Alkylate is an important and valuable part of the U.S. gasoline pool, prized for its high octane, low volatility and low sulfur content. There are two primary catalysts that refiners can opt to use in the production of alkylate: hydrofluoric acid, or HF, and sulfur acid, or H2SO4. Each is quite popular, with HF and sulfuric acid technologies each representing about half of domestic alkylation capacity — and with those shares varying significantly on a regional basis. While refiners have been safely operating both types of “alky” units for many decades, HF alkylation for some time has been in the crosshairs of the Environmental Protection Agency, which recently proposed that refiners be required to undertake extensive evaluations of potentially safer alternative technologies. It’s hard to know for sure, but if EPA’s proposed rule is made final it could ultimately force many refineries to make very costly changes — into the hundreds of million dollars per unit — or maybe even shut down entirely. In today’s RBN blog, we look at alkylate, how it’s made, and the potentially profound effects of the impending regulation.
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Daily Energy Blog
For decades, gas-gathering pipelines located in rural areas largely escaped the federal scrutiny that was primarily focused on transmission pipelines. But all that has changed with final publication of the so-called Mega Rule, which applies federal pipeline safety regulations to hundreds of thousands of miles of gas-gathering pipelines — previously not subject to federal safety regulation — for the first time. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the history behind the three-part Mega Rule, what it’s designed to do, and the challenges pipeline operators will face to stay in compliance.
The dramatic increase in the price of the D6 Renewable Identification Number a decade ago was one of the more spectacular moves in the history of major commodity trading. The spike in the price of RINs — the credits used to certify compliance with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) — was brought on by a sudden uptick in demand and stakeholders who lacked sufficiently deep awareness and understanding of the complex RIN credit system. In today’s RBN blog, we use the story of 2013’s “Big Bang” in D6 RIN prices to explain the fundamental mechanism that determines RIN prices, consider whether such a price shock could occur again, and discuss what stakeholders can do to prepare.
Despite global energy insecurities, many countries continue to push forward with efforts to incentivize an energy transition and fulfill emission-reduction targets. Canada has been no exception, with its federal government earlier this year introducing detailed climate goals for each of its major economic sectors, with particular emphasis placed on oil and gas, the country’s largest emitter. With the aim of a 42% emissions reduction for this sector by 2030 versus 2019 levels, Canada has set a target that may well be beyond reach, raising the possibility that production cutbacks later this decade will be the only alternative. In today’s RBN blog, we examine this potentially disruptive prospect.
It’s understandable for politicians to want energy markets to bend to their will — especially when it comes to gasoline prices. No one likes spending $60, $70 or $80 to fill up their car, SUV or pickup and, well, drivers are voters. The problem is, there’s no simple way to bring down gas prices, and that puts politicians in a quandary. Faced with public outrage, they feel pressured to respond and, with no easy fix at hand, they strain to develop legislative or regulatory “solutions” that in the end may not solve anything. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the various efforts in the U.S. and overseas to monkey with market mechanisms and rein in the cost of motor fuel.
The crude-oil-driven Permian has been a hotbed of midstream development in recent years and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. RBN estimates Permian gross gas production surpassed 22 Bcf/d last month and projects that, if unconstrained by infrastructure, it would grow by another 4 Bcf/d or so over the next couple of years. One determinant of that rate of growth is adequate capacity to process gross gas volumes. In today’s RBN blog, we conclude this series with an assessment of the timing of processing capacity additions in the basin vs. RBN’s Mid-case gross gas production forecast.
A simple problem can be solved with a simple solution, but more complex problems require a more nuanced approach, often using a combination of strategies. That’s the case with plans to mitigate methane emissions, which are not only potent and prevalent, but notoriously hard to quantify, with little common ground among industry, the government and the public about what steps should be taken next. In today’s RBN blog we look at the different approaches the U.S. is taking to regulate methane emissions and address other clean-energy priorities.
Bragging rights are a big deal in Texas, and we’re not just talking pride about the Astros’ annual rampage through baseball’s post-season. Getting to the top is also a source of immense pride for oil and gas midstreamers, and right now Targa Resources claims the bragging rights as the largest gatherer and processor of associated natural gas in the Permian Basin. Targa’s bold decision to build an integrated gas and NGL business, its timely infrastructure expansions through and after the pandemic, and a recent, accretive acquisition have resulted in a massive footprint where a stunning 25% of forecast Permian gas production growth is expected to take place. But strong competitors such as Enterprise Product Partners, DCP Midstream and Energy Transfer are nipping at Targa’s heels. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Spotlight Report on the company.
