Crude oil production in the Permian Basin is now approaching 4 MMb/d, and with more than 2 MMb/d of new pipeline takeaway capacity out of the resource-rich play set to come online over the next 12 months, there soon will be plenty of room for more production growth. To efficiently transport crude to takeaway pipes, however, producers and shippers need ever-growing networks of gathering systems in the Permian’s sweet spots where much of the drilling and completion activity is occurring. Ideally, these systems offer their users a high degree of optionality — that is, interconnections with multiple takeaway pipelines to different markets — so they can capture the best prices for their oil. Today, we continue our review of major gathering networks in the Permian with a look at Reliance Gathering’s nearly 250-mile system in the Midland, TX, area.
Daily energy Posts
Permian natural gas prices are having a rough spring. After a volatile winter that saw two periods of negative-priced trades followed by a period of relatively strong prices, values at the Permian’s major trading hubs hit the skids earlier this week just as Spring Break set in for most in the Lone Star state. Once again, pipeline maintenance and burgeoning production appear to be the main culprits, but this upheaval feels different, in our view. Clearly, the price crash has reached a new level of drama, with day-ahead spot prices at West Texas’s Waha hub now settling below zero — some days by more than $0.50/MMBtu. Gas production has raced higher too, now within striking distance of 10 Bcf/d, on the coattails of continued oil pipeline capacity expansions, but new gas pipeline takeaway capacity is an estimated six months away. What becomes of Permian gas prices in the meantime, and how much worse could already-negative prices get? Today, we discuss the drivers behind the latest price deterioration and assess what’s ahead for the Permian natural gas markets.
The second wave of North American LNG export projects is officially underway. LNG Canada took final investment decision (FID) last October and would be the first large-scale LNG export facility in Canada. Golden Pass and Calcasieu Pass followed in February, marking the beginning of the next round of LNG export build on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Sabine Pass Train 6 is expected to get the green light any day, and at least eight more projects are targeting FID this year. But how likely are these projects to go ahead? And what exactly does it take for a project to reach that financial milestone? Today, we begin a two-part blog series on the factors affecting U.S. and Canadian LNG export projects’ prospects for taking FID and our view on the projects making progress towards joining the second wave of LNG exports.
Crude production is at all-time highs in the Bakken and the Niobrara, and the latest pipeline-capacity expansions out of both regions have been filling up fast. At the same time, producers in Western Canada are dealing with major takeaway constraints and are on the hunt for still more pipeline space. Midstream companies are trying to oblige, proposing solutions like a major Pony Express expansion or a new Bakken-to-Rockies-to-Gulf Coast fix — the Liberty and Red Oak pipelines — that could help address all of the above. The catch is that, with multiple producing areas funneling crude along the same general eastern-Rockies corridor and the outlook for continued production growth uncertain, how’s a shipper to know whether to sign a long-term deal for some of the incremental pipe capacity now being offered? Today, we consider the need for new takeaway capacity, the potential for an overbuild scenario, and what it all means for producers and shippers.
Over the past three years, the U.S. frac sand market has been transformed. Demand for the sand used in hydraulic fracturing is more than twice what it was in early 2016. Dozens of new “local” sand mines have come online, slashing the need for railed-in Northern White Sand in the Permian and a number of other fast-growing plays. Frac sand prices have fallen sharply from their 2017 highs. And exploration and production companies, which traditionally outsourced sand procurement and “last-mile” sand logistics to pressure pumpers and other specialists, are taking a more hands-on approach. It’s a whole new world. Today, we continue our series on the major upheavals rocking the frac sand world in 2019 with a look at the development of local sand sources in the Eagle Ford, SCOOP/STACK and the Haynesville.
