[Note: We will not post an RBN Blog on Memorial Day - Monday May 25]
The past four years have seen a boom in U.S. refining with strong margins and increased throughput. The balance of refinery feedstock has changed from a majority of imports to a majority of domestic crude. Market inefficiencies – in the distribution system, crude quality mismatches and export restrictions have kept U.S. crude prices below international levels – bringing refiners high margins and competitive product exports. Today we look at how refiners have benefited from changing U.S. crude supplies.
Last year at this time (May 2014) the natural gas market was concerned with how depleted US natural gas storage might be by the start of the 2014-15 gas winter season. A short year later, the concern now is how full storage could get before next winter. CME/NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures prices for June delivery closed at 2.915/MMBtu yesterday – presumably reflecting a decidedly bearish 2015 supply/demand balance with forecasts predicting summer-ending inventory at upwards of 4.1 Tcf, which would be the highest on record. Today we provide an update on gas fundamentals.
The E&Ps have cut Capex to the bone, but as a group they expect oil and gas production in 2015 to increase versus last year. That’s true from an overall perspective, and it is an important indicator of upcoming production trends. But the real revelations come when you dig into the details. In the oily sector, small and mid-size companies are making deeper cuts but are faring much better than the big boys. On the gassy side, E&Ps in Appalachia are knocking it out of the park, while more diversified gassy players are having a much harder time of it. Today we begin a blog series to drill deeper into the company numbers to see why and how these differences happen.
Producers in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays could be moving a lot more natural gas into New England, if only there was enough pipeline capacity to get it there. An increasingly gas-hungry neighbor to the nation’s most prolific production area, New England has added precious little capacity to transport gas, and the fates of game-changing pipeline projects that have been proposed hang in the balance. The region’s unique gas-delivery challenges, their market impacts and possible solutions are the subject of RBN Energy’s newly released Drill Down report, “Please Come To Boston—New England’s Ongoing Gas-Supply Dilemma”. Today, we provide a preview, and highlight some of the report’s findings.
Crude oil production is expected to be slowing down in U.S. shale basins in the wake of lower oil prices and drastic cuts in the number of working rigs. Most forecasts for future growth are far more conservative now. Yet new midstream pipeline projects continue to emerge. The latest proposal in the Bakken would add a minimum of 220 Mb/d of takeaway capacity sometime after 2018. At that point, between rail and pipeline, North Dakota takeaway capacity will be more than double RBN’s Growth Scenario production forecast – suggesting new pipelines will need to attract defectors from existing routes to market. Today we examine the rationale behind the proposed TransCanada Upland pipeline.
At a time when market prices have been weakened by a surplus of new natural gas production waiting for demand to develop, Mexico has been stepping up to the plate by increasing imports. Gas demand for Mexican power generation, industrial use, and commercial and residential space heating continues to increase at a torrid pace south of the Rio Grande, much to the relief of gas producers in the Eagle Ford, the Permian Basin and other U.S. plays within reach of the international border. Today we provide an update on Mexico’s growing dependence on U.S.-sourced gas, and the implications for producers and midstream companies.
Fuel oil demand has been declining for years on dry land – under attack by regulators anxious to reduce sulfur emissions. New international regulations introduced in January of this year are designed to further reduce sulfur emissions from ship engines burning marine fuel oil (“bunkers”) at sea. The new regulations have had an immediate impact on the market for 1% sulfur fuel oil. Most affected ship owners are now using more marine gasoil in coastal zones. Today we examine how the new regulations have impacted fuel oil markets.
The latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) Drilling Productivity Report projects natural gas production in the Marcellus and Utica up 170 MMcf/d in April, and forecasts growth of another 150 MMcf/d in May and June to average about 3.8 Bcf/d higher in Q2 than in the same period last year. While there is talk of deferred well completions and shut-ins, it has yet to translate to a slowdown in production volumes in the Northeast region. Our analysis suggests that barring record-high demand, the region will struggle to balance growing supplies this summer with potentially dramatic consequences for prices Today we conclude our analysis of the Northeast gas supply/demand balance.
