RBN Energy

The transition of U.S. E&Ps to capital discipline has led to historic shareholder returns and won back legions of investors who had virtually abandoned the industry until a few years ago. But while it might be tempting to conclude producers must finally have their financial houses in good order, a lot of us have witnessed a few boom-and-bust cycles in our time and remain hypervigilant for any signs of financial instability, especially considering that commodity prices could weaken at any time. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze the impact of lower price realizations and capital allocation decisions on the balance sheets of the major U.S. independent oil and gas producers. 

Analyst Insights

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.

By Jeremy Meier - Friday, 5/17/2024 (3:15 pm)

US oil and gas rig count was up slightly to 604 for the week ending May 16, up one vs. a week ago according to Baker Hughes. Rigs were added in the Anadarko (+2), Haynesville (+1) and Gulf of Mexico (+1), while the Permian (-2) and Eagle Ford (-1) both lost rigs.

By Kristen Hays - Friday, 5/17/2024 (11:45 am)

Navigator Holdings is planning a clean ammonia export project along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Executives said this week that Navigator has committed $2.5 million in initial funding with more to come when the company moves toward a final investment decision (FID) and construction.

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Daily Energy Blog

For the past decade, producers in the Permian Basin have been the driving force in domestic production growth, but lately there has been a hard-to-miss slowdown in incremental production rates for crude, gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs). While Permian producers are primarily motivated by crude oil economics, those volumes also come with a lot of associated natural gas and NGLs. These commodities are therefore fundamentally interlinked. So if there’s a hangup with one, the effects will be felt across the upstream and then cascade downstream. There is a lot of money riding on these markets and the impacts of an extended slowdown in the Permian could be monumental, not just in the energy industry but also in the broader U.S. and global economies. In today’s RBN blog, we will examine what’s to blame for plateauing production in the U.S.’s most prolific basin and gauge what its big-picture implications might be. 

The Corpus Christi crude oil market is pulling as much volume as it can from the Permian Basin via pipelines that are running nearly at capacity. That explains why two midstream companies are responding with plans to boost the capacities of their respective pipelines from the Permian to refineries and export terminals in the Corpus area. But the situation is complicated by the very real possibility that one or more deepwater export facilities capable of fully loading a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) may be built off the Texas coast. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine current and proposed pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian and the potential for proposed offshore export facilities to impact pipeline flows from West Texas to the coast. 

Mexico’s efforts to start up the newest addition to its refining system — the Olmeca refinery — are causing headaches for global buyers of its crudes. Few are convinced that the plant near the country’s key Dos Bocas oil port is ready for service. Yet its operator, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), surprised many with cuts to its crude exports in April, which were reportedly made to ensure the complex will have enough feedstock and could continue through 2024. In today’s RBN blog, we will discuss what led to the export cuts, the implications for importers, and potential replacement options. 

The U.S. has become an oil-exporting powerhouse in recent years, propelled by booming shale production, notably from the Permian Basin. U.S. crude oil now flows more freely than ever to help meet global demand, including to Europe, which increasingly turned to the U.S. following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two-plus years ago, but exports have slowed recently. In today’s RBN blog, we examine a half-dozen reasons why the export surge has tapered off and why it may not change much in the weeks ahead. 

The prospect of decreased crude oil supplies from Mexico, the top international supplier to the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC), is creating uncertainty among heavy crude-focused refineries. Mexico’s state-owned energy company, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), instructed its trading unit to cancel up to 436 Mb/d of crude exports for April to supposedly focus on processing domestic oil at its new 340-Mb/d Dos Bocas refinery and/or its existing plants. While the refinery’s startup is likely not nearly as imminent as Pemex says, the cancellation of Mexican crude imports could be problematic for U.S. refiners with plants built to run heavy crude, a necessary ingredient to optimize operations and yields. Adding to the complexity of the situation is the upcoming startup of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX) and the recent reinstatement of U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan crude. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine the potential fallout resulting from Pemex’s decision at a time when heavy crudes elsewhere are also becoming less available. 

The largest crude oil pipeline exiting the Permian Basin by volume — Wink to Webster (W2W) — is planned to be offline for maintenance for the first 10 days of June. This is inclusive of Enterprise’s Midland-to-ECHO III (ME III), which reflects the company’s 29% undivided joint interest in W2W. Although the outage has not been publicly confirmed, it’s our understanding that 1.5 MMb/d of capacity will be offline to reroute a small section of pipeline. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine how the planned maintenance will impact Permian Basin oil takeaway capacity and what it may mean for Midland WTI pricing. 

