The options for moving Western Canada’s natural gas supply out of the region are limited. This situation has become more acute in the past few years with the upswing in associated gas production from specific areas within the sprawling region, meaning that not all the takeaway pipelines are created equal in terms of being able to move this incremental gas supply to downstream markets. One pipeline system — TC Energy’s mammoth Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) network — is ideally located to help out, given that big parts of it run through the fastest-growing production areas. But it’s been running full and is increasingly constrained. Will the planned expansions to the NGTL system be enough? Today, we continue our series on the Western Canadian natural gas market with a look at TC Energy’s NGTL network, the largest and most geographically advantaged of the pipeline systems in the region.
2019 was supposed to be a milestone year for U.S. LNG exports. And to a degree, it has been. Natural gas pipeline deliveries to liquefaction and export terminals have peaked above 6.5 Bcf/d in the past couple of weeks and averaged about 6 Bcf/d for that period, up nearly 2 Bcf/d from where they started this year and more than twice where they stood at this time a year ago. But the growth has come haltingly as under-construction projects have faced a number of setbacks and delays. Moreover, the longer-term, “second-wave” export projects still in the early stages of development and looking to pass “go” are facing challenges of their own, including global oversupply and collapsed margins. Today, we begin a short series providing an update on where U.S. LNG export demand and new projects stand.
The “wet,” liquids-rich parts of the Marcellus/Utica region enable producers there to benefit from the sale of both natural gas and NGLs. The catch is that, unlike major production areas in other parts of the U.S., the Northeast has no pipelines to transport unfractionated, mixed NGLs — also known as y-grade — long distances to fractionation centers in Mont Belvieu, TX, or Conway, KS. As a result, midstream companies serving the region have developed a number of interconnected gas processing, NGL pipeline and fractionation networks within the wet Marcellus/Utica to efficiently and reliably deal with the increasing flows of NGLs coming their way. No one has done this on a larger or more impressive scale than MPLX, Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s midstream-focused master limited partnership. Today, we continue our series on recently completed and planned gas processing and fractionation projects in the Northeast with a look at MPLX, the regional leader in this space.
Canadian natural gas production — over 95% of which originates in Alberta and British Columbia — has averaged about 16 Bcf/d in 2018 and 2019 year-to-date, and this past January, it topped 16.7 Bcf/d, just shy of the peaks last seen in the mid-2000s. Production has stayed strong even as prices at AECO, the gas benchmark hub, have plummeted to historical lows in the face of relentless competition from U.S. gas supplies, slower demand growth locally, and pipeline takeaway constraints. Under these conditions, producers’ future growth prospects will come down to access to local and export demand, and that means there needs to be adequate pipeline capacity to reach those destination markets. Today, we continue our analysis of existing and potential pipeline takeaway capacity and utilization out of the region, this time with a focus on the Alliance Pipeline system.
The rise in unconventional natural gas supplies in Western Canada has forced the region to again confront a dilemma that it faced in the 1990s and early 2000s: not enough export pipeline capacity to move all that gas to market. Although demand for natural gas has been growing in Alberta’s oil sands and power generation markets, it has not kept pace with provincial gas supply growth, leading to oversupply conditions and historically low gas prices. The need to export more of the gas to other parts of Canada and the U.S. is driving some pipeline expansions in the region. The question is, will they be enough? Today, we provide an update on the utilization of existing export routes, as well as the prospects (or lack thereof) for takeaway expansions, starting with Westcoast Energy Pipeline.
Natural gas production in the U.S. Northeast has been increasing steadily through the 2010s and now averages about 32 Bcf/d — 12% higher than last August and nearly double where it stood five years ago — despite the lowest regional spot gas prices since early 2016. This run-up in production volumes wouldn’t have been possible without the new gas-processing and fractionation capacity that MPLX and other midstream companies have been bringing online at a steady pace in the “wet” or NGLs-rich parts of the Marcellus and Utica shales. Today, we begin a short blog series on recently completed and planned gas-processing and fractionation projects in the nation’s largest gas-producing region, and the gas production growth they will help enable.
TC Energy’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf natural gas transmission systems’ recent expansions out of the Northeast — the Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress projects, both completed in March — are responsible for a large portion of the uptick in Marcellus/Utica production in the last few months and they’ve added an incremental 860 MMcf/d of capacity for Appalachian gas supplies moving south to the Gulf Coast. The two projects join a number of other expansions in recent years that have inextricably tied Marcellus/Utica supply markets to attractive demand markets along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Where is that latest surge of southbound supply ending up? Today, we look at the downstream impacts of the completed projects, namely on Louisiana gas flows and LNG feedgas deliveries.
