Crude Oil

Tuesday, 08/20/2019

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.

Thursday, 08/15/2019

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.

Tuesday, 08/13/2019

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.

Monday, 08/12/2019

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!

Thursday, 08/08/2019

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.

Wednesday, 08/07/2019

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.

Sunday, 08/04/2019

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.

Tuesday, 07/30/2019

It’s been an exciting and productive few years for Permian producers, but it’s also been a period fraught with challenges. Dealing with a mid-decade crash in crude oil prices. Struggling to improve yields from the Wolfcamp, Bone Spring and other hydrocarbon-rich formations to lower breakeven costs. Coping with major pipeline takeaway constraints — for crude and natural gas — and the resulting price discounts. Now, the challenge of produced water has come to the fore. Horizontal wells in some parts of the Permian generate six, eight, even 10 barrels of produced water per barrel of crude, and all of it needs to be either disposed of or treated. The volumes are enormous, the permitting and logistics mind-boggling, and the costs — well, you can imagine. Today, we consider the Permian’s produced-water conundrum as crude and gas production volumes ramp up. Warning!: Today’s blog is a blatant advertorial for new reports by B3 Insight on Permian produced water.

Monday, 07/29/2019

Crude oil gathering systems in the Permian and elsewhere are, by their very nature, evolving things. They increase in mileage and crude-carrying capacity as new wells are drilled and completed, and it’s not uncommon for smaller systems to be consolidated into larger ones. It’s also become typical for the ownership of these systems to change — sometimes year to year — as early investors cash in on what they’ve developed, and buyers see opportunities to rake in increasing revenue and take their newly acquired systems to the next level. Also, owners of neighboring systems sometimes form joint ventures that combine their assets, all to make their operations work better for their producer customers. Today, we continue our series on Permian gathering with a look at Brazos Midstream’s crude gathering system in the Delaware Basin, which has experienced considerable evolution.

Sunday, 07/28/2019

Bakken crude oil production surpassed 1.4 MMb/d this spring and has maintained a level near that since, even posting a new high just shy of 1.5 MMb/d in April 2019. The rising production volumes have filled any remaining space on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and prompted midstream companies to step up expansion efforts to alleviate the pressure, even as questions linger about the possibility of a pipeline overbuild if all of the announced capacity gets built. Specifically, the market is weighing the need for the recently announced Liberty Pipeline and a DAPL expansion. Today, we look at these two new projects and what their development means for the supply/demand balance in one of the U.S.’s biggest shale basins.

Tuesday, 07/23/2019

Crude oil production in Western Canada and the Bakken is ratcheting up ­— in the Niobrara too — but pipeline takeaway capacity to key markets south of there is an issue. For a couple of years now, egress out of Alberta has been problematic, due in large part to delays in the development of the Enbridge Line 3 replacement, the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) and Keystone XL. Things got so bad last winter that Alberta’s provincial government ordered production cutbacks, though they are now easing. Rising Bakken production is quickly filling any remaining space on the Dakota Access Pipeline, and pipes out of the Niobrara’s Powder River and Denver-Julesburg (D-J) basins are approaching their capacities as well. In response, midstream companies have proposed a number of fixes, some very incremental in nature and others big and impactful. As typically happens, though, too much capacity may be on the drawing board. Today, we consider the ongoing competition to build new capacity down the eastern side of the Rockies.

Sunday, 07/21/2019

Acquire, expand, and acquire again. That’s proven to be a successful strategy for a number of midstream companies providing crude oil and natural gas gathering services in the Permian Basin. In the past couple of years, the hydrocarbons-packed shale play in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico has been experiencing major gathering-system buildouts and Pac-Man-like acquisitions that aggregate small and midsize systems into regional behemoths. A case in point is EagleClaw Midstream, which has used the acquire-and-expand approach to great effect, most recently with the concurrent acquisition of Caprock Midstream Holdings and Pinnacle Midstream — two deals that, by the way, gave previously gas-focused EagleClaw a strong foothold in Permian crude gathering. Today, we discuss EagleClaw and its holdings in the Permian’s Delaware Basin.

Thursday, 07/18/2019

The battle over the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 light crude oil pipeline through Michigan is heating up. In recent weeks, Michigan’s new attorney general filed suit to throw out the 1953 easement the state granted to allow the pipeline to be laid under the Straits of Mackinac — the narrow waterway between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas — and to block implementation of an agreement Enbridge and the state’s then-governor reached last fall to replace the section of Line 5 under the straits by the mid-2020s. Enbridge is pressing ahead, maintaining that the existing pipeline is safe and the 2018 agreement is legal and fully enforceable. All that raises two questions: just how important is Line 5 to the Michigan and Eastern Canadian refineries, and what would those refineries do if the pipeline were to cease operations? Today, we discuss recent developments and examine the issues at hand.

Tuesday, 07/16/2019

The next wave of Permian crude oil pipeline infrastructure is getting completed as we speak. In West Texas, several new pipeline projects are either finalizing their commercial terms and agreements, wrapping up the permitting process, or actually putting steel in the ground. In the Permian alone, there is a potential for 4.3 MMb/d of new pipeline takeaway capacity to get built in the next two and a half years. Along with those major long-haul pipelines, there are also crude gathering systems being developed to help move production from the wellhead to an intermediary point along one of the big new takeaway pipes. While we often like to give pipeline projects concrete timelines with hard-and-fast online dates, the actual logistics of how producers, traders and midstream companies all bring a pipeline from linefill to full commercial service are never clean and simple. There can be a lot of headaches, learning curves, and expensive — not to mention time-consuming — problem-solving exercises that come with the start-up process. In today’s blog, we discuss why new pipelines often experience growing pains, and how market participants navigate the early days of new systems.

Monday, 07/15/2019

With Permian crude oil production now topping 4 MMb/d — and likely to surpass 5 MMb/d in short order — producers in the play are working closely with midstream companies to help ensure there is sufficient capacity in place to efficiently transport their crude from the lease to larger shuttle systems, regional hubs and takeaway pipelines. Sometimes, gathering systems need to be built from scratch, but in most cases, it is more cost-effective to expand existing systems that are already connected to key infrastructure downstream. Today, we continue our series with a look at a big pipeline network that NuStar Energy acquired two-plus years ago and has been expanding and improving ever since.