Enbridge is taking a serious look at converting its Southern Lights pipeline, which currently transports diluent northwest from Illinois to Alberta, to a 150-Mb/d crude oil pipe that would flow southeast. The potential reversal of Southern Lights is made possible by the facts that Western Canadian production of natural gasoline and condensate — two leading diluents — has been rising fast, and that demand for piped-in diluent from the Lower 48 is on the wane. Alberta producers could sure use more crude pipeline capacity out of the region — and getting crude down to the U.S. Midwest would give them good access to a variety of markets. With Western Canadian diluent production increasing fast, maybe Kinder Morgan’s Cochin Pipeline, another diluent carrier, could also be flipped to crude service later on. Today, we consider how Southern Lights’ conversion/reversal might help.
After a period of delays, commissioning activity at the newest U.S. LNG export terminals is poised to accelerate in the coming months, in turn bringing on incremental feedgas demand. Sempra’s Cameron LNG has said it’s ready to introduce feedgas to its fuel system and is awaiting federal approval. Meanwhile, liquefaction projects at Kinder Morgan’s Elba Island LNG and Freeport LNG terminals are gearing up to take feedgas in the next month or so. Feedgas deliveries to the operating export facilities in the past seven days have averaged 5.5 Bcf/d. These three projects alone are slated to add another 1.2 Bcf/d of incremental feedgas demand by July, bringing the total to 6.7 Bcf/d by then, if all goes well. In today’s blog, we continue examining the status and timing of LNG export projects in 2019, this time with a closer look at the Cameron, Elba and Freeport projects.
There’s never a dull moment in the ethane market. Four new steam crackers and an expansion at an existing plant are slated to begin operating along the Gulf Coast in 2019, and a recently restarted Louisiana cracker will continue to ramp up to full capacity — together adding about 250 Mb/d of ethane demand by year’s end. You’d think there would be plenty of ethane out there for them. After all, U.S. NGL production has been on the rise, driven in part by new Permian gas processing plants and new NGL pipeline capacity to the coast. But fractionation constraints at the Mont Belvieu hub are likely to linger through 2019, raising questions about how much ethane will actually be produced and how much will need to be rejected into pipeline gas. Today, we consider the challenges facing the ethane market this year as demand increases and fracs run flat out to keep pace.
The U.S. frac sand market has been turned on its head. Over the past three years, demand for the sand used in hydraulic fracturing has more than doubled, dozens of new “local” sand mines have been popping up within the Permian and other fast-growing plays, and frac sand prices have fallen sharply from their 2017 highs. The big changes don’t end there. Exploration and production companies (E&Ps), who traditionally left sand procurement to the pressure pumping companies that complete their wells, are taking a more hands-on approach. And everyone is super-focused on optimizing their “last-mile” frac sand logistics — the delivery of sand by truck, plus unloading and storage of sand at the well site — with an eye toward minimizing completion costs and maximizing productivity. Today, we begin a blog series on the major upheavals rocking the frac sand world in 2019.
Last year, the impending implementation of International Maritime Organization’s rule mandating the use of lower-sulfur marine fuels starting January 1, 2020, widened the price spread between rule-compliant 0.5%-sulfur bunker and the 3.5%-sulfur marine fuel that has been a shipping industry mainstay. Traders’ thinking was that demand for high-sulfur bunker would evaporate in the run-up to IMO 2020, as the new rule is known. But since early January, the spread between low- and high-sulfur fuel at the Gulf Coast has narrowed from nearly $11/bbl to less than $2/bbl. The culprit is a shortage of heavy-sour crude caused by a number of factors. Today, we begin a two-part series on low-sulfur vs. high-sulfur fuel and crude values as IMO 2020 approaches.
Appalachia — the U.S.’s leading gas production region — is also one of the last bastions of coal country in the broader Northeast. That dual reality makes it one of the remaining pockets in the region where there is significant potential for upside in natural gas demand for power generation. Gas burn for power in the Appalachian states — Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky — surpassed power burn in the northern Mid-Atlantic market (New York/New Jersey) in 2017 and led the growth in overall Northeast power burn in 2018. The availability of consistently low-priced gas in recent years has hastened the retirement of coal-fired and nuclear generation plants in the shale producing region and fueled the addition of combined-cycle gas-fired generators, with more scheduled to come online soon. Today’s blog looks at recent and upcoming changes in the Appalachian generation fleet, and their implications for gas demand growth.
