The rise in unconventional natural gas supplies in Western Canada has forced the region to again confront a dilemma that it faced in the 1990s and early 2000s: not enough export pipeline capacity to move all that gas to market. Although demand for natural gas has been growing in Alberta’s oil sands and power generation markets, it has not kept pace with provincial gas supply growth, leading to oversupply conditions and historically low gas prices. The need to export more of the gas to other parts of Canada and the U.S. is driving some pipeline expansions in the region. The question is, will they be enough? Today, we provide an update on the utilization of existing export routes, as well as the prospects (or lack thereof) for takeaway expansions, starting with Westcoast Energy Pipeline.
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Daily energy Posts
The battle between Bakken and Western Canadian natural gas supplies for the Chicago market seems to be advancing toward a final showdown of sorts. Associated gas production from the crude-focused Bakken has been rising sharply, but capacity on the Bakken’s two gas takeaway pipelines — Northern Border and Alliance, also utilized by Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) supplies — has been maxed out for a few years now. The result is that Bakken gas is increasingly encroaching on — and pushing back — imports from the WCSB. Bakken gas flows already overtook Canadian gas receipts on Northern Border a year ago. Since then, the gas-on-gas competition and the resulting pipeline constraints have escalated, and things are likely to get worse. Today, we break down the forces at play in the competition for market access.
It’s been an exciting and productive few years for Permian producers, but it’s also been a period fraught with challenges. Dealing with a mid-decade crash in crude oil prices. Struggling to improve yields from the Wolfcamp, Bone Spring and other hydrocarbon-rich formations to lower breakeven costs. Coping with major pipeline takeaway constraints — for crude and natural gas — and the resulting price discounts. Now, the challenge of produced water has come to the fore. Horizontal wells in some parts of the Permian generate six, eight, even 10 barrels of produced water per barrel of crude, and all of it needs to be either disposed of or treated. The volumes are enormous, the permitting and logistics mind-boggling, and the costs — well, you can imagine. Today, we consider the Permian’s produced-water conundrum as crude and gas production volumes ramp up. Warning!: Today’s blog is a blatant advertorial for new reports by B3 Insight on Permian produced water.
Crude oil gathering systems in the Permian and elsewhere are, by their very nature, evolving things. They increase in mileage and crude-carrying capacity as new wells are drilled and completed, and it’s not uncommon for smaller systems to be consolidated into larger ones. It’s also become typical for the ownership of these systems to change — sometimes year to year — as early investors cash in on what they’ve developed, and buyers see opportunities to rake in increasing revenue and take their newly acquired systems to the next level. Also, owners of neighboring systems sometimes form joint ventures that combine their assets, all to make their operations work better for their producer customers. Today, we continue our series on Permian gathering with a look at Brazos Midstream’s crude gathering system in the Delaware Basin, which has experienced considerable evolution.
Bakken crude oil production surpassed 1.4 MMb/d this spring and has maintained a level near that since, even posting a new high just shy of 1.5 MMb/d in April 2019. The rising production volumes have filled any remaining space on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and prompted midstream companies to step up expansion efforts to alleviate the pressure, even as questions linger about the possibility of a pipeline overbuild if all of the announced capacity gets built. Specifically, the market is weighing the need for the recently announced Liberty Pipeline and a DAPL expansion. Today, we look at these two new projects and what their development means for the supply/demand balance in one of the U.S.’s biggest shale basins.
By the third quarter of next year, the Enterprise Hydrocarbons Terminal (EHT) on the Houston Ship Channel will have the capacity to export nearly 1.1 MMb/d of LPG — 435 Mb/d more than it can today. Also, Targa Resources and Energy Transfer are each planning 200-Mb/d expansions at their LPG export docks along the Texas Coast, and Phillips 66 and MPLX may very well be announcing projects of their own soon. All this suggests that there will be ample dock space available to propane and butane shippers if, as we expect, LPG volumes continue to ramp up in the 2020s. And, with Enterprise Products Partners’ promise to offer super-competitive rates at EHT, shippers are likely to enjoy low send-out costs. Today, we discuss recent developments on the propane/butane marine-terminal front and what they mean for LPG shippers and exports.
After sustaining a record pace since March, natural gas storage injections have been slowing dramatically and are projected to fall below the 5-year-average rate over the next few weeks. While weather has factored heavily into the swing in storage activity, increased baseload demand for gas in the power sector has amplified the effects of weather anomalies and electricity demand seasonality on overall gas demand. As a result, gas demand volumes have diverged from historical levels on a temperature-adjusted basis. Today, we examine the changing historical relationships of power burn and storage injections to weather and electricity demand.
Crude oil production in Western Canada and the Bakken is ratcheting up — in the Niobrara too — but pipeline takeaway capacity to key markets south of there is an issue. For a couple of years now, egress out of Alberta has been problematic, due in large part to delays in the development of the Enbridge Line 3 replacement, the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) and Keystone XL. Things got so bad last winter that Alberta’s provincial government ordered production cutbacks, though they are now easing. Rising Bakken production is quickly filling any remaining space on the Dakota Access Pipeline, and pipes out of the Niobrara’s Powder River and Denver-Julesburg (D-J) basins are approaching their capacities as well. In response, midstream companies have proposed a number of fixes, some very incremental in nature and others big and impactful. As typically happens, though, too much capacity may be on the drawing board. Today, we consider the ongoing competition to build new capacity down the eastern side of the Rockies.
