Determining whether to approve plans for interstate natural gas pipeline projects has never been an easy task for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. There are so many things to consider, chief among them the need for the pipeline, impacts on the environment and landowners along the route, and what it all means for gas customers. But as complicated as the decision-making process may be, at least pipeline developers, gas producers, and customers knew that once a new pipeline was approved by FERC, permitted, built, and put into service that the matter was closed — that is, the pipeline was here to stay. Now, in the wake of a groundbreaking court ruling on a new gas pipeline near St. Louis, things are not so certain. As it turns out, we’re intimately familiar with the matter, having just made the case that the 65-mile Spire STL Pipeline is an important addition to the regional pipeline network that provides supply diversity, improved reliability, and access to lower-cost gas. In today’s RBN blog, we consider the evolution of FERC regulation of gas pipelines and the new uncertainty that all affected parties face.
These are troubled times, as the song says, caught between confusion and pain. Following the COVID trauma of 2020, oil, gas, and NGL markets are now coping with uncertainty of medium- and long-term prospects in light of energy transition rhetoric. Will we continue to see sufficient investment in the hydrocarbon-based supplies that the world needs today, or will resources be increasingly diverted toward renewable energy technologies and wider ESG goals? Finding a way to satisfy the global appetite and fuel continued recovery while planning for the future was a core theme for RBN’s Fall 2021 School of Energy: Hydrocarbon Markets in a Decarbonizing World. In today’s advertorial RBN blog, we lay out some key findings and highlights from this fall’s virtual conference.
It has been a chaotic couple of years for North American LNG and the global gas market. In a short time, international gas markets went from oppressively oversupplied balances, high storage inventories, and historically low prices for much of 2020 to reckoning with panic-inducing supply shortages, low inventories, and multi-year or all-time high prices in the biggest LNG-consuming regions. The resulting whiplash has transformed key aspects of the LNG market, making a profound impact on the way existing LNG terminals operate, how projects secure funding and capacity commitments, and what offtakers expect for the next generation of LNG capacity buildout. The tight market appears to have settled the question of whether more export capacity is needed, at least for now, but the market’s sharp U-turn has also put potential offtakers on edge and underscored the need for contractual flexibility. Additionally, pressure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is higher than ever, and LNG offtakers are increasingly demanding greener solutions to address government regulations and public concerns. This convergence of factors has put the LNG market at a crossroads. Taking all of the lessons learned from the last two years and before, the industry must now forge a new path forward. In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our recent Drill Down report, looking at the major trends that will define the North American LNG market in the coming years.
The number of floating storage and regasification units in operation has nearly doubled in the last few years, but that’s hardly a shock given the growth in the global LNG market. What might be a surprise is how a number of these specialty vessels are being utilized and what it could mean for the shipowners and the wider LNG market. In today’s RBN blog, we look at specific projects to gauge the progress made in the FSRU space, the recent slowdown in orders, some of the challenges the sector faces, and the trends emerging for new and converted FSRUs.
The U.S. is poised for a massive build-out in renewable diesel production capacity — a boom spurred by capacity rationalization amongst traditional refineries, increasingly supportive government policies, and a big push by ESG-minded refiners wanting to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. It also hasn’t hurt that while renewable diesel is produced from used cooking oil, tallow, and other renewable feedstocks, it meets or exceeds the fuel specifications of traditional ultra-low sulfur diesel and thus is considered a “drop-in” replacement for ULSD — there’s no “blend wall” that limits its use. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down report, which looks at why renewable diesel is a hot topic, what we can learn from California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standards program, and how much new renewable diesel capacity is in the works.
With the market dislocations brought on in 2020-21, many if not most E&Ps have been reexamining their strategies and making changes. A common result has been a deemphasis on capex and expansion and a renewed focus on increasing free cash flow — and with that excess cash reducing or eliminating debt and rewarding shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks. A prime example of a producer taking this approach is Oasis Petroleum, a Bakken-focused E&P that a year ago this week emerged from COVID-induced bankruptcy filing and has since taken a number of additional steps to position itself as a reliable money-maker, even if crude oil prices were to slide to significantly lower levels. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the ongoing trend among producers to rethink and rework their strategies as energy markets recover.
Discussions about energy transition and increased electrification are all around us, whether they involve accelerating the ramp-up in renewable power sources such as wind and solar, facilitating the shift to electric vehicles, or switching to alternative fuels like hydrogen. But amid all the talk about the evolution to a low-carbon world — and away from oil and gas — there’s one area that is sometimes overlooked: petrochemicals. In the U.S., most steam crackers use natural gas liquids (NGLs) as their primary feedstocks, and they also consume a lot of energy — two big red flags in an increasingly ESG-focused world. And that’s giving bioethylene, billed as a green alternative to traditional ethylene, a moment in the spotlight. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how bioethylene is produced, how it differs from ethylene produced from traditional measures, and why it may someday evolve into an attractive alternative for the petrochemical industry, even though it’s far from a sure thing.
Energy marketeers are faced with a conundrum. Should the focus be on producing, processing, and marketing the hydrocarbon-based energy that the world needs today? Or is it time to go an entirely different direction toward net-zero emissions, renewables, and battery-powered everything? The answer, of course, is both. That means living, working, and producing hydrocarbon-based products in today's world while at the same time preparing for and investing in the world to which we’re headed. You might think of it as kind of a mild case of schizophrenia; we live in one reality, but we must think in terms of an entirely different future reality. That was a core theme for RBN’s Fall 2021 School of Energy: Hydrocarbon Markets in a Decarbonizing World. In today’s RBN advertorial blog, we provide our key findings and highlights from the conference curriculum.
