Daily Energy Post Blog Articles

Sunday, 03/08/2020
Category:
Crude Oil

On Friday, global energy markets entered uncharted territory. Already facing declining demand due to the impact of COVID-19, markets then were dealt a body blow with the collapse of the OPEC-Plus alliance and the resulting prospect of a significant increase in supply. Saudi Arabia wanted to manage supply to balance against lower demand, but Russia was having none of it. Instead, reports from the OPEC-Plus meeting indicate that Vladimir Putin has declared war on U.S. shale. Then on Saturday, the plot thickened. Saudi Arabia made huge cuts in the price of its crude oil, presumably in a high-stakes move to bring Russia back to the negotiating table. Even though we are witnessing unprecedented market conditions, it’s not Armageddon. Crude oil will continue to be pumped, piped, shipped and refined. Most infrastructure projects under construction before the collapse in oil prices will be completed. The big question is, how will the market adapt? In today’s blog, we’ll begin an exploration of that question.

Thursday, 03/05/2020
Category:
Crude Oil

It’s been a good couple of years for many of the midstream companies active in the Bakken. Crude oil-focused drilling and completion activity has rebounded from a mid-decade slump, flows through their crude and gas gathering systems have been rising, and gas processing constraints that had threatened continued production growth have been on the wane. All that has led Bakken producers to plan for further gains in output in 2020 –– though that may change as the economic effects of the coronavirus become clearer. In any case, production growth is only possible if there’s sufficient gathering infrastructure in place to handle it. Today, we continue our series on crude-related assets in western North Dakota with a look at two midstreamers that have experienced big gains in their Bakken crude-gathering volumes.

Wednesday, 03/04/2020
Category:
Natural Gas

Unlike most natural gas producing jurisdictions in North America facing a pullback in drilling and capital spending, producers in Western Canada appear to be doing the opposite and lining up for a year of rising production, higher average prices and additional pipeline capacity from producing basins. In short, 2020 should be a year in which supplies in the region mount a comeback after the dismal down year for supplies — and prices — that characterized 2019. A good part of that supply and pipeline capacity growth optimism has to do with a major pipeline expansion out of the Montney Basin in northeastern British Columbia that just recently entered service. Dubbed the North Montney Mainline and operated by Canada’s largest gas pipeline company, TC Energy, this vital piece of new pipeline egress from one of the most prolific unconventional gas basins in North America is setting up Western Canadian gas supplies for recovery in 2020 and beyond. Today, we continue our series with a look at what this may portend for gas supplies this year.

Tuesday, 03/03/2020
Category:
Natural Gas

Given that Permian natural gas prices are once again hovering under $0.50/MMBtu, Texas’s other gas markets get little attention these days. That doesn’t mean that major shifts in the Lone Star State’s natural gas supply and demand markets aren’t occurring outside of West Texas, however. In fact, it’s quite the contrary, particularly when it comes to the Houston Ship Channel gas market. There, major changes — new gas pipelines, pipeline reversals and new LNG trains — continue to influence flows and prices. Today, we provide an update on the latest in gas infrastructure changes along the Texas coast and their potential impacts on the region’s supply and demand balance.

Monday, 03/02/2020
Category:
Crude Oil

The new, large-diameter crude oil pipelines coming online between the Permian Basin and the Gulf Coast grab all the headlines. They wouldn’t be nearly as valuable to producers, however, if it weren’t for a number of other, smaller projects being developed in West Texas to transport large volumes of crude from major gathering systems and storage hubs to these new takeaway pipelines. A case in point is Lotus Midstream’s recently unveiled Augustus Pipeline project, which will use a combination of new and existing pipe to initially transport up to 150 Mb/d of West Texas Intermediate (WTI), West Texas Light (WTL) and West Texas Sour (WTS) from Midland to Crane. When Augustus starts flowing late this year, crude delivered to the Crane hub could flow into the Longhorn Pipeline to Houston, or maybe the EPIC Crude or Gray Oak pipelines to Corpus Christi. Today, we discuss Lotus’s planned Midland-to-Crane project, and its significance for Midland Basin producers and the pipe’s owner/developer.

