RBN Energy

Thursday, 9/23/2021

A long, long time ago — or, more precisely, in the spring of 2014, when WTI was selling for more than $110/bbl — a handful of exploration and production companies were convinced they were onto something big in southwestern Mississippi and east-central Louisiana. There, they believed, the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) was poised to become the next Bakken, the U.S.’s premier shale play at the time, but even better for producers seeking more robust crude prices because of TMS’s very low gas-to-oil ratio — an oil cut north of 92%! –– and proximity to Gulf Coast refineries. While there had been a host of failed efforts by producers to wring out large volumes of premium-priced Louisiana Light Sweet (LLS) oil from the marine shale’s sedimentary silts and clays, the E&Ps felt in their bones that they were finally “cracking the code.” Then, at just the wrong time, came an oil price crash that set the whole industry back on its heels and activity in the TMS quickly slowed to a crawl. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, an even smaller cadre of Tuscaloosa Marine Shale true believers is now banking on a production revival in the core of the play.

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Daily energy Posts

Wednesday, 09/22/2021

Global gas and LNG prices are currently at record high levels. If we sound like a broken record, it’s because this epic bull run that started in the spring, has been roaring in recent weeks and showing little sign of slowing down. European prices have hit new post-2008 or all-time highs more than 25 times since late June, and prices in Asia, which had been at seasonal all-time highs for most of the spring and summer, finally last week also topped its previous all-time record from last January. A confluence of bullish factors, including high global demand, low storage inventories, weather events, and supply outages, have all contributed to the surge in gas prices. While many of these are near-term drivers and will eventually flip in the other direction, there is one bullish driver of global gas demand — European carbon prices — that will remain a constant in the years to come. That is by design because the carbon market is meant to serve as an incentive for the industry to seek greener solutions over fossil fuels. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the European Union’s Emission Trading System (EU ETS) and how it interacts with the global gas market.

Monday, 09/20/2021

With natural gas prices reaching levels not seen in seven years, Western Canada is doing all it can to help increase gas supply, with recent data showing monthly production hitting multi-year highs. Moreover, Canadian forward gas prices are at the highest levels since 2014, gas pipeline expansions are in place or being constructed to accommodate future supply expansion, and gas-focused drilling activity remains strong — all of which may as well be a prescription for sending gas production to record levels later this year and in 2022. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on the recent gas production growth in Alberta and neighboring provinces and why more growth is coming.

Tuesday, 09/14/2021

It has been a chaotic 18 months for North American LNG and the global gas market. In a short time, international gas markets went from oppressively oversupplied balances, high storage inventories, and historically low prices for much of 2020, to reckoning with panic-inducing supply shortage, low inventories, multi-year or all-time high prices in the biggest LNG-consuming regions. The resulting whiplash has transformed key aspects of the LNG market, including making a profound impact on the way existing LNG terminals operate, how projects secure funding and capacity commitments, and what offtakers expect for the next generation of LNG capacity buildout. The tight market appears to have settled the question of whether more export capacity is needed, at least for now, but the market’s sharp U-turn has also put potential offtakers on edge and underscored the need for contractual flexibility. Additionally, pressure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is higher than ever, and LNG offtakers are increasingly demanding greener solutions to address government regulations and public concerns. This convergence of factors has put the LNG market at a crossroads. Taking all of the lessons learned from the past 18 months and before, the industry must now forge a new path forward. Today, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down report, looking at the major trends that will define the North American LNG market in the coming years.

Monday, 09/13/2021

It will still be a few years until Canada joins the ranks of nations exporting natural gas in the form of LNG. Until then, a great deal of work has to be completed on both the LNG Canada liquefaction and export facility in Kitimat, BC, and the primary gas pipeline linked to it: the Coastal GasLink. Unlike most LNG export sites in the U.S., which can receive feedgas from multiple production basins via an array of major trunklines, the LNG Canada plant will be relying on gas supplies from primarily one basin: the Montney in Western Canada. And all that feedgas will be transported across British Columbia through one mammoth pipeline. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the small number of pipelines that will supply gas from the Montney to Coastal GasLink for eventual delivery to LNG Canada.