In the race to build the next deepwater crude oil export terminal in the Gulf of Mexico, Sentinel Midstream’s proposed Texas GulfLink (TGL) is currently in second place in the regulatory race, behind only Enterprise’s Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) — and seems to be emerging as a serious contender. The plan offers some compelling attributes, including Sentinel’s status as an independent midstream player and plenty of pipeline access to crude oil volumes in the Permian and elsewhere. In today’s RBN blog, we turn our attention to TGL and what it brings to the table. 

Enbridge’s recent $200 million deal to buy two marine docks and land in Ingleside, TX, from Flint Hills Resources (FHR) may not be much of a surprise, as expanding its role in U.S. crude exports has been part of Enbridge’s strategy since it bought Moda Midstream’s big marine terminal next door nearly three years ago. The former Moda terminal, now known as the Enbridge Ingleside Energy Center (EIEC), can receive and partially load Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) — a key reason why the facility is #1 in crude exports in the nation. In today’s RBN blog, we will take a closer look at Enbridge’s deal with FHR and how it might help grow its crude export volumes. 

Crude oil output in the Permian Basin is now averaging 6.3 MMb/d, up about 400 Mb/d from year-ago levels and 800 Mb/d from April 2022. The gains — and related increases in associated gas — have spurred a new round of concerns about pipeline exit capacity, complicating drillers’ hopes to boost crude production. In today’s RBN blog, we will discuss the takeaway capacity issue and what it means for producers and pipeline operators, including those planning offshore crude export terminals. 

In the race to build the next deepwater crude oil export terminal along the U.S. Gulf Coast, there’s a lot of competition but one project now has a clear advantage: Enterprise Product Partners’ planned Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT), which has made the most progress in moving through the regulatory morass and announced that it had received its deepwater port license on April 9. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on SPOT’s progress and look at some of its inherent advantages, including a potentially shorter time to market and extensive pipeline connectivity. 

The deepwater crude oil export projects under development along the U.S. Gulf Coast offer a number of potential benefits to shippers and customers alike. These include the ability to fully load a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and the economies of scale that come with that, the elimination of reverse lightering and the corresponding decrease in emissions, and freed-up access on congested ship channels for other exports such as NGLs, refined products and clean ammonia. So, given all the potential upside, why hasn’t anyone fully committed to building one? In today’s RBN blog, we focus on the obstacles faced by deepwater export facilities and where each of the projects under development is in the permitting process. 

The Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah, which may be the quirkiest production area in the Lower 48, is firing on all cylinders. Production of the basin’s unique waxy crude is at an all-time high, the natural gas takeaway constraints that had threatened to limit growth are being resolved, and demand for waxy crude is on the rise. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll provide an update on the Uinta, where the crude looks and feels like shoe polish and is trucked and railed — not piped — to market. 

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently raised a few eyebrows across the energy industry with a report that producers in three key shale states — including Texas, the nation’s #1 oil producer — seem to be extracting larger amounts of “heavier” crude oil. Of course, the oil is only heavier relative to the light and superlight grades that have been produced in copious amounts since the dawn of the Shale Revolution. But these denser, lower-API volumes have recently helped drive growth in total crude output. In today’s RBN blog, we unpack what the EIA discussed in its writeup, explore some of the possible drivers behind the apparently heavier oil production, and discuss what it might mean for the domestic market. 

The Enbridge Mainline, by far the largest transportation network for growing Western Canadian crude oil supplies to the U.S. Midwest, Gulf Coast and Eastern Canada, recently received regulatory approval for the tolls that it charges shippers for using the massive pipeline system. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, the Canada Energy Regulator’s (CER) thumbs-up ensures another five years of shipping cost predictability and comes as the Canadian oil pipeline landscape is about to permanently change with the pending startup of the 590-Mb/d Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX). 

With many years gone by and many millions of dollars spent, the deepwater crude oil export projects under development along the U.S. Gulf Coast are finally getting close to receiving their regulatory green light. These projects have sparked commercial and wider market interest because of the many benefits they may provide — including the ability to fully load the biggest tankers, the Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) capable of taking on 2 MMbbl, which could contribute to lower per-barrel shipping costs. In today’s RBN blog, we kick off an offshore oil terminal series, starting with the case for constructing at least one of the export projects.