Daily Energy Post Blog Articles

Sunday, 09/13/2020

The economics for U.S. LNG entered new territory this year, as price spreads to international destinations, particularly from the Gulf Coast export terminals, went from an average $4-8/MMBtu a couple of years ago to $1/MMBtu or less in 2020 to date. The tighter spreads reduced netbacks for U.S. offtakers and led to mass cargo cancellations this summer. Moreover, current futures curves show Henry Hub price spreads to Europe and Asia staying mostly in the $1-$3/MMBtu range over the next few years, suggesting that the arbitrage for U.S. LNG exports, particularly from the Gulf Coast terminals, likely will remain tighter and make commercial decisions to lift or cancel U.S. cargoes much more nuanced than they ever were before. Today, we delve into the primary cost components that factor into offtakers’ netbacks.

Sunday, 09/06/2020

Not long ago, the economics for U.S. LNG exports were practically a no-brainer. Despite the longer voyage times and the resulting higher shipping costs from Gulf Coast and East Coast ports to Europe and Asia — by far the biggest LNG consuming regions — LNG priced at the U.S.’s Henry Hub gas benchmark presented a competitive alternative to other global LNG supply, much of which is indexed to oil prices, which were higher then. But earlier this year, as oil prices collapsed, COVID-19 lockdowns decimated worldwide gas demand, and international gas prices plummeted, the decision to lift U.S. cargoes has become much more nuanced, and the commercial agreements to support the development of new liquefaction capacity are much harder — if not impossible — to come by. Today, we discuss highlights from RBN’s latest Drill Down Report on the impact of recent market events on U.S. export demand, capacity utilization, and new project development.

In observance of today’s holiday, we’ve given our writers a break and are revisiting a recently published blog on the U.S.’s shifting role in the global LNG market. If you didn’t read it then, this is your opportunity to see what you missed! Happy Labor Day!

Wednesday, 09/02/2020

The U.S. natural gas pipeline sector is entering a challenging period for recontracting a major chunk of its capacity. The numerous pipeline systems built during the early years of the Shale Era’s midstream boom were anchored by 10-year, firm shipper contracts, mostly with producers, making them so-called “supply-push” pipelines. Many of those initial contract periods have begun to roll off, exposing pipelines to producer-shippers’ renewal decisions based on current fundamentals. Shippers typically expect substantially lower rates for a renewal contract, because much of the pipeline has been paid off through depreciation. But there’s another issue that is becoming more important: shipper recontracting may not happen for market reasons. For pipeline owners, this is happening at the worst possible time. The market is in turmoil and facing ongoing uncertainty. Gas production is down, demand from LNG export facilities is in flux, and regional supply-demand dynamics are shifting. As if that weren’t enough, new, large-diameter pipelines out of the Permian now nearing completion will reshuffle gas flows around the country. And other transportation corridors that not long ago were bursting at the seams and feverishly expanding to ease constraints are now at risk of being underutilized. Today, we discuss the factors that together may present significant risk for pipelines approaching the proverbial recontracting “cliff.”

Wednesday, 08/26/2020

Just as U.S. LNG exports were beginning to recover from months of market-driven cargo cancellations, major Hurricane Laura has cut the rebound short. With Laura taking aim at the Texas-Louisiana border — the location of two large-scale LNG export terminals, including the U.S.’s largest export facility, Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass Liquefaction terminal — total feedgas flows to U.S. terminals the past two days dived to fresh lows for 2020 and the lowest since February 2019. Gas production is also way down, with offshore Gulf of Mexico production shut-ins compounding the effects of already depressed drilling and completion activity this year. But production has the potential to rebound more quickly than LNG exports, which could exacerbate the onshore demand effects of the storm; It already will bring cooler weather and drench gas demand for power generation as it moves inland over the Southeast and into the Mid-Atlantic states. Today, we look at how LNG exports are being affected by the storm and what that could mean for the overall gas market balance in the coming days.

