Daily Energy Blog

The boom in renewable diesel (RD) production has triggered a race to secure the dozen different bio-feedstocks suitable for refining into diesel fuel. It’s an interesting story that impacts both the oil and agriculture industries, with twists and turns that will take years to play out. In today's RBN blog, we describe the current state of the market and highlight recent happenings in supply chains for two of those increasingly important bio-feedstocks — soybean oil and used cooking oil. 

One of the most anticipated and potentially impactful refinery startups in North America in years is the Dos Bocas project (officially the Olmeca Refinery), a 340 Mb/d plant under development by Mexico’s state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) in the southeastern state of Tabasco. The project was seen as the cornerstone of Pemex’s plans to reduce Mexico’s dependence on the U.S. for refined fuels. Construction began in 2019 with startup originally scheduled for 2022, but that timeline was never really feasible, and the Mexican government has issued multiple public statements since mid-2023 proclaiming that construction was complete and startup was imminent. However, almost a year has passed and there is no indication that any meaningful operations have occurred. So how close is Dos Bocas to startup and, more importantly, full (or close to full) production? In today’s RBN blog, we’ll provide our views on those vitally important questions. 

The Biden administration recently announced a very ambitious — to say the least — rule on tailpipe emissions. But while the rule’s legal and political standing might be a bit uncertain — it’s seen by many as a de facto ban on conventionally fueled cars and trucks and is likely to face several court challenges — doubts also remain about whether it matches up with the realities of today’s energy world. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the new rule, what it would mean for U.S. consumers and automakers, and how it conflicts with the views of RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics (RFA) practice on the future of global oil and refined products demand and the rate of electric vehicle (EV) adoption. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a request by governors from eight Corn Belt states to remove a summertime waiver for Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) included in the Clean Air Act (CAA) for E10 gasoline, a 90/10 blend of petroleum-derived gasoline blendstock and ethanol. The motive for the governors’ request was a desire to increase sales of E15 gasoline and, by extension, boost ethanol/corn demand by putting it on the same summertime footing as E10. In granting the approval, the EPA conceded that the distribution system wasn’t ready for the change. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the decision and the impact it will have on refiners, retailers and drivers, and how it is likely to work against the Biden administration’s plans to keep a lid on gasoline prices. 

There’s always a risk when you take a new approach to doing or making something that your expectations won’t pan out — that something you hadn’t figured on happens and messes things up. But oh, the satisfaction that comes when the stars align exactly as you foresaw. The folks who developed Project Traveler, a recently completed Houston-area plant that produces high-value, octane-boosting alkylate from ethylene, isobutane and other widely available and low-cost feedstocks, know that good feeling, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog on the project’s economics. 

It’s been nine years since Formosa Petrochemical filed its first permit applications for a proposed $9.4 billion petrochemical complex in Louisiana and, while the greenfield project has faced legal setbacks, it recently posted an important win and may — emphasis on may — eventually make it across the finish line. The Sunshine Project would be massive and consequential, with two steam crackers each capable of consuming 75 Mb/d of ethane, a big propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit and a number of other petchem production facilities that together would employ more than 1,200. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll look at the project and its long and winding road toward potential construction and startup. 

Everyone in Texas remembers the infamous Winter Storm Uri of three years ago. What started out as a simple cold snap for many quickly turned into something far more serious: the biggest power outage in state history, with billions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of lives lost. Since then, the expected arrival of frigid temperatures has been met with some trepidation, but the critical failures of February 2021 have so far been avoided in subsequent storms. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the steps the state has taken in recent years to weatherize its power grid, show why January’s cold snap turned out to be no big deal, and explain why renewables are playing an increasingly important role in grid reliability during extreme weather conditions. 

