Natural gas pipeline takeaway constraints out of the Northeast worsened in 2020 despite producer cutbacks in the region as high storage levels and weaker demand led to record volumes of Appalachian gas supplies needing to find outlets in other regions last fall. This year, storage levels are lower and could absorb more of the surpluses during injection season. However, Appalachian gas production so far in 2021 has been averaging higher than last year; and, gas prices are higher year-on-year, reducing prospects for the kinds of producer curtailments we saw last year. As for the “pull” from downstream demand, LNG exports along the Gulf Coast aren’t expected to experience the slump from cargo cancellations seen last summer. In other words, Appalachia’s outbound flows are likely to be robust, setting the stage for takeaway constraints and weak prices, particularly during the spring and fall shoulder seasons. How much outbound capacity currently exists and how much room is there for growth? Today, we continue our series on the Northeast gas market with an update on Appalachia’s southbound takeaway capacity and outflows, starting with a detailed look at the gas moving to the Southeast and to the Gulf Coast.
It’s been an incredibly wild year for U.S. LNG exports. In the past year, global gas prices have seen both historic lows and highs, as markets swung from extreme demand destruction from COVID-19 for much of last year, to supply shortages by late 2020 and into early 2021 due to maintenance outages, weather events, Panama Canal delays, and vessel shortages. The U.S. natural gas market has also dealt with its share of anomalies, from a historic hurricane season in 2020 to the extreme cold weather event last month that briefly triggered a severe gas shortage in the U.S. Midcontinent and Texas and left millions of people without power for more than a week. Given these events, U.S. LNG feedgas demand and export trends have run the gamut, from experiencing massive cargo cancellations and low utilization rates to recording new highs. Throughout this incredibly tumultuous year, U.S. LNG operators have had to adjust, managing the good times and bad and proving operational flexibility in ways that will serve them for years to come. Here at RBN we track and report on all things LNG in our LNG Voyager report, and we’ve been hard at work enhancing and expanding our coverage to capture the rapidly evolving global and domestic factors affecting the U.S. LNG export market, including terminal operations, marginal costs and export economics, and international supply-demand fundamentals. Today, we highlight how U.S. LNG has changed in the past year and trends to watch this spring. Warning! Today’s blog is a blatant advertorial for our revamped LNG Voyager Report.
Last summer, Alberta natural gas prices staged a remarkable turnaround from the dismal lows and extreme volatility experienced the prior three summers. The price rise is widely credited to a temporary gas flow mechanism put in place by the operator of Alberta’s gas pipeline grid to combat congestion and oversupply issues associated with construction and maintenance during the summer of 2020. However, this temporary mechanism was just that — temporary — and will not be reinstated this summer. Without it, there is concern among Western Canadian gas producers that the weakness and volatility in gas prices seen during past summers might return this year. With warmer weather on the horizon, today we consider these issues and the potential for renewed price weakness in the Alberta natural gas market this year.
Last year served as something of a bellwether for what’s to come for the Northeast gas market in the long term: increasing takeaway pipeline constraints and weakening gas price differentials by mid-decade. The region’s outflows surged to record highs in the fall of 2020 as production also reached fresh highs. Just a couple weeks ago, the region notched another milestone on the pipeline constraint yardstick: record outflows on some pipes and near-full utilization of southbound routes on the coldest days of winter — something we don’t normally see, as gas supply requirements in the Northeast peak with heating demand and less gas is available to flow out of the region. This time, the surge in outflows and the resulting constraints were driven more by spiking demand and gas prices downstream than by oversupply conditions at home, but the result was the same: the Northeast had by far the lowest prices in the country. This happened even as other regions recorded triple-digit, all-time high prices. Today, we examine how Appalachia outflows and takeaway capacity utilization shaped up during Winter Storm Uri.
