RBN Energy

Wednesday, 8/10/2022

Like an aging pop star, price benchmarks have to re-invent themselves from time to time to maintain their status. The Dated Brent marker –– as much a survivor as Cher, still going strong at 76 –– has had successes and setbacks in the past and will undergo yet another transformation by June 2023, courtesy of price reporting agency Platts. You definitely need to pay attention to this change, because Dated Brent is used as a pricing reference not only for several crude oil streams sold around the world, but also for other commodities such as LNG, fuel oil and other refined products and petrochemicals — oh, and financial derivatives too. Also, the latest version of the price marker will include an adjusted price for the U.S.’s prolific West Texas Intermediate (WTI). In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the details and implications of Dated Brent’s latest makeover for traders, refiners and other market participants.

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Daily energy Posts

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.

Thursday, 06/02/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

The momentum for North American LNG right now is incredible. With Europe’s efforts to wean itself off Russian natural gas supplies boosting long-term LNG demand in the continent and Asian demand expected to grow even further, there has been a strong push for new LNG projects in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, with enough commercial support and capital present to advance at least some of them to construction and operation. Venture Global on May 25 reached a final investment decision on Phase 1 of Plaquemines LNG, the first North American project to take FID since Energía Costa Azul LNG in 2020. But it’s unlikely to be the last. Cheniere’s Corpus Christi Stage III is likely to follow in the coming months and support is coalescing around a handful of other projects too. So far this year, more than 20 MMtpa of long-term, binding commitments tied to new North American LNG capacity have been signed, propelling a new wave of LNG projects towards FID. In today’s RBN blog, we take a look at the trends in the recent commercial commitments.

Wednesday, 06/01/2022
Category:
Crude Oil

Permian crude oil markets are getting interesting again, with triple-digit prices making daily headlines and boosting producers’ cash flows. But there have been few parties in the Permian oil midstream space. There, excess long-haul capacity has been the story for some time, a situation that became more pronounced when Wink-to-Webster (W2W) — the last of the new greenfield pipelines to the Texas Gulf Coast — started up earlier this year. There’s so much capacity in place that price spreads have remained tight and competition for barrels has been fierce. That said, there’s a positive story flying under the radar in the Permian oil markets. One of the new pipelines that started up out of the Permian in 2019 is now full. That may surprise some folks, kind of like when the Texas A&M Aggies pulled in the #1 football recruiting class in the country earlier this year. While Alabama’s coach is apparently still trying to swallow that news, you’re not likely to find yourself doubting the ability of a newbuild to get full in today’s competitive environment. At least you won’t after we tell you the story of the EPIC Crude Pipeline, which we do in today’s RBN blog.

Tuesday, 05/31/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

Just like there’s room for Amazon and Etsy in the e-commerce world — one for mass marketers and the other for artisans — there’s room in the energy industry for both large- and small-scale LNG companies and plants. By focusing on the development of niche markets and scaling their production and distribution operations accordingly, a number of smaller (but growing) players in the LNG space have been making natural gas available to a surprising variety of customers: from industrial, oil-and-gas and mining companies to rocket launchers, Caribbean resorts and island utilities. ESG is a big driver — the LNG supplied often replaces diesel, fuel oil and propane, which can have bigger carbon impacts. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on small-scale LNG with a look at a cross-section of key players in this space and how they’ve been growing their businesses.

Monday, 05/30/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

Natural gas futures prices have rocketed to 14-year highs in the past couple of months — during the lower-demand spring months, no less — and they are now trading at 3x where they were at this time last year. The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub futures for June delivery shot up to a high of $9.40/MMBtu in intraday trading last Thursday, the highest level we’ve seen since summer 2008, before expiring at $8.908/MMBtu, nearly $6 (~200%) higher than the June 2021 expiration settlement at just under $3/MMBtu. The newly prompt July futures retreated ~17 cents Friday to about $8.73/MMBtu, but that’s still nearly triple where July futures traded last year. It’s safe to say the low fuel cost of gas-fired power generation that defined the Shale Era has evaporated. Historically, at today’s sky-high prices, gas would have given up market share to coal in the power sector. However, the coal market is battling its own supply shortage and Eastern U.S. coal prices are at record highs. What does that mean for generation fuel costs and fuel switching? In today’s RBN blog, we break down the math for comparing gas vs. coal fuel costs.

Sunday, 05/29/2022
Category:
Sponsored

Supply chains are screwed up. Inflation has returned with a vengeance. And the politics of energy in the U.S. are all over the place, with demands for energy companies to do more today even as plans are being made to phase them out of existence tomorrow. This is today’s world — traditional energy markets learning to live with the impact of renewables, decarbonization and sustainability initiatives, while at the same time dealing with the aftermath of a pandemic and the consequences of a war with a totally uncertain trajectory — and it’s likely to be with us for a long time to come. That was the focus of our Spring 2022 School of Energy and it’s the subject of today’s RBN blog. Warning: Today’s blog includes a couple of blatant plugs for a newly available replay of our recent conference in Houston.

