Crude oil inventory levels aren’t the only thing in a constant state of flux at the crude storage hub in Cushing, OK. A year ago, we blogged extensively about Cushing’s major players, storage assets and incoming and outgoing pipelines, as well as plans for new pipes that highlight the hub’s continued significance, even in an increasingly Permian- and Gulf Coast-focused energy sector. A lot has changed since then, though. Some pipeline projects into and out of Cushing have advanced to final investment decisions (FIDs), while others have floundered or foundered. Also, brand-new pipeline projects have been announced, as was a big acquisition that will make Energy Transfer a major player in Cushing storage. Today, we begin a short series on recent developments at the Oklahoma oil hub and how they reflect changes in the ever-evolving U.S. energy markets.
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Daily energy Posts
The CME/NYMEX prompt Henry Hub natural gas price yesterday settled at about $2.28/MMBtu, down 40 cents from the summer peak of $2.68 in mid-September. That’s also a long way down from the $3-plus prices seen at this time last year. What’s more, daily prompt-month contract settlements this injection season, from April to present, have averaged the lowest in over 20 years. This, despite the Lower-48 gas storage inventory starting the 2019 storage injection season in April well below year-ago and five-year-average levels. How did we get here? Today, we begin a short series breaking down the supply-demand fundamentals that brought the gas market to its knees in recent months.
With another month of anemic storage injections in September, Alberta natural gas storage levels remain on track to start the next heating season at a 13-year low. Still, while Alberta gas storage has been lagging well behind in terms of average injection rates and storage levels for many months now, forward winter contract prices for the Western Canadian gas price benchmark of AECO have budged only a little. There is potential for an improvement in storage injection rates during October after a recent regulatory approval affecting the Alberta gas pipeline system, but there is little time remaining in the current injection season to make much of a difference in inventory levels going into winter. Today, we conclude this two-part series with a look at why the AECO forward market remains largely unconcerned with low Alberta gas storage levels.
U.S. LNG exports have climbed from zero to about 6 Bcf/d in less than four years. This year to date alone, three new liquefaction trains have come online at three different terminals with an additional train at Freeport LNG and Elba Liquefaction’s first four mini-trains in the commissioning process. The completion of these and other projects around the globe, particularly in Australia, have led to an oversupplied global market, made worse this year by a mild winter and high natural gas storage levels in Europe, and nuclear restarts and slowing demand growth in Asia. These dynamics sent international prices spiraling downward in recent months. Then, in September, prices briefly spiked up as regulatory news out of Europe suggested higher global gas demand. In the midst of all this market turmoil, U.S. export cargoes have remained unfazed. But the shifting fundamentals have played a role in where U.S. cargoes ultimately end up. Today, we begin a series looking into how liquefaction capacity contracts and international prices affect cargo destinations from U.S. LNG terminals.
During the 2010s, the Marcellus/Utica region has experienced an astonishing 16-fold increase in natural gas production, from 2 Bcf/d in early 2010 to more than 32 Bcf/d today. The region’s rapid transformation from minor energy player to superstar came with a lot of infrastructure-related growing pains, many of them tied to the urgent need for more gas pipeline takeaway capacity. Takeaway constraints have largely been addressed — at least for now — but producers’ continuing efforts to develop “wet,” liquids-rich parts of the Marcellus/Utica have resulted in an ongoing requirement for more gas processing and fractionation capacity. Put simply, as wet-gas production ramps up, so must the region’s ability to process that gas and its associated natural gas liquids. Today, we continue a series on existing and planned gas processing and fractionation projects in the Northeast with a look at the growing role played by Williams and its new Canadian partner.
After months of severe natural gas pipeline constraints, Permian producers and shippers are reveling in the relief of new takeaway capacity. Kinder Morgan’s Gulf Coast Express (GCX) Pipeline, which began flowing initial volumes in mid-August, last week began full commercial service on its 2-Bcf/d greenfield route from the Permian to South Texas. Actual volumes on GCX are hard to come by, but all indications are that flows are ramping to near capacity. That surge in Permian outflows in recent weeks has propelled natural gas prices at the regional benchmark Waha Hub — which traded as low as $5.00/MMBtu below zero earlier this year and fell into negative territory as recently as August 8 — to nearly $2/MMBtu, levels not seen at the hub since last winter. However, with the sting from negative prices only now just fading, many in the market are wondering if this rally is here to stay or just a temporary reprieve. Today, we look at the latest developments in the Permian natural gas market.
There’s a tough race underway among U.S. LNG developers jockeying for position in the global LNG market. U.S. supply growth has spurred the development of more than two dozen LNG export projects, the bulk of them along the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast. But regulatory bottlenecks and deepening oversupply conditions in international markets are creating strong headwinds and slowing the momentum for some of these massive projects, making it harder and harder for them to reach the regulatory and commercial milestones they need to pass before they can progress to the construction phase. That said, several projects have eked out big wins in recent weeks, including Tellurian’s $7.5 billion memorandum of understanding with India’s Petronet LNG Ltd for its Driftwood LNG project, signed just this past weekend, and LNG Ltd.’s 2-MMtpa sales and purchase agreement for its Magnolia LNG, inked early last week. Today, we provide highlights of recent regulatory and commercial developments that are pacing the proposed export capacity additions.
Alberta natural gas storage, one of the largest regional storage hubs in North America, is experiencing one of its slowest cumulative storage injection rates in years and could be headed to a 13-year low for storage levels by the end of the current injection season. That may seem ominous for the chilly Alberta and Canadian winter heating season, not to mention gas exports to the U.S. So far, though, winter gas forward prices for the Western Canadian gas price benchmark of AECO have registered a relatively modest market response, staying in line with last winter’s average spot price. Today, we take a closer look at the market’s apparent lack of concern over low Alberta gas storage.
