Since mid-July — only a few weeks ago — four proposals have been unveiled to build offshore crude export terminals along the Gulf Coast that would be capable of fully loading Very Large Crude Carriers. That’s an extraordinary burst of interest in new infrastructure development, and a signal that (1) more export growth is on the horizon and (2) VLCCs will play a much bigger role in transporting that crude. A leading contender in the race to construct new offshore terminals is Trafigura, the Swiss-based logistics and physical-trading giant, which in recent years has become a major player in U.S. energy markets. Today, we continue our review of made-for-VLCCs offshore terminals with a look at Trafi’s plan.
A perfect storm of hot weather, transportation constraints and limits on storage use recently sent natural gas prices in Southern California surging to the highest levels seen in that market going back to at least 2007. Spot prices at the SoCal Citygate hub averaged close to $40/MMBtu in late July and were again up over $20/MMBtu last week, levels that were several times higher than the national benchmark Henry Hub — and, for that matter, every other U.S. market hub — on the same day. Prices since then have retreated, but the whipsawing price action raises questions about what’s in store for SoCal this coming winter. Today, we analyze the factors behind the recent record prices and prospects for continued volatility at SoCal.
Crude oil inventories at Cushing have been in a free fall. After last peaking at more than 69 MMbbl in April 2017, stockpiles have decreased to less than 22 MMbbl recently, nearing all-time lows for tank utilization at the Oklahoma crude-trading hub. While we’ve seen volumes drop quickly in the past, inventories have now declined for 12 straight weeks at a staggering pace. Traders, refiners, and other market participants are starting to fret. Is this just another cyclical trend or are market factors exacerbating the impact? Today, we examine the influence of historical pricing trends on Cushing inventories and why it seems that demand factors are speeding up the drop.
On Thursday, August 9, a U.S. District Court judge approved a request by a Canadian mining company to seize shares of a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) that controls CITGO Petroleum Corp. The ruling was made to satisfy a $1.2 billion arbitration award against the Venezuelan government. While details of the full ruling are yet to be released, this decision could have an enormous knock-on effect on the various other parties seeking payment from the struggling oil company for asset seizures and unpaid debts. Today, we review the assets of CITGO Petroleum Corp., the U.S. arm of PDVSA.
The trade war between the U.S. and China continues to intensify — and now the rhetoric is shifting from steel and soybeans to oil and gas. What started as just an exchange of escalating bluster has developed into real tariffs that will be enacted beginning August 23 — which will include petroleum-based products like LPG and refined products. The commodities that would have the biggest impacts on global trade flows, liquefied natural gas and crude oil, were under tariff threat as well. LNG is still on a list of potential commodities to receive tariffs in the future, while crude has since been removed. But, keep in mind that today’s state of affairs could change tomorrow, so tariffs on those two commodities should be considered very much on the table. Today, we examine the potential trade war fallout for growing exports of U.S. LNG and crude oil.
Much like their heated competition to build new crude oil pipelines from the Permian to the Gulf Coast, midstream, logistics and trading companies are jockeying to construct the first new export terminal capable of fully loading Very Large Crude Carriers — Trafigura joined the fray earlier this week. While VLCCs are by far the most cost-efficient way to haul crude to Asia, their Godzilla-like physical dimensions restrict the number of land-based terminals they can use. And even those that can accommodate these seagoing behemoths can only load a VLCC part-way — “reverse lightering” out in deeper, open waters is required to fill the supertanker to the tippy top. So a handful of ambitious midstreamers are developing plans for offshore terminals out in deep water, miles from the Texas coast. Today, we continue our review of these proposals with a look at JupiterMLP’s plan for a terminal off Brownsville — and a new Permian pipeline to the city.
Rising crude oil production in Western Canada, filled-to-the-brim pipelines out of the region, and yet another blowout in the price spread between Western Canadian Select (WCS) and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) are combining to spur a genuine revival in crude-by-rail (CBR) shipments from Canada to the U.S. CBR has helped out Western Canadian producers before, moving increasing volumes south through 2011-14 until new pipeline capacity came online. But this time, the number of barrels being moved out of Western Canada by rail is already moving into record territory, and — with the addition of incremental pipeline capacity still at least a year away, and maybe more — railed volumes are likely to continue rising in the months to come. Today, we discuss recent developments and what producers, shippers and railroads see coming in the months ahead.
There has never been anything like the 2018 Permian Basin. In just five years, oil production has tripled, gas production has doubled and NGL output is up about 2.5 times. Crude oil pipelines out of the Permian are filled to the brim and the differentials between crude in Midland and both the Gulf Coast and Cushing have blown out. It is the same for natural gas, with pipe capacity nearly maxed out and basis wide. So far, most Permian NGLs have avoided a similar traffic jam in the local market, only to run into constraints downstream. But the overall Permian market is headed for a breakout! Massive infrastructure development is coming to the basin and the takeaway capacity constraints will be history — at least for a while. What will this mean for the Permian market, and for that matter, for markets across North America and the globe? Clearly, we need to get the major players together under one roof and figure it out. And that’s just the plan for PermiCon 2018. Our goal for this unique conference is to bridge the gap between fundamentals analysis and boots-on-the-ground market intelligence. Warning! Today’s blog is an unabashed advertorial for our upcoming conference.
