Alberta, Canada’s energy powerhouse, accounts for the vast majority of the nation’s crude oil, natural gas, and NGL production. There is a lot of hydrogen locked up in all of those hydrocarbons and Alberta’s provincial government recently laid out a seven-part plan to expand the production and use of “blue” hydrogen — produced from natural gas via steam methane reforming with carbon capture and sequestration — as part of a broader effort to bolster its existing natural gas sector and energy transition cred. In today’s RBN blog, we explore Alberta’s proposed hydrogen strategy.
Daily energy Posts
The U.S. is poised for a massive build-out in renewable diesel production capacity — a boom spurred by capacity rationalization amongst traditional refineries, increasingly supportive government policies, and a big push by ESG-minded refiners wanting to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. It also hasn’t hurt that while renewable diesel is produced from used cooking oil, tallow, and other renewable feedstocks, it meets or exceeds the fuel specifications of traditional ultra-low sulfur diesel and thus is considered a “drop-in” replacement for ULSD — there’s no “blend wall” that limits its use. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down report, which looks at why renewable diesel is a hot topic, what we can learn from California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standards program, and how much new renewable diesel capacity is in the works.
With the market dislocations brought on in 2020-21, many if not most E&Ps have been reexamining their strategies and making changes. A common result has been a deemphasis on capex and expansion and a renewed focus on increasing free cash flow — and with that excess cash reducing or eliminating debt and rewarding shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks. A prime example of a producer taking this approach is Oasis Petroleum, a Bakken-focused E&P that a year ago this week emerged from COVID-induced bankruptcy filing and has since taken a number of additional steps to position itself as a reliable money-maker, even if crude oil prices were to slide to significantly lower levels. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the ongoing trend among producers to rethink and rework their strategies as energy markets recover.
Discussions about energy transition and increased electrification are all around us, whether they involve accelerating the ramp-up in renewable power sources such as wind and solar, facilitating the shift to electric vehicles, or switching to alternative fuels like hydrogen. But amid all the talk about the evolution to a low-carbon world — and away from oil and gas — there’s one area that is sometimes overlooked: petrochemicals. In the U.S., most steam crackers use natural gas liquids (NGLs) as their primary feedstocks, and they also consume a lot of energy — two big red flags in an increasingly ESG-focused world. And that’s giving bioethylene, billed as a green alternative to traditional ethylene, a moment in the spotlight. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how bioethylene is produced, how it differs from ethylene produced from traditional measures, and why it may someday evolve into an attractive alternative for the petrochemical industry, even though it’s far from a sure thing.
Energy marketeers are faced with a conundrum. Should the focus be on producing, processing, and marketing the hydrocarbon-based energy that the world needs today? Or is it time to go an entirely different direction toward net-zero emissions, renewables, and battery-powered everything? The answer, of course, is both. That means living, working, and producing hydrocarbon-based products in today's world while at the same time preparing for and investing in the world to which we’re headed. You might think of it as kind of a mild case of schizophrenia; we live in one reality, but we must think in terms of an entirely different future reality. That was a core theme for RBN’s Fall 2021 School of Energy: Hydrocarbon Markets in a Decarbonizing World. In today’s RBN advertorial blog, we provide our key findings and highlights from the conference curriculum.
The November 4 decision by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its collaborators — collectively known as OPEC+ –– to stay the course on crude oil production surprised few and disappointed many. Officials from leading oil-consuming nations, including the U.S., Japan and India, want the group to relax its production restraint by more than the scheduled 400 Mb/d in December. They see extra crude supply as an antidote for high prices that have been hampering recovery from the global economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But OPEC+ leaders made clear that they’re in no mood to accelerate their phase-out of production cuts. They know the market pressures now elevating crude prices won’t last forever and can change unexpectedly. They also face internal strains that might weaken the quota discipline that has kept the group’s supply management intact, despite the occasional upset, for nearly five years. One of those strains is the number of OPEC+ participants already producing as much crude as they can while falling short of existing ceilings — a number that grows as the ceilings rise. Today’s RBN blog looks at oil-market expectations underlying OPEC+ members’ cautious approach and at the growing divide among those unable to keep up with output targets and the relatively few but volumetrically overpowering counterparts with capacity to spare.
