RBN Energy

Wednesday, 1/16/2019

LPG export terminals along the Gulf Coast account for more than nine of every 10 barrels of propane and normal butane that are shipped from the U.S. to foreign buyers. That makes perfect sense, given the terminals’ proximity to major NGL production areas like the Permian, the Eagle Ford and SCOOP/STACK, and to the world-class fractionation hub in Mont Belvieu, TX. But, increasingly, LPG terminals on the East and West coasts, are growing in significance. On the Atlantic side, Marcus Hook, near Philadelphia, is enabling more and more volumes of Marcellus/Utica-sourced propane and butane to reach overseas markets. And, as we discuss in today’s blog, West Coast exports are on the rise as well, with Petrogas’s Ferndale terminal in Washington state providing a straight shot across the Pacific to Asia for propane and butane fractionated in Western Canada, plus a good bit more LPG export capacity under development in British Columbia.

Daily energy Posts

Wednesday, 10/31/2018

Pipeline capacity constraints are nothing new to producers in the Bakken. Prior to the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in mid-2017, market participants had been pushing area pipeline takeaway to the max. When DAPL finally came online following a lengthy political and legal battle, producers and traders were able to breathe a sigh of relief. But with Bakken production steadily increasing over the past 18 months and primed for future growth new constraints are on the horizon. Over the next year or so, Bakken output could overwhelm takeaway capacity and push producers to find new market outlets. The questions now are, which midstream companies can add incremental capacity, how much crude-by-rail will be necessary, and is there a chance a major new pipeline gets built? Today, we forecast Bakken supply and demand, discuss some upcoming projects and lay out the possible headaches for Bakken producers heading into 2019.

Monday, 10/29/2018

Phillips 66 loaded its first Panamax tanker for export to Mexico over the weekend. Late on Sunday night, the SCF Prime signaled that it was headed for Pajaritos, Mexico, after loading at Phillips' terminal in Beaumont, TX.  Mexico is making history with this pivotal first purchase of Bakken crude from Phillips 66 at the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC). Up until now, the crude oil trade between the U.S. and Mexico had been a one-way street, with oil moving from Mexico to the U.S. and not the other way around. But now, as Mexico’s state-run oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) faces dwindling oil production and refinery outputs, importing light, sweet crude from the U.S. is a new avenue to revive Mexico’s refinery utilization. Today, we examine the new shift in the traditional flows of crude oil across the Gulf of Mexico.

Sunday, 10/28/2018

Crude oil production in the Niobrara region in northeastern Colorado and eastern Wyoming has quadrupled since the start of the 2010s, and now tops 600 Mb/d. Fortunately for producers in the Niobrara’s Denver-Julesburg (D-J) Basin and Powder River Basin (PRB), midstream companies not only developed enough new pipeline takeaway capacity to transport all those incremental barrels, they overbuilt. As a result, the region — unlike the Permian and Western Canada — currently has no crude-oil pipeline constraints, something that makes the Niobrara even more attractive to producers. But part of a pipeline system now moving crude out of the D-J is being repurposed to carry NGLs instead, and with D-J and PRB crude production still rising, you’ve got to wonder, is a takeaway shortfall on the horizon? Today, we continue our series on the Rockies’ premier hydrocarbon production area and the infrastructure needed to serve it, this time focusing on crude oil.

Tuesday, 10/23/2018

The discount for Bakken crude prices at Clearbrook to WTI at Cushing has been on a rollercoaster in recent weeks, widening from $1.30/bbl at the beginning of September 2018 to over $10/bbl in mid-October and narrowing again most recently. There are several factors at play here. Canadian production has overwhelmed area pipelines and prices are being heavily discounted. These cheap Canadian barrels are creating oversupply issues at markets that Bakken barrels also trade into. On the demand side, Midwestern refiners are in the middle of seasonal turnarounds, reducing the demand for both Bakken and Canadian grades. Meanwhile, Bakken production growth continues to steadily chug along, increasing by over 150 Mb/d since the beginning of the year. And while this recent Bakken price angst is cause for concern, there is a looming bottleneck for pipeline space that could really shake things up sometime next year. Today, we examine the recent price phenomenon, the relationship between Canadian crude differentials and Bakken prices, and why producers should be concerned about future pipeline shortages.

