Tallgrass Energy’s Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) has been through a lot in its 10-plus years of operation. Since its first eastbound-only segments started moving natural gas out of the Rockies in 2008, flows on the pipeline have evolved due to market events, primarily the onset of the Shale Revolution, which has resulted in a surge of gas supplies in the Eastern U.S. and increasing gas-on-gas competition across North America. Rising to the challenge, REX has undergone a number of transformations to adapt to the shifting gas flow patterns and price relationships, including reversing flows on the eastern zone of the pipe to move gas west from Ohio. In 2019, REX was again put to the test, this time on the western end of the pipe, where the bulk of its legacy long-term contracts for eastbound flows out of the Rockies expired, with the last of them rolling off on November 11, 2019. Some of that has since been recontracted, and the in-service of the REX Cheyenne Hub Enhancement and Cheyenne Connector projects could further shore up REX mainline flows. Today, we begin a short series providing an update on REX’s eastbound gas flows and contract changes.
This year looks like it could be a better one for many Canadian natural gas producers. Like their brethren in the U.S., they have been forced in recent years to increasingly spend within — and even less than — cash flow as other sources of financing have dried up and investors have prioritized better returns over production volume growth. With Canadian gas producers having also faced some of the worst natural gas pricing conditions on record in 2019, far worse than those in the U.S., it is no wonder that Canadian natural gas supplies pulled back in 2019, marking the first down year for overall gas supplies since 2012. Despite what is likely still to be a cash flow and spending constrained environment in 2020, there is the potential for real upside for Western Canadian natural gas supplies this year, especially for the supply that flows into TC Energy’s Nova pipeline system. Today, we consider what may be setting the stage for gas supply gains on the Nova system in 2020 after a somewhat dismal 2019.
Southern California is poised to have greater natural gas supply flexibility this winter, buoyed by improved access to local storage and the completion of repairs on an important inbound pipeline. Ongoing pipeline outages and maintenance had limited flows over the past few years, creating supply constraints that were then compounded by restricted access to the Aliso Canyon storage field. This led to major volatility in gas prices, which spiked as high as $39/MMBtu in July 2018. Recent repairs and regulatory changes aim to alleviate the situation and limit the likelihood of dramatic pricing moves during the 2019-20 winter season. Today, we provide an overview of recent developments in the SoCal gas market.
After showing relative strength through most of the fall, prices at the UK’s National Balancing Point (NBP) natural gas benchmark collapsed by more than $1/MMBtu in December and have kept falling, and Asia’s Japan-Korea Marker (JKM) index followed suit to some degree. Nevertheless, U.S. LNG export cargoes were at record highs in December as additional liquefaction and export capacity came online last month, including the first LNG export cargoes from the Elba Liquefaction project as well as Freeport LNG’s Train 2. Moreover, U.S. shipments are expected to climb further in the New Year as still more liquefaction trains are completed. While the global price spreads haven’t deterred U.S. exports, they, along with shipping costs, do influence export economics and cargo destinations. Today, we wrap up this series with a look at how LNG export costs interact with global price spreads and impact cargo destinations.
Crude oil prices and, just as important, the availability of pipeline takeaway capacity, have supported continued production growth in the Bakken. Good news, right? Except, that’s led to sharply increased output of associated gas in a region that for years has been playing catch-up on the gas processing capacity front. As a result, gas-flaring volumes have soared this year, putting pressure on crude-focused producers to slow down their drilling-and-completion activity. Things are finally getting better, though — 670 MMcf/d of processing capacity has come online in western North Dakota since late July, and another 200 MMcf/d will start up next month. That gives Bakken producers some room to grow but also poses a problem for Western Canadian producers, namely that more pipeline gas out of the Bakken means less room for Alberta and British Columbia gas on pipes to the Midwest. Today, we begin a short blog series on incremental Bakken gas processing capacity and its impacts on producers — and natural gas prices — up in Canada.
