RBN Energy

Thursday, 5/24/2018

With oil prices higher than they’ve been in some time, it’s no surprise that the 44 major U.S. exploration and production companies we track reported — as a group — the highest quarterly profit and cash flow since 2014. Regaining a solid financial footing has been a long, painful struggle for crude oil and natural gas producers, who slipped into a river of red ink after the crude oil price collapse in late 2014 and 2015. After implementing a dramatic strategic and operational transformation, the industry returned to the black in 2017 despite a mid-year oil price dip, generally weak gas prices, and lingering write-downs from massive portfolio shifts. Now, strengthening oil prices and continued operational and financial discipline have lifted our E&Ps well above breakeven and suggest a higher trajectory for the remainder of the year. Today, we dive into first-quarter 2018 financial reporting by leading E&Ps to identify the drivers of a remarkable recovery.

Daily energy Posts

Sunday, 03/11/2018

First came the “aha moment,” the realization that the Permian’s unusually complex geology — with multiple layers packed with hydrocarbons — is a solvable puzzle, and that the financial rewards for exploration and production companies could be very attractive. Then came the highly competitive scramble to acquire acreage in the most promising parts of the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins. Now, with many producer’s acreage largely de-risked, competition to provide needed gathering systems and processing plants is white-hot, with some midstreamers in the prolific Delaware offering to write big checks to producers up front for commitments to infrastructure that in some cases is still on the drawing boards. These pay-to-play deals are ricocheting through the Permian business development community — at least in the Delaware. Today, we discuss recent developments in producer/midstreamer relations in the nation’s most active hydrocarbon play.

Wednesday, 03/07/2018

U.S. crude oil exports from the Gulf Coast remain at a high level, as does interest in transporting crude to Asia and Europe in Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) capable of carrying as much as 2 million barrels (MMbbl) each. The catch is that only one Gulf port — the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) — can send out fully loaded VLCCs, and so far LOOP has loaded only one; other Gulf ports need to fill or top off the gargantuan tankers in open waters using reverse lightering. Plans are afoot to allow greater use of VLCCs, but how long will they take to implement? Today, we discuss the economic benefits of exporting crude on supertankers, the growing use of VLCCs for Gulf Coast exports and the challenges exporters face in utilizing them even more this year and next.

Monday, 03/05/2018

The combination of rising Western Canadian crude oil production, little-to-no available pipeline takeaway capacity and setbacks for pipeline projects appear to be breathing new life into crude-by-rail (CBR) activity. CBR played an important supporting role earlier this decade, helping address incremental takeaway needs until new pipelines came online. And there would seem to be plenty of CBR capacity at hand this time around — the region saw some serious over-building of crude-loading terminals in 2014-15. But there may be challenges in getting some of that CBR capacity back online quickly. Today, we continue our series on Western Canadian crude, this time focusing on the crude-by-rail factor.

Wednesday, 02/28/2018

Production growth in the Permian Basin continues to have profound effects on the crude oil, natural gas and NGL markets. It also has helped to spur the rapid development of what is, in effect, another midstream sector: one that focuses on the delivery of large volumes of water for hydraulic fracturing and — just as important, and even more challenging — the gathering and transportation of vast and increasing amounts of “produced water” that emerge from Permian wells with crude and associated gas. Until now, most Permian produced water has come from legacy conventional wells, but last year, the water volumes from unconventional, tight-oil wells caught up and their share will only rise from here on out. That’s a problem for producers — and a big one — because they can’t just re-inject the water back into the producing formation like they can with conventional wells. Today, we discuss highlights from RBN’s new Drill Down Report on water-related issues and infrastructure in the U.S.’s hottest shale play.

Monday, 02/26/2018

Three major crude oil pipeline projects now under development would add nearly 1.8 MMb/d of much-needed takeaway capacity out of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB), a region hit hard by pipeline constraints and widening price differentials. But each of the three projects — Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX), Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project and TransCanada’s Keystone XL — continues to face regulatory challenges and it remains unclear how many of the projects will advance to construction and how soon the first of them might come online. It’s also possible that one or more may go the way of Northern Gateway and Energy East, two major pipeline projects that went belly-up after years of planning. Today, we continue our blog series on Western Canadian crude oil with a look at Keystone XL and its prospects.

Sunday, 02/25/2018

Corpus Christi, TX, is quickly becoming a strategic hub for U.S. crude oil exports. Since the repeal of the crude oil export ban in December 2015, crude exports from the Sparkling City by the Sea have increased to nearly 500 Mb/d — and that may be just the beginning. Numerous pipeline and terminal projects have been announced to receive, store and ship out a lot more crude from the Permian and Eagle Ford shale plays, with an increasing share of those barrels destined for the international market. Today, we discuss recent developments in crude exports out of South Texas.

Monday, 02/19/2018

With Western Canadian crude oil production rising, available pipeline takeaway capacity shrinking and crude-by-rail volumes rebounding, midstream companies are ramping up their efforts to get long-planned pipeline projects built. But that’s no easy task. Virtually every plan to add new takeaway capacity out of Alberta — Canada’s #1 energy-producing province — continues to face regulatory hurdles, and it remains to be seen which of the pipeline projects will be completed, and when. We can’t just throw up our hands, though, and say, “Who knows?” With pipeline constraints out of Western Canada worsening by the month and having profound negative effects on the price of Western Canadian Select (WCS), there’s real value in reviewing in some detail what these pipeline projects are up against. Today, we discuss what’s being planned on the takeaway front and where these projects stand.

