RBN Energy

Thursday, 11/24/2022

The U.S. market for distillates has been crazy the past few months — especially in PADD 1 —  and given all that’s going on, it’s likely to stay that way for months to come. Inventories of ultra-low-sulfur diesel, heating oil and other distillates are at their lowest levels for this time of year since before the EIA started tracking them 40 years ago and diesel prices are in the stratosphere, all despite diesel crack spreads being in record-high territory — a strong incentive for refineries to churn out more distillate. In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog, we discuss the many factors affecting distillate supply, demand, inventories and prices and take a look ahead at where the market may be headed next.

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Daily energy Posts

Monday, 08/15/2022

Buoyed by still-elevated crude oil, natural gas and NGL prices — and discipline on capital spending and production growth — U.S. E&Ps have been generating unprecedented cash flow and using much of that bounty to reduce debt, increase dividends and buy back shares. A number of producers have also been investing some of that cash to expand their holdings, mostly to complement their existing acreage in the Permian and other plays and thereby allow for increased efficiency and, in many cases, longer laterals. Few have been doing more in this regard lately than Devon Energy, the Oklahoma City-based E&P, which completed a big bolt-on acquisition in the Bakken in late July and just followed that up with a plan for an even bigger buy in the Eagle Ford. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the company’s strategy.

Wednesday, 08/10/2022

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.

Monday, 08/08/2022

U.S. gasoline and diesel prices have been sliding the past couple of months, but there's still a lot of angst among politicians and the general public about the cost of motor fuels — and who's to say prices at the pump won't soar again, spurring another round of proposed "fixes" to the markets for crude oil and refined products. Among the proposals floated when prices spiked this spring were bans on the export of U.S.-sourced crude, gasoline and diesel, the idea being that suspending exports would increase the supply available to domestic markets and thus bring down prices. If only it were all so simple! In today's RBN blog, we discuss the complicated ins and outs of oil, gasoline and diesel imports and exports, and the many effects of putting the kibosh on shipments to international markets.

Sunday, 08/07/2022

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.

Tuesday, 08/02/2022

U.S. exports of crude oil, LNG, NGLs and refined products have moved into the spotlight on the world stage. Within the past few years, global markets have come to rely on U.S.-sourced hydrocarbons to meet critical needs for energy supplies. But export volume growth has slowed. Demand in the U.S. is ramping up, leaving less available for shipment overseas. And some members of Congress are encouraging the Biden administration to curtail or even ban some exports. What’s next for U.S. hydrocarbon sales to international markets? Will U.S. exports be there to challenge Russia’s use of oil and gas as political weapons? Or could market, logistical and political forces disrupt the flows that are meeting energy needs of the world? Today, we preview the deep dive into these issues on the agenda at RBN’s upcoming xPortCon conference.

Thursday, 07/14/2022

The global reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was swift, with calls of condemnation and plans quickly surfacing for the U.S. and other countries to stop their purchases of Russian crude oil and natural gas immediately, or at least as soon as practical. The strategy has been to make the situation as politically and financially painful as possible for Russia, which has not been shy about using its energy supplies as a weapon, before or after the invasion. But those plans haven’t worked as well as hoped, and some impacts are bringing back memories of the 1973 oil embargo which, though driven by a far different series of events, may provide insight into the current situation. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the many parallels to today, including weaponized oil, regional supply shortages, price spikes and well-intentioned (if sometimes ill-conceived) government responses.

Wednesday, 06/01/2022

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, 05/10/2022

Brace yourself for it. Over the next few weeks, there’s a good chance that a tsunami of crude oil will be released from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and it’s likely that much (if not most) of that oil will be piped to Gulf Coast export docks and loaded onto supertankers. If that happens, the export capacity of crude-handling terminals from Corpus Christi to coastal Louisiana will be stress-tested on their ability to send out much larger volumes than they’re used to dealing with. And that’s only the beginning. Over the next year or two, while U.S. E&Ps ratchet up production in response to higher prices as Europeans and others scramble to replace Russian crude oil, Gulf Coast export terminals may well be called upon to load and ship out even more oil (in addition to refined products) on a regular basis. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impending SPR releases and the ability of Gulf Coast ports and individual terminals to handle increasing volumes.

Monday, 04/18/2022

Vladimir Putin’s fateful decision to invade Ukraine and the ongoing brutality have made Russia a pariah state to many leading hydrocarbon-consuming nations, which in turn has caused cuts in Russian crude oil production and exports. That raises a few important questions, chief among them the degree to which other producers — including the U.S. and the non-Russian members of OPEC+ –– can ramp up their production and displace Russian oil. U.S. output has been increasing recently, albeit only gradually, and production could rise much more quickly under the right circumstances. But if it does, would there be enough crude export capacity available along the Gulf Coast to handle, say, another 500 Mb/d or 1 MMb/d? In today’s RBN blog, we examine the ability of key U.S. export facilities to stage, load and ship out increasing volumes of oil.

