New and expanded efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, have been making headlines globally on a daily basis for a while now. Canada’s energy industry has been increasingly contributing to that newsfeed this year, with two large projects announced in Alberta that will capture, use, and sequester large volumes of CO2 generated from the oil sands as well as other sources of oil and gas production in Western Canada. In today’s blog, we review the emissions profile of the Canadian oil and gas sector and discuss two of the largest carbon capture, use, and sequestration projects announced to date.
As nobody in Texas will soon forget, in February of this year freezing temperatures across the southern U.S. hammered energy markets and resulted in widespread and long-lasting blackouts across the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) power region. Life for many Texans came to a standstill for a week until power could be restored. The resulting economic damages have been estimated in the billions. Many people, rightfully, questioned how an energy-rich state like Texas could have been so affected. And then the blame-game started. Lacking a forum of qualified experts, productive discussions took a back seat to self-serving rhetoric, special-interest advocacy, and political posturing. But if real solutions were going to be found, it would take more than finger-pointing. It would take a meeting of experts whose primary focus was a resolution, rather than a constituency. Fortunately for Texans, that’s what they got two weeks ago. In today’s blog, we take you through the symposium and its outcome, particularly regarding the role of natural gas.
As the outlook for crude oil in 2022 came into three-dimensional view this month, the market’s steadying mechanism managed to right itself again after another wobble. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) took its first formal look at next year in its July Monthly Oil Market Report (OMR), becoming the third of three widely watched prognosticators to do so. Among the other two, the International Energy Agency (IEA) began projecting 2022 oil-market data in its June Oil Market Report, and the intrepid U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) took its first analytical shot at next year way back in January in its Short Term Energy Outlook. The important third dimension that OPEC gave to the 2022 oil-market picture arrived on July 15 after two weeks of worry about whether production restraint by most of the group’s members and cooperating countries would survive. On July 18, though, the internal squabble driving that concern ended in a compromise that will result in production quota increases for several OPEC+ members. The 2022 projections by OPEC, IEA, and EIA, not to mention worry-driven elevation of crude oil prices prior to the compromise, make clear that the market needs OPEC+ to continue the orderly unwinding of its production cuts. In today’s blog, we compare the three forecasts and look at how the latest adjustment to OPEC+ supply management will affect the market.
Oil and gas pipeline regulation have two things in common: They’re both regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and they were both brought under regulatory oversight in the first place by a Roosevelt — oil pipelines by Teddy Roosevelt and gas pipelines by Franklin Roosevelt. However, that’s where the similarities end. They’re regulated under different statutes, with wildly different histories that have led to very different types of oversight and rate structures. These rules tend to offer oil pipelines a higher degree of flexibility, but in doing so, they also make their rate structures less predictable. Today, we wrap up our review of oil and gas pipelines, and how their separate histories led to the current differences in pipeline rate structures, this time with a focus on oil pipeline ratemaking.
Significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing. More wind power? More solar? Electric vehicles? Yes, yes, and yes. Another great way to slash GHGs is to use man-made or “anthropogenic” carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery. EOR is an extraordinarily efficient way to permanently store CO2 deep underground. And today, the economics for EOR are being turned on their head — in a good way. For decades, the acquisition of CO2 has been a significant cost for EOR operators, requiring volumes to be produced from natural geological formations and then to be pumped to the oil fields where the CO2 is used. But things are changing. Now companies are planning to spend big bucks to capture and dispose of their CO2, meaning they may be paying someone to get rid of it. And if they pay, that flips CO2 from an operator cost to a revenue stream. The implications are profound, with operators historically motivated to use CO2 as efficiently as possible set to morph their operations to use as much CO2 as can be safely sequestered. In today’s blog, we continue our series on CO2-based EOR by looking at the coming transition in CO2/EOR economics.
