Daily Energy Blog

Category:
Crude Oil

With many years gone by and many millions of dollars spent, the deepwater crude oil export projects under development along the U.S. Gulf Coast are finally getting close to receiving their regulatory green light. These projects have sparked commercial and wider market interest because of the many benefits they may provide — including the ability to fully load the biggest tankers, the Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) capable of taking on 2 MMbbl, which could contribute to lower per-barrel shipping costs. In today’s RBN blog, we kick off an offshore oil terminal series, starting with the case for constructing at least one of the export projects. 

Category:
Natural Gas

There’s already so much involved in developing new LNG export capacity: lining up offtakers, securing federal approvals, sourcing natural gas, developing pipelines ... the list goes on. Now, with the increased emphasis on minimizing emissions of methane, the folks involved in LNG exports are also wary of the methane intensity (MI) of their feedgas, which depends not only on the steps that gas producers, pipeline companies and LNG exporters themselves take to mitigate methane emissions but also on where the gas comes from. But with so many new export terminals coming online, gas flows are sure to change, right? So how can you possibly assess what those flow changes will mean for the MI of gas over time? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the role that MI may play in sourcing natural gas for LNG. 

Category:
Natural Gas

It’s that time of year, folks! March Madness is upon us — time to reboot the office pool and fill out your brackets. And not just for the NCAA Tournament field announced Sunday night, but for the natural gas pipeline projects out of the Permian you think will make it to the Elite Eight or even the Final Four. Matterhorn Express is like the UConn of the bunch as the reigning men’s champ with a chance of repeating — it’s already under construction and slated to come online later this year — and the odds for a Gulf Coast Express expansion look mighty good too, just like record scorer Caitlin Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes are hoping to build on last year’s run to the women’s championship game. And don’t forget Energy Transfer’s Warrior and Targa’s Apex! Their names alone suggest a fightin’ spirit and a desire to make it to the top. But as we all know from our past bets on the Big Dance, there’s no such thing as a sure thing, especially in the topsy-turvy world of midstream project development, and it’s entirely possible an unknown — the pipeline equivalent of a 16th seed — will be among those cutting down the nets. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the need for new gas pipeline egress from the Permian and assess the pros and cons of the projects that have a bid. 

Category:
Natural Gas

In the three years since the deadly electrical outages caused by Winter Storm Uri, the Texas Legislature, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT), and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) have been working overtime to design and implement changes to ensure a more reliable Texas power grid. But it hasn’t been easy. The state’s energy-only electricity market and its outsized reliance on intermittently available wind and solar power have forced policymakers, regulators and the electric-grid operator to develop a wide range of fixes aimed at maintaining a competitive atmosphere while at the same time incentivizing market players to have power available when it’s needed most. In today’s RBN blog, we look at what they’ve been up to. 

Category:
Crude Oil

As U.S. crude oil expands its foothold across the world, the markets that trade it have undergone some fundamental changes. Since the onset of the pandemic almost four years ago, these changes have included the shortening of the loading-date range for crude oil cargoes marketed along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Price reporting agencies (PRAs) like Argus have responded, launching crude oil assessments that reflect a narrower loading window. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the changes and the new assessments Argus has rolled out to help crude oil traders manage their market exposure. 

Category:
Financial

When legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal was asked how he approached important games, he frequently said, “You dance with the one who brung ya,” which meant sticking with the strategy that produced previous success. After struggling through a period of extreme price volatility in 2014-20, U.S. E&Ps finally locked onto a game plan that works: They wooed back investors and regained financial stability by focusing on generating free cash flow and returning a lot of that bounty to shareholders. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze E&Ps’ 2024 capex and production guidance, which shows that producers have embraced Royal’s concept of sticking with what works. 

Category:
Natural Gas

Mexico’s state-owned Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) and private-sector developers of LNG export terminals have been aggressively advancing new natural gas-consuming projects in Northwest Mexico. But while plans for a number of new pipelines to help bring in gas from the Permian are on the drawing board, it remains to be seen if they can be built as quickly as they would need to be to avert a potentially ugly competition for gas supplies. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the gas-demand and gas-delivery projects now under development in Northwest Mexico. 

Category:
Crude Oil

Two maritime passages long regarded as essential shortcuts in the complex world of commodity shipping have become a lot more challenging to navigate. Transiting the Red Sea has turned potentially deadly because of geopolitical tensions, while severe drought has critically reduced operations at the Panama Canal. Combined, these issues are being felt across the energy industry, impacting U.S. and foreign producers and shippers, redrawing trade flows, extending voyage times and, ultimately, raising transportation costs. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine and quantify the extra time and costs that shippers of U.S. crude and refined products must bear when using alternative routes. 