U.S. Northeast natural gas producers in recent months got a substantial boost in pipeline capacity to receive and move incremental gas production volumes to attractive Gulf Coast markets. TC Energy’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf transmission systems in March completed the Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress pipeline expansions, respectively, increasing the combined system’s Marcellus/Utica receipt capacity by 2.7 Bcf/d in the producing region, while also bumping up the Marcellus/Utica’s takeaway capacity to the Gulf Coast by nearly 900 MMcf/d. The duo of expansions is among the biggest takeaway capacity additions to be completed out of the Northeast, volume-wise, and among the handful that inextricably connect Marcellus/Utica supply markets to well-sought-after LNG exports markets along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. One of the export terminals these projects are designed to serve is Sempra’s Cameron LNG, where Train 1 began commercial operations in recent weeks. Today, we provide an update on the upstream and downstream implications of the recently installed Northeast-to-Gulf Coast pipeline capacity.
Growing natural gas supplies in Western Canada have been pressuring gas prices and export pipelines in the region, but there are signs that at least some of that supply-growth pressure is being offset by rising gas demand. Though the region is pegged as primarily a winter gas market — where local demand only rises when the temperature falls into the winter extremes — non-weather-related demand for natural gas has been growing in Western Canada and looks to have further upside in the years ahead. Today, we delve into Alberta and British Columbia’s gas demand trends and their potential to help balance the region’s oversupply conditions.
The battle between Bakken and Western Canadian natural gas supplies for the Chicago market seems to be advancing toward a final showdown of sorts. Associated gas production from the crude-focused Bakken has been rising sharply, but capacity on the Bakken’s two gas takeaway pipelines — Northern Border and Alliance, also utilized by Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) supplies — has been maxed out for a few years now. The result is that Bakken gas is increasingly encroaching on — and pushing back — imports from the WCSB. Bakken gas flows already overtook Canadian gas receipts on Northern Border a year ago. Since then, the gas-on-gas competition and the resulting pipeline constraints have escalated, and things are likely to get worse. Today, we break down the forces at play in the competition for market access.
After sustaining a record pace since March, natural gas storage injections have been slowing dramatically and are projected to fall below the 5-year-average rate over the next few weeks. While weather has factored heavily into the swing in storage activity, increased baseload demand for gas in the power sector has amplified the effects of weather anomalies and electricity demand seasonality on overall gas demand. As a result, gas demand volumes have diverged from historical levels on a temperature-adjusted basis. Today, we examine the changing historical relationships of power burn and storage injections to weather and electricity demand.
Once consigned to a flat or declining profile, natural gas production in Western Canada has been increasing steadily since 2012, to the extent that it has now begun to stretch the ability of the existing pipeline network to the breaking point. Most striking is that this expansion in production has been taking place in an era of declining natural gas prices and weakening basis for Western Canada’s primary natural price marker, AECO, and rising and relentless competition from U.S. gas supplies in several of Canada’s key domestic and export markets. If the pricing, pipe egress and export situation has become so dire, why are producers still drilling for and pumping out even more natural gas? Today, we address this question in the second part of our series investigating Western Canada’s natural gas supply and demand balance.
Natural gas storage activity this spring suggested extremely bearish fundamentals. The market injected gas into storage at a record pace, well above year-ago and 5-year-average levels. The high injection rate was in part a result of demand loss as weather abruptly moderated in April and May. However, a look at injections on a weather-adjusted basis suggests there’s another dynamic at play — namely, that increased baseload demand for gas in the power sector amplified the effects of the mild weather this spring, lowering demand even more than temperatures alone would indicate. Moreover, that same dynamic could have an opposite, equally extreme effect during the hotter months when power generation is the primary driver of gas demand. Today, we look at the latest gas storage and demand trends, and what they can tell us about the balance of injection season.
Persistent natural gas takeaway constraints out of the associated gas-rich Permian have pushed Waha Hub prices to between $1 and $9/MMBtu below the Henry Hub benchmark for most of 2019. Concerns about gas flaring have flared. Tanker trucks transporting diesel fuel to drilling and completion operations in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico are clogging the region’s roads. And diesel’s not cheap, especially if you’re using thousands of gallons of it a day. With Permian wells producing far more natural gas than takeaway pipelines can handle, and with gas essentially free for the taking, is this the year when electric fracs — hydraulic fracturing powered by very locally sourced gas — gain a foothold in the U.S.’s hottest shale play? Today, we look at the economic and other forces at play in the e-frac debate.
A raft of natural gas pipeline projects completed in the past couple of years has — for the first time — left room to spare on most takeaway routes out of the Northeast and provided Marcellus/Utica producers a reprieve from the all-too-familiar dynamic of capacity constraints and heavily discounted supply prices, even as regional production continues achieving new record highs. There’s on average close to 4 Bcf/d of unused exit capacity currently available — more in the winter when higher in-region demand means more of the production is consumed locally and less than that (but still more than in past years) in the spring, summer and fall seasons, when greater outbound flows are needed to help offset the relatively lower Northeast demand. But we’re expecting Northeast production to grow by another 8 Bcf/d or so over the next five years. And the list of projects designed to add more exit capacity has dwindled to just a few troubled ones that, even if built, wouldn’t be enough to absorb that much incremental supply. When can we expect constraints to re-emerge? Today, we conclude this series with a look at RBN’s natural gas production forecast for the Marcellus/Utica and how that correlates to the region’s pipeline takeaway capacity over the next five years.