The build-out of new natural gas pipelines in Mexico has been progressing two-steps-forward, one-step-back, and that’s been a downer for Texas producers eager to access new markets south of the border. Just a few weeks ago, TransCanada very publicly halted construction on part of a major pipeline network it has been building in east-central Mexico, citing social and legal challenges that already had caused long delays and added costs. But there’s good news out there too. Some new Mexican pipelines are finally coming online, and gas flows through them are ramping up, mostly to serve gas-fired power plants. Better yet, some important pipe and generation projects may finally be completed in 2019. Today, we discuss gas flows across the U.S.-Mexico border and zero in on recent flows through the Nueva Era Pipeline, a 630-MMcf/d pipe from the Eagle Ford to the industrial center of Monterrey.
Reliably low Henry Hub natural gas prices are a primary, long-term driver of U.S. LNG exports. But prices were up as much as 40% during November and, with gas inventories unusually low, Henry prices could spike considerably higher if winter weather continues to come in colder than normal. Which raises the question, how high would gas prices need to go before U.S. liquefaction becomes the lever that balances the U.S. gas market? The short answer is, it depends on where the LNG is headed — and lately, a lot more is bound for Europe. Today, we continue our review of the current gas market with an analysis of LNG variable costs and UK National Balancing Point prices, and how they will help determine LNG export volumes if U.S. gas prices spike.
Volatility is back big time in the U.S. natural gas market. The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub prompt natural gas futures contract in mid-November raced up more than $1.00 (28%) in the span of two days to a settlement of about $4.84/MMBtu on November 14, the highest price since February 2014, only to whipsaw back down 80 cents the next day. And, since then it hasn’t been unusual to see daily swings of 20-45 cents in either direction. As of yesterday, the now-prompt January 2019 contract was at about $4.34/MMBtu, down 27 cents on the day. The gas market hasn’t seen quite this level of volatility in a decade or more. Why now and what are the fundamentals behind it? With the coldest, highest-demand months still ahead, today’s blog provides an update of the gas supply-demand balance driving the recent price volatility.
Crude oil and natural gas production in the Bakken are at all-time highs, as are the volumes of gas being processed in and transported out of the play. The bad news is that for the past few months, the volumes of Bakken gas being flared are also at record levels, and producers as a whole have been exceeding the state of North Dakota’s goal on the percentage of gas that is flared at the lease rather than captured, processed and piped away. State regulators last week stood by their flaring goals, but in an effort to ease the squeeze they gave producers a lot more flexibility in what gas is counted — and not counted — when the flaring calculations are made. Today, we update gas production, processing and flaring in what’s been one of the nation’s hottest production regions.
Permian natural gas markets felt a cold shiver this week, but not a meteorologically induced one of the types running through other regional markets. Gas marketers braced as prices for Permian natural gas skidded toward a new threshold: zero! That’s not basis, but absolute price, a long-anticipated possibility that became reality on Monday. The cause is very likely driven, in our view, by continued associated gas production growth poured into a region that won’t see new greenfield pipeline capacity for at least 10 months. What happens next isn’t clear, but expect Permian gas market participants to be a little excitable or jittery over the next few months. Today, we review this latest complication for Permian natural gas markets.
Developers are scrambling to advance the next round of liquefaction/LNG export projects, primarily along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Earlier this month, LNG marketing behemoth Total SA signed initial agreements with Sempra Energy that would support Sempra’s efforts to add more liquefaction capacity at its Cameron LNG project in southwestern Louisiana and to build a liquefaction plant at its Energía Costa Azul LNG import terminal in Mexico’s Baja California state. A few days later, Total, Mitsui & Co., and Tokyo Gas signed heads of agreements for the entire capacity of the Mexican liquefaction project, propelling that project to the fore. Sempra also continues to pursue a third project: Port Arthur LNG. Today, we continue our series on the next round of liquefaction/LNG export terminals “coming up” with a look at Phase 2 of Cameron LNG, as well as Energía Costa Azul and Port Arthur LNG.
Natural gas markets in the U.S. Northwest have been in turmoil ever since a rupture on Enbridge’s BC Pipeline system over a month ago (on October 9) disrupted Canadian gas exports to Washington State at the Sumas border crossing point. Service on the affected line has been restored but at a reduced operating pressure for now, and Canadian gas deliveries to Sumas remain at about half of their pre-outage levels, creating supply shortages in the region. Spot natural gas prices at the Sumas, WA, trading hub have been volatile, soaring well above Henry Hub and rocketing to a record outright price of nearly $70/MMBtu late last week. The outage has reverberated across the Western U.S. gas market, sending regional prices reeling as gas flows adjusted to help offset supply shortages. Today, we examine the knock-on market effects of the outage on Western gas flows and prices, and potential implications for the winter gas market.
The U.S. natural gas market enters winter this year in a delicate balance: production is at an all-time high and growing fast, but gas storage inventories are well below year-ago levels and the five-year average — and at an all-time low relative to consumption. If winter weather is normal or mild, the U.S. gas market will likely begin to settle into a period of sub-$3/MMBtu prices. But this year’s low inventory level means that colder-than-typical weather this winter could spell more gas price upside than the market has seen in many years. Today, we continue our review of the current gas market with a look at the relationship between gas- and coal-fired generation, and at how the combination of low gas storage inventories and low coal stockpiles might play out this winter.