As the new heating season in North America gets under way, the natural gas sector in Canada, the U.S., and even globally, is experiencing a surge in gas prices to levels unseen in many years. In Canada and the U.S., you would have to go way back to 2008-09 to find the most recent instance of $5/MMBtu-plus gas heading into a heating season. As for the rest of the world, it has never experienced prices at the levels reported in the past few months — north of $30/MMBtu in some places. The big question, as always, is: where do we go from here? In today’s RBN blog, we review our 2021 pricing outlook for Canadian gas and discuss our forecast for 2022.
Leading international shipping associations and many of the large shipowners they represent are pressing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to take a much more aggressive approach to decarbonizing their industry, and calling for a $100/metric ton fee on carbon dioxide emissions from ships to spur investment in no-carbon propulsion systems. In effect, shipowners—themselves under pressure from their large, ESG-minded customers, are telling the IMO that its goals of reducing global shipping’s carbon intensity by 40% by 2030 and total greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 are far too timid. They are insisting that the IMO set the industry on a course to quickly ramp down its carbon dioxide emissions in the 2020s and achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century. If the shipowners prevail, it could result in the phase-out of hydrocarbon-based bunker fuel in favor of low-carbon alternatives like ammonia, hydrogen, and electric batteries. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a review of the big changes ahead for global bunker fuel and what they mean for oil and gas producers and refiners.
Electric vehicles sit front and center in the effort to decarbonize passenger transportation, a movement that helped make Tesla’s Elon Musk the richest man in the world. Pair this with heavy attention to EVs from the broader car-and-truck market and the White House’s goal of 50% EV sales by 2030 and it makes you wonder how EVs will impact the energy and power-generation sectors. We’ve all seen how power grids can be overwhelmed during periods of extreme heat or cold, by relying too heavily on intermittent renewables like wind and solar, or — as many Texans saw last February — by interruptions in natural gas deliveries to gas-fired power plants. What might happen when we add tens of millions of power-hungry EVs to the mix? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impacts that scaling electric vehicles may have on energy and power markets and the power grid.
Plato may have said it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and anyone who has engaged in a friendly debate about the best classic car, hunting rifle, or wristwatch knows it to be true: beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Of course, not everyone sees value the same way, or value in the same things. That’s at the heart of the dispute over the recently announced acquisition of Questar Pipeline LLC by Southwest Gas Holdings. The prospective buyer sees Questar as a picture-perfect addition, while an activist investor sees it as a butt-ugly mistake. In today’s RBN blog, we continue an examination of the Southwest Gas/Questar deal with a look at Questar’s relationship with its local distribution companies, potential competition with the nearby Kern River Pipeline, and challenges Questar may face in serving power generators and direct industrial load.
Crude oil production in Western Canada has been rising steadily for most of the past decade. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its oil pipeline export capacity to the U.S., which has generally failed to keep pace with the increases in production. Dogged by regulatory, legal, and environmental roadblocks, permitting and constructing additional pipeline takeaway capacity has been a slow and complicated affair, although progress continues to be made. The most recent tranche arrived last month with the start-up of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement pipeline, which provides an incremental 370 Mb/d of export capacity and should help to shrink the massive price discounts that have often plagued Western Canadian producers in recent years. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the long-delayed project and how its operation is likely to affect Western Canada’s crude oil market, now and in the future.
