrying propane, liquefied natural gas (LNG) or other hydrocarbons will follow, and how soon. Today, we mark the formal opening of the newly enlarged Atlantic-Pacific short-cut with a look both at the game-changing potential of the expanded canal and the realities of today’s energy and shipping markets.
More new crude oil storage capacity came online in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 than in any half-year period in memory, and still more capacity is being planned. Even with all this new capacity—and the slowdown in crude oil production—the storage utilization rates at Midwest/Mid-continent and Gulf Coast tank farms, underground salt caverns and refineries are at or near record highs too. And tens of millions more barrels of storage capacity are on the drawing boards in anticipation of further incremental needs. But the energy sector is pulling back, right? What gives? Today, we begin an update on crude storage trends and crude storage facilities in Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDs) 2 and 3, which together account for 82% of U.S. crude storage capacity.
A big build-out of Jones Act product tankers and large ocean-going barges is well under way, just as the future demand for these vessels is coming into question. Within the next 18 months, a total of 17 Jones Act product tankers and large ocean-going articulated tug barges (ATBs) with a combined capacity of more than 4.5 million barrels (MMbbl) will be delivered, boosting the total fleet capacity of these types of vessels by 20%. These new-vessel orders were made a few years ago in response to increased shipments of crude oil within the U.S. that, at the time, had resulted in a shortage of Jones Act product tankers and large ATBs. This in turn led to higher charter rates and the resulting increased costs of shipping crude oil and petroleum products in the coastwise trade. Now though, the decline in U.S. crude oil production has upended expectations. Today, we begin a series on the impact of hydrocarbon market changes on the Jones Act fleet.
New and expansion natural gas pipeline projects have been part and parcel of the shale production boom in the U.S. Northeast. In fact, Northeast gas production could not have reached anywhere near its current level and become a major natural gas supplier to the U.S. without the substantial addition of takeaway capacity out of the Marcellus/Utica shale areas. At the same time, the competition among pipeline developers jockeying to be in the right place at the right time has been fierce. And now, low natural gas prices and uncertainty about future production growth have only increased the competition---not all projects will make it to in-service. The risks are higher for big pipeline projects, but so are the stakes. These days, the overall risk tolerance among shippers and investors is low, especially among producers. So if you’re a producer, how can you make sure you don’t end up on the wrong side of a transportation deal? In today’s blog, we continue our walk-through of the RBN Pipeline Economics Estimation Model. We’ll follow up in a later installment with a real-world test and other ways to use the model.
For the past five years, crude oil producers in the Bakken have depended on railroads to transport a significant share of their output to market—there simply hasn’t been enough pipeline capacity out of the tight-oil play. Now, construction of the long-awaited, 450 Mb/d Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is finally poised to begin, and a late-2016 online date for DAPL is planned. DAPL’s capacity would enable producers to further reduce their use of crude-by-rail, but with Bakken production on the decline, will DAPL really be needed? And what about additional out-of-the-Bakken takeaway capacity being planned? Today, we consider the challenges and pitfalls of developing midstream infrastructure in fast-changing markets, focusing on Bakken crude.
It’s been two years since Hawaii’s electric and natural gas utilities made their first, tentative moves toward ending their dependence on crude oil (for power generation and the production of synthetic natural gas) by shipping in liquefied natural gas (LNG) from western Canada and the U.S. mainland. While Hawaii Gas has secured state regulatory approval to ramp up the number of LNG-filled ISO containers it receives, the gas utility and Hawaiian Electric have so far failed to agree on a comprehensive LNG plan. Also, some state officials remain concerned that simply replacing oil with LNG will undermine Hawaii’s plan to get all its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Today, we provide an update of the Aloha State’s fits-and-starts transition to LNG.