With recent project completions, Northeast takeaway constraints have eased, and regional supply prices have strengthened. But now the slate of planned pipeline expansions is dwindling. Between late-2015 and the end of 2018, midstreamers will have completed 23 takeaway projects out of Appalachia, totaling nearly 14.5 Bcf/d of capacity. That leaves just a handful of projects with little more than 6 Bcf/d of capacity to come, most of them facing stiff environmental opposition, regulatory turmoil and higher costs. Yet, as Appalachian gas production continues to grow, these projects will be critical to keeping the takeaway constraints and depressing supply pricing from returning, at least for a little longer. More than half of the remaining capacity would come from two competing projects — Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and EQM Midstream Partners’ Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) — both greenfield efforts tied to growing gas-fired power generation demand along the Mid- and South-Atlantic seaboard and both embattled by a barrage of legal challenges. In today’s blog, we provide an update on the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects, including the latest status and timing.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that natural gas gross production in the Rockies’ Niobrara region increased to a record 5.1 Bcf/d in September 2018, narrowly beating the previous high mark set almost seven years ago. And, with major, crude oil-focused producers in the Powder River Basin (PRB) and Denver-Julesburg Basin (D-J) planning for expanded crude output in 2019 and beyond, production of associated gas is expected to continue rising. All this growth — actual and anticipated — is spurring the development of new midstream capacity, especially gas processing plants, in both the PRB and the D-J Basin. So, what’s already in place, what’s being built and planned, and how soon will it need to come online? In today’s blog, we continue our review of Rockies crude oil, gas and NGL production, processing capacity and takeaway pipes, this time with a look at the gas side of things in the PRB.
Gas-fired power generation in the U.S. has been making impressive gains lately and that trend looks likely to continue. Power demand is growing quickly and generation fueled by cheap natural gas is taking an ever-increasing market share of the new and existing load from more expensive generators like coal and nuclear, which is leading significant numbers of those plants to shut down. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) earlier this year forecast that combined-cycle, gas-fired generation capacity could rise by 6.1 GW between now and 2020, which — if fully called upon — would equate to roughly 1 Bcf/d of gas demand. That growth would displace some older gas-fired generation but also fill the void left by retiring coal-fired and nuclear power generators — two sectors EIA expects to decline over the next couple of years by 14.1 GW and 1.7 GW, respectively. What’s more, surging gas production and rapidly filling pipeline expansions in recent months suggest that gas-fired generation demand may be growing even faster than expected. Today, we take a look at how gas generation has been besting coal-fired plants on fuel costs in recent years, and at the string of nuclear and coal-fired generators that are being permanently retired.
U.S. Northeast natural gas producers will soon get another boost of pipeline capacity with direct access to Gulf Coast demand. TransCanada’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf transmission systems are gearing up to place into service their tandem Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress expansions, which will allow another 1 Bcf/d of Marcellus/Utica gas to flow south as far as Louisiana. The new capacity should further ease takeaway constraints for moving gas out of the Northeast, potentially redistributing outflows across the various takeaway routes, while also allowing Appalachian gas supply to grow. The duo of expansions is also the last of the southbound expansions from the Northeast, at least until late 2019, when the embattled Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects are due online. Today, we detail the upcoming expansions.
The U.S. Northeast natural gas market has had a volatile few weeks. Regional gas production has surged, averaging 30.4 Bcf/d in the second half of October (2018), up 800 MMcf/d from the first half of the month and up nearly 1 Bcf/d from the September average. Normally (for the past several years), those kinds of supply gains, particularly in a shoulder month and during maintenance season, would have one result: Marcellus/Utica prices taking a nosedive. But that’s not exactly the case this year. Instead, Appalachian spot prices have been on a wild ride the past few weeks, swinging from barely $1.00/MMBtu (or more than $2.00/MMBtu below Henry Hub) on October 8, to over $3.00 (just $0.12 under Henry) on October 24 — the highest levels seen at this time of year since 2013, both in terms of outright prices and basis differentials to Henry Hub. The catalyst is nearly 3 Bcf/d of new takeaway capacity from the growing producing region that has been added in recent weeks, including, most recently, partial service on a brand-new route on Enbridge/DTE Energy’s 1.5-Bcf/d NEXUS Gas Transmission. What does this latest round of expansions and the resulting basis strength mean for the Northeast and its downstream gas markets? In today’s blog, we discuss highlights from our new 26-page report on evolving Northeast gas takeaway capacity utilization and additions, and their effects on price relationships.
LNG Canada, the newly sanctioned liquefaction/LNG export project in British Columbia, is an entirely different animal than its operational and under-construction counterparts in the U.S. The Shell-led LNG Canada project is being developed without any of the long-term offtake contracts that financed Sabine Pass, Cove Point and the projects now being built along the Louisiana and Texas coasts, and it requires the construction of a new, long-haul pipeline — Coastal GasLink. What’s also different is that the BC project’s co-owners have been developing their own gas reserves to supply the project, though they may also turn to the broader Montney and Duvernay markets for the gas they will need. Today, we conclude a two-part series with a look at how the project expects to undercut its U.S. competitors.
U.S. natural gas supply continues to set all-time records, and strong production growth is expected to continue. Most of these supply gains will come from the Northeast, where another round of pipeline capacity additions are being completed. But despite all this incremental gas output, a combination of cold weather last winter and hot weather this summer means that U.S. gas storage inventories are likely to end the fall season at their lowest levels since 2005. And even this comparison understates how low inventories are — gas consumption has grown dramatically in the past 10 years, and storage inventories are at all-time lows when considered in terms of the number of days of average consumption. Today, we begin a series on the implications of historically low gas storage inventories, including what the gas market might look like if this winter turns out to be colder than normal.