Over the past three-plus years, Corpus Christi has dominated the U.S. crude oil export market, largely because of the availability of straight-shot pipeline access from the Permian to two Corpus-area terminals at Ingleside — Enbridge Ingleside Energy Center (EIEC) and South Texas Gateway (STG) — that can partially load the huge 2-MMbbl VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers). But capacity on the pipes to Corpus is now nearly maxed out and, with Permian production rising and exports strong, an increasing share of West Texas crude output is instead being sent to Houston on pipelines with capacity to spare. The catch for Permian shippers with capacity on Permian-to-Houston pipes is that the Midland-to-MEH (Magellan East Houston) price differential for WTI has been depressingly low —$0.22/bbl on average this year, compared to almost $20/bbl for a few months in 2018 and averaging $5.50/bbl as recently as 2019. However, the Midland-to-MEH WTI price spread looks to be on the verge of a rebound of sorts, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.
Analyst Insights are unique perspectives provided by RBN analysts about energy markets developments. The Insights may cover a wide range of information, such as industry trends, fundamentals, competitive landscape, or other market rumblings. These Insights are designed to be bite-size but punchy analysis so that readers can stay abreast of the most important market changes.
November WTI fell slightly on Monday, settling at $89.68/bbl, a decrease of $0.35/bbl (-0.4%). The minor slide was attributed to Russia easing its recent fuel export ban, which had led to the perception of tightening supplies.
A Gulf of Mexico lease sale scheduled for September 27 will include millions of acres that had been removed from the sale in August by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a federal judge ruled late last week.
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One of the major shocks of the pandemic was walking into supermarkets to see vast stretches of bare shelves where, for decades, stacks of toilet paper, diapers, infant formula, cooking oil, and even white flour used to magically repopulate overnight. The fix turned out to be relatively easy: Get people back to work and work out the kinks in delivery networks. (Now our only concern is how expensive everything is!) Rebuilding inventories in the oil and gas industry, in contrast, is an ever-present concern, longer-term in nature and more complicated, involving a wide range of variables and uncertainties. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the challenges that exploration and production (E&P) companies face in their efforts to more efficiently and cost effectively replace their oil and gas reserves — and we highlight some early warnings signs of potential future inventory issues.
Clean hydrogen’s supporters often tout its growth potential, boosted in no small way by the billions of dollars in federal subsidies that will soon go toward supporting the buildout of an extensive series of regional hubs across the U.S. Clean hydrogen has its share of detractors, too, who question how much of a fixture it can become in the U.S. energy mix and wonder about its reliance on all those federal subsidies. But there’s one thing just about everyone seems to agree on — nobody likes the seemingly ubiquitous hydrogen color scheme, with arguments that it is too simplistic, has become too politicized, and puts the industry’s focus on the wrong things. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the limitations of the hydrogen color scheme, the risks of relying on it too extensively, and how the new tax credit for clean hydrogen puts the focus on carbon intensity (CI) instead.
With so many low-carbon, carbon-neutral and carbon-negative shipping fuels being touted as the next big thing, it can be hard to determine which are for real and which are mostly hype. Some folks have been talking up LNG, biofuels, clean ammonia, fuel cells ... the list goes on and on. One way to separate the most promising prospects from the also-rans is to keep track of where big shipping companies are placing their bets — and how they’re hedging those wagers, just in case it takes longer than expected to develop fuel-production facilities. Clean methanol in particular is showing signs that it may be one of the frontrunners on both the supply and the demand sides, with an increasing number of firm orders being placed for massive container ships and other vessels that can be fueled by either methanol or low-sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) — there’s the hedge — and a number of new clean methanol production facilities being planned in the U.S. and overseas. (But still, a healthy dose of skepticism about it all is warranted.) In today’s RBN blog, we discuss recent developments in the clean methanol space.
When it comes to proposals to build large-scale energy projects, whether it’s a new electric transmission line, a mining complex, or an interstate oil or gas pipeline, the permitting process can be a delicate balancing act. Nearly everyone understands that appropriate social and environmental safeguards are essential. At the same time, the permitting process can’t be so cumbersome that it takes a decade or more to build that transmission line, complete that mine, or get a pipeline into operation. There’s a general understanding that the permitting process needs to be improved but, as the title of today’s blog implies, it’s a whole lot easier said than done. In today’s RBN blog, we preview our latest Drill Down Report on the major themes around permitting reform and examine the factors that could help — or hinder — further efforts.
