The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Thursday (June 9) reported a surprisingly bullish 65-Bcf injection for the week ended June 3—that was 8.0 Bcf below our Natgas Billboard estimate and more than 10 Bcf below the Bloomberg industry average assessment. In response, the CME/NYMEX Henry Hub July natural gas contract screamed about 15 cents higher following the report to a settle of $2.617/MMBtu, the highest daily settle for the prompt month in nearly 9 months. Thursday’s gains extended a rally that began on May 31 (2016) just after the July contract rolled to the front of the futures curve. It’s likely the rally was initially spurred by market participants looking to cover their short positions. But in the past week, an increasingly bullish fundamental picture has emerged prompting us to raise our price outlook (in our June 10 NATGAS Billboard report). In today’s blog, we analyze the fundamentals behind rising natural gas prices.
The STACK shale play west/northwest of Oklahoma City has quickly emerged as one of the hottest hot spots, and two “sweet-spot” counties in the heart of the play rank near the top nationwide in drilling activity. For now, the primary focus of the small group of producers active in STACK (for “Sooner Trend Anadarko Canadian Kingfisher”) isn’t on production, it’s on gaining a more complete understanding of the play’s complex geology, which offers (as acronym luck would have it) a bona fide stack of hydrocarbon production layers (including the particularly promising Meramec) that together may offer off-the-chart volumes. Today, we consider a play that can provide some producers a 75% rate of return at $45/bbl oil and $2.25/MMBtu natural gas—that is, at prices 11% to 13% lower than they are today.
We’ve spent a lot of time here in the RBN blogosphere discussing the trials and tribulations of natural gas producers in the Marcellus and Utica shales who are “trapped behind the pipe,” unable to get sufficient takeaway capacity to move supply to market (both within and outside the U.S. Northeast region) where they could get a higher price for their gas. Pipeline companies have ponied up billions of dollars to build lots of pipe to alleviate these constraints and much more investment is planned. Of course, those pipelines and their committed shippers hope that the investment will pay off long-term – that the economics for building the pipe will justify the cost. The pipeline will have scores of engineers, lawyers and accountants to figure that out. But what if you just want to make a quick-and-dirty estimate of the economics? Well, there is a way. In today’s blog, we walk through the factors you need to consider when your boss runs in and asks, “Hey—what would it cost to move gas there in a new pipe?”
Crude oil prices have rebounded somewhat in recent weeks (and now are hovering near $50/bbl), but cash-hungry shale-play producers remain laser-focused on high-output “sweet spots” that promise quick, sure-fire economic returns. What if these same producers could get an added, low-cost boost in output—and much-needed revenue—through enhanced oil recovery (EOR)? EOR, which involves injecting or “flooding” seemingly past-their-prime oil wells with steam, carbon dioxide (CO2), natural gas or nitrogen to spur further production, has always been associated with conventional, vertical wells; but as we discuss today, there’s a push under way to make EOR work in horizontal wells too.
There’s too much new liquefaction capacity coming online worldwide, too little growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand, and it’s probably too late to prevent a multiyear period of LNG supply glut and low LNG prices. That’s not welcome news to those who have committed to long-term, take-or-pay deals with the new liquefaction “trains” set to come online in the U.S. and Australia in 2016-20, but it’s the reality. What’s making things worse yet is that new entrants in the LNG market are facing push-back from entrenched LNG and natural gas suppliers (Qatar, Russia and Norway) eager to retain market share (much like Saudi Arabia’s been doing in the crude oil market). There’s cause for longer-term optimism, though. Today, we begin an update on the international gas market.
In February 2016, two months or so after the U.S. lifted its crude oil export ban, prices hit their lowest point in the current down-cycle that began in the summer of 2014. The ongoing price collapse had contributed to the favorable political winds in Washington, DC that resulted in lifting the ban. But what was favorable in the political realm posed severe commercial difficulties: U.S. producers were stuck with trying to sell into an international market awash in crude. Facing adversity, though, U.S. exporters have been getting creative, with the latest strategy involving backhauls of U.S. crudes on the same ships delivering foreign crude to U.S. ports. In today's blog, ClipperData's Abudi Zein looks at the market conditions that make such crude flows economically rational.
U.S. natural gas production growth has spurred a massive build-out of natural gas pipeline capacity in recent years, and a lot more is on the way, particularly out of the Northeast. To Marcellus and Utica producers eager to improve returns on their investments, this incremental pipeline capacity is a long-overdue relief valve for the pressure that’s been building in the region from growing supply congestion and low prices. But pipeline development is an expensive, long-term endeavor, and few, if any, pipeline projects are slam-dunks. Also, market conditions initially driving the development of new takeaway capacity may change, putting a project’s relevance—and, in turn, its utilization and profitability—at risk. In today’s blog, we begin a look at how midstream companies and their potential shippers evaluate (and continually reassess) the economic rationale for new pipeline capacity in today’s very changeable markets.
Every day, the “wet” Marcellus and Utica shale plays are producing significant volumes of ethane, all of which needs to be moved out of regional plants, fractionators and de-ethanizers immediately, either by “rejection” into natural gas or on pipelines to the Gulf Coast, Ontario, or to an export terminal in Marcus Hook, PA. A leading midstream company—MPLX’s MarkWest subsidiary—has developed an ingenious, integrated approach for handling much of that ethane (and dealing with any disruptions), but its ethane-management system is not a regional cure-all, and the likely development of an ethylene plant in the heart of the Marcellus/Utica would only increase the region’s ethane-handling needs. Today, we continue our examination of natural gas liquids (NGL) storage needs in the Northeast with a look at how nearby ethane storage might help midstream companies that are not integral parts of MarkWest’s “ethane loop.”