Category:
Renewables

When the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was passed into law in August 2022, it earned near-unanimous acclaim from longtime supporters of renewable energy and decarbonization efforts. Industry types also approved of the bill’s focus on incentives to fuel new developments. One of its most ambitious elements was creation of the 45V production tax credit (PTC) for clean hydrogen, a central part of the Biden administration’s efforts to build a clean-energy economy. But while the PTC may have a significant impact on the U.S. energy landscape over the long run, the December 2023 rollout of the proposed rulemaking has generated no small amount of criticism. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll lay out some of the changes that some say should be included in the final rulemaking to help the clean-hydrogen economy make a quick break from the starting gate instead of getting left at the back of the pack. 

Category:
Natural Gas

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently changed the weather forecast methodology for one of its most important energy models — the Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) — and while we talk about the effects of weather on energy markets fairly often (571 times in the past 12 years, or about once a week, but who’s counting?), we rarely take a step back and explain how those weather forecasts are used. In today’s RBN blog, we look at different approaches to weather forecasting, the recent change made by the EIA, and how the new approach might affect our understanding of EIA forecasts.

Category:
Financial

The drivers behind most upstream M&A the past couple of years have been consistent — namely, to gain scale (mostly in the Permian) and the economies that come with it, boost free cash flow (and share more with shareholders), and replenish reserves to keep the good times rollin' into the 2030s. There are hints of all that in California Resources’ recently announced $2.1 billion agreement to acquire Aera Energy, creating what would be California’s largest crude oil producer. But in other ways the deal is as different as, well, California and Texas themselves. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the planned acquisition, what it reveals about the companies, and the pros and cons of operating in the nation’s most populous, least-friendly-to-hydrocarbons state. 

Category:
Natural Gas

Faced with sustained sub-$2/MMBtu natural gas prices and dim prospects for significant gas-demand growth until sometime next year, a number of major gas-focused E&Ps have been tapping the brakes on production and trimming their planned 2024 capex. But one company — Chesapeake Energy, slated to become the U.S.’s largest gas producer thanks to a recently announced acquisition — has taken a more dramatic step, implementing a novel strategy that will slash production by 25% but leave the E&P ready to quickly ramp up its output as soon as demand and prices warrant. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll review the 2024 guidance of the major U.S. gas producers and delve into the analysis of Chesapeake’s unusual approach. 

Category:
Natural Gas

It’s been a devastating few weeks for the natural gas market. Sure, Shale Era abundance was supposed to keep gas prices from skyrocketing — and it generally has. But seriously? Henry Hub gas sinking below $2/MMBtu — and staying there, in the depths of the winter heating season? Prices have stabilized a little in recent days as a few E&Ps announced cutbacks in capex and gas-focused drilling, but gas-storage levels are abnormally high, coal-plant retirements have trimmed opportunities for coal-to-gas switching, and any significant gains in LNG exports aren’t going to happen until this time next year. With all that, you’ve gotta ask — as we do in today’s RBN blog — how low could natural gas prices go? 

Category:
Natural Gas

Natural gas prices remain at near-record lows, but with so much production being driven by still-favorable crude oil economics there’s a distinct possibility — especially given the warm winter we’re in — that gas inventories may test storage capacity this year, perhaps as early as Labor Day. Of course, there are many market factors that might prevent this outcome, including lower production, a scorching-hot summer, and gas-to-coal fuel switching. But it could happen. And whenever we approach the limitations of natural gas infrastructure, we’ve seen time and again the disruptions and dislocations the market must deal with. The most obvious market signals are prices. But when it comes to gas flows another important barometer is the use of operational flow orders (OFOs). In today’s blog, we update one of RBN’s Greatest Hits and take a deep dive into the world of OFOs and what they can reveal about the state of the gas market. 

Category:
Natural Gas

Observers of the natural gas market over the past 20 years know that the main story has been one of enormous growth. The Shale Revolution gave new life to the U.S. natural gas sector, leading to the record production levels we are seeing in early 2024. The economy has found many uses for this new gas: increased power generation, more pipeline exports to Mexico, expanded industrial gas usage and — most prominently — the many LNG export facilities that have cropped up since 2016. But with the pause on new LNG export licenses and the push to renewables in the power sector, there’s a looming question of where the new natural gas would go if production continues to expand. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how that new gas might be absorbed, both domestically and internationally, and what continued growth would imply for gas prices and producers in the long term.