Last Friday (May 8, 2015), Baker Hughes data showed the Permian basin oil rig count up by two – suggesting that drilling may be picking up in West Texas. A week earlier at the end of April, Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) announced they are moving ahead with a new pipeline from the Permian basin to the Houston area – set to come online in 2017. The new pipeline will add 540 Mb/d of takeaway capacity and comes on top of 450 Mb/d being added in the Permian this year by the Plains All American Cactus and Energy Transfer Partners Permian Express II pipelines. Today we look at the new project and whether the incremental takeaway capacity is necessary.
In April officials from Mexican national oil company PEMEX expressed confidence that their January 2015 application to the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) for a license to export U.S. crude under a swap arrangement will soon be approved. The swap would involve Mexico importing U.S. light crude and U.S. refiners buying an equivalent volume of Mexican heavy crude. The transaction would bypass decades old U.S. crude oil export restrictions and indicate a further loosening of the rules after moves to allow condensate exports last summer. In today’s blog “Have Another Swap of Mexican Crude - Will A New Route Open for U.S. Crude Exports?” Sandy Fielden examines the proposed exchange.
In January 2015 new international regulations came into force that reduced the permitted sulfur content in ships “bunker” fuel in Northern European and North American coastal regions. The change has required vessels travelling in those zones to use more expensive fuels or install scrubbers to remove sulfur. The changeover was expected to cause a sharp increase in shipping costs but as we discuss in today’s blog, so far the impact has been far less painful than expected, at least so far.
Japan takes up less real estate than California, and South Korea is smaller than Kentucky, but the two Asian nations are giants in the international liquefied natural gas (LNG) market. Their outsized appetite for LNG, combined with their interests in diversifying their sources of gas supply, could provide a major boost to U.S. and Canadian natural gas producers—only, though, if the price is right. Today, we continue our look at the fast-changing international market for LNG, rising Asia demand, and what these changes mean for gas producers and LNG exporters.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), liquids production from the Utica shale in Ohio (identified as crude oil but more likely all lease condensate) has more than trebled since January 2014 from 19 Mb/d to a projected 64 Mb/d in May 2015. Regional production of plant condensate from natural gas processing has also increased with the build out of gas processing capacity in the Utica and nearby Marcellus plays and could reach 50 Mb/d by the end of 2015. Midstream companies have been busy developing infrastructure to get this condensate to market. Today we look at developing infrastructure and markets for Utica condensate.
A key supply/demand balancing mechanism in the U.S. Northeast natural gas market – displacement of flows – is about to be history, at least in the summer months. With regional supply close to 4 Bcf/d higher year-over-year and now fewer options for offsetting the supply growth, the region faces significant downside risk for prices and even production this summer. The question is, can regional storage, demand and outflow capacity help prevent a widespread summer 2015 supply glut? Today we look at prospects for balancing the surplus in the region, starting with storage and demand.
Data from our friends at Genscape indicates that an average 150 Mb/d of Bakken crude is being unloaded at the Plains All American and NuStar Energy partners rail terminals at St. James, LA. That is down from 250 Mb/d just two years ago (April 2013) but still represents a substantial target for pipeline developers to aim for. The first significant project to offer pipeline service from North Dakota to St. James is being developed by Energy Transfer and Phillips 66. Today we review the project details.
The pace of liquefied natural gas (LNG) demand growth in Asia will be a critical factor in determining how much natural gas North American producers export over the next 10 to 20 years, and gas/LNG export levels are sure to affect U.S. and Canadian gas production levels and prices. Last year's pause in Asian LNG demand growth--combined with a collapse in LNG prices--led many to wonder, where is all this heading, and what does it mean for gas producers and LNG exporters? Today, we continue our review of the fast-changing international LNG market with a look at Asia's burgeoning gas needs and how they will likely be met.