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Daily Energy Post

My Time Has Come - Normal Butane Exports Nearly Triple Year-over-Year

Propane has received a lot of airtime in recent months given the Polar Vortex and heavy crop drying demand anomalies coinciding with growing propane export volumes.  Now it’s time to show normal butane a little love as normal butane exports almost tripled from this time last year.  In January 2013, 22 Mb/d of butane was exported; that number was 63 Mb/d in January 2014, as reported by the EIA.  All indications are that butane export volumes will be experiencing an astronomical growth rate over the next five years, reaching 300 Mb/d by 2019.  What are the factors driving this rate of growth, and what are the implications for refiners and petrochemical companies?  In today’s blog, we assess the rapid growth in normal butane exports.

The Molecule Laws: I Fought the Law and the Law Won – Part 3: Crude Oil

Energy Information Administration (EIA) data for January 2014 indicates that US crude production has now returned to levels not seen since December 1988. Canadian crude production is also at record levels. The prospects look good for a combination of US production and Canadian imports to free the US from overseas imports by the early 2020’s. But along with this success comes a challenge balancing new streams of crude that are predominantly light with a lot of refinery capacity configured to process heavier crude. This balancing act is compounded by a ban on US crude exports. Today we review the contrast between crude and refined product export rules.

West Coast LPG Exports are a Brand New Game – A New Wave of Exports from Ferndale, WA

All the export LPGs on the West Coast are in a tank in the middle of Washington State in somebody else’s name.   So if you’re dreamin’ about LPG exports, the West Coast is a brand new game.  Apologies to Larry Gatlin.

On March 4th, Petrogas announced the purchase of the Ferndale, WA LPG terminal, the only functioning butane and propane export facility on the U.S. west coast.  Then last Thursday (April 10th) Sage Midstream announced a project to build another world scale LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) export terminal a couple of hundred miles south at the Port of Longview, WA.  These are big developments for the west coast LPG markets. Today we begin a blog series that examines the history of Ferndale, how it has been used in the past, and what these two announcements mean for the future of west coast propane and butane markets.

Texas Bound and Flyin’ – Where Gulf Coast Crude Oil Inventory Is Stored

Gulf Coast crude storage is at record levels and looks set to continue growing as new pipeline capacity opens up later this year from Cushing and the Permian Basin. At Magellan’s Analyst Day presentation last week (April 9, 2014) the company said that demand for crude storage at all locations remains strong with average utilization of 97 percent plus. OilTanking say their Houston crude storage is 99.1 percent contracted. Today we ponder where Gulf Coast crude stocks are located.

Should I Store or Should I Burn—New England’s Gas Power Burn Outlook

Last week (ending April 4) the summer 2014 natural gas storage injection season began with a whimper by adding 4 Bcf to empty tanks pummeled by the Polar Vortex. That was a slower than expected start to the Herculean task of replenishing gas stocks before next winter. A lot of factors will have to fall into place for that to happen. A too-hot summer could pull gas away from injection and into demand for power burn. Today we continue our analysis of regional power burn prospects with a look at New England demand this year.

Changes in Longitudes — More Barriers to Ethane Exports

With U.S. ethane prices low and ethane rejection expected to continue increasing, interest in exporting liquid ethane is ramping up. But there are significant barriers to these exports, including: (1) loading and unloading terminal infrastructure, (2) shipping, (3) pricing, and (4) petrochemical demand.  We examined the first two of these barriers earlier this week.  Today we wrap up this blog series, examining pricing and demand.

The Molecule Laws: I Fought the Law and the Law Won – Part 2 Natural Gas Liquids

Today the US is producing more natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and some grades of crude oil hydrocarbons than we can use.  Consequently we’ve shifted from an overall position of hydrocarbon shortage to one of surplus. But only some of those surplus products can be exported. That’s because of rules put on the books during the decades of shortage that restrict or ban the export of hydrocarbons. At least six such “Molecule Laws” are now variously impacting international market transactions involving US produced hydrocarbons. Today we describe the export rules affecting NGLs.

Da Duvernay – The Golden Canadian Diluent Play?

Growing Canadian production of oil sands bitumen requires diluent to blend it to pipeline flow specifications. The resulting demand for diluent exceeds local Canadian supply from plant condensate production (aka, natural gasoline) – leading to imports from the US of more than 150 Mb/d in 2013 – a figure expected to grow to 460 Mb/d by 2018. That expectation for future import growth is based on the assumption that Canadian condensate supplies would remain relatively flat at about 140 Mb/d. But could the developing Duvernay gas shale play in Western Alberta turn those estimates on their head? Today we investigate the consequences for US condensate demand.

Changes in Longitudes — The Four Barriers to Ethane Exports

It is a familiar refrain in the shale era.  The U.S. produces more of a hydrocarbon commodity than it can use.  This time we are talking ethane, a natural gas liquid that is experiencing production constraints mostly due to the inability of U.S. petrochemical plants to use more of the feedstock. So why not just export the surplus?  Unlike crude oil there are no legal constraints on exports.  Unlike natural gas, you don’t need a $10 billion plant to convert it to a liquid (LNG) – ethane is already a liquid.   Unfortunately for many ethane wannabe exporters, ethane has its own infrastructure and market issues that must be resolved before it can be shipped overseas in significant quantities. Today we continue our blog series on the feasibility of overseas ethane exports.

Baby You Can Drive My Exports – Competing for Diesel and Gasoline Market Share

Increased refined product exports from US Gulf refineries are being driven by diesel refining margins but a lot of by-product gasoline is being produced as a result.  Domestic demand for diesel and gasoline has declined over the past 5 years. Fortunately for refiners there is strong demand for diesel and gasoline in Latin America as well as for diesel in Europe. Important cost advantages stemming from the shale revolution are helping Gulf Coast refiners secure these markets against international competitors. Today we conclude our analysis of booming Gulf Coast exports.