Crude Oil

Bluewater Texas, proposed by a 50/50 joint venture (JV) of Phillips 66 (P66) and commodity trading giant Trafigura, is in a unique position in the race to construct a deepwater crude oil export facility along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Of the four marketed deepwater proposals, Bluewater is the only project in the export-centric Corpus Christi market. It is also the only one in the group that does not include an offshore platform in its scope. In today’s RBN blog, we will explore these and other differences that set Bluewater apart. 

Situated in West Texas’s Winkler County, the tiny city of Wink (population just under 1,000) might seem easy to overlook but it holds a special place in music history as the childhood home of Roy Orbison — he formed his first band, the Wink Westerners, there in 1949. But beyond its rich musical legacy, Wink in recent years has emerged as a key hub for crude oil connectivity in the prolific Permian Basin. Don’t blink or you might miss out on what’s happening in this dynamic locale, the subject of today’s RBN blog. 

If you asked someone where U.S. crude oil shipments would go when the Obama administration ended the ban on most crude exports in December 2015, it’s not likely that Nigeria would have come to mind. Yet this year marked the second time since the restrictions ended that U.S. oil has been sent to the OPEC member, this time to feed its long-awaited Dangote refinery. In today’s RBN blog, we will examine this development and the prospects for more U.S. exports to the West African nation. 

On the surface, the Bakken story in the mid-2020s may seem as boring as dirt. The boom times of 2009-14 and 2017-19 are ancient history. Crude oil production has been rangebound near 1.2 MMb/d — well below its peak five years ago. And that output has been getting gassier over time, creating natural gas and NGL takeaway constraints that have put a lid on oil production growth. But don’t buy into the view that the Bakken is yesterday’s news. Beneath the surface (sometimes literally), the U.S.’s second-largest crude oil production area is undergoing a major transformation that includes E&P consolidation, production (and producers) going private, the drilling of 3- and (soon) 4-mile laterals, novel efforts to eliminate flaring, and even a producer-led push for CO2-based enhanced oil recovery (EOR). As we’ll discuss in today’s RBN blog, these changes and others may well breathe new life into the Bakken and significantly improve the environmental profile of the hydrocarbons produced there. 

The Houston crude oil hub has become busier over the last few months, and if one or more proposals to build a deepwater export terminal nearby capable of fully loading a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) cross the finish line, it could become the hub supplying them. That could push Permian Basin oil flows on Houston-bound pipelines higher at the expense of flows to Nederland and Corpus Christi. In today’s RBN blog, the third in a series, we will examine the latest Permian oil flows to Houston and how that could change if and when a deepwater project comes online. 

Energy Transfer, which is championing its Blue Marlin Offshore Platform (BMOP), may have been the last developer to pursue its critical deepwater export license, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the hunt. Of the four offshore crude oil export projects, BMOP stands out as the sole brownfield initiative, which should hold down costs and expedite its construction timeline. Further, a recent non-binding agreement with TotalEnergies underscores the industry’s interest in this unusual but compelling facility. In today’s RBN blog, we explore Energy Transfer’s unconventional approach. 

For the past decade, producers in the Permian Basin have been the driving force in domestic production growth, but lately there has been a hard-to-miss slowdown in incremental production rates for crude, gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs). While Permian producers are primarily motivated by crude oil economics, those volumes also come with a lot of associated natural gas and NGLs. These commodities are therefore fundamentally interlinked. So if there’s a hangup with one, the effects will be felt across the upstream and then cascade downstream. There is a lot of money riding on these markets and the impacts of an extended slowdown in the Permian could be monumental, not just in the energy industry but also in the broader U.S. and global economies. In today’s RBN blog, we will examine what’s to blame for plateauing production in the U.S.’s most prolific basin and gauge what its big-picture implications might be. 