It’s been a while since the Appalachian natural gas market has looked this bullish. Outright cash prices at the Eastern Gas South hub are at multi-year highs. Regional storage inventories are sitting low, setting the stage for supply shortages and still higher prices this winter. But the potential for severe takeaway constraints and basis meltdowns are lurking, and by next year, they could become regular features of the market again like they were in the 2016-17 timeframe, or worse — at least in the spring and fall when Northeast demand is lowest. Regional gas production is still being affected by maintenance and has been somewhat volatile lately as a result, but it averaged 34.5 Bcf/d in June, just 300 MMcf/d shy of the December 2020 record. What’s more, at current forward curve prices, supply output could surpass previous highs by next spring and grow by ~ 5 Bcf/d (15%) by 2023. Outbound flows set their own record highs this spring, running at over 90% of takeaway capacity, and will head higher, which means that spare exit capacity for supply needing to leave the region is shrinking. The handful of planned takeaway expansions that remain are facing environmental pushback and permitting delays, and the few that are targeting completion in the next year may not be enough. Today, we provide the highlights of the latest forecast from our new NATGAS Appalachia report.
The massive energy-industry dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced every upstream, midstream, and downstream player to consider what it all meant for them and what they could and should do to weather the storm. A common theme emerged: management needed to delay or even jettison their plans for growth and instead focus on efficiency by cutting costs, working to maximize the revenue from every molecule, and seeking out opportunities to streamline and optimize their operations. A prime example of this push for efficiency came last week with the announcement by Plains All American and Oryx Midstream that each will contribute assets to a new, Plains-operated crude oil pipeline joint venture in the heart of the Permian’s Delaware Basin. Today, we review the plan and its rationale.
In just a few months, heavy crude from Western Canada will start flowing south on the Capline pipeline from the Patoka, IL, hub to the one at St. James, LA. While the initial volumes will be modest, Capline’s long-awaited reversal will provide Louisiana refineries and export terminals with easier, lower-cost access to oil sands and other Alberta production. Flipping the pipeline’s direction of flow also means more changes for the St. James storage and distribution hub — one of the U.S.’s largest — which has already seen more than its share of evolution during the Shale Era. Today, we continue our Capline/St. James blog series with a look at St. James’s terminals and pipelines, the Louisiana refineries they supply, and the changes coming with the Capline reversal.
The uninitiated might be forgiven for thinking that oil and gas pipeline operations are similar. After all, they’re just long steel tubes that move hydrocarbons from one point to another, right? Well, that’s about where the similarity ends. While the oil and gas pipeline sectors are interlinked, they developed in quite distinctly different ways and that’s led to a vast chasm in both the way the two are regulated and how their transportation rates are determined. Bridging that gap between oil and gas can be a perilous and chaotic endeavor because you’ve got to consider how each sector evolved over time and the separate sets of rules that have been established to form today’s competitive marketplace. In today’s blog, we continue our review of oil and gas pipelines and how their separate histories led to the current differences in pipeline rate structures.
The handful of enhance-oil-recovery producers in the Permian Basin secure virtually all of the carbon dioxide they use from natural CO2 reservoirs located thousands of feet below the surface. In essence, they are taking CO2 out of the ground and putting it back in during the EOR process — producing more crude oil and demonstrating that the CO2 is safely and securely stored underground. Now the challenge is to transform this proven process in a way that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. To do that, EOR producers would need to use man-made or “anthropogenic” CO2 that is captured from industrial and other sources. Well, that’s exactly what’s already happening to a significant degree in EOR operations along the Gulf Coast and in the Rockies, with plans by a leading producer in both regions to use “A-CO2” for the vast majority of its CO2 needs within a few years. In today’s blog, we continue our series on CO2-based EOR with a look at how Denbury Inc. is shifting from naturally sourced CO2 to the man-made stuff.
Credit is the lifeblood for most individuals and corporations, especially capital-intensive entities like oil and gas producers. The credit score that so strongly impacts our ability to finance a house or car, get approved for an apartment, or qualify for our dream job, is not simply based on how much we own, but several other factors, including metrics that compare our debt load with our net worth and the assets being financed, and consider the percentage of our income needed to service that debt. For E&Ps, similar metrics involving the value of their oil and gas reserves and the relationship between their income and interest payments determine the size of their revolving credit facilities, their ability to access debt capital markets, and the cost of capital they pay. Today, we analyze COVID’s impact on the credit metrics of oil and gas producers and discuss the pace and scope of the ongoing recovery.