Constructing greenfield pipelines is never easy — just ask any midstream developer you know — but building them across the breadth of Texas comes with its own unique challenges. There’s distance, for starters, and today’s massive associated gas growth in the Permian Basin is occurring more than 400 miles from the closest demand along the Gulf Coast. That makes the pipelines relatively expensive at somewhere near $2 billion a copy. Integrating Permian supply with Gulf Coast demand also requires a big network of pipelines along the coast, as the demand is spread out from Louisiana to Mexico. Few midstream companies have such a network. Kinder Morgan does, one reason why, in our view, the Gulf Coast Express project was the first — and to-date the only — greenfield project from the Permian to proceed with a final investment decision. In the race to be the next Permian natural gas relief valve pipeline, the same hurdles will have to be overcome. On Friday, news came that a group of four companies is planning the Whistler Pipeline, and a closer look at the project reveals it may be capable of meeting the challenges needed to make it a serious player in the Permian pipeline race. Today, we look at the details of the latest Permian natural gas pipeline project.
A big push is on to mitigate and ultimately fix the Permian’s natural gas takeaway constraints, which in recent months have widened the price spread between gas at Waha and at Henry Hub to levels not seen in years. Despite the efforts to quickly add incremental capacity to existing pipelines and build greenfield pipes, however, the momentum behind Permian crude production growth — and, with it, the production of more associated gas — make a months-long blowout in the Waha basis in 2019 a good bet. Questions about the degree and duration of that basis pain and the amount of new pipeline capacity that will be needed (and how soon) can only be answered by taking a detailed look at what’s been happening and what’s being planned. Today, we discuss highlights from our new 24-page report on Permian gas takeaway constraints and their effects.
While crude oil producers in the prolific Permian Basin are living out a Shale Revolution, the Midcontinent region of the U.S. is having a Refining Renaissance. Crude takeaway constraints, mainly due to insufficient pipeline capacity, are driving the prices of crude in Western Canada and West Texas to attractive lows against the WTI NYMEX benchmark for crude at the Cushing, OK, hub. Cheaper oil can contribute to bigger margins for refiners, who are supplying increasing volumes into a retail market that’s selling gasoline at the highest prices in four years. What will happen if the refiners don’t rein in their runs? Today, we’ll explore the implications of record-high run rates in the U.S. refining industry.
The Caribbean is strategically located at the crossroads of international trade routes between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It has traditionally attracted oil trading, blending, and refining activity to meet the needs of local and international markets. Lately, the meltdown of Venezuelan national oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) — previously a dominant player in the region — has left refineries and storage terminals underutilized and starved of investment. U.S. Gulf Coast refineries have partially filled the gap by increasing product exports to the region, but an opportunity now exists for private investment to fill the refining and storage void left by PDVSA, and also to meet new demand for low-sulfur bunker fuel arising from stricter International Maritime Organization shipping regulations, which will come into effect in January 2020. Today, we review the impact of the PDVSA meltdown and new investment projects being pursued.
As Gulf Coast marine terminal owners consider ways to at least partially load Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) at their facilities, a handful of midstream companies also are planning offshore terminals in deep water that would allow the full loading of VLCCs via pipeline. Projects under development by Oiltanking and others for sites along the Texas coast would appear to have at least two legs up on the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, or LOOP. For one, they’d have more direct access to the Permian, Eagle Ford and other crudes flowing to coastal Texas. For another, the new terminals would be focused on crude exports — no double-duty for them. Today, we begin a review of the projects vying to be the first LOOP-like project in the deep waters off the Lone Star State.
Federal regulators are preparing to accelerate their review of a wave of applications to build new liquefaction plants and LNG export terminals — most of them sited along the Gulf Coast and scheduled for commercial start-up in the early 2020s. Only a few of the multibillion-dollar projects are likely to advance to final investment decisions (FID), construction and operation, but even they will have profound impacts on U.S. natural gas production, pipeline flows, and the global LNG market. Today, we begin a look at projects still awaiting FIDs, their developers’ efforts to line up Sales and Purchase Agreements (SPAs), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) push to review project applications in a timely manner. Warning: this blog includes a few ever-so-subtle promotions for RBN’s new LNG Voyager Report.
Fast-rising NGL production in the Permian, SCOOP/STACK and other plays is testing the ability of fractionators to keep up, and spurring the development of new NGL pipelines — and new fractionation plants, not just in the Mont Belvieu hub but elsewhere along Texas’s Gulf Coast. By our count, more than 1 MMb/d of new fractionation capacity is under development in the Lone Star State, and while some projects are more solid and certain than others, it’s fair to say we’re in for at least a mini-boom in fractionator construction after a multiyear lull. Today, we review the Texas fractionation projects being planned and begin assessing whether they will come online as quickly as they will be needed.