Monday, 08/24/2020

Not long ago, the economics for U.S. LNG exports were practically a no-brainer. Despite the longer voyage times and the resulting higher shipping costs from Gulf Coast and East Coast ports to Europe and Asia — by far the biggest LNG consuming regions — LNG priced at the U.S.’s Henry Hub gas benchmark presented a competitive alternative to other global LNG supply, much of which is indexed to oil prices, which were higher then. But earlier this year, as oil prices collapsed, COVID-19 lockdowns decimated worldwide gas demand, and international gas prices plummeted, the decision to lift U.S. cargoes has become much more nuanced, and the commercial agreements to support the development of new liquefaction capacity are much harder — if not impossible — to come by. Today, we discuss highlights from RBN’s latest Drill Down Report on the impact of recent market events on U.S. export demand, capacity utilization, and new project development.

Wednesday, 08/19/2020

Bakken associated gas production volume, after falling to its lowest levels in three years in early May and remaining depressed through June, has surged by 500 MMcf/d, or about 45%, in the past month and a half to 1.7 Bcf/d. However, the gains have occurred in the absence of a meaningful change in rig counts or well completion activity, which remains sluggish. Similar to the Permian, the Bakken production recovery has been almost entirely driven by existing wells returning to service after being shut in earlier this year in response to the oil price collapse. With little in the way of new drilling and completion activity, how long will it be before natural declines of existing wells begin to take a toll on Bakken output? Today, we examine prospects for continued strength in Bakken gas production volumes.

Monday, 08/17/2020

The U.S. power sector’s shift to natural gas over the past few years has been a boon to gas producers across the Lower 48, especially in the Northeast. Scores of new gas-fired power plants have been built there during the Shale Era, and a number of coal-fired, oil-fired, and nuclear plants have been taken offline. New England is a case in point; gas-fired power now accounts for about half of the installed generating capacity in the six-state region (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine) — three times what it was 20 years ago. But New Englanders have a love-hate relationship with natural gas, and with renewables and energy storage on the rise, gas’s role in the land of the Red Sox, hard-to-understand accents, and lobsta’ rolls may well have peaked. Today, we discuss recent developments on the natural gas and power generation fronts in the northeastern corner of the U.S.

Sunday, 08/16/2020

The global LNG market upheaval has wreaked havoc on U.S. LNG export demand this summer, which, in turn, has complicated operations at domestic export facilities. Gone are the days when U.S. LNG exports would move predictably, increasing with each new liquefaction train coming online and then mostly staying at or near capacity. Rather, as international LNG prices collapsed, U.S. LNG operators for the first time have had to contend with a relentless stream of cancelled cargoes and low facility utilization rates. More recently, cargo cancellations are showing signs of easing somewhat, as international price spreads are improving for fall and winter. But these recent market disruptions provide a window into the ways in which operational constraints and flexibilities will factor into LNG producers’ and offtakers’ decisions — and affect feedgas flows and capacity utilization — in a weak global market. Today, we consider some of the nuances of liquefaction operations.

Sunday, 08/02/2020

The Northeast natural gas market this past spring and early summer averted a major meltdown, as production shut-ins, record cooling demand, and increased outflows helped the region balance. But the fall shoulder season is liable to be less forgiving, given that storage levels are much higher and carrying a surplus to prior years. Now, shut-in wells are back online for the most part and production has surged. In-region demand has been at record highs, but summer cooling demand will peak soon and give way to balmy fall weather. As that happens, the Northeast will increasingly rely on outbound flows to offset a growing supply imbalance. But pipeline capacity utilization for routes moving gas out of the region have been running high already. How much incremental volumes can the takeaway pipelines absorb before constraints develop and hammer regional supply prices? Today, we analyze flows and capacity out of the region.

Tuesday, 07/28/2020

The fundamental drivers of global energy markets are shifting as the world begins to recover from the crisis induced by COVID-19. North American natural gas markets have been upended this year by a multitude of events, chief among them the plunge in crude oil prices and a dramatic drop in LNG exports. Other smaller, yet relevant, factors have been gyrating as well, including natural gas exports to Mexico by pipeline. After climbing to new highs last fall, piped gas exports to our southern neighbor suffered significantly during the worst of this spring’s series of calamities, but things are looking up. Total exports across the border have reached new highs this month, with just-completed infrastructure in Mexico assisting in the jump. Perhaps things are getting back to normal, at least in this small corner of the energy markets. Today, we provide an update on exports of natural gas from the U.S. to Mexico.