Monday, 10/22/2018

For 65 years, Enbridge’s Line 5 has been a critically important conduit for moving Western Canadian and Bakken crude oil and NGLs east across Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas and into Ontario, where the now-540-Mb/d pipeline feeds Sarnia refineries and petrochemical plants. Some crude from Line 5 also can flow east from Sarnia to Montreal refineries on Line 9. But Enbridge has been under increasing pressure to shut down Line 5 over concern that a rupture under the Straits of Mackinac might cause major environmental damage. At long last, the state of Michigan and Enbridge have reached an agreement to replace the section of Line 5 under the straits by the mid-2020s, and to take steps in the interim to enhance the existing pipeline’s safety. In today’s blog, we consider the significance of the Enbridge pipeline and of the newly reached accord.

Sunday, 10/21/2018

Time and again, the repurposing of existing assets like pipelines and marine terminals to meet changing market needs has proven to be a winning approach. After all, if a lot of what you need is “already there” — as we said in today’s song title — why build something entirely new? That use-what-you’ve-got tack is a key driver behind MPLX and Crimson Midstream’s recently unveiled Swordfish Pipeline project, which by early 2020 would enable large volumes of crude oil to flow south from the St. James, LA, market hub to the Clovelly storage hub — a key crude distributor to area refineries and the jumping-off point for crude exports on fully loaded Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) via the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP). The companies also envision using other existing pipelines — including a possibly reversed Capline — as well as the soon-to-be-finished Bayou Bridge Pipeline to feed crude into Swordfish. Today, we review the MPLX/Crimson plan and assess how it might boost the export cred of LOOP, which is currently the only Gulf Coast port that can fill a 2-MMbbl VLCC to the brim without reverse lightering.

Wednesday, 10/17/2018

Permian oil and gas production may have slammed up against capacity constraints, but that does not mean production growth has ground to a halt. Far from it. In the past 10 weeks, Permian gas production is up another 8% — a gain of almost 700 MMcf/d. Crude production now tops 3.5 MMb/d, with incremental barrels finding their way to market via truck, rail and new pipeline capacity — soon including Plains All American’s new Sunrise project, which will move more Permian crude toward the hub in Cushing, OK. Record-setting volumes of NGLs are streaming their way out of the Permian to Mont Belvieu. This market is moving so fast that if you blink, you’ll miss something important. So to get caught up with all things Permian, last week RBN hosted PermiCon, an industry conference designed to bridge the gap between fundamentals analysis and boots-on-the-ground market intelligence. We think PermiCon accomplished that goal, and in today’s blog, we summarize a few of the key points discussed during the conference proceedings.

Tuesday, 10/16/2018

Crude oil production in the Rockies’ Niobrara region is up by more than 50% since the beginning of last year, spurred on by higher oil prices, ample oil pipeline takeaway capacity, and other positive factors. Natural gas and NGL production in the Niobrara — which includes both the Denver-Julesburg (D-J) Basin and the Powder River Basin (PRB) — has been rising too, to the point that there’s a scramble on to develop new gathering systems, gas processing plants as well as gas and NGL pipeline capacity. A number of exploration and production companies are upbeat about the region’s prospects; so are some midstreamers. But there’s a dark cloud on the horizon — at least in Colorado, where voters will decide in a few weeks whether to significantly restrict where new wells can be drilled. Is the Niobrara poised for continued growth or not? Today, we kick off a new series on Rockies production, infrastructure and prospects.

Sunday, 10/14/2018

With a staggering 3.8 MMb/d of inbound pipelines, 3.1 MMb/d of outbound pipes and 94 MMbbl of storage capacity in between, the crude oil hub in Cushing, OK, surely has earned its nickname, “Pipeline Crossroads of the World.” But Cushing is more than a mere collection of pipelines and tankage, and crude doesn’t simply flow through the hub like cars and trucks flowing through a Los Angeles freeway interchange. Instead, much of the crude coming into Cushing from Western Canada, the Bakken, the Rockies, the Permian and other plays is mixed and blended within the hub, primarily to meet the specific needs of U.S. refineries and the export market regarding API gravity, sulfur content and the like. In other words, what goes in can be materially different than what goes out. Today, we continue our look at the central Oklahoma hub with an examination of the characteristics of the crude flowing in and out, and how they differ.

