RBN Energy

Sunday, 8/07/2022

The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) has seen more than its share of stormy weather, and — both literally and figuratively — so have crude oil producers active there. Earlier this century, production growth in the offshore GOM was set back by Katrina and other major hurricanes, then by the Deepwater Horizon spill. Starting in 2014, and for five years after that, the Gulf's output ratcheted up, only to be set back again, this time by the double-whammy of COVID and bad storms. Now, the GOM appears to be poised for another period of steady growth — the only question is, with the global push to decarbonize, and with at least of couple of large producers planning to exit the region, will this be Gulf producers' last stretch of good weather? In today's RBN blog, we begin a short series on the ups and downs of GOM production, the new projects starting up this year and beyond, and the Gulf's longer-term prospects.

Daily energy Posts

Thursday, 06/23/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

It’s well understood that methane is a significant greenhouse gas and that reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production is critical to hitting long-term emissions targets, but that’s about where most of the common ground ends. There are serious disagreements about the actual magnitude of methane emissions, the proper role of government regulation, and whether requirements to control those emissions would place an undue burden on the energy industry and lead to decreased supply. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how emissions estimates are made, why they can vary significantly, and how the disagreements about how to curb those emissions might be resolved.

Wednesday, 06/22/2022
Category:
Refined Fuels

In film and television, the “boxed crook” trope is where a condemned person is sought as a last-ditch effort to pull off some impossible mission or overcome a formidable opponent. In return, the convict is typically offered amnesty or other consideration by the operatives in charge. Millennials will probably think of the recent Suicide Squad movies. For Generation X, The Rock starring Sean Connery was a great example. And for the boomers, it was The Dirty Dozen. Our current situation in the U.S. energy sector may not be quite as thrilling as those movies but the same plot elements exist. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the predicament faced by industry and political leaders and begin to sort out the various proposals to put a lid on prices and restore energy security.

Tuesday, 06/21/2022
Category:
Renewables

One of the biggest, most important steps in the U.S.’s ongoing energy transition will be the selection and build-out of at least four new clean hydrogen hubs –– development supported to a significant degree by an $8 billion commitment in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was signed into law by President Biden in November. Surely there will be a lot of angling among states and regions to land big chunks of that federal money, but it’s a safe bet that one of the new hydrogen hubs will be located along the Texas-Louisiana coast. After all, this stretch of low-lying land not only boasts the U.S.’s highest concentration of existing hydrogen production and consumption, it also offers an extensive network of hydrogen pipelines, easy access to vast amounts of natural gas and renewable power, scores of potential sites for underground hydrogen storage and carbon sequestration, and a slew of marine terminals for exporting hydrogen-packed ammonia to global markets. Best of all, perhaps, the region has the human capital to make a new energy hub happen — heck, look at the infrastructure and markets the folks and companies between Freeport and Lake Charles have already developed for crude oil, natural gas and NGLs. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a detailed look at the federal government’s push to advance clean hydrogen as a fuel of the future and the Houston-led effort to make the western Gulf Coast a buzzing center of hydrogen-related activity.

Monday, 06/20/2022
Category:
Refined Fuels

In the next few days, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will hold an emergency meeting with leading energy executives to discuss steps E&Ps and refiners could take to increase crude oil production, refinery capacity and the production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, all with the aim of reducing prices. The prelude to the get-together was less than ideal, though. In a June 14 letter to the top brass of four integrated oil and gas giants and three large refiners, President Biden criticized them for “historically high refinery profit margins” and for shutting down refining capacity before and then during the pandemic. In addition to rejoinders from the companies, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) defended their actions, discussed the complexity of refined products markets, and asserted that the Biden administration’s statements and policies have actually discouraged investment in refining and oil and gas production. Is there a middle ground here? In today’s RBN blog, we look at the high-level correspondence and discuss how at least some compromises might be possible.

Sunday, 06/19/2022
Category:
Energy

If you want to get the energy world’s full attention, give it a global pandemic, a rush to decarbonize, and a brutal land war in Europe — all in quick succession. Bam! Bam! Bam! The past two-plus years have shaken the global oil, natural gas and NGL markets to the core, and forced just about everyone involved to rethink the expectations and plans they had before everything seemed to unravel. So what happens next? How do we provide energy security, put a lid on inflation, and save the planet? To answer those questions, a good place to start is to gain a better understanding of the fundamentals — how energy markets develop, work and interact. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from RBN’s recent School of Energy, a like-you-were-there replay of which is now available.

Thursday, 06/16/2022
Category:
Refined Fuels

For several years now, no single topic has caused more angst in refiners’ quarterly earnings calls than the seemingly arcane topic of renewable identification numbers, or RINs, which can have a big impact on a refiner’s financial performance. RINs are a feature of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires renewable fuels like ethanol and bio-based diesel to be blended into fuels sold in the U.S. And depending on your point of view — farmer, refiner, blender, consumer, politician — you may have a very different perspective regarding RINs’ role as a tax and a subsidy. In today’s RBN blog, we dig into the fundamental aspects of RINs at the root of this long-running controversy and examine the role of RINs as a mechanism for forcing renewables into fuels.

Wednesday, 06/15/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

Freeport LNG is expected to be offline for an extended period following last week’s explosion and fire at the export terminal, leaving the global gas market even more undersupplied than it already was. The outage cuts U.S. export capacity by about 2 Bcf/d at a time when Europe is still taking in huge volumes of LNG to offset declines in Russian supplies and bolster storage ahead of winter. This is all happening as another large exporting nation, Australia, is facing a critical winter energy crisis of its own and South American demand is headed toward its seasonal high, straining an already tight market. Today’s RBN blog continues our series about the ongoing Freeport outage, this time looking at the impact to the global gas and LNG markets.