The 590-Mb/d Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) project, which is inching closer to its planned early 2024 completion, has been one of the most eagerly anticipated energy infrastructure projects in recent Canadian memory. Preliminary tolls for shipping crude on the expanded pipeline system, submitted to the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) in June, are multiples higher than the tolls currently charged on the original 300-Mb/d Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMP), possibly undermining oil producers’ economics for shipping and exporting crude on the combined 890-Mb/d system. However, the higher tolls are not the only concern. Serious logistical challenges remain in the form of restricted tanker sizes, a circuitous route for ships traveling from the open ocean to the Westridge export terminal near Burnaby, BC, and even a very tight passage under two bridges, all of which will add costs and time for each exported barrel. In today’s RBN blog, we provide more details on the complexities surrounding crude oil exports via the Trans Mountain pipeline system.
Unlike most of us, CEOs and other senior executives at U.S. oil and gas companies derive the lion’s share of their compensation not from salaries, but from bonus and incentive programs tied to performance targets set by their boards of directors. So it’s no surprise that the dramatic strategic shift implemented by U.S. E&Ps and integrated energy companies over the last decade has been steered by an equally dramatic change in their compensation incentives. In today’s RBN blog, we review how top executives at oil and gas companies are compensated and analyze the shift in the incentives they are motivated to meet.
Cargo ships move more than 80% of the world’s internationally traded goods, making them essential to the global economy, but they’ve traditionally been fueled by heavy fuel oil or marine gasoil, both of which are emissions-intensive. With 60,000 or so ships in service, they account for an estimated 2.8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a percentage the International Maritime Organization (IMO) would like to reduce. At the 80th session of the IMO’s Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in July, the group adopted a provisional agreement to eliminate GHG emissions from shipping by a date as close to 2050 as possible, with intermediate goals for emissions reduction by 2030 and 2040. Clearly, radical innovations will be required to meet the IMO’s goals. In today’s RBN blog, we look at some of the initiatives directed at emissions reduction in shipping and the challenges to (and opportunities for) operational improvements, especially regarding LNG carriers.
Enterprise Products Partners doesn’t just extract mixed NGLs from associated gas at processing plants, transport that Y-grade to the NGL hub at Mont Belvieu, and fractionate NGLs into “purity products” like ethane, propane and butanes. The midstream giant also distributes purity products to Gulf Coast steam crackers and refineries, converts propane to propylene at its two propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plants, distributes ethylene and propylene, transports propane and butane to wholesale markets across much of the eastern half of the U.S., and exports a wide range of products — ethane, LPG, ethylene and propylene among them — from two Enterprise marine terminals on the Houston Ship Channel. (Another export terminal in Beaumont, TX, is in the works.) Talk about a value chain! In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on NGL networks with a look at Enterprise’s NGL and petrochemical production, distribution and export assets.
CME’s NYMEX light sweet crude oil contract in Cushing, OK, is not West Texas Intermediate — WTI. Instead, it is Domestic Sweet — commonly referred to as DSW — with quality specifications that are broader and generally inferior to Midland-sourced WTI. In fact, pristine Midland WTI delivered to Cushing sells at a reasonably healthy premium to DSW. That difference in specs, and the fact that the quality of DSW is considerably more variable than straight-as-an-arrow Midland WTI, makes most purchasers of exported U.S. crude (and many domestic refiners too) strongly prefer the more quality-consistent Midland WTI grade. For that reason, when Platts set out to allow U.S. light crude to be delivered as Brent, it said that only Midland WTI will qualify. Consequently, a marketer cannot take delivery of a NYMEX-quality barrel at Cushing, pipe it down to the Gulf Coast, and deliver it to a dock for export if the ultimate destination of that barrel is to be reflected in the Brent price assessment. The implication? There are now effectively two U.S. crude oil benchmark grades, each of which is valued differently, priced differently and used by different markets. Is this a big deal for the valuation mechanisms for U.S. crude oils, or just a minor quirk in oil-market nomenclature? We’ll explore that question in today’s RBN blog.