Over the past quarter-century, through a combination of greenfield development and acquisitions, Energy Transfer (ET) has built out integrated networks of midstream assets that add value — and generate profits — as they move crude oil, natural gas, and NGLs from the wellhead to end-users. A couple of weeks ago, ET took another big step in its expansion strategy, announcing its plan to buy Enable Midstream in a $7.2 billion, all-equity deal expected to close in mid-2021. The assets to be acquired will augment the synergies ET has already achieved, particularly regarding NGL flows into its Mont Belvieu fractionation and export facilities as well as flows of natural gas through Louisiana’s central gas corridor to LNG and industrial demand on the Gulf Coast. Today, we examine how the Enable Midstream acquisition may help propel ET forward.
What started out as a novel snow day for parts of Texas, replete with Facebook posts full of awestruck kids and incredulous native Texans, quickly escalated to a statewide energy crisis last week. A lot of the state’s electric generation and natural gas production capacity was iced out just when demand was highest, sending gas and electricity prices soaring and leaving millions without power for days. Frigid temperatures like the ones we saw would register as a regular winter storm in northerly parts of the U.S. and in Canada — but in Texas? A disaster. Market analysts, regulators, and observers will be unpacking the events of the past week — and the many implications — for a long time to come. We may never know the full extent of the chaos and finagling that went on among traders and schedulers behind the scenes as they tried to wrangle molecules. However, we can get some insight into the madness using gas flow data to provide a window into how the market responded and, in particular, the effect on LNG export facilities. Today, we examine the impacts of Winter Storm Uri on Gulf Coast and Texas gas movements.
The February 2021 polar vortex will be one for the natural gas record books in the U.S. and Canada — and the month isn’t even over yet! Though no stranger to frigid weather, Canada’s natural gas market has felt the impacts of this month’s extreme cold on both sides of the border. Its own prices, demand, and storage withdrawals have reached multi-year or all-time records as gas buyers have jockeyed for molecules from anywhere they can get them. Gas exports to the U.S. have reached highs not seen for more than a decade, adding emphasis to what has been an emerging turnaround story for Canadian gas into the U.S. market. To top things off, the latest gas market records might be a preview of what is to come in the next few years as Canada’s structural demand for natural gas continues to increase, regardless of how cold it is. Today, we describe all the latest Canadian gas market action and what might be in store for next winter.
There’s finally some good news for folks in Texas: it’s gradually getting warmer, and the power outages that left much of the Lone Star State in the cold and dark the past few days should keep winding down. But what are we all to make of what just happened? How could a state blessed with seemingly limitless energy resources of every type — natural gas, coal, wind, and solar among them — end up so short of electricity when it needed power more than ever? It turns out that the electric grid that the vast majority of Texans depend on day in, day out is designed to perform very well almost all the time, but is susceptible to a rapid unraveling when an unfortunate combination of events hit. Today, we continue our review of how this week’s extraordinarily low temperatures have been impacting energy markets — and many of us.
If you’re reading this, it means you’ve got access to power and internet. Count yourself among the fortunate today. Rolling blackouts and brownouts across the middle of the country and in Texas, have disrupted businesses and lives. It’s been particularly brutal in the Lone Star State. Electricity and natural gas are commodities that are so basic to our way of living that it’s easy to take for granted the efforts designed to make them reliable, available, and affordable. But, boy, does it make things difficult when they don’t show up as anticipated. In today’s blog, we discuss the factors behind the supply disruptions that are wreaking havoc in these commodity markets.
Physical natural gas spot prices in the U.S. Midcontinent trading as high as $600/MMBtu, while Northeast prices barely flinch – that was the upside-down reality physical traders were contending with Friday in trading for the long weekend, with Winter Storm Uri bearing down on large swaths of the Lower 48 and spreading bitter-cold, icy weather from the Midwest and Northeast to Texas and the Deep South. The record-shattering, triple-digit spot prices, mostly all west of the Mississippi River, were indicative of some of the worst supply shortages the market has seen during the generally oversupplied Shale Era, or ever. But the East vs. West price divergence also marks the culmination of years of shifting gas supply and flow patterns that have redefined regional dynamics. The market will be digesting the various impacts of this still-unfolding event for days, but some of the effects and implications can be gleaned already from daily pipeline flows. In today’s blog we provide an early look at the market impacts of the polar plunge.