Thursday, 05/26/2022
Category:
Renewables

Supply chains are screwed up. Inflation has returned with a vengeance. And the politics of energy in the U.S. are all over the place, with demands for energy companies to do more today even as plans are being made to phase them out of existence tomorrow. This is today’s world — traditional energy markets learning to live with the impact of renewables, decarbonization and sustainability initiatives, while at the same time dealing with the aftermath of a pandemic and the consequences of a war with a totally uncertain trajectory — and it’s likely to be with us for a long time to come. That was the focus of our Spring 2022 School of Energy and it’s the subject of today’s RBN blog. Warning: Today’s blog includes a couple of blatant plugs for a newly available replay of our recent conference in Houston.

Wednesday, 05/25/2022
Category:
Financial

The pace of multibillion-dollar M&A activity among oil and gas producers may have slowed a bit from 2020 and 2021, but big deals are still happening. Just last week, publicly held Centennial Resources Development and privately held Colgate Energy Partners III announced plans for a $7 billion “merger of equals” that will combine two midsize E&Ps in the Permian’s Delaware Basin to form one of the area’s larger producers. Each of the companies brings similar and complementary production assets to the deal, as well as corporate leaders very much in sync about the significance of scale in today’s increasingly concentrated upstream sector — and the importance of returning a big chunk of free cash flow to investors. Speaking of investors, an extraordinary 12% stake in the combined Centennial and Colgate will be held by the pro forma company’s management — that’s about 12x the norm among its peers. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the Centennial/Colgate merger and what’s driving the ongoing consolidation in the U.S.’s most prolific hydrocarbon play.

Tuesday, 05/24/2022
Category:
Renewables

In case you hadn’t noticed, many of the largest, most successful companies in the U.S. and Canada are placing big bets on the energy transition. Take “blue” hydrogen, which is produced by breaking down natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide and capturing and sequestering most of the CO2, and blue ammonia, which is made from blue hydrogen and nitrogen. Last fall, Air Products & Chemicals announced a multibillion-dollar project in Louisiana, and now it’s a joint venture of Enbridge and Humble Midstream, which is planning a large, $2.5 billion-plus blue hydrogen/ammonia project down the Texas coast, at Enbridge’s massive marine terminal in Ingleside. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss what we’ve learned about the companies’ plan.

Monday, 05/23/2022
Category:
Refined Fuels

U.S. diesel inventories are at their lowest level for May since 2000 and East Coast stocks recently hit their lowest mark for any week or month since the EIA started tracking them in 1990. Crack spreads for diesel — and, more recently, for gasoline — have gone parabolic, giving refiners the strongest financial signal ever to produce more diesel and gasoline as we enter the summer travel season. More jet fuel too. The problem is, U.S. refineries already are running flat-out. And Europe? It’s facing big cuts in crude oil and refined-products imports from Russia as well as much higher prices for — and possible shortages of — oil and natural gas, the latter being the primary fuel for operating refinery hydrocrackers, which upgrade low-quality heavy gas-oils into high-quality diesel, gasoline and jet. It’s a mess, and not easily fixable, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.

Sunday, 05/22/2022
Category:
Renewables

At the most basic level, carbon-capture technology is not new, but it has attracted a lot more attention in recent years amid discussions about how best to transition to a net-zero world by 2050. Efforts to ramp up carbon capture have faced a number of hurdles, however, including the difficulty in capturing some emissions at the point where they’re generated. That’s where direct air capture (DAC) — which essentially works as a large-scale air filter and can be located just about anywhere — comes into play. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the still-emerging technology and its limitations, a project in Iceland that is the largest currently in operation, and plans by Occidental Petroleum to make Texas home to the world’s largest DAC facility. 

Thursday, 05/19/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

The race is heating up for building natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian. Associated gas production from the crude-focused basin is at record highs this month and gaining momentum, which means that without additional pipeline capacity, the Permian is headed for serious pipeline constraints — and potentially negative pricing — by late this year or early next, which would, in turn, limit crude oil production growth there. Midstreamers are jockeying for the pole position to move surplus gas from the increasingly constrained basin to LNG export markets along the Gulf Coast. One of the contenders, Matterhorn Express Pipeline (MXP), a joint venture (JV) between WhiteWater, EnLink Midstream Partners, Devon Energy and MPLX, announced its final investment decision (FID) late yesterday. In today’s RBN blog, we provide new details on the greenfield project.

Wednesday, 05/18/2022
Category:
Natural Gas

In the nearly 60 years since its inception, the LNG industry has changed significantly. Once a market in which cargoes were sold under long-term, point-to-point contracts in dedicated ships, it has evolved into one in which destination flexibility accounts for an increasing share of LNG trade, with more volumes being sold under short- and medium-term contracts. The changes reflect a trend toward the increasing commoditization of LNG, with the similarities between the LNG and crude oil markets becoming apparent. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the differences in how the oil and LNG markets have developed, whether LNG might achieve the same commodity status as oil, and why the major market players may not want LNG to follow the path of its older cousin.