The Texas natural gas market is rapidly evolving, in large part due to burgeoning Permian production but also due to gas production gains in East Texas driven by strong returns on new wells in the Haynesville and Cotton Valley plays. Most of this supply growth is looking to make its way to the Gulf Coast, where close to 5 Bcf/d of LNG export capacity is operational and plenty more is under construction. The combination of fast-rising supply and demand is straining the existing gas pipeline infrastructure across Texas, creating the need for more capacity. The Permian has been grabbing the headlines for its extreme takeaway constraints and depressed, even negative supply-area prices, and all eyes are trained on the announced pipeline projects that will eventually provide relief to the region. But pipeline constraints also are developing between the Haynesville and the Texas coast. Today, we discuss the latest solution for the intensifying Haynesville-area supply congestion.
The cascade of LNG export project news continues. In the past week, yet another “second-wave” U.S. LNG export project — NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG — cleared FERC’s environmental review process. That follows news of three other projects that received their environmental approvals this month; plus two other projects — Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG and Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG — got final FERC authorization to construct their facilities, should they make the financial commitment to proceed; and, finally, plans for a brand new export terminal, Venture Global’s Delta LNG, were unveiled. All in all, there are more than 20 announced projects totaling 235 MMtpa (~35 Bcf/d) that are looking to catch the second wave of U.S. LNG exports in the next decade. The timing of their regulatory approvals and final investment decisions will determine, in part, when this next wave — or shall we say tsunami — of export demand will materialize. Today, we wrap up our second-wave LNG project update series with a look at the progress made by some of the remaining projects that we’re tracking.
The run-up in Permian crude oil production over the past few years — and the expectation of continued gains — has been spurring the development of a number of crude gathering systems in the play’s Midland and Delaware basins. These small-diameter pipeline networks are critically important to producers and shippers in that they enable them to transport crude more quickly and cost-effectively than by truck, and (ideally) they connect to takeaway pipelines that flow to multiple destinations. But there is more than one approach to developing a gathering system. For example, a midstream company could plan a system that appeals to several producers in an area and then try to sign them up. Or, it might work closely with a single producer — sometimes an affiliated company — and design a gathering system to meet its specific needs, then work to add other producers and shippers later. Today, we look at the West Texas and southeastern New Mexico systems developed by a joint-venture company of Matador Resources and Five Point Energy to serve Matador and others.
The biggest driver of generally rising LPG exports is the widening gap between how much LPG the U.S. consumes and how much it produces — there’s simply too much of the stuff, and LPG-hungry European and Asian markets beckon. But month-to-month export volumes are often erratic, affected by a wide range of variables. Winter weather in Wisconsin. Steam cracker economics in Germany. Propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant outages in China. Not to mention lingering fog or a tank-farm fire along the Houston Ship Channel, or the startup of a new NGL pipeline to the Marcus Hook terminal near Philly. Add to all this the export-volume spikes that may come later this year and in 2020 when new dock capacity comes online along the Gulf Coast. Today, we take a look at what drives the monthly ups and downs in exports.
Wednesday’s blockbuster announcement that Occidental Petroleum is challenging Chevron’s definitive agreement to acquire Anadarko Petroleum with a considerably higher offer sent another shock wave across what had been mostly somnolent energy M&A and equity markets. Oxy’s $76/share bid — $11/share more than Chevron’s — valued Anadarko at a whopping 65% premium to its closing price the day before Chevron’s deal to acquire the company was unveiled on April 12. The prospective Oxy/Chevron bidding war provided some of the strongest evidence yet that investors overreacted to the fourth-quarter decline in oil prices when they drove down E&P stock prices by some 40%, as measured by the S&P’s E&P Stock Index. Why the lack of market love? Many U.S. E&Ps are doing very well, actually. In today’s blog, Nick Cacchione identifies and discusses the outstanding performers among the 44 U.S. E&Ps we track, and considers the factors that could drive profit improvement in 2019.
The competition among midstream companies to transport light, sweet U.S. crude to Louisiana refineries and to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) is heating up. On April 1, Energy Transfer and Phillips 66 Partners finally started up the Lake Charles-to-St. James portion of their Bayou Bridge pipeline, which is designed to move light oil to the heart of Louisiana’s refining country. Two weeks later, Shell initiated an open season for newly available space on its Zydeco Pipeline from Houston to the St. James and Clovelly hubs, the latter of which can send crude to either local refineries or LOOP — the only Gulf Coast port currently able to fully load Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs). Then, earlier this week, Bayou Bridge’s co-owners launched an open season of their own, this one to gauge shipper interest in joint-tariff transportation service on certain connecting pipes that haul light crude from the Bakken, the Niobrara, the Cushing crude hub and the Permian. The fight for barrels doesn’t end there — don’t forget plans for the Capline reversal and the Seahorse, ACE and Swordfish pipelines, all of which also are targeting Louisiana refineries and/or the export market. Game on! Today, we update midstreamers’ efforts to transport more high-API-gravity oil to Louisiana refineries and LOOP.
2019 is slated to be a watershed year for U.S. LNG export projects vying to catch the second wave — the first wave being the slew of liquefaction trains already operational or in the process of being commissioned or constructed. As expected, regulatory and commercial activity has heated up around the two dozen or so longer-term proposals to add liquefaction capacity along the U.S. coastlines over the next decade. Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved two of those projects — Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG and Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG — and several others, including Driftwood and NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG, also have made progress on the commercial front. Many of these projects are targeting a final investment decision (FID) this year. Today, we continue a series highlighting the second-wave projects’ latest developments.