Thursday, 04/14/2022

The battle lines were drawn. The drive toward decarbonization was rushing headlong into the reality of energy markets. Things were going to get messy, but at least it was becoming more evident how the energy transition would impact key market developments, from the chaos in European natural gas, to producer capital restraint in the oil patch, to the rising impact of renewable fuels and, of course, the escalating roadblocks to pipeline construction. Then, a monkey wrench was thrown into the works. The world was confronted with the madness of war in Europe, with all sorts of consequences for energy markets: sanctions, boycotts, cutbacks, strategic releases, price spikes and, here in the U.S., what looks to be a softening of the Biden administration’s view against hydrocarbons — at least natural gas and LNG. So now the markets for crude oil, natural gas and NGLs aren’t only inextricably tied to renewables, decarbonization and sustainability, they must navigate the transition turmoil under the cloud of wartime disruptions. It’s simply impossible to understand energy market behavior without having a solid grasp of how these factors are linked together. That is what School of Energy Spring 2022 is all about! In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog — a blatant advertorial — we’ll highlight how our upcoming conference integrates existing, war-impacted market dynamics with prospects for the energy transition.

Wednesday, 04/13/2022

Increases in crude oil and gasoline prices have caused widespread concern in recent months, made worse after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that added even more uncertainty to the market. With the average U.S. price for regular gasoline now topping $4/gal — nearly 50% above where it was a year ago — the rising fuel costs have been especially painful for everyday drivers and threaten to slow or derail a global economy still recovering from the pandemic-induced recession. Government officials in the U.S. and elsewhere, while urging oil producers to ramp up output, have turned to their strategic reserves as a way to quickly balance the market and rein in prices. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest announced release from oil reserves, how the global drawdowns are intended to create a bridge to when increased production comes online, and the skepticism about whether those plans will work out as intended.

Monday, 04/04/2022

The battle lines were drawn. The drive toward decarbonization was rushing headlong into the reality of energy markets. Things were going to get messy, but at least it was becoming more evident how the energy transition would impact key market developments, from the chaos in European natural gas, to producer capital restraint in the oil patch, to the rising impact of renewable fuels and, of course, the escalating roadblocks to pipeline construction. Then, a monkey wrench was thrown into the works. The world was confronted with the madness of war in Europe, with all sorts of consequences for energy markets: sanctions, boycotts, cutbacks, strategic releases, price spikes and, here in the U.S., what looks to be a softening of the Biden administration’s view against hydrocarbons — at least natural gas and LNG. So now the markets for crude oil, natural gas and NGLs aren’t only inextricably tied to renewables, decarbonization and sustainability, they must navigate the transition turmoil under the cloud of wartime disruptions. It’s simply impossible to understand energy market behavior without having a solid grasp of how these factors are linked together. That is what School of Energy Spring 2022 is all about! In today’s RBN blog — a blatant advertorial — we’ll highlight how our upcoming conference integrates existing, war-impacted market dynamics with prospects for the energy transition.

Thursday, 03/31/2022

At first glance, it would appear that President Biden’s announcement regarding the release of up to 180 MMbbl of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months could have a significant impact. After all, it would, in a sense, increase the flow of U.S. oil into the market by almost 9% –– 11.7 MMb/d of current U.S. production plus an incremental 1 MMb/d from the SPR — and boost global supply by about 1%, which is no small thing. There are a few unknowns, though, such as (1) how much sweet crude oil and how much sour will be released, (2) where the pipelines connected to the four SPR sites could take that oil, (3) whether those pipelines have sufficient capacity to absorb the incremental flows out of SPR, and (4) what the ultimate market impacts of the SPR releases will be. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the president’s announcement and its implications.

Tuesday, 03/29/2022

Just a few years ago, when the Shale Revolution had matured into the Shale Era, the world settled into a nice groove, with crude prices generally rangebound between $40 and $70/bbl. As the U.S. looked to assume OPEC+’s role and evolve into the world’s swing supplier of oil, ramping up production when prices rose and slowing it down when they fell, it seemed reasonable to expect that market-driven responses would help maintain stability. Well, things haven’t turned out that way. COVID, the emphasis on ESG, a hydrocarbon-averse administration, and Russia’s war on Ukraine combined to put “reasonable expectations” in the trash. An entirely new set of expectations is emerging, and few metrics explain it better than today’s different-as-can-be relationship between crude oil prices and the U.S. rig count, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.

Sunday, 03/27/2022

There’s a lot of confusion out there — both in the media and the general public — about how producers in the U.S. oil and gas industry plan their operations for the months ahead and the degree to which they could ratchet up their production to help alleviate the current global supply shortfall and help bring down high prices. It’s not as simple or immediate as some might imagine. There are many reasons why E&Ps are either reluctant or unable to quickly increase their crude oil and natural gas production. Capital budgets are up in 2022 by an average of 23% over 2021. That increase seems substantial, but about two-thirds (15%) results from oilfield service inflation. And there are other headwinds as well. In today’s RBN blog, we drill down into the numbers with a look at producers’ capex and production guidance for 2022, the sharp decline in drilled-but-uncompleted wells, the impact of inflation and other factors that weigh on E&Ps today.