Production of lease condensate at the wellhead and plant condensate from processing natural gas liquids (NGLs) has increased rapidly in the Ohio Utica over the past two years. Timely investment by local refiner Marathon and infrastructure developments to ship condensate to Gulf Coast refiners have proved the primary market for Utica condensate so far. The proximity of the region to diluent pipelines to Canada has also prompted infrastructure projects. Today we describe projects to deliver condensate to Alberta.
Daily energy Posts
One of the most significant events to occur in the U.S. natural gas market this year will be the full-scale reversal of flows in Zone 3 of the Rockies Express Pipeline (REX), and it is right around the corner. The Zone 3 East-to-West Project (E2W) will bring on an incremental 1.2 Bcf/d of westbound capacity, opening the floodgates for Marcellus and Utica producers. As REX touches nearly every part of the US gas market, the expansion will reconfigure continental gas flows and price relationships across multiple regions as it comes online.
Based on conversations last week with our good friends at Tallgrass Energy, the operator of REX, today we bring you the up-to-the-minute scoop on the E2W expansion and other forthcoming changes on the pipeline.
The latest forecast from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) was published a couple of weeks ago. In spite of lower crude prices CAPP continue to forecast growth in Canadian crude output to 2030 – albeit at a slower pace than previously expected. Continued growth means that takeaway constraints getting Canadian crude to market remain a key challenge – even though increased use of crude-by-rail has taken up some of the slack. Today we conclude our review of the 2015 CAPP outlook.
The past 10 years have been challenging, to say the least, for Western Canadian natural gas producers, and the situation may not get better any time soon. Squeezed out of many of their traditional markets in eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest and Northeast and stymied by delays in the development of West Coast liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects, producers in Alberta and British Columbia have been suffering from lower prices and searching for new outlets for their gas. Alberta’s oil sands and power generation sectors will help, but the big fish producers need to land is LNG exports. Today, we consider recent developments in a region long on natural gas reserves but short on gas buyers.
Prices for prompt delivery of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude as quoted on the CME/NYMEX futures exchange fell by 60% from their high over $107/Bbl in June 2014 to a low under $44/Bbl on March 17, 2015. After recovering about 37% in April and May WTI prices have remained stuck close to $60/Bbl ever since - closing yesterday (June 23, 2015) at $61.01/Bbl. With market contango narrowing, inventory levels falling, and refinery throughputs rising – why aren’t prices moving higher faster? Today we review the fundamental data.
Asia for years has been seen as the primary market for U.S.- sourced liquefied natural gas (LNG), and that’s still true today as the first round of U.S. export facilities inch toward completion and operation. But an ongoing upheaval in the international LNG market—and the “destination flexibility” built into most U.S. LNG sales and purchase agreements--suggest that Europe may receive significant volumes of U.S. LNG as well. It’s also possible that U.S. exporters may become “swing suppliers” like LNG trading giant Qatargas, ready to direct LNG-laden vessels across either the Atlantic or the Pacific, depending on where the price is higher. Today, we continue our look at the fast-changing LNG market and what it means to U.S. natural gas producers and LNG exporters.
The biggest fundamental price indicator in the natural gas market -- Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report – is about to get a major makeover. The EIA is planning to split the US gas inventory data into five regions, from three macro regions currently. The idea has been floating out there for a while, but now it looks imminent, with a good chance it is rolled out before the gas winter season comes around in November. When it does happen, the increased granularity will vastly improve the transparency of natural gas storage inventory data on a weekly basis. But there’s another reason it will be a big deal when it happens: It will break everybody’s storage scrapes and models. Storage modelers and forecasters will have their work cut out for them. In today’s blog, we break down the upcoming changes.
If it persists, the oil price crash may have undermined many of the assumptions behind massive infrastructure investments in steam cracker plants and export facilities for natural gas liquids (NGLs). These projects expected to take advantage of booming domestic NGL production and low NGL prices relative to crude. Yet take-or-pay commitments and committed investment in plant infrastructure means they may be exposed to poor returns if crude prices remain low. Today we detail analysis in the latest RBN Energy Drill Down Report to develop NGL supply, demand and pricing scenarios.