After more than a year of reduced natural gas flows, inspections and integrity checks, Enbridge's Westcoast Energy/BC Pipeline system in British Columbia returned its T-South segment to normal operating pressure, effective December 1, ending 13 months of restricted exports of Western Canadian gas supplies to the U.S. Pacific Northwest gas market. The outage and the resulting reduction in export flows out of Western Canada had prolonged effects on local and downstream gas flows and prices, including a run-up in prices at the Sumas, WA, border crossing point to an all-time U.S. record high of $200/MMBtu last winter. Today, we provide an update on Westcoast flows and their downstream impacts.
U.S. LNG cargoes’ ability to reach different destinations has become increasingly important for the global market as more liquefaction trains continue to come online, oversupply conditions worsen, and international price spreads have shrunk. Earlier this week, Freeport LNG’s first train began commercial service, marking the sixth U.S. liquefaction and export facility to start commercial operations. About 30% of U.S. long-term contracts for currently operating or commissioning liquefaction trains are held by global portfolio players — i.e., offtakers with large international portfolios and the ability to shift cargoes around the world as prices move. And destination flexibility doesn’t end there, as the other types of offtakers also have shown an increased willingness to divert or even re-sell cargoes in the spot market to better take advantage of shifting price spreads. Today, we continue a series on U.S. LNG export trends, this time focusing on how global prices impact cargo destinations.
New U.S. liquefaction trains and LNG export terminals are entering an increasingly oversupplied global market in which international LNG prices are well below where they stood a year and a half ago and price spreads from the U.S. have collapsed. That hasn’t deterred U.S. LNG exports from increasing with each new liquefaction train and capacity contract that goes into effect, as long-term offtake contracts, which anchor more than 90% of the U.S. liquefaction capacity, have made cargo liftings relatively insensitive to global prices. However, the destinations for U.S.-sourced LNG have been in flux based on the types of offtakers holding capacity on newly commercialized trains as well as shifting global prices. Today, we continue a series on cargoes and destinations, this time focusing on how contracts impact cargo destinations.
The once unthinkable level of 100 Bcf/d for U.S. natural gas production is just around the corner, it would seem. Lower-48 gas production last week hit a new high of 96.4 Bcf/d, after surpassing 95 Bcf/d not too long ago (in late October). That’s remarkable considering that production was only 52 Bcf/d just 12 years ago. Gas demand from domestic consumption and exports this year has set plenty of records of its own, but the incremental demand has not been nearly enough to keep the storage inventory from building a significant surplus compared with last year. CME/NYMEX Henry Hub prompt gas futures prices tumbled nearly 40 cents last week to $2.28/MMBtu, the lowest November-traded settle since 2015. Today, we break down the supply-demand fundamentals behind this year’s bearish storage and price reality.
U.S. LNG export capacity has increased 40% in the last seven months, from 4.3 Bcf/d in April to about 6 Bcf/d now, and feedgas demand at the terminals already exceeds that, with more than 7 Bcf/d flowing to the facilities in recent weeks. With each new liquefaction train coming online, feedgas deliveries to export terminals have steadily climbed, and, for the most part, have sustained at rates that suggest consistently high utilization of the facilities’ capacity, particularly once they begin commercial operations and regardless of international market dynamics. And, that demand is expected to increase further as more liquefaction capacity comes online in 2020 and beyond. The emergence of this seemingly inelastic demand with a baseload-like pull on domestic gas supplies marks an underlying shift in the U.S. gas market that, along with the rising baseload demand from power generation, will make national benchmark Henry Hub prices more prone to spikes. Today, we explain how ever-increasing LNG exports will reshape the U.S. demand profile and, in turn, Henry price trends.