Admittedly, the idea of capturing carbon dioxide, cooling and compressing it into a weird, neither-liquid-nor-gas state, and pumping it deep underground for permanent storage would have baffled the crude oil wildcatters and pipeline builders that created the modern energy industry back in the 1940s and ’50s. They’d surely say, “You’re proposin’ to do what?!” But times have changed. The oil and gas business is entering an extraordinary era of transition, and producers, midstreamers, and refineries alike need to keep abreast of what’s happening regarding carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), how it will affect them, and — ideally — figure out ways to profit from it. That’s the impetus behind today’s RBN blog, in which we begin a deep dive into efforts to reduce emissions of man-made CO2 by capturing it from industrial sources and piping it to specially designed wells for permanent storage.
Market signals are suggesting that we’re on the cusp of another midstream revival. Higher crude oil and natural gas prices are prompting producers to ramp up output, and higher production will lead to increasing midstream constraints and cratering supply prices. We’ve seen this reel before and in past cycles, midstreamers would swoop in right about now with plans for a host of pipeline expansions to relieve bottlenecks and balance the market again. The problem is that for capacity to get built, you need producers to sign up with long-term commitments, and that’s the catch. Wall Street has drawn a hard line when it comes to capital and environmental discipline in the energy industry, and regulatory support for hydrocarbon newbuilds has waned. This is especially a problem for two major basins — the Permian and Marcellus/Utica — but is liable to affect producer behavior across the Lower 48. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at how this will play out at the basin level, starting with the Permian.
For all who thought an energy transition was going to be orderly, economic, or rational, the chaos of 2021 energy markets is a wake-up call. It’s not that the shift from fossil fuels to renewables is causing most of the market turmoil, but it is certainly magnifying the effects of a host of energy market glitches that, together with the mechanics of the transition, are wreaking havoc on the global economy. Which underscores the challenge of this generation: We must live, work, and produce hydrocarbons the way the world functions today, while at the same time preparing for — and investing in — a much-lower-carbon future. As we’ve heard this week from Glasgow, it’s a future that a lot of folks believe means net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and no hydrocarbons. That challenge is the underlying theme for RBN’s Fall 2021 School of Energy, to be held next week, November 9-10. Not only have we restructured our agenda to include a half day covering the impact of hydrogen, CO2 sequestration, and renewable diesel, we’ve reworked and updated our core hydrocarbons market curriculum to examine how crude oil, natural gas, and NGL markets will evolve to accommodate what lies ahead. In today’s encore RBN blog edition — a blatant advertorial — we’ll consider these issues and highlight how our upcoming School of Energy integrates existing market dynamics with prospects for the energy transition.
The U.S. oil and gas industry’s upstream sector has seen more than its share of mergers and acquisitions in the year and a half since COVID-19 put energy markets on a wild roller coaster. ConocoPhillips buying Concho Resources and then Shell’s Permian assets. Chevron snapping up Noble Energy. Pioneer Natural Resources acquiring Parsley Energy. And yesterday’s big news: Continental Resources’ planned purchase of Pioneer’s assets in the Permian’s Delaware Basin. It’s not just hydrocarbon producers that are consolidating and expanding, however. There’s also been a flurry of large-scale M&A activity in the midstream sector, mostly involving oil and gas gatherers in the Permian and the Bakken — the nation’s two largest crude oil-focused basins. What’s driving these combinations? In today’s RBN blog, we begin a review of recent, major pipeline-company combinations and the benefits participants expect to realize from them.
After a record-breaking year in which the Japan-Korea Marker topped $30/MMBtu, it looks like 2022 could finally be the year when multiple projects in the long-awaited “second wave” of North American LNG export facilities reach final investment decisions. Developers, financiers, and offtakers are all taking their time, however, to make sure projects make sense in the long term. The recent run of high prices comes after years of price declines and a COVID-related price collapse in 2020, which reduced the spreads between U.S. production and LNG destination markets, slowing the pace of LNG project development. One thing’s clear: Asia — always the focus of LNG demand growth — will become even more important going forward, and perhaps the best way to attract Asian offtakers to U.S., Canadian, and Mexican projects is to export from the Pacific Coast, assuming that feedgas can be sourced and delivered easily. In today’s RBN blog, we conclude our series on Pacific Coast LNG export development, this time focusing on projects in Western Canada.