The price of northeastern Alberta’s key crude oil benchmark, Western Canadian Select (WCS), has been dropping like a rock. Last week, the heavy, sour blend of crude fell to a $45/bbl discount against U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) — the biggest differential in at least 10 years. With an unplanned summertime outage at a Syncrude upgrader now over, Alberta production rising and pipeline takeaway capacity static — at least for now — the value of Canada’s crude may have even bleaker days ahead, despite a recent global rally in oil prices. Today, we explain why Western Canada’s oil producers are facing the prospect of mile-wide spreads for months to come.
Just as midstream companies are in a fierce competition to build new crude oil pipelines from the Permian to the Gulf Coast, there’s a race on to develop what would be the first Gulf Coast terminal in a generation capable of handling fully laden Very Large Crude Carriers. There’s a lot at stake. Currently, 2-MMbbl VLCCs can be filled to the brim without reverse lightering only at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), and even if U.S. crude production continues to rise at a fast clip, it’s unlikely that more than another one or two high-capacity, VLCC-ready terminals would be needed over the next five years. And, assuming there’s not an overbuild situation, the project or projects that ultimately advance would be expected to be in-demand and highly utilized — VLCCs are the preferred mode of transporting crude to Asia and other far-away markets, and being able to fully load VLCCs saves the considerable cost and time associated with reverse lightering these supertankers in deep water. Today, we conclude our series on the fast-paced efforts to develop export terminals in waters deep enough to float VLCCs chock-full of oil.
The crude oil hub in Cushing, OK, is a big numbers kind of place: 94 million barrels of storage capacity, 3.8 MMb/d of inbound pipelines and 3.1 MMb/d of outbound pipes, not to mention a spaghetti bowl of connections between the many tank farms within greater Cushing. To truly understand the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” — what it does and how it works — you need to know the hub’s assets and how they fit together. Today, we continue our series with a look at the pipes that transport crude from Cushing to Gulf Coast refineries and export docks, and to inland refineries in the Midcontinent, the Midwest and what you might call the Mid-South — places like Memphis, TN; El Dorado, AR; and Shreveport, LA.
The U.S. exploration and production sector has reaped many benefits from its transformation to large-scale, manufacturing-style exploitation of premier resource plays, generating record oil and gas production while slashing production and reserve replacement costs by 50%. While increased efficiency and rising output have moved the industry solidly into the black after three years of losses, profit growth stalled in the second quarter 2018 despite a $5/bbl increase in oil prices to about $68/bbl. The cause is largely beyond the control of the producers: constraints on getting the increased output to markets. In certain producing regions, most notably the Permian Basin, production growth has far outpaced expansions to the infrastructure required to process and transport it. Today, we explain why these constraints are critical to assessing the outlook for industry profitability and cash flow over at least the next two to four quarters.
With the addition of new large-diameter natural gas pipelines like Energy Transfer Partners’ Rover Pipeline and Enbridge and DTE’s NEXUS Gas Transmission, the dog days of severely depressed gas prices in the U.S. Northeast will be diminishing (though not disappearing entirely), but they are just getting started for its downstream markets. After years of constrained natural gas supply growth, Northeast takeaway capacity appears to be outpacing regional production volumes more and more, and RBN’s analysis of production economics suggests that, left unconstrained, the Marcellus/Utica gas market is set to unleash an incremental 8 Bcf/d into the broader U.S. gas market by 2023, with the bulk of that volume targeting consumption in the Midwest and Gulf Coast regions. In today’s blog, we walk through our outlook for Northeast takeaway capacity and gas production, and by extension, U.S. gas supply.
It’s crunch time in the race to advance the next-round of liquefaction/LNG export projects along the U.S. Gulf Coast to a Final Investment Decision (FID). And if we’re to assume that only a small number of these multibillion-dollar projects will get their financial go-aheads, it would seem eminently reasonable to put a win-place-or-show bet on a joint venture that includes the world’s leading LNG producer (by far) and one of the largest U.S. natural gas producers — oh, and the partners have very fat wallets too. Size and money aren’t everything, of course, but as we discuss in today’s blog, the team behind the Golden Pass LNG project plans to build its liquefaction trains at the site of an existing LNG import terminal with strong interconnections with coastal pipelines already in place.
China exceeded Canada as the largest buyer of U.S. crude exports for the first time in February 2017 and in year-to-date 2018 has averaged 378 Mb/d versus Canada’s 347 Mb/d. Ramping up purchases from virtually nothing in 2015 to more than 500 Mb/d in June 2018 was no small feat — the logistics in getting that much oil across the world include multiple ship-to-ship transfers, several weeks at sea and a whole lot of negotiating between U.S. crude marketers and the major Chinese buyers: Unipec and PetroChina. That already complicated process has recently been made just a little more complicated by the escalating trade war rhetoric between the U.S. and China. In today’s blog, which launches our new Crude Voyager service, we explain how crude flows to China are evolving.
Thanks to the shale revolution, U.S. refiners have spent the better part of the last two years achieving milestones in export volumes and run rates. The U.S. exported record volumes of gasoline and diesel last year. Much of that newfound international market share came at the expense of ailing refining complexes in Latin America, particularly in Mexico. That worked out great for U.S. refiners on the Gulf Coast, who could load up a tanker of fuel and have it delivered within a matter of days. Now the market on both sides of the border is shifting; the political landscape has changed in Mexico and gasoline demand growth in the U.S. is threatened by higher oil prices. Today, we lay out factors impacting exports and demand in the U.S. gasoline market.