Producers in the Bakken and the rest of North Dakota flared record volumes of natural gas in the fourth quarter of 2018 — an average of more than 520 MMcf/d, or about 20% of total production — far exceeding the state’s current 12% flaring target. What happened? For one, crude oil production in the play took off; for another, the gas-to-oil ratio at the lease continued to increase. And while some new gas processing capacity came online last year to reduce the need for flaring, the pace of the additions was too slow to keep up with the Bakken’s rising gas output. The good news is that 2019 will bring more incremental processing capacity to North Dakota than any year to date. Today, we discuss recent setbacks on the flaring-control front and the prospects for things getting better later this year.
U.S. demand for LNG feedgas has picked up in recent weeks, posting a record high of 5.6 Bcf/d in late February and averaging more than 5 Bcf/d in March to date, as Cheniere Energy completed the fifth train at Sabine Pass and the first at Corpus Christi. That level is nearly 1 Bcf/d higher than last month and nearly double what it was at this time last year. But it’s just the start. Train 2 at Corpus Christi was approved for feedgas just yesterday and Kinder Morgan’s Elba Island project in Georgia just days before that. With about 30 MMtpa, or ~4.5 Bcf/d, of liquefaction and export capacity due online this year, feedgas deliveries are poised to surpass 9 Bcf/d by the end of the year, with nearly all of that incremental demand coming online along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. The pace of this demand growth over the course of the year will come down to how quickly the anticipated trains can complete construction and testing, the timing of which can depend on a whole host of factors, including the extent of the repairs or modifications that are needed along the way, the timing of regulatory approvals, or the timing of gas pipeline connections to supply the facilities. Today, we continue our series examining the status and timing of LNG export projects in 2019.
Fractionators at the Mont Belvieu hub operated at or near full capacity through the second half of 2018 as they struggled to deal with a deluge of mixed NGLs from the Permian and other key production areas. This situation — barely enough capacity to keep pace with rising demand for fractionation services — is likely to continue through 2019, even as a number of new fractionators come online. But NGL producers and the midstream sector are on the case: a slew of additional frac capacity has been announced since last fall, all of it slated to begin operation in 2020 or early 2021, and all of it backed by long-term contracts. Today, we discuss ongoing efforts to make the most of existing frac trains and to add new capacity pronto.
After 19 years of natural gas production from the waters off the Canadian Maritime provinces, ExxonMobil, operator of the Sable Offshore Energy Project (SOEP), shut down production there, effective January 1, 2019. The closure further limits gas supply options for the already supply-constrained Maritimes and New England regions. Will the shutdown put even more stress on the already overtaxed gas pipeline system in New England? And will it spur increased flows of Western Canadian gas into northern New England and Canada’s Maritime provinces? Today, we continue our series examining the potential impacts of SOEP’s demise on New England gas markets.
The Mexican market is critically important to Permian producers. Rising gas demand south of the border — along with expected gains in LNG exports from new liquefaction/export facilities along the Gulf Coast — are key to their plans to significantly increase production of crude oil, which brings with it large volumes of associated gas. All that gas needs a market, and nearby Mexico is a natural. For a number of years now, Mexico’s Comisión Federal de Electricidad has been working to implement a plan to add dozens of new gas-fired power plants and to support the development of new gas pipelines to transport gas to them from the U.S. The new pipelines have been coming online at a slower-than-planned pace. But what pipeline capacity has been added across the border from West Texas is already changing Mexico’s gas market. The El Encino Hub in Northwest Mexico is one such area where there are signs of a shifting supply-demand balance. Today, we continue a blog series on key gas pipeline developments down Mexico way and the implications for gas flows, this time delving into the dynamics at the El Encino Hub.