Tuesday, 06/14/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

Before the bullish winter of 2021-22, it appeared the Northeast natural gas market was headed for familiar territory: worsening seasonal takeaway constraints and deeper, constraint-driven price discounts starting as early as this spring. Instead, the market went in the other direction the past few months. Takeaway utilization out of Appalachia has been lower year-on-year and, for the most part, Appalachian supply basin prices have followed Henry Hub higher even as that benchmark rocketed to 14-year highs. That’s not to say that constraints out of the Northeast aren’t on the horizon. But the market is now poised to escape the worst of it this year, despite the completion of the last major takeaway pipeline project in the region, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), being pushed out another year or longer, if it crosses the finish line at all. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on regional fundamentals and what recent trends mean for gas production growth and pricing in the region.

Monday, 06/13/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

The Russian war against Ukraine has focused Europe on the issue of energy security, especially as it relates to natural gas. The continent has previously relied on Russia for more than 40% of its gas, but it now must scramble for new suppliers and alternative forms of energy. The matter is particularly urgent in a few countries along or very near the Russian border, including Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine itself. Fortunately, almost two years ago the three countries formed the “Lublin Triangle,” an alliance of sorts with the aim of enhancing military, cultural and economic cooperation while also supporting Ukraine’s prospective integration into the European Union and NATO. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the potential for developing a “New Gas Order” in Europe.

Sunday, 06/12/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

An explosion June 8 at Freeport LNG, the 15.3 MMtpa (2 Bcf/d) export terminal on Quintana Island, TX, has knocked it offline at a time when the global market is already facing tight conditions because of the war in Ukraine and other factors. The explosion, fire and subsequent shutdown — which fortunately did not include any injuries — sent U.S. natural gas tumbling off recent highs and shot global gas prices higher. Much is still unknown about the developing situation, including exactly how long the outage will last. While Freeport has said it expects the terminal to be offline for at least three weeks, multiple regulatory agencies have investigations underway and will likely need to approve a return to service. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the latest news from Freeport LNG and run through the potential market implications, starting with impacts to the U.S. gas market.

Thursday, 06/09/2022
Category:
Renewables

California faces a broad set of challenges when it comes to reducing wildfires, which have been increasingly frequent and intense over the last decade — impacting the lives of those dealing with the threat, not to mention effects on the economy and environment. Separately, the state has been working to reduce transportation-related pollution and incentivize the development and use of a wide array of alternative fuels. Yosemite Clean Energy (YCE), which announced plans for its first plant site in late 2021, has an approach it says will not only make the state a cleaner and safer place but also foster the development of new transportation fuels. In today’s RBN blog, we look at YCE’s plans to turn wood waste into renewable fuels, how its unique “Stump to Pump” approach relies on partnerships with local communities, and the green hydrogen and renewable natural gas it plans to produce at sites across California.

Wednesday, 06/08/2022
Category:
Financial

We’ve written a lot lately about how U.S. E&Ps, whipsawed over the last decade by extreme price volatility and negative investor sentiment, have adopted a new fiscal discipline that de-emphasizes production growth and prioritizes generation of free cash flow to reduce debt and reward shareholders. But what about midstreamers? They too have been buffeted in recent years by volatile commodity prices, eroding investor support, shifting upstream investment patterns, and finally, a global pandemic. Midstream companies face a different set of challenges than oil and gas producers in repairing their balance sheet and restoring investor confidence, however, mostly because midstream investment decisions are determined both by downstream market changes and by E&Ps’ development and production activity — including producers’ ever-increasing focus on the Permian at the expense of other basins. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from RBN and East Daley’s Spotlight Report on Western Midstream Partners and how the master limited partnership has been working to reduce its debt and make the most of its strong base in the Permian’s Delaware Basin.

Tuesday, 06/07/2022
Category:
Refined Fuels

Last month, in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest ruling in a long-running dispute with refiners over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), EPA denied 36 petitions from refiners seeking exemptions to their obligation to blend renewables like ethanol into gasoline for the 2018 compliance year. At the core of this dispute are two contradictory premises about Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs. One premise says the RINs system adds cost that hurts refiners’ profitability, while the other says refiners’ profitability is not affected. Can two seemingly contradictory premises be true? In today’s RBN blog, we begin an examination of the issues surrounding RINs and the degree to which the cost affects refiners’ and blenders’ bottom lines.

Monday, 06/06/2022
Category:
Natural Gas Liquids

That crazy little ethane molecule is at it again. Yesterday the price blasted to 67.875 c/gal, a level last seen on January 17, 2012. Petchem cracker margins are low. Production is up, but inventories are down. A big driver of the bedlam is the price of natural gas, trading in the $7-$9/MMBtu range for the past month. But as usual with ethane, there’s a lot more happening below the surface — including high domestic demand, growing export volumes, and significant developments in downstream petrochemical markets — all shaking things up. Looking ahead, uncertainty looms, with more export capacity, ever-changing ethane rejection economics, and uneven production growth. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll leap back into the ethane market to see what’s been going on, and where ethane is headed over the next few years.

Sunday, 06/05/2022
Category:
Renewables

There is a fundamental difference in the way value is established in renewable, decarbonized energy markets versus traditional commodities. In traditional energy markets, value is defined by natural laws — physics, chemistry, geography. But in the world of renewables and decarbonization, value is primarily determined by man-made laws — RULES that specify what a particular flavor of energy is worth, what is required to prove that worth, and how that value is ultimately captured by market participants. In effect, a molecule’s (or electron’s) pedigree is as important — if not more important — than its energy content. Whether you are deep into renewables markets or you deal with energy commodities that are impacted by the rules, it is critically important that you understand everything about how these rules work and how they are regulated. In today’s RBN blog we’ll begin an exploration into the inner workings of energy transition market mechanisms.