Florida’s electric utilities are turning to natural gas-fired power and renewables for all their incremental generation needs and as replacements for the older coal units they’ve been retiring. The state’s big bet on natural gas has been spurring the development of new pipelines. And, because of big shifts in where gas is being produced and where it’s flowing, the Sunshine State will soon be receiving an increasing share of its gas needs from the Marcellus region. Today, we discuss the slew of new gas-fired power plants that have come online, the additional plants planned, and gas flows on Sabal Trail, the first new gas mainline into the state in almost two decades.
U.S. LNG exports have climbed from zero three years ago to more than 3 Bcf/d now, and export capacity is set to grow to more than 10 Bcf/d by 2023. With the U.S. emerging as a dominant player in the global LNG landscape, international players are now increasingly susceptible to the day-to-day fluctuations of the U.S. natural gas market — a highly liquid, fungible and interconnected arena that’s propelled by constantly shifting transportation economics. The global LNG market inevitably is also moving toward spot-oriented trading based on short-term economic conditions. Thus, prospective buyers of U.S. LNG considering pre-FID projects increasingly need to understand the ever-changing U.S. gas flow and pricing dynamics. At the same time, U.S. market participants trying to understand how 10 Bcf/d of LNG exports will affect the domestic market also will need to closely track LNG activity, including feedgas flows and prices. In today’s blog — which launches our new LNG Voyager service — we look at how U.S. onshore gas market dynamics are affecting gas supply costs at the Sabine Pass LNG facility, and considers what this might mean for several of the pre-FID projects.
Cushing doesn’t call itself the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” for nothing. Pipelines with the capacity to handle one-third of total U.S. crude oil production flow into the central Oklahoma hub from a number of production areas, including the Alberta oil sands, the Bakken, the Rockies, the Permian and the nearby SCOOP/STACK. There’s almost as much pipeline capacity out of Cushing, with more than half of it bound for Texas’s Gulf Coast refineries and export docks and most of the rest headed for refineries in the Midcontinent and Midwest. Cushing’s inbound and outbound pipes connect to a staggering 94 million barrels of crude oil storage in about 350 aboveground tanks — each company’s set of tanks with its own unique degree of interconnectedness. Today, we continue our series on Cushing with a look at the large, medium and small pipelines that flow into the hub, and what they transport.
U.S. exploration and production companies (E&Ps) are generating such substantial output growth that the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates their increase in 2018 liquids production could equal the entire growth in global demand. Remarkably, they’re accomplishing this with half the capital investment of 2014. The driver has been a shift to a manufacturing mode that has transformed the E&P industry as dramatically as Henry Ford’s moving assembly line changed the automobile industry in 1913. Geophysical and technological innovations, such as multi-well pad drilling, have allowed the industry to double output per well bore at half the previous cost. With oil prices and margins rising, you’d think the E&P industry, which historically has invested like “there’s never too much of a good thing,” would be pouring every available dollar into drilling more and more wells. But that isn’t the case. Instead, mid-year 2018 guidance shows that producers have adopted the long-term investment strategies usually associated with integrated oil majors, plotting incremental increases in investment to methodically accelerate production growth to 2020 and beyond.
For the first time in five years, takeaway expansions are outpacing Northeast production growth. Major natural gas takeaway capacity additions on large-diameter pipes like Tallgrass Energy’s Rockies Express Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners’ Rover Pipeline over the past couple of years are allowing Marcellus/Utica natural gas producers to send record amounts of gas supply to the Midwest and, indirectly, to the Gulf Coast region. At the same time, there are some small pockets of unused takeaway capacity appearing on some of the legacy routes out of the region, which means that Appalachian basis levels — prices relative to Henry Hub — have risen to the strongest levels since 2013. For downstream markets like Chicago and Dawn, ON, that’s meant a flood of gas and lower prices. In today’s blog, we continue our series on the Northeast gas market with the effects of these new dynamics on gas price relationships.
To fire on all cylinders — especially during a period of strong high crude oil prices and rising production — the U.S. energy sector depends on midstream infrastructure networks that can efficiently handle the transportation and processing of every type of hydrocarbon that emerges from the wellhead. It’s no secret that rapid production growth in the Permian has left the red-hot West Texas play short of crude-oil pipeline capacity, and midstream companies there have also struggled to keep pace with natural gas takeaway needs too. What’s less well known is that fractionation capacity at the all-important NGL hub in Mont Belvieu, TX, is nearly maxed out, and that some Permian producers — and others — are now scrambling to find other places to send their incremental NGL barrels for fractionation into purity products. We put this issue front-and-center earlier this week in Hotel Fractionation. Today, we discuss highlights from the first of two planned Drill Down Reports on fractionators and other key assets at the nation’s largest NGL hub, and the potentially broader effects of a fractionation-capacity shortfall.
It’s no secret by now that Permian natural gas pipelines have been running near full the last few months, jam-packed like Southern California traffic while trying to whisk away copious volumes of mostly associated natural gas to markets north, south, west and east of the basin. Despite every major artery running near capacity this summer, Permian prices had so far managed to avoid falling below the dreaded $1.00/MMBtu threshold, a precipice that historically defines a gas producing basin as definitively oversupplied. That all changed yesterday, as word came in that Southern California Gas Company, one of the largest recipients of Permian gas, has nearly filled its gas storage caverns and will soon need far less gas hitting its borders. That’s particularly bad news for the Permian, which has few other options if it needs to reduce the supply that is currently flowing west out of the basin to California. A large unplanned outage for maintenance was also announced on one of the pipelines leaving the Permian and heading north to the Midcontinent. As a result, the SoCalGas news and maintenance combined to put a huge dent in Permian gas prices, some of which plunged as low as 50 cents in Wednesday’s trading. Today, we detail this most recent development and the implications for Permian gas takeaway.