RBN Energy

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August 2022 was intended to unleash a wave of clean-energy initiatives, from hydrogen and renewable fuels to electric vehicles and large-scale carbon-capture projects, all part of the Biden administration’s plans to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and move the U.S. closer to a net-zero economy. But while billions in federal financing and tax credits have helped move many projects forward, they can only advance as fast as permitting, regulations and economic reality will allow. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the surge in proposed carbon-capture projects since passage of the IRA, where they are in the review process, and how the pace of permitting at the federal level compares with the states that have primacy over their own sequestration wells. 

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 Kristen Holmquist - Thursday, 6/20/2024 (3:00 pm)
Report Highlight: U.S. Propane Billboard

The EIA reported total U.S. propane/propylene inventories built by 1.6 MMbbl for the week ended June 14, well below industry expectations of 2.26 MMbbl and the average for the past five years. Storage is 8% lower than the same time last year.

By Kristen Hays - Thursday, 6/20/2024 (1:15 pm)

A federal appeals court this week ruled that a dispute with Michigan's attorney general regarding its Line 5 crude and NGL pipeline be handled in state court.

Recently Published Reports

Report Title Published
Crude Voyager Crude Voyager Report – June 18, 2024 2 days 3 hours ago
TradeView Daily Data TradeView Daily Data - June 18, 2024 2 days 4 hours ago
NATGAS Billboard NATGAS Billboard - June 18, 2024 2 days 11 hours ago
Crude Oil Permian Crude Oil Permian - June 18, 2024 2 days 13 hours ago
Chart Toppers Chart Toppers - June 18, 2024 2 days 14 hours ago

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Daily Energy Blog

The impending startup of Canada’s government-owned Trans Mountain Expansion Project, better known as TMX, will add exit capacity for Western Canadian crude oil production and is expected to redirect at least some of Alberta’s output toward California and Asia and away from its traditional North American markets, including complex refiners in Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast. Among them, Gulf Coast refiners, who have become the “price-setting” consumers of heavy Western Canadian crude, are expected to be the hardest hit. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the Gulf of Mexico production and imported grades that might become stand-ins for the “lost” Canadian barrels. 

Crude oil, natural gas and NGL production roared back in 2023. All three energy commodity groups hit record volumes, which means one thing: more infrastructure is needed. That means gathering systems, pipelines, processing plants, refinery units, fractionators, storage facilities and, above all, export dock capacity. That’s because most of the incremental production is headed overseas — U.S. energy exports are on the rise! If 2023’s dominant story line was production growth, exports and (especially) the need for new infrastructure, you can bet our blogs on those topics garnered more than their share of interest from RBN’s subscribers. Today we dive into our Top 10 blogs to uncover the hottest topics in 2023 energy markets. 

It seems like everyone has an opinion about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and everyone is at least a little bit right. For example, many assert the SPR provides a helpful crude oil supply buffer in the event of a major disruption from, say, a strong hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico or a war in the Middle East. Others say the market can take care of itself — the SPR just muddies the waters by getting government (and worse yet, politicians!) involved. Still others say the oil market has changed dramatically since the SPR was established almost a half-century ago and that the strategy behind the reserve should be revised in response to those changes. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the very gradual refilling of the SPR after a big draining — and an ongoing debate about the reserve’s future.

We’ve reached the two-year anniversary of the reversal of the joint-venture Capline crude oil pipeline. With its current north-to-south flow, it adds to the few conduits that can move oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, specifically the St. James, LA, oil hub. Flows have been on a steady climb since southbound service began in December 2021, but volumes appear to be short of its available capacity, and there are looming headwinds. In today’s RBN blog, we examine whether Capline’s flows could be affected by the impending startup of the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX). Could rising Alberta production be its golden ticket?  

Crude oil production in the offshore Gulf of Mexico (GOM) increased by more than 50% from 2013 to 2019, an extraordinary period of growth supported by new discoveries, new offshore platforms and new subsea tiebacks. Then, battered by Covid and major hurricanes, GOM output stumbled in 2020 and 2021, twice falling to less than 1.1 MMb/d, barely half the all-time mark of 2.04 MMb/d achieved in August 2019. More recently, production in the Gulf has been rebounding. But despite these gains — and a relatively mild 2023 hurricane season in the central and western Gulf — the region faces new challenges, including federal leasing delays, a significant oil spill, and an endangered species of sea giants known as Rice’s whales. 

Wider price discounts for Western Canadian heavy crude oil have been weighing on its oil producers for the past few months. This appears to be the result of a combination of weak refinery demand, rapidly rising oil production and insufficient oil takeaway capacity from Western Canada. A more permanent solution for wider discounts might be to increase pipeline export capacity to ensure that rising oil production has more options to reach markets. In today’s RBN blog, we consider the pending startup of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) as a means to do just that.

