RBN Energy

Sunday, 10/17/2021

If the ongoing global energy crunch is teaching us anything, it’s that decarbonizing the world’s economy may be even more difficult than many had figured. While a strong case can be made for reducing — or even slashing — greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by shifting to low-carbon and no-carbon energy sources, the sheer magnitude of the undertaking means there are likely to be major setbacks and compromises along the way. Setbacks like having to turn to coal-fired generation this winter to help keep parts of the Northern Hemisphere warm and productive, and compromises like acknowledging that sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, the sun doesn’t shine, and utilities need to burn a lot more natural gas to make up the difference — assuming there’s enough gas around to burn, that is. One more takeaway from current events is that energy security in the form of being able to count on your counterparties is a pretty big deal. (We’re looking at you, Vladimir Putin.) With all that in mind, in today’s RBN blog, we examine the long-term outlook for energy and GHG emissions as the United Nations’ climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, looms on the horizon.

Daily energy Posts

Sunday, 08/15/2021
Category:
Renewables

Every day, midstream companies in North America transport massive volumes of crude oil, natural gas, NGLs, and refined products to market. Without their pipelines, economic activity would rapidly grind to a halt. Still, environmental critics and ESG-conscious investors and lenders are quick to point out that the commodities that midstreamers pipe are among the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and that, at the very least, pipeline companies should be reducing or even offsetting the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs associated with operating their networks. That’s now happening in a big way — and in a variety of ways — as we discuss in today’s blog.

Thursday, 08/12/2021
Category:
Renewables

A couple of weeks ago, Shell announced a large-scale carbon capture and sequestration initiative at its Scotford refinery complex near Edmonton, AB. It’s one of the largest recent efforts to marry hydrogen production with CCS — an increasingly popular solution informally referred to as “blue” hydrogen. Shell is not alone. Across North America, the idea of capturing carbon dioxide to clean up our collective act is quickly gaining momentum and support. Whether we’re talking about refineries, ammonia plants, steam crackers, ethanol plants, or any other carbon-generating industrial process, capturing the CO2 — making the process “blue” — is seen by many as a way to make significant progress toward climate goals without over-burdening governments or consumers with the sky-high costs associated with some of the more technically challenging energy transition technologies. Today, we discuss the energy industry’s embrace of carbon capture solutions and how it could shape our energy future.

Wednesday, 08/11/2021
Category:
Natural Gas Liquids

The EIA report on propane inventories that came out yesterday was a shocker. This time of year, stocks are supposed to be building toward the levels needed to get U.S. propane markets through the winter season. But the numbers released on Wednesday showed an inventory decline, resulting in inventory balances now below the five-year minimum. The culprit, of course, is exports, with 1.4 MMb/d of them reported last week, a 17% gain over the year-to-date average. And these cargoes to overseas markets are happening even with propane prices in the stratosphere: more than double where they stood this time last year. Propane marketers were hoping that higher prices would slow down exports, but so far that is not happening. In today’s blog, we examine U.S. exports of LPG — propane plus butane — and discuss what may be ahead for these markets.

Tuesday, 08/10/2021
Category:
Renewables

Traveled by air in the U.S. lately? Airports and airplanes are packed to the gills. Unruly passengers are making the nightly news and becoming YouTube sensations. Jet fuel shortages are popping up. But there are other developments in air travel too, including a push by the global airline industry to rein in its greenhouse gas emissions. And the heart of that movement is sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF. While the blending of SAF with conventional jet fuel is not mandated in the U.S., the alternative fuel is gaining altitude, in part because it can generate layers of credits that can be utilized in various renewable fuel trading programs. In today’s blog, we look at the current status of renewable fuel in the U.S. aviation sector.