On average, the landowners and other entities that own mineral and royalty interests in producing oil and gas wells receive about 20% of the gross revenues generated by those wells — and do so without any responsibility for the significant costs and complications associated with well development and production. Mineral and royalty interests have traditionally been a highly fragmented market, with most held and passed down through generations by landowners or purchased by individual investors. However, competition for these interests has become more heated in recent years with the creation of large publicly owned and private-equity-funded consolidators and a new emphasis by E&P companies on adding these higher-margin slices of revenue from leases they own and operate. In today’s RBN blog, we explain mineral and royalty interests and analyze the developments in this massive $700 billion market.
A great deal of attention has been heaped on the carbon-capture industry over the past couple of years, from its inclusion in major federal legislation such as 2021’s infrastructure bill and last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, plus all sorts of recently announced carbon sequestration projects. Still, there are plenty of concerns that the technology is not fully baked, that many of the projects are not ready for prime time, and that few have the practical know-how to deploy carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) at scale. But what if there was a company that has been doing carbon sequestration for a very long time — decades in fact? And what if that company has built out a huge carbon dioxide (CO2) collection, distribution and sequestration system on the Gulf Coast along with concrete plans for a massive expansion of this network to capture a lot more manmade, “anthropogenic” CO2, not in decades but in just a few short years? A company like that would be pretty much the ideal acquisition candidate for a cash-flush multinational with big ESG goals and strategies, right? As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, that is just what is happening with ExxonMobil’s acquisition of Denbury, a deal that will create today’s undisputed leader in CCS.
U.S. production of hydrogenated renewable diesel (RD), made from soybean oil and animal fats like used cooking oil, is growing faster than expected. That may sound like good news for the renewable fuels industry, but it comes with the fear that the rapid growth might trigger a sudden crash of Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices that — if it happens — would rock the market. In today’s RBN blog, we have a go at describing what that might look like.
In just over a month, the price of Mont Belvieu purity ethane doubled, from 19 c/gal to 39 c/gal on Friday. Sure, the price of natural gas was up about 15% over the same period. But that increase was nowhere near ethane’s, so it was certainly not the price of gas that was making ethane take off. In fact, with ethane rocketing into space and gas prices still in the dumper, the ethane-to-gas ratio — a key measure of the value of ethane — skyrocketed, soaring from 1.2X in mid-June to 2.2X on Friday. A ratio at this level has only happened twice before in the past decade: once in 2018 due to a collision between fractionation capacity and new petchem plants coming online, and then again in 2020 during the COVID petchem demand surge. But the most recent price surge didn’t last long. On Tuesday ethane came back to earth, crashing 22% in a single day, and the ethane-to-gas ratio deflated down to 1.6X. So what’s happening? There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there that we won’t repeat here. Instead, in today’s RBN blog, we’ll lay out what we think are the most likely contributing factors behind this wild ride.
The bulk of the second wave of U.S. LNG export projects will be situated along a small stretch of the Gulf Coast, from Port Arthur at the Texas-Louisiana border to the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana. Three of these projects — Golden Pass LNG, Port Arthur LNG and Plaquemines LNG — are under construction there and will add nearly 7 Bcf/d of new gas demand by 2028, and others could reach a final investment decision (FID) in the coming months or years. That’s prompted a frenzy of natural gas pipeline projects vying to serve this growing demand center, whether by moving incremental supply into the area or providing “last mile” delivery to the terminals. These pipeline expansions — and how well the incremental capacity, geography and timing align with liquefaction capacity additions — will drive the pace of overall gas demand growth and how the Lower 48 gas market will balance in the coming years. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report detailing the slew of announced pipeline projects targeting LNG exports from the Port Arthur, TX/Louisiana region.
In natural gas markets, warmer-than-average winters usually translate into oversupply conditions as heating demand draws less gas out of storage than what would normally be expected. When compounded by rapidly rising domestic production and soft gas exports, the result is even greater oversupply. That is exactly how the Canadian gas market finished the most recent heating season, facing a substantial oversupply of gas that, if it persisted, could result in domestic gas storage reaching capacity well before the start of the next heating season. However, when it comes to natural gas markets, or any other market for that matter, expect the unexpected. Gradually improving demand and export conditions, combined with a significant decline in domestic gas production event in Western Canada, has rapidly shifted the market from substantial to slight oversupply in a matter of months. This has reduced downward pressure on prices and created conditions that might lead to a more manageable storage level before the next heating season gets underway. In today’s RBN blog, we consider what has been generating the rapid shift in Canadian gas market balances this summer.