Crude oil is demonstrating yet again its penchant for what markets hate most: surprise. Last month, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and collaborating governments were carefully easing the production cuts with which they steered the market through an oil-demand crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand was recovering as economies reopened after being locked down during most of 2020 and early 2021. And the near-month futures price for light, sweet crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) — having closed below zero for the first time ever on April 20, 2020 — rose above $70/bbl for the first time since October 2018. Until mid-June, the market’s main concern was the potential for a supply surge if Iran escaped sanctions by agreeing with the U.S. to again suspend nuclear development. Surprise! Only days after his election as Iranian president on June 18, Ebrahim Raisi announced new limits on what his government would negotiate regarding nuclear work and said he would not meet with U.S. President Joe Biden. Suddenly, new oil supply from Iran looked less imminent than it did before Raisi’s election. Then July arrived. Surprise! OPEC members and nonmembers, collectively known as OPEC+, which had been voluntarily limiting production ended an important meeting without agreeing, as had been expected, to extend their phasedown of supply restraint. Suddenly, the market had to wonder whether the result would be too little supply or a price-crushing production spree if OPEC+ discipline collapsed. In today’s blog, we examine how these developments relate to each other in the twin contexts of a rebalancing oil market and of past oil-supply management.
Global gas prices have had a record-breaking year so far, with JKM in Asia hitting all-time seasonal highs in spring, and TTF in Europe last week reaching the highest level since 2008. Prices have been spurred on by a global LNG market that is undersupplied and hunting for additional cargoes. If you were just looking at U.S. feedgas levels over the past several weeks, though, you would never know that we are in the middle of an incredible bull run. U.S. LNG feedgas deliveries have trailed below full-utilization levels for more than a month due to a combination of spring pipeline maintenance, LNG terminal maintenance, and operational issues. The reduced availability of pipeline and liquefaction capacity led feedgas deliveries in June to average 9.35 Bcf/d, or about 85% of full capacity. However, this was just a small and short-lived setback before what is likely to be a breakthrough summer for U.S. LNG. Feedgas demand is already back above 95% utilization and is poised to head even higher over the next few months both from new liquefaction capacity coming online and potentially from spot market cargo production. In today’s blog, we take a look at the impact of spring maintenance on U.S. LNG production and potential feedgas demand growth in the months ahead.
Usually when we write about natural gas markets in the Western third of the U.S., we spotlight the Permian Basin and its Waha gas hub. The focus on Waha has been for good reason, as the last three years have been nothing if not exciting in the Permian’s primary gas market. The basin’s huge volume of associated gas production and Waha’s volatility and deeply negative basis — even negative absolute prices — have made the West Texas market eminently watchable. Though a flurry of new pipelines out of the Permian have helped tame the market somewhat recently and driven Waha to the point of positive basis on its best days, the markets west of the Permian are a different story. They have seen very little in the way of new gas infrastructure, and the constrained inbound pipeline capacity has recently driven prices in the Desert Southwest to some incredible premiums. In today’s blog, we take a look at the gas markets there.
Fourth of July skyrockets were not the only fireworks earlier this week. The price of propane skyrocketed up to 112 c/gal before the holiday weekend and held at that level through Tuesday, an increase of about 21 c/gal or 23% over the past month alone. To put that in perspective, that’s the highest price for propane since April 2014, back when crude oil was over $100/bbl. Although propane came off a few cents on Wednesday in sympathy with falling crude prices, both Mont Belvieu and Conway propane prices are still almost 135% higher than this time last year. Assuming crude prices don’t fall off a cliff, how high could propane prices go? Hard to say. The propane market is experiencing unusually low inventories, relatively modest production growth, near record-high export volumes, and unconstrained dock capacity. Consequently, if we continue to see strong demand, but U.S. producers stay focused on capital discipline, thus constraining production, propane prices could be headed considerably higher this winter. Today, we continue our series of deep dives into the U.S. propane market and, in a blatant advertorial, describe how you can keep up with this rapidly moving market with RBN’s new Propane Billboard report and dataset.