The six liquefaction “trains” under development at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal will demand nearly 4 Bcf/d of natural gas on average, the first 650 MMcf/d of that starting within a few months. And the five trains now planned at Cheniere’s Corpus Christi site—yes, now five, not three—will require another 3.2 Bcf/d. Taken together, that’s about 10% of current daily gas production in the U.S.; in other words, a monumental logistical task. Today, we start a series looking at the challenges of securing and moving huge volumes of gas to LNG export terminals, the emerging epicenters of U.S. gas demand.
Average margins for a Gulf Coast condensate splitter have been about $5/Bbl better in 2015 than they were in 2014 but are still about $4.75/Bbl worse than an equivalent Gulf Coast 3-2-1 crack spread. The economics of condensate splitters have also yet to be tested in an environment if – as could happen later this year – crude production begins to decline. Are condensate splitters a better investment than just exporting lightly processed condensate under relaxed export regulations? Two companies considering projects seem to have reached different conclusions recently. Today we continue our update on splitter projects with a look at economics.
The latest forecast from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) was published last week (June 9, 2015). This annual survey of Canadian crude production, transportation and market demand differs from many forecasts because it is based on surveys of producers and refiners rather than price projections and models. In spite of lower crude prices CAPP continue to forecast growth in Canadian crude output to 2030 – albeit at a slower pace than previously expected. Today we review CAPP’s production and North American market demand forecasts.
Over the past 4 years, billions of dollars have been committed to building new petrochemical olefin crackers for ethane and export facilities for both propane and ethane. All these projects were expected to take advantage of booming domestic natural gas liquids (NGL) production. Projected returns on these investments were based on the assumption that global crude oil prices would remain high relative to domestic NGLs – providing competitive margins for U.S. petrochemical plants and attractive arbitrage opportunities in export markets. The oil price crash in the latter half of 2014 has undermined that assumption and now threatens the economics of many of these projects. Today we preview the latest RBN Energy Drill Down Report addressing the consequences for NGL infrastructure of lower crude prices.
The boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production has grabbed the headlines the last few years. What shouldn’t be forgotten, though, is that Americans depend on refined petroleum products like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel—not crude—to get from Point A to Point B, and that in some parts of the country, especially the Northeast, fuel oil—not natural gas or electricity—remains the space-heating fuel of choice. Transporting large volumes of petroleum products from refinery to consumer is a monumental and complicated task, a mission accomplished primarily by a still-growing, ever-evolving network of pipelines and storage facilities. Today, we begin a new series on how gasoline, distillate (diesel and heating oil), and jet fuel get to where they’re needed.
Two years ago production of super light crude known as condensate in the South Texas Eagle Ford was surging. Most Gulf Coast refineries did not want to process this light material and it was discounted to regular crude. The discounts led to a number of project announcements to build stand-alone condensate splitters – a kind of simple refinery that would process it into refined products. During 2014 these projects were cast into doubt by the easing of condensate export restrictions that appeared to offer a less expensive solution to the condensate challenge. More recently the possibily of declining production could also threaten splitter economics. But splitters are still being built and coming online this year and next – with two new projects announced recently. Today we review current splitter projects in the light of market developments.
As natural gas takes on an ever-expanding role in Asian energy markets, the traditional practice of sourcing liquefied natural gas (LNG) through long-term, “point-to-point” supply deals at oil-indexed prices is being challenged on several fronts. For one, U.S. exporters are linking the price of their LNG to Henry Hub gas prices. For another, Asian LNG customers, eager to reduce costs in a suddenly glutted LNG market, are working to renegotiate their oil-linked deals, and turning to the LNG spot market, where prices have been attractively low. Fast-changing market dynamics include planned gas pipelines from Siberia to China that may well make the Asian LNG market more like Europe, where LNG competes head-to-head with piped-in gas and with coal. Today, we continue our look at the changing international market and what it means for U.S. and Canadian gas producers and LNG exports.
Prices for non-TET propane at Mont Belvieu yesterday fell to their lowest level in 13 years at 31.0 cnts/Gal (source: OPIS). A big part of the recent price decline is to do with surging propane storage inventory. Last Wednesday’s data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed U.S. propane inventory levels increased by 3.8 MMBbl to 77MMBbl during the last week of May 2015. If storage injections increase at that rate for another couple of weeks then levels will surpass the record of 81.6 MMBbl set in October 2014. The trouble is – that record was set at the start of winter – traditionally the end of propane storage build season - but we are still only in June – with several months of storage build left. Today we discuss the growing propane surplus.