Thursday, 09/09/2021

Global natural gas and LNG prices have spent the summer going from high to higher to the highest on record. The major European indices hit post-2008, and then all-time highs multiple times throughout the summer — even surpassing Asian prices on a handful of days. At the same time, Asian prices have set all-time seasonal records and are now sitting just below the previous single-day high settle from this past January. Usually, as the weather cools heading into fall, so do prices, but that’s unlikely this year as the European gas storage inventory is at the lowest level for this time of year than we’ve seen in recent history, and the time to replenish stocks for the winter is rapidly running out. The incredible bull run for global gas prices has been underpinned by high demand for LNG and the cascading effect of a supply squeeze in Europe, brought on by the triple threat of low domestic production, decreased imports from Russia, and a scarcity of incremental LNG cargoes. Not only is this driving record-high gas prices and increased volatility now, but the low inventory means sustained high prices for the heating season ahead. In today’s blog, we take a look at recent global gas price trends and the precarious European storage situation ahead of what is shaping up to be an incredibly bullish winter.

Wednesday, 09/08/2021

The natural gas futures contract for the prompt month barreled a net ~$1.00 (26%) higher in the past 12 days as the potential for prolonged production shut-ins in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida amplified already-heightened supply fears in both the U.S. and international gas markets. The blistering price action sent the CME/NYMEX Henry Hub October futures contract soaring on Wednesday to an intraday high above $5/MMBtu and a settle of $4.914/MMBtu, the highest during September trading since 2008, while the prompt December and January contracts settled above $5/MMBtu for the first time in years. Prices at European and Asian gas/LNG hubs have similarly rallied this summer to multi-year or even all-time highs. Offshore Gulf gas production has since begun to recover, slowly, after the Ida-damaged Port Fourchon in Louisiana, the base of offshore oil and gas operations, reopened over the Labor Day weekend, but the bulk of it remains offline as power outages and other operational challenges persist. The shut-ins are exacerbating an already tight market, marked by record LNG exports, lackadaisical production growth, and a growing inventory deficit compared with year-ago and five-year average levels. Those underlying fundamentals will remain a trigger point for price spikes well after Ida-related shut-ins recover. Today, we discuss where the gas market stands heading into the final months of the injection season and the implications for winter gas pricing.

Monday, 09/06/2021

Many U.S. hydrocarbon production basins have experienced major ups and downs the past few years — the Haynesville, Eagle Ford, Bakken, and SCOOP/STACK, to name just a few. The Permian hasn’t been entirely immune from bad times either — crude oil and associated gas production there plummeted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year and again during the Deep Freeze in February this year — but it would be fair to say that the play’s Midland Basin has been among the energy industry’s surest bets during the Shale Era, with strong, highly predictable gains in output that producers and midstreamers alike can pretty much bank on. As a result, a number of gas-and-NGL-focused midstream companies have been taking the long view in their planning for new gathering systems, gas processing plants, and connections to a multitude of takeaway pipelines. In today’s blog, we discuss one company’s development of a now-massive and flexible hub-and-spokes network in the heart of the Midland.

Thursday, 09/02/2021

The U.S. West Coast natural gas market is at the forefront of the energy transition, but regional natural gas prices are instead signaling the need for construction of newbuild gas pipeline capacity to the region. Without it, markets west of the Permian Basin have been hard-pressed to take advantage of the supply growth in West Texas and have struggled to consistently maintain adequate natural gas supplies for some time now. To make matters worse, last month, a segment of El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline (EPNG), a primary artery for moving Permian gas west, experienced a rupture, further tightening supplies. Today, we highlight the major market impacts and longer-term implications of the pipeline blast and subsequent flow restrictions.

Monday, 08/30/2021

The year-on-year gain in U.S. LNG feedgas demand has been the single biggest factor behind the soaring natural gas prices and storage shortfall this year. And there is more of that demand on the horizon. Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass Train 6 and Venture Global’s new Calcasieu Pass facility are due to start service in the first half of 2022. However, feedgas volume is likely to ramp up ahead of the new year as both projects progress through the commissioning phase and aim to export their first commissioning cargoes before the end of the year. How soon could that incremental feedgas demand show up? Getting a handle on the timing requires an understanding of how a liquefaction plant works and the various steps of the commissioning process. Today, we start a short series on what’s involved when bringing a liquefaction plant online and what that can tell us about the timing of incremental feedgas flows this fall/winter.