Well, thanks to you all, we reached another important milestone this week: 40,000 subscribers to RBN’s daily blog. We are quite proud of the achievement. That’s a lot of folks taking time out of their busy day to read a couple thousand words about what’s happening with oil, gas, NGLs and renewables — all in the context of a rock & roll song. We couldn’t have done it without you. Today, after posting a total of about 3,000 blogs over nearly 12 years, we pull back the curtain on the RBN blogosphere and discuss how and why it all happens — and how you help shape what we blog about. 

The price discount for Western Canada’s benchmark heavy crude oil has seen yet another widening in the past few months. Increased pipeline access to the U.S. was believed to be the key to solving this problem in the long term, but more recent fundamental developments surrounding pipeline egress, refinery demand and increasing heavy oil supplies demonstrate that larger discounts can — and do — still happen. This problem could persist for several more months until a better balance is achieved in downstream markets. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the latest drivers of the wider price discounts for Western Canada’s heavy oil. 

U.S. oil, natural gas and NGL markets are more interconnected than ever — with each other and with global dynamics. The deep connections we see today have evolved in the 15 years since the start of the Shale Revolution, and in recognizing how the various segments have impacted one another, we can better explain how they are driving today’s markets. That was the focus of our Fall 2023 School of Energy and it’s the subject of today’s RBN blog, which (warning) is a blatant advertorial for School of Energy Encore, a newly available online version of our recent conference.

Over the past three-plus years, Corpus Christi has dominated the U.S. crude oil export market, largely because of the availability of straight-shot pipeline access from the Permian to two Corpus-area terminals at Ingleside — Enbridge Ingleside Energy Center (EIEC) and South Texas Gateway (STG) — that can partially load the huge 2-MMbbl VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers). But capacity on the pipes to Corpus is now nearly maxed out and, with Permian production rising and exports strong, an increasing share of West Texas crude output is instead being sent to Houston on pipelines with capacity to spare. The catch for Permian shippers with capacity on Permian-to-Houston pipes is that the Midland-to-MEH (Magellan East Houston) price differential for WTI has been depressingly low —$0.22/bbl on average this year, compared to almost $20/bbl for a few months in 2018 and averaging $5.50/bbl as recently as 2019. However, the Midland-to-MEH WTI price spread looks to be on the verge of a rebound of sorts, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.

A draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) tied to a key water crossing along the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has finally been completed and made public, thereby ending another chapter in the long-running drama about the ultimate fate of DAPL, which is by far the largest crude oil pipeline out of the Bakken. While the DEIS doesn’t finish the story, the document provides hints about possible outcomes — and an opportunity to review just how important the 750-Mb/d pipeline really is to Bakken producers and shippers. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the latest developments regarding DAPL and Bakken production.

While the weather-related headlines might still scream “summer” in some places — from stifling heat to powerful hurricanes to downpour-induced mud bogs at Burning Man in the Nevada desert — we’ve actually turned the corner into meteorological fall. Oil and gas prices have moved up from their Q2 2023 lows and supply issues, particularly for oil, are the chief concerns as the heating season approaches. Long-term production by the Diversified E&P peer group, whose production streams are weighted 40%-60% for gas and oil, respectively, are a major factor in U.S. supply. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze the crucial issue of reserve replacement by the major diversified U.S. producers.

For many years now, the U.S. has been buying — and piping or railing in — virtually all of the crude oil Canada has been exporting, in part because Canadian producers have only very limited access to coastal ports. More recently, greater pipeline access from the Alberta oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC) has created an attractive pathway — a “Carefree Highway,” if you will — for Canadian crude oil to be “re-exported” to overseas customers. This year, much stronger international demand has sent re-export volumes to record highs — and provided Alberta producers very attractive price differentials for their oil sands crude. That overseas demand appears to be sustainable, but with the looming startup of the 590-Mb/d Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX), which will increase the capacity of the Trans Mountain Pipeline system to 890 Mb/d and enable much more Alberta crude to be exported from docks in British Columbia, the re-export surge from the USGC may be in for a pullback, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.

The level of activity at crude oil export terminals from Corpus Christi to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) is nothing short of extraordinary — a record 4.8 MMb/d was loaded the week ended August 25, according to RBN’s Crude Voyager report, and Houston-area terminals loaded an all-time high of 1.4 MMb/d. But there’s a lot more to the crude exports story. When you live this stuff day-in, day-out, you see subtle changes that often extend into trends and, if you’re lucky, you sometimes get signals that things you’d been predicting are actually happening. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from the latest Crude Voyager and what the weekly report’s data and analysis reveal about the global oil market.

As this brutally hot summer meanders towards Labor Day, we’re all facing rising gasoline prices as we head to the beach, to barbecues, or to the mall for back-to-school shopping. The main culprit is crude oil production cutbacks by the Russians and Saudis and the situation would likely be much more precarious were it not for strong U.S. shale output keeping gasoline prices from climbing to $5 a gallon or more — except in California, of course. Crucial to sustaining that production long-term is not just replenishing U.S. oil reserves but growing them. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at crude oil and natural gas reserves with an analysis of the critical issue of reserve replacement by major oil-focused U.S. producers.