Monday, 08/09/2021
Category:
Renewables

The law of unintended consequences may be about to play out in society’s quest to sequester — or permanently store underground via enhanced oil recovery and other means — the carbon dioxide captured at ethanol plants, power generators, and other industrial facilities in the U.S. Why? Well, there are many legitimate, important uses for that manmade CO2, including in food processing and beverage making, among other industries, and diverting large volumes of captured CO2 from them to EOR and other sequestration methods due to highly attractive government incentives may put the squeeze on CO2 supply and send prices soaring. No one said that saving the planet would be easy or uncomplicated. In today’s blog, we discuss a possible hitch in the push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and how it might be dealt with.

Sunday, 08/08/2021
Category:
Renewables

Carbon-neutral hydrocarbons may sound like an oxymoron, but an increasing number of international shippers have been assembling and sending out cargoes of LNG whose expected lifecycle carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions have been fully offset by carbon credits. What’s next? No-calorie cherry pie? No-loss gambling on DraftKings? A winning season for the Houston Texans? (Probably not.) As you’d expect, carbon-neutral cargoes of LNG — and crude oil and LPG — are designed to help hydrocarbon sellers and buyers alike meet their goals for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The concept is still relatively new, though, and many of the participants in these deals are still in learning mode, seeking to gain experience with something they expect to see a lot more of soon. In today’s blog, we discuss the relatively short history of this type of shipment and the first signs that carbon-neutral hydrocarbons are about to go mainstream.

Thursday, 08/05/2021
Category:
Natural Gas

If you’re a relative newcomer to the energy industry, the subject of natural gas storage might make your eyes glaze over — the sector is often treated as a backwater by traders and investors focused on liquid hydrocarbons. But it wasn’t always so. In the decades leading up to the early 2000s, the U.S. gas market underwent a series of fundamental changes, each spurring the development of new storage capacity, first in the Northeast, then the Midwest, and finally along the Gulf Coast. Along the way, the primary use of storage — balancing seasonal swings in gas demand — remained consistent, but there was also a wild-and-woolly period in the mid-2000s that was rife with meme-stock-like trading frenzy. It’s hard to say for sure, but we may be on the verge of needing still more gas storage capacity. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss the history and nature of U.S. natural gas storage to give context on what the future might hold.

Wednesday, 08/04/2021
Category:
Renewables

Although it’s not well publicized, Canada’s oil and gas sector is already a global leader in active projects targeting significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide. These successes — some dating back as far as Y2K — are being used as a springboard for additional projects, all aimed at helping Canada achieve its aggressive GHG-reduction goals for 2030 and beyond. The scale of many of these projects is noteworthy. In today’s blog, we discuss the existing operations and planned projects that together will help the U.S.’s northern neighbor reduce its carbon footprint.

Tuesday, 08/03/2021
Category:
Crude Oil

For some time now, a handful of refineries in southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have been able to receive steeply discounted, heavy sour crude from Western Canada by rail or barge — or, in rare cases, by pipeline from Cushing to Nederland, TX, to the St. James, LA, hub. Starting in a few months, though, this same crude also will be able to flow by pipe directly from Patoka, IL, to St. James on the soon-to-be-reversed Capline pipeline. Initially, the southbound volumes on Capline will be modest, but over time they could increase to several hundred thousand barrels a day. Will those barrels be loaded onto supertankers and shipped overseas, or will they be headed for refineries in Louisiana and its eastern neighbors? In today’s blog, we try to answer those questions.

Monday, 08/02/2021
Category:
Renewables

What if crude oil could be extracted from the ground, refined into gasoline and diesel, trucked to your local service station, and used in your SUV to take that next road trip, all the while resulting in LESS CO2 being emitted into the atmosphere? That would mean carbon-negative crude. Crazy talk from a relic of the fossil (fuel) generation? Not so! Carbon-negative crude is being produced today along the U.S. Gulf Coast, assuming you buy the logic of how carbon accounting works for capturing CO2 and using it for enhanced oil recovery — EOR. In today’s blog, we’ll explore what it takes to achieve carbon-negative crude, and why there is vast potential for expanding this pathway to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Sunday, 08/01/2021
Category:
Renewables

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a big push by the government, industry, and the broader public to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to offset those that do occur. Given its carbon-intensive nature, the oil and gas sector is at the heart of this activity, with almost daily announcements about carbon-neutral LNG shipments, carbon-dioxide capture and sequestration projects, and other efforts. The problem is, it can be difficult sometimes to figure out what’s real and what’s not — that is, which efforts have an actual, measurable impact and which are sort of vague or fuzzy and need to be sussed out. Today, we discuss the latest round of announcements by producers, midstreamers, refiners, and others to “green up” their operations and products.