Crude oil and natural gas prices are back from the abyss, but does that mean the long awaited recovery is underway? Maybe so. But maybe not. Energy markets are fickle, driven by a chain of interactions where one market event triggers another, and then another. Rusty Braziel’s best-selling book, The Domino Effect, explores 30 such market events, which are represented by dominoes – hence the title of the book. More dominoes are falling now and still more will fall in years to come. This book explains the interconnectedness of energy markets through an analysis of energy market fundamentals: prices, flows, infrastructure, value, and economics. And good news for fans of audio books: The Domino Effect is now available on Amazon in Audible format. Today’s blog, an advertorial for the audio book, highlights what The Domino Effect has to say about what’s going on now.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday (June 9) reported a surprisingly bullish 65-Bcf injection for the week ended June 3—that was 8.0 Bcf below our Natgas Billboard estimate and more than 10 Bcf below the Bloomberg industry average assessment. In response, the CME/NYMEX Henry Hub July natural gas contract screamed about 15 cents higher following the report to a settle of $2.617/MMBtu, the highest daily settle for the prompt month in nearly 9 months. Thursday’s gains extended a rally that began on May 31 (2016) just after the July contract rolled to the front of the futures curve. It’s likely the rally was initially spurred by market participants looking to cover their short positions. But in the past week, an increasingly bullish fundamental picture has emerged prompting us to raise our price outlook (in our June 10 NATGAS Billboard report). In today’s blog, we analyze the fundamentals behind rising natural gas prices.
The STACK shale play west/northwest of Oklahoma City has quickly emerged as one of the hottest hot spots, and two “sweet-spot” counties in the heart of the play rank near the top nationwide in drilling activity. For now, the primary focus of the small group of producers active in STACK (for “Sooner Trend Anadarko Canadian Kingfisher”) isn’t on production, it’s on gaining a more complete understanding of the play’s complex geology, which offers (as acronym luck would have it) a bona fide stack of hydrocarbon production layers (including the particularly promising Meramec) that together may offer off-the-chart volumes. Today, we consider a play that can provide some producers a 75% rate of return at $45/bbl oil and $2.25/MMBtu natural gas—that is, at prices 11% to 13% lower than they are today.
We’ve spent a lot of time here in the RBN blogosphere discussing the trials and tribulations of natural gas producers in the Marcellus and Utica shales who are “trapped behind the pipe,” unable to get sufficient takeaway capacity to move supply to market (both within and outside the U.S. Northeast region) where they could get a higher price for their gas. Pipeline companies have ponied up billions of dollars to build lots of pipe to alleviate these constraints and much more investment is planned. Of course, those pipelines and their committed shippers hope that the investment will pay off long-term – that the economics for building the pipe will justify the cost. The pipeline will have scores of engineers, lawyers and accountants to figure that out. But what if you just want to make a quick-and-dirty estimate of the economics? Well, there is a way. In today’s blog, we walk through the factors you need to consider when your boss runs in and asks, “Hey—what would it cost to move gas there in a new pipe?”
Crude oil prices have rebounded somewhat in recent weeks (and now are hovering near $50/bbl), but cash-hungry shale-play producers remain laser-focused on high-output “sweet spots” that promise quick, sure-fire economic returns. What if these same producers could get an added, low-cost boost in output—and much-needed revenue—through enhanced oil recovery (EOR)? EOR, which involves injecting or “flooding” seemingly past-their-prime oil wells with steam, carbon dioxide (CO2), natural gas or nitrogen to spur further production, has always been associated with conventional, vertical wells; but as we discuss today, there’s a push under way to make EOR work in horizontal wells too.
There’s too much new liquefaction capacity coming online worldwide, too little growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand, and it’s probably too late to prevent a multiyear period of LNG supply glut and low LNG prices. That’s not welcome news to those who have committed to long-term, take-or-pay deals with the new liquefaction “trains” set to come online in the U.S. and Australia in 2016-20, but it’s the reality. What’s making things worse yet is that new entrants in the LNG market are facing push-back from entrenched LNG and natural gas suppliers (Qatar, Russia and Norway) eager to retain market share (much like Saudi Arabia’s been doing in the crude oil market). There’s cause for longer-term optimism, though. Today, we begin an update on the international gas market.
In February 2016, two months or so after the U.S. lifted its crude oil export ban, prices hit their lowest point in the current down-cycle that began in the summer of 2014. The ongoing price collapse had contributed to the favorable political winds in Washington, DC that resulted in lifting the ban. But what was favorable in the political realm posed severe commercial difficulties: U.S. producers were stuck with trying to sell into an international market awash in crude. Facing adversity, though, U.S. exporters have been getting creative, with the latest strategy involving backhauls of U.S. crudes on the same ships delivering foreign crude to U.S. ports. In today's blog, ClipperData's Abudi Zein looks at the market conditions that make such crude flows economically rational.