Sunday, 03/01/2020
Category:
Crude Oil

On Friday, CME/NYMEX WTI Cushing crude oil for April delivery closed at $44.76/bbl, down more than $16/bbl, or about 27%, since New Year’s Day. The declines in natural gas and NGL prices were not quite as severe, but only because those commodities were hit harder than crude during 2019. Even before COVID-19 landed on the market, energy prices were already under pressure from continued record production levels from U.S. shale, weakening demand, a mostly mild winter and a general investor pall over all things carbon. The threat of a global coronavirus pandemic was all it took to push things over the edge. So now what? Of course, nobody knows. But we can contemplate what this all could mean for energy markets, based on what we’ve seen in recent market statistics and price behavior. So that’s what we’ll do in today’s blog.

Thursday, 02/27/2020
Category:
Crude Oil

The Bakken was among the first plays to benefit big-time from the Shale Revolution, experiencing a 400%-plus increase in crude production in the first half of the 2010s. The play has had more than its share of challenges, however, including a serious lack of takeaway capacity that spurred the first rapid deployment of modern-day crude-by-rail, followed by a rig-count collapse and major production decline after the mid-decade crash in oil prices. But the Bakken has been roaring back. Crude output there now tops 1.5 MMb/d — some 250 Mb/d higher than its late-2014 peak — and producers have been planning for continued production growth in 2020, though many may be reassessing those plans in light of this week’s coronavirus-related price slide. In any case, production growth is only possible if there’s sufficient gathering infrastructure in place to handle it. Today, we continue our series on crude-related infrastructure in western North Dakota with a look at a leading Bakken midstreamer’s assets.

Wednesday, 02/26/2020
Category:
Crude Oil

Back in 2013-14, a run-up in demand for Jones Act tankers and large articulated tug barges –– and a spike in time charter rates — spurred orders for a flotilla of new vessels. By the time the new tankers and ATBs were built and launched, however, demand for them had fallen off. That decline was mostly due to the mid-decade slump in U.S. crude oil production and, with the lifting of the ban on most U.S. crude exports, the drop in crude shipments from one U.S. port to another. Term charter rates plummeted and ship owners stopped ordering new tankers and large ATBs. Now, for the first time in more than five years, there are barely enough Jones Act vessels to go around, and charter rates are on the rise. Today, we discuss recent trends and how they’re impacting crude oil and refined products transportation costs.

Tuesday, 02/25/2020
Category:
Natural Gas Liquids

It’s almost Spring 2020 and energy markets are making another turn. Prices have been clobbered by a combination of low, weather-related demand and COVID-19. Tight capital markets have the E&P sector hunkered down and the pace of production growth is slowing. But at the same time, new pipelines out of the Permian and Bakken are under construction; some are already ramping up flows. Long-delayed LNG terminals and NGL-consuming petrochemical plants are coming online. Essentially all growth in crude and gas — plus most incremental NGL production — is being exported to global markets, and those markets are pushing back. All this has huge implications for commodity flows, infrastructure utilization and price relationships for oil, natural gas and NGLs. Which means that it’s time for RBN’s School of Energy, with all of our curriculum and models updated for the realities of today’s energy markets. Today — in a blatant advertorial — we’ll examine our upcoming School of Energy and explain why this time around we are concentrating even more than usual on NGLs.

Monday, 02/24/2020
Category:
Crude Oil

Oil-production restraint by OPEC and 10 cooperating countries grows more challenging with time, and just when market projections began to hint at relief for the OPEC-Plus group, the spread of the new coronavirus in China and beyond became a sudden and possibly serious impediment to global economic growth and oil demand. Yesterday’s slide in crude oil prices amid newly heightened concern about the potential pandemic’s effects will only add to the challenges that OPEC-Plus countries will face in managing crude supply. So far, the OPEC-Plus group has achieved unprecedented compliance with its production ceilings, which it implemented in January 2017 and has adapted a few times since in response to market pressure. That effort has kept the crude price above the ruinous levels of 2015, memories of which have encouraged quota discipline. But the threat of a major, coronavirus-related slowdown in global oil demand could seriously undermine OPEC-Plus’s efforts, which already had been hurt by dissent within its ranks. Today, we continue our series with a look at Monday’s price drop, the latest supply and demand forecasts and a discussion of the obstacles that might affect OPEC-Plus going forward. 

