Daily Energy Blog

Thursday, 01/12/2023
Category:
Refined Fuels

Senior refining executives were called to Washington, DC, in June, around the time U.S. gas prices hit their high-water mark for the year, as the government sought recommendations about how to increase the supply of gasoline. One suggestion made to Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm was to relax sulfur specifications on fuels, including the Tier 3 gasoline sulfur specifications. But what is the connection between those rules and the U.S. refining system’s ability to produce gasoline? In today’s RBN blog, we explain how the Tier 3 rules constrain gasoline supply capacity in the U.S. and discuss ways to break free from those chains.

Wednesday, 01/11/2023
Category:
Crude Oil

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that we believe the Permian Basin is set for another year of crude oil and natural gas production growth. Everyone’s come to expect that from the Permian. What is new, though, is that the vast production area in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico has taken on some serious global significance over the past year — especially as an increasingly important energy supplier to Europe. That emerging role is likely not only to support continued production growth in the Permian but also to shape how the basin’s infrastructure is built out through the rest of the 2020s. And we also know that infrastructure development is critical to the Permian’s ongoing success — in 2023, new gas pipeline takeaway capacity is needed pronto and it may not be long before new oil-pipeline capacity from the Permian to Corpus Christi is required too. In today's RBN blog, we provide this year’s outlook for Permian natural gas and oil markets.

Tuesday, 01/10/2023
Category:
Refined Fuels

Since 2019, more than 1.3 MMb/d of U.S. refinery capacity has been either shut down for economic reasons or converted to renewable diesel production. The decline in the nation’s ability to produce gasoline and diesel hampered the refining sector’s response to the post-COVID demand recovery and exacerbated the big run-up in motor fuel prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February. Now, there may be a new threat to U.S. refining, namely the possibility that a proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule on hydrofluoric-acid-based alkylation could, over time, spur an even larger round of refinery closures. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at alkylate — a critically important part of the U.S. gasoline pool — the prospective regulation and its possible effects.

Monday, 01/09/2023
Category:
Natural Gas Liquids

Since the advent of the Shale Revolution way back in 2008, U.S. production of natural gas liquids from gas processing has grown pretty much non-stop, from an annual average of 1.8 MMb/d 15 years ago to 5.9 MMb/d in 2022 — a 9% compound annual growth rate. Today, NGL production exceeds 6.1 MMb/d and that number might be even higher if the glut of supply wasn’t depressing prices and discouraging the recovery of a lot of ethane. All that production has major implications for domestic pricing, upstream economics, midstream infrastructure, and downstream consumers like petrochemicals, not to mention international markets, which now receive roughly 40% of U.S. output. In today’s RBN blog, we examine what’s causing NGL production to continually increase.

Sunday, 01/08/2023
Category:
Natural Gas

Tallgrass Energy last month snagged an early Christmas present: It won a bid for Ruby Pipeline, the beleaguered Rockies-to-West Coast natural gas system that has long been underutilized and cash-poor. In doing so, it beat out one of the largest midstream companies in North America and a long-time co-owner of Ruby — Kinder Morgan. Ruby may be a languishing asset, but for Tallgrass it’s more like a crown jewel in its quest to be the only transcontinental header system in the country that would connect trapped Appalachian gas supply with premium West Coast markets. Tallgrass’s Rockies Express (REX) pipeline is already moving Marcellus/Utica molecules west to the Rockies — the opposite direction than it was originally built for in the pre-Shale Era. The Ruby acquisition, which has yet to close, would allow Tallgrass to extend its reach farther west, directly into the premium West Coast markets. The Ruby deal comes at a time when California’s aggressive decarbonization goals are leading to gas shortages and exorbitant fuel premiums out west, and there’s an immediate need to debottleneck routes to get gas there. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a series delving into how Ruby fits into the Western U.S. gas market and what the acquisition would mean for Tallgrass.

Thursday, 01/05/2023
Category:
Financial

While soaring commodity prices have been the most important driver of record E&P cash flow generation over the past 12 months, shareholders have also benefited from a new, post-pandemic financial discipline that has lowered the industry’s reinvestment rate to an all-time low of 35%. However, the 2022 capital expenditures initially planned by the 42 U.S. producers we track were expected to rise a healthy 24% over 2021 levels and their spending plans for the just-finished year continued to increase as 2022 wore on. While only a handful of E&Ps have released their actual 2023 budgets, their most recent conference call comments suggest that the investment momentum will keep building in the new year. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze producers’ 2022 capital investment and the key indicators for 2023 growth.

Wednesday, 01/04/2023
Category:
Crude Oil

Over the past few years — and with a big boost from Permian production growth — the South Texas coast has transformed itself into a top-tier hub for hydrocarbons. Crude oil exports stand out, of course, with marine terminals in Corpus Christi/Ingleside accounting for 60% of U.S. export volumes in 2022. But Corpus also is home to the nation’s second-largest LNG export terminal (which is now being expanded), as well as a half-dozen refineries, and the broader region has the Agua Dulce natural gas hub, nine NGL fractionation plants, and four massive, NGL-consuming ethylene plants, including ExxonMobil/SABIC’s giant new steam cracker in San Patricio County. All of these assets are interconnected by a maze of crude oil, natural gas, NGL, “purity product,” and ethylene pipelines. And the region is well-positioned for additional growth as crude, gas, and NGL production in Texas continues to increase. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss our latest product: a digital, interactive map that helps makes sense of a spaghetti bowl of pipelines, plants and related assets in South Texas.