U.S. natural gas prices are increasingly susceptible to periodic spikes and volatility as baseload demand for gas — or the minimum level of demand that must be met on a daily basis — specifically from power generators and liquefaction plants, has rapidly climbed in recent years, and is still rising. The power sector has upped the ante on its gas consumption, with gas replacing coal as the most cost-effective go-to fuel for meeting baseload electricity demand. On top of that, feedgas deliveries to LNG export terminals have added 7 Bcf/d of demand to the gas market in the past three years, much of which is flowing at high, baseload-like rates, and that demand is set to increase further as more liquefaction projects are completed. These two market components together — LNG exports and gas-fired power generation — will take a bigger slice of domestic gas supplies, making the gas market ever more sensitive to weather, maintenance and other factors that disrupt that baseload level of demand or the supplies that serve it. We’ve already begun to see the effects of this phenomenon on Henry Hub and other regional gas prices. Today, we delve into this fundamental shift and what it could mean for the gas market.
Limited natural gas export options and persistently weak gas prices are not new phenomena in Western Canada. But market conditions in the past couple of years have become particularly untenable. Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) gas supply has ratcheted higher and shows signs of further growth, even as its share of export markets has been shrinking with the rise of U.S. shale gas. In-region oversupply conditions have worsened, creating transportation constraints further and further upstream in the WCSB, and prices at the regional benchmark AECO hub have seen historical lows as a result. To deal with this, and perhaps provide a long-term solution to weak natural gas prices, pipeline egress will have to expand again after a decade of decline and stagnation. New takeaway capacity is now starting to be developed. The question is, will it be enough? Today, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report, which assesses the expanding gas pipeline options out of Western Canada, including when, where and how much takeaway capacity will be developed.
After a months-long regulatory delay, two Tallgrass Energy-led natural gas projects have progressed in the past month that will expand takeaway options out of the growing Denver-Julesburg (D-J) production area. Tallgrass in early October began construction on the Cheyenne Connector pipeline and the Rockies Express Pipeline’s Cheyenne Hub Enhancement — aimed at expanding outbound capacity and destination optionality for growing natural gas supplies from the Denver-Julesburg play in the Niobrara Shale, as well as providing a new outlet for Powder River Basin gas. The projects also have secured additional capacity commitments in recent weeks. And in its earnings call last week, Tallgrass said that DCP Midstream, which was already a shipper on Cheyenne Connector, has exercised its option to purchase 50% interest in the project. The influx of gas supply at Cheyenne Hub resulting from these projects will boost eastbound flows on Rockies Express (REX), which is in the midst of recontracting its capacity as existing long-term contracts roll off today. Next, we provide an update on the company’s plans to increase takeaway capacity out of the D-J basin and PRB.
A number of proposed liquefaction plants and LNG export terminals along the U.S. Gulf Coast are racing to secure regulatory approvals and line up sales and purchase agreements, all in the hope of reaching final investment decisions before their rivals. Yet, these Texas and Louisiana projects now face competition from a facility that would be sited more than 3,000 miles away, in the icy waters just off the North Slope of Alaska. Qilak LNG would use a “near-shore” liquefaction plant in the Beaufort Sea off Point Thomson, AK, to supercool the region’s nearby, abundant and now largely stranded supplies of natural gas, load the resulting LNG onto ice-breaking carriers, and use these carriers to make shuttle runs to and from LNG customers in Asia. Today, we review the Qilak LNG project and the economic and logistic rationales driving it.
New U.S. liquefaction trains and export terminals coming online are entering an increasingly oversupplied, lower-priced global market. Even so, domestic LNG exports have continued to climb with each new train that is commissioned and commercialized. Feedgas deliveries to the terminals hit an all-time high well above 7 Bcf/d this past week and have stayed up there the past several days. That’s because more than 90% of the operating or commissioning liquefaction capacity is underpinned by long-term Sales and Purchase Agreements (SPAs) that keep cargoes flowing. Planned facilities still under construction are contracted at a similar level, and we expect that to keep U.S. LNG exports on a growth trajectory that’s in line with the commissioning and construction schedules of new plants, to a large extent regardless of international price trends. Today, we continue a series on U.S. LNG export cargoes and destinations, this time with a focus on the existing capacity contracts for operational and commissioning terminals.