Sunday, 02/11/2018

Permian crude oil production continues to march steadily upward, headed toward 3.0 MMb/d sometime in the next few months. Most of the recent growth responsible for pushing total U.S. output past 10 MMb/d has come from increases in Permian volumes. Pipeline capacity out of the super-hot play is on the ragged edge of maxing out, and a myriad of new projects to relieve capacity constraints are in the works. Why then has the price differential between Midland, TX, and the Gulf Coast dropped over the past few weeks? Why did the Brent vs. WTI/Cushing spread crater? And what does this all mean for Midland-to-Gulf Coast transport deals getting struck for $2.00/bbl or less? Today, we look at these developments, try to make sense out of the Permian/Midland crude oil market, and consider what the future might hold for West Texas barrels moving to the Gulf Coast.

Wednesday, 02/07/2018

Producers in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) are in a bind. Crude oil output in the WCSB has risen by more than 50% over the past seven years to about 4 MMb/d and is expected to increase to 5 MMb/d by the mid-2020s. But there has been only a modest expansion of refinery capacity within the region and pipeline capacity out of the WCSB, and lately takeaway constraints have had a devastating effect on the price relationship between benchmark Western Canadian Select (WCS) and West Texas Intermediate (WTI). What’s ahead for WCSB producers and WCS prices? Today, we continue our series on Western Canadian crude and bitumen markets, this time focusing on WCSB refinery capacity and existing pipelines out of the region.

Thursday, 02/01/2018

The Permian is experiencing the build-out of a wide variety of midstream infrastructure: crude oil and natural gas gathering systems, gas processing plants and crude, gas and NGL takeaway pipelines. Lately, there’s also been a rush to develop pipelines to deliver water to wells for use in hydraulic fracturing, as well as pipes to transport produced water from the lease to disposal wells and produced-water recycling plants. By installing and expanding these water and produced-water pipeline systems — some of them hundreds of miles long — Permian producers and third-party water-logistics providers are reducing the need for trucks on the Permian’s congested roads and significantly reducing per-barrel water transportation costs. Today, we continue our blog series on water-related pipeline, storage and treatment infrastructure in the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins.

Tuesday, 01/30/2018

Crude oil production in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) has risen by more than 50% over the past seven years to about 4 MMb/d, driven by new projects and expansions in the oil sands of Alberta. And while growth has slowed since the 2014-15 downturn in crude oil prices, oil sands output is expected to continue climbing — particularly over the next year as the new, 194-Mb/d Fort Hills project ramps up toward full operation. Most forecasts put total WCSB production at near 5 MMb/d by the mid-2020s. But while Western Canadian crude oil supply has been rising, there has been only a modest expansion of pipeline capacity out of the region, and lately takeaway constraints have had a devastating effect on the price relationship between benchmark Western Canadian Select (WCS) and West Texas Intermediate (WTI). Today, we continue our series on Canadian crude and bitumen production, existing and planned pipelines, and the effects of takeaway constraints on pricing, this time focusing on the supply side of the story.

Monday, 01/22/2018

The recent collapse in the price of Western Canadian Select (WCS) versus West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and the 12-day shutdown of the Keystone Pipeline in November 2017 put the spotlight on a major issue: Alberta production is rising, pipeline takeaway capacity out of the province has not kept pace, and pipes are running so full that some owners have been forced to apportion access to them. Storage and crude-by-rail shipments have served as a cushion of sorts, absorbing shocks like the Keystone outage and the apportionments, but with more production gains expected in 2018-19, that cushion seems uncomfortably thin and unforgiving. With all this going on, we decided that it’s time for a deep-dive look at Western Canadian production, takeaway options and WCS prices — the whole kit and caboodle. Today, we begin a new series on Canadian crude and bitumen production, the infrastructure in place (and being planned) to deal with it, and the effects of takeaway constraints on pricing.

Thursday, 01/18/2018

Discussions about “peak oil” long ago shifted from when crude oil supply might reach its apex to when oil demand will peak and start to decline as the world becomes ever more energy-efficient and shifts to lower-carbon sources of energy. The date at which oil demand will stop growing is highly uncertain, and small changes in assumptions can lead to vastly different estimates. Also, there is little reason to believe that once oil demand peaks it will fall sharply — the world is likely to demand large quantities of oil for many decades to come. More importantly, the shift in paradigm from an age of perceived oil scarcity to an age of oil abundance poses major challenges for oil-producing countries as they try both to ensure that their oil is produced and consumed, and at the same time diversify their economies to prepare for a time when they can no longer rely on oil to provide their main source of revenue. Today, the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and BP Group Chief Economist Spencer Dale summarize their recent report on future trends in oil supply, demand and prices.

Thursday, 01/11/2018

A number of Permian producers and their contractors are working to rein in well-completion and operating costs by developing extensive pipeline networks to efficiently deliver fresh, brackish or treated water to new wells for use in hydraulic fracturing — and deliver produced water from producing wells to treatment and disposals sites. This water-related infrastructure build-out is driven by a combination of necessity and economy, and is made possible in part by the trend among producers to assemble very large, contiguous leaseholds so they can drill longer horizontal wells. Today, we continue our series on water-related pipeline, storage and treatment infrastructure.

Wednesday, 01/10/2018

During the oil market’s downturn from mid-2014 through 2016, the Bakken Shale, primarily located in North Dakota, was at the forefront of the collapse. The Bakken rig count dropped from a high of 219 to a low of 24 as production fell by 300 Mb/d, or 24%. For many, it was time to write off the Bakken as a one-hit wonder. But as drilling productivity increased and prices rebounded, so did production. Crude oil output is again above 1.1 MMb/d and the rig count has doubled from its low point. Today, we begin a blog series on recent developments in Bakken production, well productivity and market pricing, and discuss RBN’s latest production forecast for the play.