In our view, there are two or three clear leaders in the competition for billions of dollars in U.S. support for clean-hydrogen hubs — for example, it would be hard to imagine the Department of Energy (DOE) passing over hub proposals in Texas, Louisiana or the Marcellus/Utica. At the same time, there’s a lot to be said for plans to develop hydrogen hubs in California, North Dakota and, we might add, the Rockies, a region with extensive energy-related infrastructure and a long list of prospective clean-hydrogen end-users, not to mention at least two projects to convert coal-fired power plants to hydrogen. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss a multistate push to make the Rockies a hotbed of hydrogen-related activity.
The U.S. market for distillates has been crazy the past few months — especially in PADD 1 — and given all that’s going on, it’s likely to stay that way for months to come. Inventories of ultra-low-sulfur diesel, heating oil and other distillates are at their lowest levels for this time of year since before the EIA started tracking them 40 years ago and diesel prices are in the stratosphere, all despite diesel crack spreads being in record-high territory — a strong incentive for refineries to churn out more distillate. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the many factors affecting distillate supply, demand, inventories and prices and take a look ahead at where the market may be headed next.
The European gas year commenced October 1 with expectations of high winter demand and commensurate gas and LNG prices. However, in recent days the press — both trade and mainstream — have remarked on the number of laden LNG carriers that have been circling, anchored or drifting around the Mediterranean and East Atlantic. This flotilla, currently numbering about 30 cargoes, or 2.1 million metric tons (MMt) of LNG, has been growing since late September and includes some cargoes that have been at sea for over a month. Although floating storage ahead of winter demand is nothing new, the scale of the current phenomenon is unprecedented. In today’s RBN blog, we explore the implications for European gas pricing and market dynamics.
Prior to the adoption of the assembly line, automotive production was slow and expensive, with Ford needing about 12 man hours of labor to do the final assembly for each new car. With Henry Ford’s installation of the first moving assembly line for mass production in December 1913, followed by additional refinements in future years, the average time dropped to about 90 minutes, with manufacturing costs also falling significantly. Those are the types of improvements in cost and efficiency the carbon-capture industry — which to date has been largely limited to smaller, individual projects — is anticipating as hub-style projects gain wider acceptance and begin to take shape. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the two basic concepts for carbon-capture hubs, the key advantages of the hub approach, and the complications inherent in that strategy.
Earlier this month, the price discount for Western Canadian Select (WCS) versus WTI at Cushing blew out to more than $30/bbl — 2.5x what’s typical and a signal that something was seriously out of whack. Well, it turns out that several things were — and to some degree still are — off-kilter, combining to drive down the price of Western Canada’s benchmark heavy-oil blend to its lowest levels relative to WTI in four years. The culprits? Everything from renewed pipeline constraints to a deadly refinery fire in Ohio to the aftereffects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including releases from the U.S.’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the recent ups and downs in WCS pricing and the prospects for WCS-WTI differentials to return to a more normal range in the weeks to come. (Hint: This roller-coaster ride ain’t over.)
The world will need extraordinarily large quantities of lithium to support the development of renewable energy, batteries and electric vehicles (EVs). The problem is, much of the supply chain for lithium and many other important energy-transition minerals is either owned or controlled by China, whose strategic and economic interests are directly at odds with the U.S. and its allies. In response, the Biden administration and Congress have been taking steps to reduce our dependence on Chinese supplies by providing financial incentives to encourage the development of more domestic mineral production and processing capacity. But that development can only happen if the projects can clear the often-daunting regulatory and legal hurdles they almost always face. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss a few of the leading U.S. projects being planned and the challenges they face in moving forward.
Capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial and oil and gas activities is already a big challenge but having a safe, permanent place to store them is vital if the goal is to meet or exceed emission-reduction targets. To this end, Alberta, home to most of Canada’s oil and gas industry, including the vast oil sands, is steadily advancing plans to develop carbon sequestration hubs and underground reservoirs across the province in parallel with above-ground CO2 capture plants and pipelines. In separate announcements this year, the province gave the go ahead to 25 projects to develop sequestration hubs and determine if they can achieve commercial viability. In today’s blog, we consider Alberta’s latest efforts to push forward with its emissions capture and storage plans.
Without a doubt, the two biggest changes to U.S. natural gas markets in the last 15 years have been the Shale Revolution and the development of LNG exports. These completely upended the way gas flowed in this country, with the Northeast now home to the largest gas-producing basin and the Gulf Coast — including its fleet of LNG export terminals — now the U.S.’s largest demand center. Production growth in the Marcellus/Utica has stalled, however, largely due to the regulatory and legal challenges associated with building new pipeline takeaway capacity. One possible fix would be a new East Coast LNG terminal, which in addition to having easy access to cheap, almost-local gas would also be close to gas-hungry European markets. But just how likely is such a project? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the advantages and hurdles of developing LNG export capacity on the East Coast.