“Condensates are long and you can’t give them away … No, things have changed – condensate supply is tight and prices are running up relative to WTI … But wait wait, the oversupply is back and prices are down again.” No wonder the market’s love for condensates has faded. It’s a liquid hydrocarbon that is being buffeted by every force the market can bring to bear: declining production, lots of new committed infrastructure (stabilizers, pipelines, and splitters), wide-open export markets, volatile crack spread splitter economics -- the list goes on. Adding to this whirlwind is the fact that historically there has been limited analytical data to work with, with most condensate information buried deep inside crude production numbers from producer investor presentations and less-than-revealing Energy Information Administration (EIA) crude oil reports. But we have some new tools to help understand what’s going on, including the EIA’s new 914 crude quality data and condensate export numbers from ClipperData. Today, we continue our exploration of rapidly evolving condensate markets.
The reversal of Shell’s Zydeco Pipeline (formerly Ho-Ho) in 2013 was a big deal. It enabled eastbound flows of a wide range of crude streams from the Houston area to the storage and distribution hub at St. James, LA and from there to a dozen nearby refineries. Soon, though, Zydeco (named for the region’s Creole music) was running full and shippers were competing for space, spurring midstream companies to consider further enhancements. New pipeline capacity being developed is planned to come online later this year and in 2017, but—with ever-changing market dynamics—will it all be necessary? In today’s blog, “Take the Long Way Home—Easing Crude Pipeline Constraints to St. James,” Housley Carr begins a series on new pipeline capacity to St. James, and whether it will meet (or exceed) market needs.
With storage inventories soaring to record-high levels and production remaining relatively flat, the U.S. natural gas market is in dire need of record demand this summer to balance storage. All eyes are on power generation to soak up the gas storage surplus. Low gas prices and increased gas-fired generating capacity makes natural gas the go-to generation fuel this year. However, in the largest summer demand market – Texas – natural gas is facing increasing competition from wind. Wind power still provides a much smaller share of Texas’s power than natural gas, but the addition of several big wind farms in 2015 gives wind a stronger footing in the Texas market this year. Today we take a closer look at the potential impact of growing wind generating capacity on natural gas demand, particularly in Texas.
When the Rockies Express (REX) Pipeline was being planned and built a few years ago, no one could have predicted that the natural gas-hungry Northeast REX was developed to serve would soon become a gas-production behemoth able to meet its own needs and have plenty of gas left over. But that’s just what happened, and in response, REX’s owners developed a revised strategy that deals with the reality of Marcellus/Utica production growth by making more and more of REX bi-directional. Now, Tallgrass Energy Partners (TEP), a master limited partnership (MLP), has acquired a 25% interest in REX from Sempra, joining existing co-owners Tallgrass Development (an affiliate with a 50% stake in REX) and Phillips 66 (with a 25% stake), and has laid out a long-term vision for maintaining—and even increasing—REX’s relevance in a still-changing energy world. Today, we consider TEP’s $1.08 billion investment in REX, and the steps that the pipeline’s co-owners are taking to bolster REX’s future.
Northeast natural gas production has been averaging nearly 3.0 Bcf/d higher this year than last year, while demand has lagged behind due to mild weather. At the same time, storage inventories are running well above normal and there is little new takeaway capacity due online this summer. This means the Northeast is under pressure to balance excess supply in the region. In today’s blog, we wrap up our analysis of the Northeast supply/demand balance with a closer look at recent demand trends.
Production in Alberta’s oil sands region is gradually rebounding after devastating wildfires that forced output scale-backs and temporary shutdowns of some production facilities, terminals and pipelines. It may be a while before life—and production—in the oil sands are back to normal, but Canada’s National Energy Board, producers and others expect the region’s output to continue to rise (if only gradually) the next few years, reflecting long-term oil sands expansion projects committed to when oil prices were more than double what they are today. There are very different views, though, about whether the oil sands will eventually need more takeaway capacity in the form of new or expanded pipelines. Today, we continue our look at the oil sands post-wildfires with a review of existing and proposed pipeline capacity.
Wildfires are notoriously unpredictable and, sure enough, as soon as the worst seemed to be over in the Fort McMurray, AB area, new flare-ups in mid-May threatened oil sands production areas north of the city. Thanks to heroic efforts by Alberta fire crews, no production area has experienced any significant damage (so far at least—fingers crossed), but a few work camps have been destroyed or damaged, and will need to be rebuilt. Good news is trickling in though, such as Imperial Oil’s May 19 announcement that it has restarted limited operations at its Kearl oil sands site. If, as everyone hopes, the wildfires are brought under control within the next few days, it seems likely that oil sands production will ramp up gradually over the next few weeks, and that by mid-summer Alberta’s output might be close to the 3.1 MMb/d that the province was producing before the fires were sparked.
Drill-rig counts and crude oil production are down sharply in the Eaglebine, one of many less-than-stellar shale plays that drillers and producers have mostly abandoned in favor of superstar counties in the Permian Basin, the southern Eagle Ford and the STACK play in Oklahoma. It’s understandable; in today’s low-oil-price/high-stress environment, everyone’s chasing the sky-high initial production (IP) rates that provide the biggest, quickest returns and help pay the bills. Still, as we will discuss today, there are at least a few glimmers of hope in the Eaglebine, including a possible pipeline restart and a new pipeline tie-in that will reduce crude-delivery costs. Now all we need is $60+/bbl oil.