Around the world, a lot of smart people in the public and private sectors hold similar views on where we’re all headed, energy-wise. An accelerating shift to renewables and electric vehicles, driven by climate concerns. A not-so-far-away peak in global demand for refined products like gasoline and diesel. There are also what you might call consensus opinions on some energy-industry nuances, like how much global refining capacity will be operational in 2025 and what the spread between light and heavy crude oil will be in the years ahead. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from the new Future of Fuels report by RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics (RFA) practice, including RFA’s different take on a few matters large and small — and all of critical concern to producers, refiners and marketers alike. 

Fresh on the heels of expanding its Beaumont, TX, refinery into the largest in the country, ExxonMobil announced in January that it had finished yet another project at its century-old Baton Rouge complex in Louisiana. The Baton Rouge Refinery Integrated Competitiveness (BRRIC) project took roughly three years to complete and did not add crude refining capacity, unlike the Beaumont project. Instead, the goal of the $240 million investment was to modernize the crude oil processing plant — the state’s largest — increasing access to competitive crudes and growing markets for its fuels as well as curbing the refinery’s environmental impact. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the BRRIC project and what it means for the Baton Rouge refinery. 

When the price of the Tier 3 sulfur credit hit a new high of $3,600 in October 2023, the tradable sulfur credit for gasoline moved from the background to center stage in refining circles. And while credit prices have retreated slightly to about $3,400, they still represent a nearly 10-fold increase over two years and translate to a Tier 3 compliance cost of almost $3/bbl, raising concerns from refiners in a highly competitive market. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how refiners are adapting and the investments that could reduce the cost of compliance. 

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 17 in a pair of cases that are poised to capsize the so-called Chevron Deference, a 40-year-old legal doctrine that provides a key foundation for modern administrative law. It’s a big deal – big enough that we’re willing to wade into a little bit of legalese to help make sense of it. So strap in because in today’s RBN blog, we’ll explain what the Chevron Deference is, why it’s worth knowing about, how it applies to two cases that could alter its application, and how a ruling that limits or eliminates the doctrine’s usage and application could transform energy industry regulation.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 17 in a pair of cases that are poised to capsize the so-called Chevron Deference, a 40-year-old legal doctrine that provides a key foundation for modern administrative law. It’s a big deal – big enough that we’re willing to wade into a little bit of legalese to help make sense of it. So strap in because in today’s RBN blog, we’ll explain what the Chevron Deference is, why it’s worth knowing about, how it applies to two cases that could alter its application, and how a ruling that limits or eliminates the doctrine’s usage and application could transform energy industry regulation.

Folks not directly involved in the FERC’s rate-setting process for interstate gas pipelines may think it’s a largely mechanical — and painfully boring — activity. But the process is actually often incredibly dynamic, with a lot of give-and-take among pipeline representatives, pipeline customers and FERC staffers, all aimed at reaching an agreement on rates that everyone involved can live with. We recently explained the “formal process” and (informal, confidential) “settlement process” that usually play out along parallel tracks. In today’s RBN blog, we expand on our look at the rate-setting process for gas pipelines with a few more nuances of how negotiated resolution really works. 

Think energy markets are getting back to normal? After all, prices have been relatively stable, production is growing at a healthy rate, and infrastructure bottlenecks are front and center again. Just like the good ol’ days, right? Absolutely not. It’s a whole new energy world out there, with unexpected twists and turns around every corner — everything from regional hostilities, renewables subsidies, disruptions at shipping pinch points, pipeline capacity shortfalls and all sorts of other quirky variables. There’s just no way to predict what is going to happen next, right? Nah. All we need to do is stick our collective RBN necks out one more time, peer into our crystal ball, and see what 2024 has in store for us. 

The rates regulators set for transporting natural gas on interstate pipelines are all-important. They determine how much it costs to get gas from A to B, whether new capacity can be funded, and serve as the bedrock of regional gas price relationships around the nation’s pipeline grid. But the process for establishing those rates can seem opaque and is often misunderstood — it’s one of those things you need to be directly involved in to fully grasp. Well, RBN’s Advisory Practice lives and breathes gas pipeline rate cases month in, month out, and we thought it would be interesting — and kind of fun — to take you behind the curtain and explain how rate cases at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) really play out.