Once consigned to a flat or declining profile, natural gas production in Western Canada has been increasing steadily since 2012, to the extent that it has now begun to stretch the ability of the existing pipeline network to the breaking point. Most striking is that this expansion in production has been taking place in an era of declining natural gas prices and weakening basis for Western Canada’s primary natural price marker, AECO, and rising and relentless competition from U.S. gas supplies in several of Canada’s key domestic and export markets. If the pricing, pipe egress and export situation has become so dire, why are producers still drilling for and pumping out even more natural gas? Today, we address this question in the second part of our series investigating Western Canada’s natural gas supply and demand balance.
Acquire, expand, and acquire again. That’s proven to be a successful strategy for a number of midstream companies providing crude oil and natural gas gathering services in the Permian Basin. In the past couple of years, the hydrocarbons-packed shale play in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico has been experiencing major gathering-system buildouts and Pac-Man-like acquisitions that aggregate small and midsize systems into regional behemoths. A case in point is EagleClaw Midstream, which has used the acquire-and-expand approach to great effect, most recently with the concurrent acquisition of Caprock Midstream Holdings and Pinnacle Midstream — two deals that, by the way, gave previously gas-focused EagleClaw a strong foothold in Permian crude gathering. Today, we discuss EagleClaw and its holdings in the Permian’s Delaware Basin.
The battle over the future of Enbridge’s Line 5 light crude oil pipeline through Michigan is heating up. In recent weeks, Michigan’s new attorney general filed suit to throw out the 1953 easement the state granted to allow the pipeline to be laid under the Straits of Mackinac — the narrow waterway between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas — and to block implementation of an agreement Enbridge and the state’s then-governor reached last fall to replace the section of Line 5 under the straits by the mid-2020s. Enbridge is pressing ahead, maintaining that the existing pipeline is safe and the 2018 agreement is legal and fully enforceable. All that raises two questions: just how important is Line 5 to the Michigan and Eastern Canadian refineries, and what would those refineries do if the pipeline were to cease operations? Today, we discuss recent developments and examine the issues at hand.
Natural gas storage activity this spring suggested extremely bearish fundamentals. The market injected gas into storage at a record pace, well above year-ago and 5-year-average levels. The high injection rate was in part a result of demand loss as weather abruptly moderated in April and May. However, a look at injections on a weather-adjusted basis suggests there’s another dynamic at play — namely, that increased baseload demand for gas in the power sector amplified the effects of the mild weather this spring, lowering demand even more than temperatures alone would indicate. Moreover, that same dynamic could have an opposite, equally extreme effect during the hotter months when power generation is the primary driver of gas demand. Today, we look at the latest gas storage and demand trends, and what they can tell us about the balance of injection season.
The next wave of Permian crude oil pipeline infrastructure is getting completed as we speak. In West Texas, several new pipeline projects are either finalizing their commercial terms and agreements, wrapping up the permitting process, or actually putting steel in the ground. In the Permian alone, there is a potential for 4.3 MMb/d of new pipeline takeaway capacity to get built in the next two and a half years. Along with those major long-haul pipelines, there are also crude gathering systems being developed to help move production from the wellhead to an intermediary point along one of the big new takeaway pipes. While we often like to give pipeline projects concrete timelines with hard-and-fast online dates, the actual logistics of how producers, traders and midstream companies all bring a pipeline from linefill to full commercial service are never clean and simple. There can be a lot of headaches, learning curves, and expensive — not to mention time-consuming — problem-solving exercises that come with the start-up process. In today’s blog, we discuss why new pipelines often experience growing pains, and how market participants navigate the early days of new systems.
With Permian crude oil production now topping 4 MMb/d — and likely to surpass 5 MMb/d in short order — producers in the play are working closely with midstream companies to help ensure there is sufficient capacity in place to efficiently transport their crude from the lease to larger shuttle systems, regional hubs and takeaway pipelines. Sometimes, gathering systems need to be built from scratch, but in most cases, it is more cost-effective to expand existing systems that are already connected to key infrastructure downstream. Today, we continue our series with a look at a big pipeline network that NuStar Energy acquired two-plus years ago and has been expanding and improving ever since.
When it comes to U.S. NGL exports, propane and ethane grab most of the attention. Each accounts for a big share of the typical NGL barrel, and ethane exports are a frequent topic of conversation because of the potential for growth — especially if the U.S. and China find a way to end their trade war. But three other so-called NGL “purity products” — normal butane, isobutane and natural gasoline — are being exported in increasing volumes too, providing important supplemental revenue to NGL producers and marketers. What’s their story? Today, we look at the export volumes and destinations of three often overlooked purity products.
Persistent natural gas takeaway constraints out of the associated gas-rich Permian have pushed Waha Hub prices to between $1 and $9/MMBtu below the Henry Hub benchmark for most of 2019. Concerns about gas flaring have flared. Tanker trucks transporting diesel fuel to drilling and completion operations in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico are clogging the region’s roads. And diesel’s not cheap, especially if you’re using thousands of gallons of it a day. With Permian wells producing far more natural gas than takeaway pipelines can handle, and with gas essentially free for the taking, is this the year when electric fracs — hydraulic fracturing powered by very locally sourced gas — gain a foothold in the U.S.’s hottest shale play? Today, we look at the economic and other forces at play in the e-frac debate.