Tuesday, 10/09/2018

The price of northeastern Alberta’s key crude oil benchmark, Western Canadian Select (WCS), has been dropping like a rock. Last week, the heavy, sour blend of crude fell to a $45/bbl discount against U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) — the biggest differential in at least 10 years. With an unplanned summertime outage at a Syncrude upgrader now over, Alberta production rising and pipeline takeaway capacity static — at least for now — the value of Canada’s crude may have even bleaker days ahead, despite a recent global rally in oil prices. Today, we explain why Western Canada’s oil producers are facing the prospect of mile-wide spreads for months to come.

Monday, 10/08/2018

Just as midstream companies are in a fierce competition to build new crude oil pipelines from the Permian to the Gulf Coast, there’s a race on to develop what would be the first Gulf Coast terminal in a generation capable of handling fully laden Very Large Crude Carriers. There’s a lot at stake. Currently, 2-MMbbl VLCCs can be filled to the brim without reverse lightering only at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), and even if U.S. crude production continues to rise at a fast clip, it’s unlikely that more than another one or two high-capacity, VLCC-ready terminals would be needed over the next five years. And, assuming there’s not an overbuild situation, the project or projects that ultimately advance would be expected to be in-demand and highly utilized — VLCCs are the preferred mode of transporting crude to Asia and other far-away markets, and being able to fully load VLCCs saves the considerable cost and time associated with reverse lightering these supertankers in deep water. Today, we conclude our series on the fast-paced efforts to develop export terminals in waters deep enough to float VLCCs chock-full of oil.

Sunday, 10/07/2018

The crude oil hub in Cushing, OK, is a big numbers kind of place: 94 million barrels of storage capacity, 3.8 MMb/d of inbound pipelines and 3.1 MMb/d of outbound pipes, not to mention a spaghetti bowl of connections between the many tank farms within greater Cushing. To truly understand the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” — what it does and how it works — you need to know the hub’s assets and how they fit together. Today, we continue our series with a look at the pipes that transport crude from Cushing to Gulf Coast refineries and export docks, and to inland refineries in the Midcontinent, the Midwest and what you might call the Mid-South — places like Memphis, TN; El Dorado, AR; and Shreveport, LA.

Monday, 10/01/2018

China exceeded Canada as the largest buyer of U.S. crude exports for the first time in February 2017 and in year-to-date 2018 has averaged 378 Mb/d versus Canada’s 347 Mb/d. Ramping up purchases from virtually nothing in 2015 to more than 500 Mb/d in June 2018 was no small feat — the logistics in getting that much oil across the world include multiple ship-to-ship transfers, several weeks at sea and a whole lot of negotiating between U.S. crude marketers and the major Chinese buyers: Unipec and PetroChina. That already complicated process has recently been made just a little more complicated by the escalating trade war rhetoric between the U.S. and China. In today’s blog, which launches our new Crude Voyager service, we explain how crude flows to China are evolving.

Sunday, 09/30/2018

Thanks to the shale revolution, U.S. refiners have spent the better part of the last two years achieving milestones in export volumes and run rates. The U.S. exported record volumes of gasoline and diesel last year. Much of that newfound international market share came at the expense of ailing refining complexes in Latin America, particularly in Mexico. That worked out great for U.S. refiners on the Gulf Coast, who could load up a tanker of fuel and have it delivered within a matter of days. Now the market on both sides of the border is shifting; the political landscape has changed in Mexico and gasoline demand growth in the U.S. is threatened by higher oil prices. Today, we lay out factors impacting exports and demand in the U.S. gasoline market.

Tuesday, 09/25/2018

Cushing doesn’t call itself the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” for nothing. Pipelines with the capacity to handle one-third of total U.S. crude oil production flow into the central Oklahoma hub from a number of production areas, including the Alberta oil sands, the Bakken, the Rockies, the Permian and the nearby SCOOP/STACK. There’s almost as much pipeline capacity out of Cushing, with more than half of it bound for Texas’s Gulf Coast refineries and export docks and most of the rest headed for refineries in the Midcontinent and Midwest. Cushing’s inbound and outbound pipes connect to a staggering 94 million barrels of crude oil storage in about 350 aboveground tanks — each company’s set of tanks with its own unique degree of interconnectedness. Today, we continue our series on Cushing with a look at the large, medium and small pipelines that flow into the hub, and what they transport.