Tuesday, 01/03/2023
Category:
Natural Gas

In a part of the world where enduring a cold winter is often seen as a badge of honor, the latest cold blast that descended on Canada just before Christmas — and during Christmas in the U.S. — was another one for the natural gas record books. By almost every measure, the recent frigid temperatures, though not long-lasting, set new Canadian records for daily demand, storage withdrawals, and net exports to the U.S., and went well beyond the records set during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021. In today’s RBN blog, we delve into the latest record-busting Canadian gas data.

Monday, 01/02/2023
Category:
Crude Oil

Worried about 2023? Well, you’ve got good reason to be. This year energy markets are at the mercy of a hot war in Europe, the threat of a global recession, looming China/Taiwan hostilities, the impending onslaught of new energy transition programs from recent legislation, and all sorts of other random black swans paddling around out there. With so much uncertainty ahead, predictions this year would be just crazy talk, right? Nah. No mere market murkiness will dissuade RBN from sticking our collective necks out to peer into our crystal ball one more time. Let’s hope it’s no bad bunny.

Sunday, 01/01/2023
Category:
Refined Fuels

As we bid adieu to 2022, it’s once again time for the Top 10 RBN Energy Prognostications, our long-standing tradition where we look into our crystal ball to see what the upcoming year has in store for energy markets. And unlike many forecasters, we also look into the rearview mirror to see how we did with last year’s predictions. Ouch. No, we did not predict a lingering, hot war in Europe in 2022, and that had a variety of ramifications for our scorecard this time around. Even so, we actually feel pretty good about those market calls. Most turned out to be spot-on, and for the others, well, it’s informative just to see what we thought was going to happen in 2022, pre-Ukraine. Then tomorrow we’ll take on the challenge of predicting the energy markets of 2023. But today it’s time to look back. Back to what we posted on January 2, 2022.

Thursday, 12/29/2022
Category:
Refined Fuels

Well, you might say energy markets got smacked upside the head in 2022. After a decade of energy abundance, a meltdown in demand in 2020, and what looked like a budding recovery in 2021, energy security had devolved into a back-burner issue. After all, why worry about existing fuel sources when they would soon be replaced by waves of renewable and sustainable fuels? Then, literally overnight, the world changed on February 24, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Prior assumptions about energy security were out the window. Suddenly, the availability, source of production and, of course, the price of traditional energy were front-and-center. In fact, those priorities swiftly overshadowed energy-transition goals. We could see that shift in focus every day at RBN by monitoring the website hit rate of our blogs to see which ones garnered the most interest. This year, all of the top blogs were in some way tied to energy security. So today we dive into our Top 10 blogs based on the number of rbnenergy.com website hits to see how energy security has permeated all aspects of energy markets.

Wednesday, 12/28/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

The Biden administration’s first foray into reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, released in November 2021, promised to reduce emissions from hundreds of thousands of existing sites, expand and strengthen emission-reduction requirements, and encourage the use of new technologies. It was clear about one other thing too, namely that more was already in the works. And sure enough, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently followed up with a proposal that significantly broadens the initial plan. In today’s RBN blog we look at that supplemental proposal, its targeting of so-called “super-emitters,” and why third-party groups will play a bigger role in mitigating methane emissions in the years ahead.

Tuesday, 12/27/2022
Category:
Financial

One of life’s vicarious pleasures is indulging in some daydreaming about what we’d do with a substantial financial windfall, maybe from a lottery win, a bequest from a long-lost relative, or a five-horse parlay. Thanks to a dramatic surge in post-pandemic commodity prices, U.S. E&Ps are living out that dream as 2022 cash flow from operating activities (CFOA) is on track to quadruple from 2020 lows and more than double from pre-pandemic levels. In allocating those funds, producers face the same kinds of decisions we would all face: ramping up current spending, whittling away at debt, tucking cash away for a rainy day, or distributing funds to family and friends. Possibly influenced by the upcoming holiday season, oil and gas producers turned extremely generous in the third quarter as shareholder returns reached record levels. In today’s RBN blog, we detail the cash-flow allocations made by the 42 publicly owned E&Ps we follow and speculate on future trends.

Monday, 12/26/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

This year there’s been unprecedented forward momentum for LNG development. Since 2022 began, two U.S. projects have reached a final investment decision (FID), with a third expected to reach that milestone in early 2023. Offtakers have committed to 38 metric tons per annum (MMtpa), or 4.9 Bcf/d, of long-term LNG contracts from these and other proposed terminals this year and there’s another handful of U.S. projects with a realistic shot at FID in the next year or so, not to mention others in Mexico and Canada. Progress on the LNG front has been dominated by three companies: Cheniere, Sempra and Venture Global. While there are other projects inching closer to FID, those from the proven LNG developers — our “three kings” — have leapfrogged to the front of the line. In today’s RBN blog, we look at what those three have under development and what it means for everyone else trying to build LNG export capacity.

Sunday, 12/25/2022
Category:
Renewables

If clean hydrogen is not a significant contributor to the U.S. energy mix by the 2030s, it won’t be because Congress and the Biden administration didn’t try. First, last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided the Department of Energy (DOE) with up to $8 billion to support the development of several regional hydrogen hubs, plus another $1 billion to back efforts to halve the cost of producing hydrogen via renewables-powered electrolysis. Then, this year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided tax credits for investing in new production facilities and producing clean hydrogen — incentives generous enough to spur announcements for at least an initial round of multibillion-dollar projects. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report on the variety of hydrogen-hub proposals the feds will be reviewing.