Thursday, 07/29/2021
Category:
Natural Gas

Just a few years ago, Mexico was focused on importing LNG to help meet its natural gas needs, especially in parts of the country far from Permian and other U.S. supplies. Lately though, most of the talk about LNG in Mexico has been about liquefaction and/or exporting, not importing and regasifying, as evidenced by a final investment decision on the Energía Costa Azul liquefaction project in Baja California and progress on Mexico Pacific Ltd.’s liquefaction/export project in Mexico’s Sonora state. Both projects are aimed squarely at Asian markets, but yet another prospective LNG project “south of the border” is targeting bunkering, transportation, and industrial markets for natural gas along the Pacific side of Latin America — from Mexico itself down to Ecuador. In today’s blog, we discuss plans for what could be Mexico’s third major liquefaction project — this one aimed at both domestic and export markets.

Wednesday, 07/28/2021
Category:
Natural Gas

The gas that emerges from wells in U.S. shale plays differs widely in its characteristics and quality. In the aptly named “dry” Marcellus in northeastern Pennsylvania, the gas is almost all methane, with only minute volumes of NGLs and contaminants, and requires minimal treatment before it’s fed into transmission pipelines. At the other end of the spectrum, the associated gas from a subset of crude-oil-focused wells in the Permian has high levels of hydrogen sulfide (a potentially deadly chemical) and carbon dioxide (a potent greenhouse gas), as well as a lot of NGLs. If the H2S level in the gas is relatively low, it can be removed from the gas stream onsite with a chemical “scavenger,” but higher levels of H2S quickly make that method prohibitively expensive. Another alternative, an onsite amine treatment facility, is more economical for removing higher levels of H2S — and it removes CO2 as well — but air permits typically limit how much can be flared off, requiring the costly and time-consuming development of acid-gas injection wells. Yet another, more centralized approach to dealing with H2S and CO2 — one that permanently stores large volumes of both deep underground — is being implemented over the next few weeks in southeastern New Mexico, as we discuss in today’s blog.

Tuesday, 07/27/2021
Category:
Renewables

New and expanded efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, have been making headlines globally on a daily basis for a while now. Canada’s energy industry has been increasingly contributing to that newsfeed this year, with two large projects announced in Alberta that will capture, use, and sequester large volumes of CO2 generated from the oil sands as well as other sources of oil and gas production in Western Canada. In today’s blog, we review the emissions profile of the Canadian oil and gas sector and discuss two of the largest carbon capture, use, and sequestration projects announced to date.

Monday, 07/26/2021
Category:
Natural Gas

As nobody in Texas will soon forget, in February of this year freezing temperatures across the southern U.S. hammered energy markets and resulted in widespread and long-lasting blackouts across the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) power region. Life for many Texans came to a standstill for a week until power could be restored. The resulting economic damages have been estimated in the billions. Many people, rightfully, questioned how an energy-rich state like Texas could have been so affected. And then the blame-game started. Lacking a forum of qualified experts, productive discussions took a back seat to self-serving rhetoric, special-interest advocacy, and political posturing. But if real solutions were going to be found, it would take more than finger-pointing. It would take a meeting of experts whose primary focus was a resolution, rather than a constituency. Fortunately for Texans, that’s what they got two weeks ago. In today’s blog, we take you through the symposium and its outcome, particularly regarding the role of natural gas.