Sunday, 07/26/2020

U.S. Northeast natural gas production has surged nearly 1.5 Bcf/d in the past four weeks as wells that were shut-in this spring came back to life. The supply gains have been matched by strong intraregional demand, which has posted at or near record highs on a monthly average basis in recent months. But the returning supply volumes raise the question: what happens when summer cooling demand begins to fade? Storage will only be able to absorb so much, as regional storage inventories are already well above year-ago levels and the historical average for this time of year. That leaves flows out of the region as the only other outlet for excess supply, and those may be limited as well, as pipeline issues and drastically reduced downstream demand from LNG exports have stymied outflows. So, is the Northeast gas market headed for a shoulder-season meltdown? Appalachian gas supply prices this month already have weakened relative to the national benchmark Henry Hub, and these dynamics suggest there is more tumult ahead. Today, we consider what’s in store for the Northeast gas market this fall given the latest fundamentals.

Thursday, 07/16/2020

In many parts of the world, the shift away from coal-fired to natural gas-fired generation and renewables has been gaining momentum in an attempt to curtail the output of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. The Canadian province of Alberta kicked off such an initiative in 2016 to eliminate all of its coal-fired power generation sources and replace these with either gas-fired plants, wind farms, or solar by 2030. In the past two years, the province’s major electric utilities and independent power producers (IPPs) have been accelerating these plans, such that the complete phase-out of coal will be accomplished many years in advance of the original deadline. Today, we consider this transition and highlight what should be a pivotal year for Alberta’s use of natural gas in power generation.

Tuesday, 07/14/2020

For a few years now, U.S. natural gas producers have benefited from the electric-power sector’s shift from coal-fired plants toward gas-fired ones. The ongoing transition makes sense. Not only is gas-fired generation cleaner, it’s mostly been cheaper than the coal alternative. Better still, gas turbines and combined-cycle plants are very flexible companions to all those new wind farms and utility-scale solar facilities, whose variable output requires at-the-ready replacement power when the wind’s not blowing and the sun’s not shining. But with the continued push by many state regulators — and many utilities — for lower-carbon generation fleets, gas-fired plants are facing a growing challenge from energy storage, mostly in the form of very big lithium-ion batteries. Today, we look into the increasing use of large-scale batteries in utility settings and whether they might pose a serious threat to gas-fired power in the 2020s and beyond.

Monday, 07/13/2020

In the nearly three months since it began initial service, natural gas flows on Cheniere Energy’s Midship Pipeline out of the SCOOP/STACK have ramped up, and now consistently top 700 MMcf/d. This, despite production from the Oklahoma basins declining by close to 10% in that time. In other words, Midship is doing what it was supposed to do — namely, giving producers and shippers incremental capacity to reach relatively more attractively priced markets. However, the pipeline was also meant to connect that supply region with growing LNG export demand on the Gulf Coast, which has been slashed in recent months as global oversupply and poor economics have marginalized U.S. LNG cargoes. That raises the question, where are Midship flows heading? Today, we provide an update on Midship gas flows.

Thursday, 07/09/2020

U.S. LNG exports in recent months have gone from providing a consistent and growing source of demand to balance the U.S. natural gas market to now being a drag on demand growth and the gas market balance. Rising storage surpluses and record low prices in Europe and Asia, along with relative strength in the U.S. national benchmark prices at Henry Hub, have turned the economics upside down for U.S. exports and led to widespread cancellations of contracted cargoes. Feedgas deliveries and cargo liftings at Lower-48 terminals both have plummeted to the lowest levels since early 2019, despite domestic liquefaction capacity climbing by more than 4 Bcf/d since then. Moreover, the dynamics that led to the current predicament are likely to persist at least through injection season and potentially even beyond that to a certain extent. Today, we provide an update on how cargo cancellations have affected U.S. gas demand for exports, overall and at individual terminals.