The November 4 decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its collaborators — collectively known as OPEC+ –– to stay the course on crude oil production surprised few and disappointed many. Officials from leading oil-consuming nations, including the U.S., Japan and India, want the group to relax its production restraint by more than the scheduled 400 Mb/d in December. They see extra crude supply as an antidote for high prices that have been hampering recovery from the global economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But OPEC+ leaders made clear that they’re in no mood to accelerate their phase-out of production cuts. They know the market pressures now elevating crude prices won’t last forever and can change unexpectedly. They also face internal strains that might weaken the quota discipline that has kept the group’s supply management intact, despite the occasional upset, for nearly five years. One of those strains is the number of OPEC+ participants already producing as much crude as they can while falling short of existing ceilings — a number that grows as the ceilings rise. Today’s RBN blog looks at oil-market expectations underlying OPEC+ members’ cautious approach and at the growing divide among those unable to keep up with output targets and the relatively few but volumetrically overpowering counterparts with capacity to spare.
As the new heating season in North America gets under way, the natural gas sector in Canada, the U.S., and even globally, is experiencing a surge in gas prices to levels unseen in many years. In Canada and the U.S., you would have to go way back to 2008-09 to find the most recent instance of $5/MMBtu-plus gas heading into a heating season. As for the rest of the world, it has never experienced prices at the levels reported in the past few months — north of $30/MMBtu in some places. The big question, as always, is: where do we go from here? In today’s RBN blog, we review our 2021 pricing outlook for Canadian gas and discuss our forecast for 2022.
Leading international shipping associations and many of the large shipowners they represent are pressing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to take a much more aggressive approach to decarbonizing their industry, and calling for a $100/metric ton fee on carbon dioxide emissions from ships to spur investment in no-carbon propulsion systems. In effect, shipowners—themselves under pressure from their large, ESG-minded customers, are telling the IMO that its goals of reducing global shipping’s carbon intensity by 40% by 2030 and total greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 are far too timid. They are insisting that the IMO set the industry on a course to quickly ramp down its carbon dioxide emissions in the 2020s and achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century. If the shipowners prevail, it could result in the phase-out of hydrocarbon-based bunker fuel in favor of low-carbon alternatives like ammonia, hydrogen, and electric batteries. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a review of the big changes ahead for global bunker fuel and what they mean for oil and gas producers and refiners.
Electric vehicles sit front and center in the effort to decarbonize passenger transportation, a movement that helped make Tesla’s Elon Musk the richest man in the world. Pair this with heavy attention to EVs from the broader car-and-truck market and the White House’s goal of 50% EV sales by 2030 and it makes you wonder how EVs will impact the energy and power-generation sectors. We’ve all seen how power grids can be overwhelmed during periods of extreme heat or cold, by relying too heavily on intermittent renewables like wind and solar, or — as many Texans saw last February — by interruptions in natural gas deliveries to gas-fired power plants. What might happen when we add tens of millions of power-hungry EVs to the mix? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impacts that scaling electric vehicles may have on energy and power markets and the power grid.
Plato may have said it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and anyone who has engaged in a friendly debate about the best classic car, hunting rifle, or wristwatch knows it to be true: beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Of course, not everyone sees value the same way, or value in the same things. That’s at the heart of the dispute over the recently announced acquisition of Questar Pipeline LLC by Southwest Gas Holdings. The prospective buyer sees Questar as a picture-perfect addition, while an activist investor sees it as a butt-ugly mistake. In today’s RBN blog, we continue an examination of the Southwest Gas/Questar deal with a look at Questar’s relationship with its local distribution companies, potential competition with the nearby Kern River Pipeline, and challenges Questar may face in serving power generators and direct industrial load.
Crude oil production in Western Canada has been rising steadily for most of the past decade. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its oil pipeline export capacity to the U.S., which has generally failed to keep pace with the increases in production. Dogged by regulatory, legal, and environmental roadblocks, permitting and constructing additional pipeline takeaway capacity has been a slow and complicated affair, although progress continues to be made. The most recent tranche arrived last month with the start-up of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement pipeline, which provides an incremental 370 Mb/d of export capacity and should help to shrink the massive price discounts that have often plagued Western Canadian producers in recent years. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the long-delayed project and how its operation is likely to affect Western Canada’s crude oil market, now and in the future.
Admittedly, the idea of capturing carbon dioxide, cooling and compressing it into a weird, neither-liquid-nor-gas state, and pumping it deep underground for permanent storage would have baffled the crude oil wildcatters and pipeline builders that created the modern energy industry back in the 1940s and ’50s. They’d surely say, “You’re proposin’ to do what?!” But times have changed. The oil and gas business is entering an extraordinary era of transition, and producers, midstreamers, and refineries alike need to keep abreast of what’s happening regarding carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), how it will affect them, and — ideally — figure out ways to profit from it. That’s the impetus behind today’s RBN blog, in which we begin a deep dive into efforts to reduce emissions of man-made CO2 by capturing it from industrial sources and piping it to specially designed wells for permanent storage.