The options for moving Western Canada’s natural gas supply out of the region are limited. This situation has become more acute in the past few years with the upswing in associated gas production from specific areas within the sprawling region, meaning that not all the takeaway pipelines are created equal in terms of being able to move this incremental gas supply to downstream markets. One pipeline system — TC Energy’s mammoth Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) network — is ideally located to help out, given that big parts of it run through the fastest-growing production areas. But it’s been running full and is increasingly constrained. Will the planned expansions to the NGTL system be enough? Today, we continue our series on the Western Canadian natural gas market with a look at TC Energy’s NGTL network, the largest and most geographically advantaged of the pipeline systems in the region.
2019 was supposed to be a milestone year for U.S. LNG exports. And to a degree, it has been. Natural gas pipeline deliveries to liquefaction and export terminals have peaked above 6.5 Bcf/d in the past couple of weeks and averaged about 6 Bcf/d for that period, up nearly 2 Bcf/d from where they started this year and more than twice where they stood at this time a year ago. But the growth has come haltingly as under-construction projects have faced a number of setbacks and delays. Moreover, the longer-term, “second-wave” export projects still in the early stages of development and looking to pass “go” are facing challenges of their own, including global oversupply and collapsed margins. Today, we begin a short series providing an update on where U.S. LNG export demand and new projects stand.
The “wet,” liquids-rich parts of the Marcellus/Utica region enable producers there to benefit from the sale of both natural gas and NGLs. The catch is that, unlike major production areas in other parts of the U.S., the Northeast has no pipelines to transport unfractionated, mixed NGLs — also known as y-grade — long distances to fractionation centers in Mont Belvieu, TX, or Conway, KS. As a result, midstream companies serving the region have developed a number of interconnected gas processing, NGL pipeline and fractionation networks within the wet Marcellus/Utica to efficiently and reliably deal with the increasing flows of NGLs coming their way. No one has done this on a larger or more impressive scale than MPLX, Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s midstream-focused master limited partnership. Today, we continue our series on recently completed and planned gas processing and fractionation projects in the Northeast with a look at MPLX, the regional leader in this space.
Canadian natural gas production — over 95% of which originates in Alberta and British Columbia — has averaged about 16 Bcf/d in 2018 and 2019 year-to-date, and this past January, it topped 16.7 Bcf/d, just shy of the peaks last seen in the mid-2000s. Production has stayed strong even as prices at AECO, the gas benchmark hub, have plummeted to historical lows in the face of relentless competition from U.S. gas supplies, slower demand growth locally, and pipeline takeaway constraints. Under these conditions, producers’ future growth prospects will come down to access to local and export demand, and that means there needs to be adequate pipeline capacity to reach those destination markets. Today, we continue our analysis of existing and potential pipeline takeaway capacity and utilization out of the region, this time with a focus on the Alliance Pipeline system.
The rise in unconventional natural gas supplies in Western Canada has forced the region to again confront a dilemma that it faced in the 1990s and early 2000s: not enough export pipeline capacity to move all that gas to market. Although demand for natural gas has been growing in Alberta’s oil sands and power generation markets, it has not kept pace with provincial gas supply growth, leading to oversupply conditions and historically low gas prices. The need to export more of the gas to other parts of Canada and the U.S. is driving some pipeline expansions in the region. The question is, will they be enough? Today, we provide an update on the utilization of existing export routes, as well as the prospects (or lack thereof) for takeaway expansions, starting with Westcoast Energy Pipeline.
Natural gas production in the U.S. Northeast has been increasing steadily through the 2010s and now averages about 32 Bcf/d — 12% higher than last August and nearly double where it stood five years ago — despite the lowest regional spot gas prices since early 2016. This run-up in production volumes wouldn’t have been possible without the new gas-processing and fractionation capacity that MPLX and other midstream companies have been bringing online at a steady pace in the “wet” or NGLs-rich parts of the Marcellus and Utica shales. Today, we begin a short blog series on recently completed and planned gas-processing and fractionation projects in the nation’s largest gas-producing region, and the gas production growth they will help enable.
TC Energy’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf natural gas transmission systems’ recent expansions out of the Northeast — the Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress projects, both completed in March — are responsible for a large portion of the uptick in Marcellus/Utica production in the last few months and they’ve added an incremental 860 MMcf/d of capacity for Appalachian gas supplies moving south to the Gulf Coast. The two projects join a number of other expansions in recent years that have inextricably tied Marcellus/Utica supply markets to attractive demand markets along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Where is that latest surge of southbound supply ending up? Today, we look at the downstream impacts of the completed projects, namely on Louisiana gas flows and LNG feedgas deliveries.
U.S. Northeast natural gas producers in recent months got a substantial boost in pipeline capacity to receive and move incremental gas production volumes to attractive Gulf Coast markets. TC Energy’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf transmission systems in March completed the Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress pipeline expansions, respectively, increasing the combined system’s Marcellus/Utica receipt capacity by 2.7 Bcf/d in the producing region, while also bumping up the Marcellus/Utica’s takeaway capacity to the Gulf Coast by nearly 900 MMcf/d. The duo of expansions is among the biggest takeaway capacity additions to be completed out of the Northeast, volume-wise, and among the handful that inextricably connect Marcellus/Utica supply markets to well-sought-after LNG exports markets along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. One of the export terminals these projects are designed to serve is Sempra’s Cameron LNG, where Train 1 began commercial operations in recent weeks. Today, we provide an update on the upstream and downstream implications of the recently installed Northeast-to-Gulf Coast pipeline capacity.