Alberta, Canada’s energy powerhouse, accounts for the vast majority of the nation’s crude oil, natural gas, and NGL production. There is a lot of hydrogen locked up in all of those hydrocarbons and Alberta’s provincial government recently laid out a seven-part plan to expand the production and use of “blue” hydrogen — produced from natural gas via steam methane reforming with carbon capture and sequestration — as part of a broader effort to bolster its existing natural gas sector and energy transition cred. In today’s RBN blog, we explore Alberta’s proposed hydrogen strategy.
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Daily energy Posts
The Shale Revolution created an unprecedented need for midstream infrastructure of every sort — gathering systems, processing plants, storage hubs, takeaway pipelines, fractionators, export terminals, and more — all with the aim of connecting new hydrocarbon supply to demand. Throughout the 2010s, the scope and urgency of this midstream build-out opened up tremendous opportunities for the master limited partnerships, private-equity-backed developers, and other entities with the management skills, financial wherewithal, and dexterity to make these massive projects happen. Now, much of the Shale Era’s required new infrastructure is in place — and COVID and ESG have slowed new-project development to a crawl — putting many MLPs in a bind and leaving private equity firms to wonder where they should invest their money next. Well, there may be an even better set of new opportunities on the horizon — all related to the coming energy transition — and, as it turns out, midstream developers with hydrocarbon experience are uniquely positioned to lead the way. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss how the project-development model that drove the midstream sector’s growth over the past decade is poised for potentially lucrative re-use in the 2020s and beyond.
Here’s an idea. Let’s start up a new company that does energy market fundamentals linked to rock & roll songs. Do it with practical, commercial insights. Keep the quality top notch. Then give it away for free! Sound crazy? Maybe so. But that’s how RBN Energy got started 10 years ago, and it’s worked out pretty well. Now, 2,540 blogs later and with 35,000 members receiving our morning email each day, it seems like we ought to celebrate in RBN style by telling a couple of backstories that shed light on our approach to energy markets, delving into the whole rock & roll thing, and of course divulging a few deep RBN secrets never before revealed. Until now, that is. And there’s more! You might end up receiving a free RBN 10th Anniversary Commemorative Mug. Warning: Today’s blog is a trip down memory lane for hard-core RBNers.
In March 2020, the collapse of the OPEC-plus coalition, the initiation of COVID-19 lockdowns, and other factors pushed the U.S. E&P sector to the brink of insolvency. Crude oil prices had crashed to $20/bbl — one-third their level at the start of that fateful year — and producers had shifted to survival mode, slashing capex, cancelling infrastructure projects, and eyeing new, more dire worst-case scenarios. Who would have thought that only 22 months later E&Ps would be winning back investors and enjoying sky-high share prices? Of course, the recovery in commodity prices played a major role in this reversal. But another driver has been an unexpected wave of corporate consolidation that has allowed many E&Ps to boost their inventories of high-margin assets, accelerate free cash flow generation, and grow shareholder returns while slashing capital and corporate expenditures. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the forces behind — and the implications of — the most important surge of corporate upstream deals in two decades.
The energy market dislocations of the COVID era have accelerated consolidation in the midstream sector as oil and gas gatherers — and gas processors — in the Permian and other basins seek greater scale, improved reliability, and the potential to direct more hydrocarbons through their takeaway pipelines. New evidence of this trend came just last week, when Enterprise Products Partners announced it has agreed to acquire privately held Navitas Midstream Partners, a fast-growing gas gatherer and processor in the Permian’s Midland Basin, for $3.25 billion. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, the acquisition will give Enterprise its first gas gathering and processing assets in the heart of the Midland and may boost volumes on its residue-gas and NGL pipelines there.
It’s possible for a single new infrastructure project to be a game-changer — the Transcontinental Railroad comes to mind, and so do the New York City subway system and the Hoover Dam. In the energy industry’s midstream sector, things work a little differently. There, projects are incremental. They’re privately, rather than publicly backed and so they must be commercially justified, which means they need to serve a specific purpose. That’s not to say they can’t shift the landscape of the areas they serve. For example, when the Shale Revolution transformed and disrupted U.S. hydrocarbon markets, supply and demand dynamics were turned on their head and waves of projects had to be built to handle surging production in suddenly supercharged shale plays like the Bakken, Appalachia, and Permian and to serve new markets, most notably exports. Sometimes, it’s a more complicated combination of projects and events that, as a group, cause not-so-subtle shifts in how things are done. Lately, handfuls of pipeline projects and refinery closures — plus increasing regional crude oil production in both the U.S. and Canada — have spurred changes in traditional pipeline-flow patterns and may breathe new life into oil-export activity at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port and the Beaumont-Nederland area in Texas. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss these changes and their effects.
The idea of capturing the carbon dioxide emitted from power plants and industrial facilities and permanently storing it deep underground is widely viewed as one of the more promising ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The catch is, how do you convince private-sector CO2 emitters to invest tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in carbon capture and sequestration projects? Enter federal government incentives — in this case the Internal Revenue Code’s carbon oxide sequestration tax credits, better known as 45Q, which at first glance would appear to offer certain industries significant financial incentives if they make these investments. However, while the credits — available for a variety of projects and uses — have been around since 2008 and were significantly expanded in 2018, they have not yet made much of an impact. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how the credits can add up for individual projects and how widely variable costs make carbon capture uneconomic for several industries.