U.S. propane is fanning out across the planet, with export volumes now triple those of any other country. The global LPG market today is dominated by cargoes shipped from U.S. ports. Buyers from Mexico to South Korea can’t make a move without considering conditions on the Houston Ship Channel or pipeline constraints in Pennsylvania. But an interconnected market is a two-way street. U.S. propane prices are now influenced more by the weather in Europe and Asia than by the weather in Wisconsin or New Hampshire. And it’s not only propane. All NGLs are experiencing growth in U.S. export volumes, with huge implications for infrastructure, capacity constraints and, of course, prices. Today, we preview the deep dive into these issues on the agenda at RBN’s upcoming xPortCon conference.
Crude oil production in the Permian Basin is now approaching 4 MMb/d, and with more than 2 MMb/d of new pipeline takeaway capacity out of the resource-rich play set to come online over the next 12 months, there soon will be plenty of room for more production growth. To efficiently transport crude to takeaway pipes, however, producers and shippers need ever-growing networks of gathering systems in the Permian’s sweet spots where much of the drilling and completion activity is occurring. Ideally, these systems offer their users a high degree of optionality — that is, interconnections with multiple takeaway pipelines to different markets — so they can capture the best prices for their oil. Today, we continue our review of major gathering networks in the Permian with a look at Reliance Gathering’s nearly 250-mile system in the Midland, TX, area.
Only a few months after major crude oil takeaway constraints out of the Permian Basin caused price spreads to widen, the pipeline network serving the U.S.’s most prolific shale play may be on the brink of becoming overbuilt. We’ve already seen a number of new expansions and pipeline conversions completed in the past six months, and construction is underway on another 2 MMb/d of new pipeline capacity scheduled to come online between now and the first quarter of 2020. Beyond that, a few remaining projects have been proposed but have not yet reached final investment decisions. No midstream group wants to build a pipeline that will be half full, and no producer wants to make a 10-year commitment to a pipeline if there are going to be plenty of other options available. So who blinks first? In today’s blog, we review the Permian pipeline projects that are still on the fence and examine what factors will determine whether they end up being a “go” or a “no.”
Nowadays, the hydraulic fracturing of a typical Permian well with a 10,000-foot lateral requires about 12,500 tons of frac sand — enough sand to fill more than 500 large sand trucks. That sand needs to be at the ready — delivered, offloaded, stored, and set for blending and use. If it’s not, the well completion and the start of production would be delayed or the hydraulic fracturing process would be shut down after starting — a mortal sin in the shale world. With reliable, seamless access to frac sand at the well site being so critical, E&Ps and their pressure pumpers are understandably doing all they can to optimize their “last-mile” sand logistics. This involves everything from minimizing truck-delivery congestion to maximizing the speed at which sand is transferred from truck to storage, as well as the type of storage used. It’s all much more high-tech than you might think. Today, we conclude our series with a look at the latest in last-mile logistics, which can account for as much as one-third of the total delivered cost of sand.
The rapid development of the Permian’s vast hydrocarbon resources that we expect will continue through the 2020s and beyond can’t happen if there’s insufficient gathering-pipeline infrastructure in place to transport crude from well sites to takeaway pipelines. Similarly, the favorable pricing that Permian producers hope to receive for their crude oil is possible only if their gathering systems are interconnected to two or more long-haul, big-bore pipelines that offer them some serious destination optionality. The need for new gathering pipes with multiple links to Gulf Coast- and Cushing-bound takeaway pipes is the driving force behind the Beta Crude Connector, a planned 100-mile-plus pipeline network in the heart of the Permian’s Midland Basin that was unveiled on Monday (April 15) by a joint venture of Concho Resources and gathering specialist Frontier Energy Services. Today, we kick off a new blog series on crude-gathering projects in the Permian with a look at the Concho/Frontier plan.
It’s said that everything is bigger and better in Texas, and when it comes to the magnitude of negative natural gas prices, the Lone Star State recently captured the crown by a wide margin. By now, you’ve probably heard that Permian spot gas prices plumbed new depths in the past couple of weeks, falling as low as $9/MMBtu below zero in intraday trading and easily setting the record for the “biggest” negative absolute price ever recorded in U.S. gas markets. Certainly, that was bad news for many of the Permian producers selling gas into the day-ahead market. But every market has its losers and winners, and negative prices were likely “better” — dare we say much better — for those buying gas in the Permian. Today, we look at some of the players that are benefitting from negative Permian natural gas prices.
Until just a few years ago, the rise and fall of U.S. propane inventories each year was driven in large part by winter weather: the colder the temperatures in the major propane-consuming areas, the bigger the draw on stocks. Things have gotten much more complicated lately, though, thanks to a combination of rapid NGL production growth, a generally booming propane export market, and the vagaries of petchem margins. Now, to get a handle on propane stocks, you not only need to be able to forecast the weather, you also need to monitor international propane arbs and steam cracker economics — oh, and crude prices too, because they have a significant effect on NGL output and propane supply. Today, we discuss the many factors that impact propane inventories and prices in this sometimes chaotic market.
What a deal! Take as much butane as you want — all for the low, low price of less than 10 cents/gallon (c/gal). That was the situation in Edmonton, AB, last November and the price stayed dirt cheap until a few days ago. Given a decline in demand for butane in crude blending, along with growing NGL production, the NGL processing and storage hub in Western Canada was awash in butane as winter approached. It remains flush with product today — and the price for Alberta butane is still low. How did this happen, and how will it play out over the next few months? Today, we examine the factors that led the Edmonton NGL market to see a price fall to near zero c/gal for the second time this decade.