Sunday, 02/23/2020
Category:
Natural Gas

After a major decontracting and partial recontracting last fall, Tallgrass Energy’s Rockies Express Pipeline headed into 2020 with 839 MMcf/d in firm, long-haul commitments for natural gas moving east out of the Rockies for delivery into the Midwest. That volume is down from 1.3-1.8 MMcf/d in firm commitments previously. The contracted volume is also much lower than the peak — and even the average — historical gas flows on the route to the Midwest markets in recent years. At the same time, Tallgrass’s Cheyenne Connector pipeline and Cheyenne Hub Enhancement projects are expected to bring as much as 800 MMcf/d of new firm gas supply from the Denver-Julesburg (D-J) Basin to the REX mainline at Cheyenne Hub. What will these changes mean for Rockies’ eastbound flows and prices? Today, we wrap up our series on REX’s recontracting with an assessment of how the recent contract changes could affect REX gas flows.

Thursday, 02/20/2020
Category:
Natural Gas Liquids

There is no such thing as a typical NGL barrel. For example, the composition of y-grade production out of the Marcellus is significantly different from y-grade out of most of the Permian. And it is not just gas processing engineers who care. The make-up of an NGL barrel is inextricably linked to the value of that barrel. The reason is pretty simple: there’s a big difference in the value of each of the five NGL products. These days, natural gasoline is worth nearly eight times as much per gallon as ethane. Normal butane is worth 1.6X as much as propane. Consequently, the more natural gasoline and normal butane in your barrel versus the amounts of ethane and propane, the more the barrel is worth. So it’s important to anyone trying to follow the value added by gas processing and related infrastructure to understand where these numbers come from and how much the composition of a barrel can vary from basin to basin, or for that matter, from well to well. In Part 2 of our series on gas processing, we turn our attention to the variability in the mix of NGL production and its implication for processing uplift.

Wednesday, 02/19/2020
Category:
Financial

The fortunes of U.S. midstream companies in 2020 and beyond will be largely determined by how shrewdly they invested during the frenzied infrastructure build-out of the past few years. One of the most interesting case studies is San Antonio-based NuStar Energy, a master limited partnership born in 2001 to hold refiner Valero Energy’s midstream assets and spun off as a separate entity in 2007. In May 2017, as the industry was still recovering from the late 2014 plunge in crude oil prices, the MLP made a major play to capture growing Permian production through the ~$1.5 billion acquisition of Navigator Energy, which owned a crude oil gathering, transportation, and terminaling system in the Midland Basin. The purchase was widely panned as overpriced by analysts and investors, and NuStar’s unit price plummeted by 60%. But by 2019, the company’s Permian acquisition — and soaring exports from its Corpus Christi terminal — drove big year-on-year gains in NuStar’s fourth-quarter 2019 operating income and EBITDA. Today, we preview our new Spotlight report on NuStar.

Tuesday, 02/18/2020
Category:
Natural Gas

Natural gas supplies in Western Canada fell into a hole in 2019, registering their first decline in a half-dozen years. That drop was led by a supply pullback on TC Energy’s Nova Gas Transmission Limited (NGTL) system, the largest gas pipeline network in the region, as producers grappled with widespread pipeline maintenance, shrinking budgets, and wellhead shut-ins due to ultra-low prices, especially during the summer months. That supply hole is going to be fixed in the months ahead, thanks to a major pipeline expansion — the North Montney Mainline — that recently entered service with a direct connection into the NGTL system. With this new pipeline tapping deeper into the vast Montney formation in northeastern British Columbia, gas supplies are showing signs of pushing higher, and more upside is expected in the months ahead. Today, we examine the new pipe and what it means for gas supplies on NGTL.

Monday, 02/17/2020
Category:
Crude Oil

Crude oil production in the Bakken Shale, which slumped after the 2014-15 crash in oil prices, has increased by more than 50% in the past three years, and now tops 1.5 MMb/d. Just as important, producers in the core of the crude-focused play in western North Dakota have been ratcheting down their drilling-and-completion costs and making plans for continued production growth in 2020. Also, midstreamers are addressing a gas processing capacity shortfall that had threatened to slow drilling activity; in addition, some of them are developing crude oil takeaway capacity, including the planned Liberty Pipeline to the crude hub in Cushing, OK. Today, we begin a series on the Bakken’s expanding network of smaller-diameter crude pipelines and their role in further improving the shale play’s economics.