Pandemic. Deep freeze. Decarbonization. Stymied production growth. Sky-high prices. 2021 was definitely one for the record books. But thank goodness we made it and can look forward to a New Year! That means it is time for our annual Top 10 Energy Prognostications, the long-standing RBN tradition where we consider what’s coming next to energy markets. Say what? Surely it would be foolhardy to make predictions now. After all, we’re in the midst of a chaotic energy transition, a pandemic that’s becoming endemic, and political shenanigans in Washington and across the globe. Foolhardy? Nah. All we need to do is stick out our collective RBN necks one more time, peer into our crystal ball, and see what 2022 has in store for us.
Over the last decade and a half, oil and gas companies have taken investors on a wild roller coaster ride as their ambitious growth strategies and stock prices have been boosted, then badly battered, by volatile demand and commodity prices. With sentiment toward the old-school energy industry turning negative, producers and midstreamers shifted course to emphasize value over volume, prioritizing solid cash flow generation and substantial shareholder returns. Midstream giant Kinder Morgan has found it especially difficult to win back investor confidence despite its largely successful efforts to stabilize its balance sheet, internally fund growth, and gradually restore its dividend. But will that be enough to improve the company’s prospects? In today’s RBN blog, we draw on more highlights from our recent Spotlight report on KMI’s portfolio, performance, and near-term growth potential, with an emphasis on the opportunities ahead.
With Alberta’s bitumen production rising to record levels of late, finding more ways to export this molasses-like heavy oil has become more important than ever. In early 2020, Gibson Energy and US Development Group embarked on the construction of a diluent recovery unit in Hardisty, AB, to greatly reduce the need for diluent and retain more of it for reuse. With the unit’s commercial start-up at the end of 2021, another unique pathway for transporting Canadian bitumen to the U.S. Gulf Coast — and, possibly, overseas markets — has become a reality. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on this venture and discuss where it might lead next.
The international shipping industry’s push to significantly reduce its carbon footprint over the next three decades is raising an obvious question: Is there a zero- or low-carbon bunker fuel that meets all of the industry’s basic criteria — things like availability, safety, and relative economy, not to mention sufficient on-board energy to transport massive, city-block-sized vessels thousands of miles at a clip. There is no clear answer yet, but there is a lot of talk about ammonia, or more specifically ammonia produced in a way that either generates no carbon dioxide (CO2) or that captures and sequesters much of the CO2 that is generated during production. But several major challenges must be met before “green” and “blue” ammonia can lay claim to even a small slice of the bunkers market, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.
Global natural gas prices went through the roof in December, and while prices are back down from those highs, they remain incredibly strong compared to years past and the economics for U.S. LNG exports are riding high. LNG exports have been in the money for quite some time, but feedgas deliveries to U.S. export terminals throughout the spring and summer of 2021 were somewhat lackluster as maintenance and operational issues at terminals and nearby pipelines kept feedgas from hitting its full potential. Gas deliveries to those terminals began climbing in the fall, first back to full utilization levels, and then beyond. Much of the record feedgas demand has been from commissioning activity at Sabine Pass Train 6, which produced its first LNG in December and is on track to begin full service early this year. But beyond that, operators have been pushing the existing fleet of terminals to operate at peak levels and produce additional cargoes, likely for sale in the spot market or on short-term contract, an extremely profitable endeavor given the prices in Europe, where most if not all destination-flexible cargoes have headed. In today’s RBN blog, we look at what’s driving LNG feedgas demand to its recent highs and how much higher it could go.
You can count on certain things this time of year. Alabama is in the hunt for a college football national championship, there’s fresh powder somewhere in the Rockies, it’s mostly still shorts weather in Houston, and there’s a catchy new country song ripe for blog titles. January also brings some unknowns, with pundits throwing out various scenarios for stock and commodity markets, as well as the more recent trend in postulating the outcomes of the latest COVID variant. When it comes to the U.S. onshore oil and natural gas markets, the Permian continues to be old reliable, especially with crude north of $70/bbl and natural gas prices flirting with $4/MMBtu. There’s a lot we can’t predict about the year ahead (like the NCAA football championship, though this writer, at least, is pulling for Georgia next week), but our view of Permian production growth hasn’t changed. In today’s blog, we provide this year’s outlook for Permian crude oil and natural gas markets.
Capturing carbon dioxide and permanently storing it below ground is expected to be a critically important tool in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The oil and gas industry has been a leader in showing how CO2 –– albeit mostly CO2 that is produced from underground reservoirs, not captured from industrial facilities or power plants — can be used and sequestered via enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The catch is that capturing CO2 and using it for EOR or injecting it into deep wells for eternal storage doesn’t come cheap and so government incentives are required to justify investment in carbon-capture projects. Enter the 45Q tax credit. First made available for U.S. carbon-capture projects in 2008, it has been expanded considerably since then and could soon be expanded further, although its results to date are a mixed bag at best. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss key aspects of the tax credit, how it has changed over time, and what may be coming down the pipeline.
Mexico’s state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos, the second-largest exporter of crude oil to the U.S. after Canada, said in late December that it will slash its export volumes in 2022 and eliminate them completely in 2023. The plan is premised on Pemex’s expectation that, with increased utilization of the company’s six existing refineries and the impending start-up of a new one, it will need every barrel of the Maya, Isthmus, Olmeca, and other varieties of oil it produces. While at first glance it may seem that Mexico phasing out exports of crude would pose a major challenge to some U.S. refineries, there’s good reason to believe that in reality it won’t. In fact, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog, there may be less to Pemex’s planned export phase-out than meets the eye.