Permian producers and midstreamers have faced a lot of uncertainty over the past 12 months. First, they wondered how much demand destruction would be caused by pandemic-related lockdowns, how low crude oil prices might fall, and how much production would be cut back and where. Then, they needed to assess how quickly demand, prices, and production levels would rebound, and determine whether the gathering systems, gas processing plants, and other infrastructure they had been planning pre-COVID should proceed according to their original schedules or be delayed or even canceled. As it turned out, most of the projects went ahead, the developers anticipating — correctly, it now appears — that if any U.S. production area will keep growing, it will be the Permian. Today, we continue a short blog series on gas-related infrastructure development in 2020-21, this time focusing on the Delaware Basin.
Weather is the perpetual wildcard in the natural gas market, but it’s been particularly shifty this winter, keeping market participants — and weather forecasters, for that matter — on their toes. Gas futures prices started this season at $3.30-plus/MMBtu, but then endured some of the warmest weather on record (in November and January), including a couple of polar vortex head fakes over the past month or so — weather forecasts at times in January started off much colder but ultimately reversed course. Prompt CME/NYMEX Henry Hub futures prices have seesawed as a result. Despite the weather setbacks, however, prices have held on in the $2.40-$2.70/MMBtu range through much of winter and averaged more than $0.60/MMBtu higher year-on-year in January. And, with an Arctic blast set to unfurl across the Lower 48 this week, prices last Friday topped $3/MMBtu again in intraday trading before settling in the high-$2.80s/MMBtu Friday and Monday. Today, we examine the supply-demand factors underlying the recent price action, and prospects for sustained $3/MMBtu gas prices.
The biggest news on the Permian natural gas infrastructure front in the past couple of months was surely the start-up of the 2-Bcf/d Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP), which began flowing gas in the fourth quarter of 2020 and officially entered full commercial service on New Year’s Day. Next among the headlines would be the late-January completion of a 1.8-Bcf/d expansion of the Agua Blanca pipeline system, which increased the capacity of the Delaware Basin-to-Waha network to a staggering 3 Bcf/d. Just as important though is that midstream companies active in the Permian have been completing a number of new gas processing plants in key production areas within both the Midland and Delaware basins, thereby supporting the continuing development of the U.S.’s premier crude oil production region. Today, we begin a short series on all the new gas-handling capacity coming online in the Permian.
Despite Northeast natural gas producers battling stiff headwinds last year — the lower rig count, sub-$1.50/MMBtu spot prices, lower demand, and price-responsive shut-ins in the shoulder periods — Northeast gas production volumes still managed to hit record highs in 2020, both for daily output as well as on an annual average basis. Regional production flows averaged 32 Bcf/d in 2020, up from 31.3 Bcf/d in 2019, and daily pipeline flow data shows volumes sustained year-on-year gains through January 2021. Today, we continue our series on the Northeast gas market fundamentals, this time with a sharper focus on production trends.
After a two-year reprieve from a nearly decade-long period of severe pipeline constraints and debilitating prices, Northeast natural gas producers are again headed for a constraint-driven market in the next five years. Appalachian supply prices last year weakened relative to national benchmark Henry Hub, reversing the gains of the past few years, and fell to historic lows as oversupply conditions prevailed and at times strained available takeaway capacity. All that despite the rig count hitting a four-year low and shale producers’ best — even unprecedented — efforts to respond to low prices with short-term production cutbacks during the shoulder seasons. So what happens when rig counts and production recover in the coming years? How long before pipeline constraints worsen and what are the prospects for new pipeline development? Today, we begin a blog series detailing recent supply-demand trends in the region and our outlook for 2021 and beyond.