The Corpus Christi crude oil market is pulling as much volume as it can from the Permian Basin via pipelines that are running nearly at capacity. That explains why two midstream companies are responding with plans to boost the capacities of their respective pipelines from the Permian to refineries and export terminals in the Corpus area. But the situation is complicated by the very real possibility that one or more deepwater export facilities capable of fully loading a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) may be built off the Texas coast. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine current and proposed pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian and the potential for proposed offshore export facilities to impact pipeline flows from West Texas to the coast. 

Mexico’s efforts to start up the newest addition to its refining system — the Olmeca refinery — are causing headaches for global buyers of its crudes. Few are convinced that the plant near the country’s key Dos Bocas oil port is ready for service. Yet its operator, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), surprised many with cuts to its crude exports in April, which were reportedly made to ensure the complex will have enough feedstock and could continue through 2024. In today’s RBN blog, we will discuss what led to the export cuts, the implications for importers, and potential replacement options. 

The U.S. has become an oil-exporting powerhouse in recent years, propelled by booming shale production, notably from the Permian Basin. U.S. crude oil now flows more freely than ever to help meet global demand, including to Europe, which increasingly turned to the U.S. following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two-plus years ago, but exports have slowed recently. In today’s RBN blog, we examine a half-dozen reasons why the export surge has tapered off and why it may not change much in the weeks ahead. 

The prospect of decreased crude oil supplies from Mexico, the top international supplier to the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC), is creating uncertainty among heavy crude-focused refineries. Mexico’s state-owned energy company, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), instructed its trading unit to cancel up to 436 Mb/d of crude exports for April to supposedly focus on processing domestic oil at its new 340-Mb/d Dos Bocas refinery and/or its existing plants. While the refinery’s startup is likely not nearly as imminent as Pemex says, the cancellation of Mexican crude imports could be problematic for U.S. refiners with plants built to run heavy crude, a necessary ingredient to optimize operations and yields. Adding to the complexity of the situation is the upcoming startup of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX) and the recent reinstatement of U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan crude. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine the potential fallout resulting from Pemex’s decision at a time when heavy crudes elsewhere are also becoming less available. 

The largest crude oil pipeline exiting the Permian Basin by volume — Wink to Webster (W2W) — is planned to be offline for maintenance for the first 10 days of June. This is inclusive of Enterprise’s Midland-to-ECHO III (ME III), which reflects the company’s 29% undivided joint interest in W2W. Although the outage has not been publicly confirmed, it’s our understanding that 1.5 MMb/d of capacity will be offline to reroute a small section of pipeline. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine how the planned maintenance will impact Permian Basin oil takeaway capacity and what it may mean for Midland WTI pricing. 

In the race to build the next deepwater crude oil export terminal in the Gulf of Mexico, Sentinel Midstream’s proposed Texas GulfLink (TGL) is currently in second place in the regulatory race, behind only Enterprise’s Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) — and seems to be emerging as a serious contender. The plan offers some compelling attributes, including Sentinel’s status as an independent midstream player and plenty of pipeline access to crude oil volumes in the Permian and elsewhere. In today’s RBN blog, we turn our attention to TGL and what it brings to the table. 

Enbridge’s recent $200 million deal to buy two marine docks and land in Ingleside, TX, from Flint Hills Resources (FHR) may not be much of a surprise, as expanding its role in U.S. crude exports has been part of Enbridge’s strategy since it bought Moda Midstream’s big marine terminal next door nearly three years ago. The former Moda terminal, now known as the Enbridge Ingleside Energy Center (EIEC), can receive and partially load Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) — a key reason why the facility is #1 in crude exports in the nation. In today’s RBN blog, we will take a closer look at Enbridge’s deal with FHR and how it might help grow its crude export volumes. 

Crude oil output in the Permian Basin is now averaging 6.3 MMb/d, up about 400 Mb/d from year-ago levels and 800 Mb/d from April 2022. The gains — and related increases in associated gas — have spurred a new round of concerns about pipeline exit capacity, complicating drillers’ hopes to boost crude production. In today’s RBN blog, we will discuss the takeaway capacity issue and what it means for producers and pipeline operators, including those planning offshore crude export terminals.