Sunday, 08/29/2021

In the past four years, natural gas production in the Permian Basin has doubled — from 6.6 Bcf/d in August 2017 to 13.4 Bcf/d now. To keep pace, the midstream sector has spent many billions of dollars on new gas gathering systems, processing plants, and takeaway pipelines, with virtually all of that investment backed by long-term commitments from producers and other market players. Thanks to that build-out, the Permian now has sufficient takeaway capacity — at least for another couple of years. But despite the 50-plus processing plants that have come online in the play’s Delaware and Midland basins in recent years, still more processing capacity is needed, as evidenced by the expansion projects and new plants that we discuss in today’s blog.

Wednesday, 08/25/2021

U.S. LNG is in the midst of a record-breaking year. Total LNG feedgas has averaged nearly 10 Bcf/d so far in 2021 and the country is on track to export somewhere around 1,000 cargoes this year, 40% more than last year. Although pipeline maintenance and flow constraints have knocked feedgas off the all-time highs seen earlier this year, feedgas and exports are likely to hit new record levels to close out the year as Sabine Pass Train 6 and Calcasieu Pass prepare to start service in early 2022. The strength in U.S. LNG export demand this year is underpinned by an incredibly bullish global gas market, which has led prices in both Europe and Asia to hit all-time highs. This has not only benefited the existing fleet of terminals, but the prolonged bullish global gas market has accelerated commercial activity for future LNG projects. Since May, more than 12 MMtpa of capacity from LNG terminals or liquefaction trains under development has been sold, pushing several prospective LNG projects closer to a final investment decision (FID). RBN covers all of the latest in our LNG Voyager Quarterly report, but in today’s blog, we take a look at some of the highlights from the report, focusing on the biggest changes in LNG development this summer.

Sunday, 08/22/2021

The volume of natural gas in storage and the flow of gas into and out of it are among the most closely watched indicators in the U.S. gas market. That makes sense, given that these numbers provide important weekly insights into the supply-demand balance, gas price trends, the impact of LNG exports, and any number of other market drivers. However, what’s often ignored by those not involved in the day-to-day physical gas market are the mechanics and economics of storage itself. Who uses gas storage, and for what purposes? What are the value drivers for a storage facility? Why are there different types of gas storage contracts? How much does storage cost, and what do storage rates reflect? Today, we explore these and other questions.

Thursday, 08/19/2021

The high-tech space programs of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Sir Richard Branson may seem far removed from the down-to-earth business of producing and processing hydrocarbons. In fact, however, the multibillion-dollar efforts by SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic to normalize space travel — and maybe even put the first men and women on Mars! — depend at least in part on some pretty basic oil and gas products, including regular jet fuel, highly refined kerosene, and LNG. Oh, and hydrogen too — or, more specifically, the liquid form of the fuel that has recently caught the attention of a number of old-school energy companies. In today’s blog, we look at what’s propelling the latest generation of space vehicles.

Wednesday, 08/18/2021

Northeast natural gas production in 2021 to date has averaged 34 Bcf/d, up 1.4 Bcf/d year-on-year, and the higher gas price environment currently is signaling more upside to production in the years to come. At the same time, downstream feedgas demand from LNG export facilities is at a record high and also headed higher as more liquefaction capacity is set to come online in the coming months. So, despite lower-than-normal inventory levels in the Northeast, outflows from the Appalachian basin have soared to new highs this year, and utilization of outbound pipeline capacity is up to an average 90%, a level we haven’t seen since the 2016-17 timeframe. Unlike 2016-17, when there was a slew of major pipeline projects to expand egress, now there are just two or three at most — and two of those are greenfield projects that face an uncertain future. As such, spare exit capacity is getting increasingly sparse, and Appalachian producers are bound to hit the capacity “wall” in the next two years. When will the Northeast run out of exit capacity and how bad could constraints get? Today, we provide highlights from our new Drill Down report, which brings together our latest analysis on Northeast gas takeaway capacity and flows.

Thursday, 08/05/2021

If you’re a relative newcomer to the energy industry, the subject of natural gas storage might make your eyes glaze over — the sector is often treated as a backwater by traders and investors focused on liquid hydrocarbons. But it wasn’t always so. In the decades leading up to the early 2000s, the U.S. gas market underwent a series of fundamental changes, each spurring the development of new storage capacity, first in the Northeast, then the Midwest, and finally along the Gulf Coast. Along the way, the primary use of storage — balancing seasonal swings in gas demand — remained consistent, but there was also a wild-and-woolly period in the mid-2000s that was rife with meme-stock-like trading frenzy. It’s hard to say for sure, but we may be on the verge of needing still more gas storage capacity. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss the history and nature of U.S. natural gas storage to give context on what the future might hold.