RBN Energy

For the U.S. oil patch, exports are the lifeblood of today’s market. U.S. refineries are operating at more than 90% of their rated capacity and using as much domestically produced light-sweet shale oil as their sophisticated equipment will allow. That means that virtually all of the incremental U.S. unconventional light-sweet crude oil production will need to be piped to export terminals along the Gulf Coast, loaded onto tankers, and shipped to refineries overseas. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss what this undeniable link between crude oil exports and production growth means for U.S. E&Ps and midstream companies — and the future of the oil and gas industry.

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 Jeremy Meier - Friday, 5/26/2023 (3:00 pm)

May was a tough month for US oil and gas rig count, with producers ending the month with a fourth consecutive weekly decline (-44 vs April 28).  Total US rig count was 711 for the week ending May 26, according to Baker Hughes. Rigs were added in the Permian (+1) and Eagle Ford (+1) this week, while the Anadarko (-5), Haynesville (-3), Gulf of Mexico (-1) and All Other Basins (-1) all posted declines.  Total US rig count is down 42 in the last 90 days, and down 16 vs. this same week a year ago.

By Sheetal Nasta - Friday, 5/26/2023 (2:15 pm)
Report Highlight: NATGAS Billboard

Weaker supply-demand balances compared with last year have continued to weigh on the natural gas market in May. While domestic consumption and exports were up a combined 3.3 Bcf/d year-on-year, supply gains were even larger, up a net 4.7 Bcf/d year-on-year, according to daily supply-demand data from the RBN NATGAS Billboard report. That left the market ~1.4 Bcf/d longer supply this month to date vs. the same period last year.

Recently Published Reports

Report Title Published
NATGAS Billboard NATGAS Billboard - May 26, 2023 2 days 17 hours ago
Chart Toppers Chart Toppers - May 26, 2023 2 days 20 hours ago
NATGAS Appalachia NATGAS Appalachia – May 25, 2023 3 days 15 hours ago
NATGAS Billboard NATGAS Billboard - May 25, 2023 3 days 18 hours ago
Chart Toppers Chart Toppers - May 25, 2023 3 days 20 hours ago


Daily Energy Blog

Last summer, a tight coal market in the Eastern U.S. made an already tight natural gas market even tighter. Low coal stocks, dwindling production and transportation constraints led to exorbitant premiums for Appalachian coal and limited coal consumption in the East, leading to record gas demand for power generation — even as gas prices soared to 14-year highs. Now, gas markets are considerably looser, storage inventories are high, and gas prices are signaling the need for more demand (or lower supply) to balance the market and avoid storage constraints this injection season. But the coal market has eased as well. Coal production is up, coal stocks are too, and Appalachian coal prices have plunged in recent months. What will that mean for power burn and balancing the gas market this summer? In today’s RBN blog, we look at the latest developments in the coal and gas markets, the potential for coal-to-gas switching, and how those dynamics could impact gas balances.

The incredible growth in U.S. LNG export capacity over the past few years has been facilitated by a mostly predictable federal permitting process. It may sometimes be slower than developers like and leave them more open to pushback at the state and local level, but LNG export projects that enter the federal permitting process with both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are generally granted their authorizations and export licenses. And once they have them, they’ve been able to hold onto them — until now. Both FERC and the DOE had been granting extensions to these permits as their authorization windows were closing, meaning that projects that were authorized a decade ago and still not online have retained their authorizations and export licenses. But with a DOE rule change announced April 21, the era of repeatedly renewing authorizations appears to be over. The DOE is sending a clear message to LNG developers: Get your project across the finish line in a timely manner or get out of the way and make space for someone who can. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the DOE rule change and its impact on LNG projects currently under development.

Every day, large volumes of associated gas are flared around the world, mostly because there’s not enough infrastructure in place to transport the gas to market. This isn’t just a colossal waste of energy — flaring generates a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) and, according to a recent study, it’s only 91% efficient (on average) at zapping methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas (GHG). But what if there was a cost-effective way to beneficially consume the gas that’s stranded in remote parts of the Permian, the Bakken and other major production areas? It turns out there is — by using the gas onsite to produce electricity to power portable, modular data centers used to support cryptocurrency mining, artificial intelligence (AI) programs like ChatGPT, and other high-tech endeavors requiring massive amounts of computation power and energy. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the growing use of stranded natural gas as a power source for middle-of-nowhere data centers.

New U.S. LNG export projects battling rising labor and equipment costs and/or financing woes have one more thing to worry about that the first wave of projects didn’t: ensuring the feedgas supply will be there when they need it. Bottlenecks have already developed for moving natural gas volumes to the Louisiana coast, where the bulk of future export capacity will be sited. As more liquefaction capacity is built out and more export projects are greenlighted, a lot more pipeline capacity will be needed to move feedgas supply from the Haynesville and other supply basins into southern Louisiana and across the last mile to the terminals. In today’s RBN blog, we conclude our roundup of pipeline expansions in the Bayou State that would help ease transportation constraints and balance the market, this time with a look at announced-but-yet-to-be sanctioned greenfield pipeline expansions, along with an update on their associated export projects.

The global push to decarbonize power generation, shipping and other energy-intensive sectors of the economy and the Biden administration’s efforts to heavily incentivize the development of low-carbon energy sources have resulted in a growing list of big clean ammonia projects in the U.S. Almost all of these proposed multibillion-dollar production facilities are located along the Texas-Louisiana coast, a region that offers easy access to natural gas supply, carbon sequestration sites, and export markets. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at the burgeoning market for “green” and (especially) “blue” ammonia with a review of the largest production facilities now under development.

The U.S. won’t add new LNG export capacity this year for the first time since it became an exporter in 2016. But that lull is not going to last long. At least five facilities are under construction and due for completion in the next few years, several other expansions were recently sanctioned, and there are more final investment decisions (FIDs) on the way. With export development expected to accelerate in the coming years, the race to debottleneck feedgas pipeline routes is on. More natural gas pipeline capacity will be needed, particularly for moving gas supply to the Louisiana coast, where the bulk of new liquefaction will be sited. In today’s RBN blog, we resume our series on the pipeline expansions targeting LNG export demand, this time highlighting TC Energy’s Gillis Access Project and how it fits into the Louisiana LNG market picture.

In the period between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the end of last year, LNG sales and purchase agreements (SPAs) totaling 47.23 million tons per annum (MMtpa; 6.3 Bcf/d) were signed between buyers and nine U.S. LNG projects under development. Of those, the projects that will ultimately secure a critical mass of reputable offtakers and achieve a final investment decision (FID) must also secure permitting and financing. Two project FIDs were taken in 2022: Cheniere’s Corpus Christi Stage III in Texas and Venture Global’s Plaquemines Phase 1 in Louisiana. Although two more FIDs have recently been announced — Plaquemines Phase 2 and Sempra’s Port Arthur Phase 1 — there can be a timing disconnect between the commitments LNG buyers are prepared to make and the ability of project sponsors to deliver on their plans. In today’s RBN blog, we focus on the increasingly important role of financing in the implementation of U.S. LNG projects and the challenges that project developers and sponsors face.

For some time now, clean ammonia proponents have been talking up its potential as a very-low-carbon alternative for power plants, ships and other hydrocarbon consumers. Still, rock-solid plans for U.S. projects to produce large volumes of ammonia from clean hydrogen remained few and far between. Until lately, that is, with the recent uptick in project announcements spurred on, in large part, by the supercharged tax credits for carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the newly firmed-up efforts by power generators in Japan and South Korea to make clean ammonia an important part of their fuel mix going forward. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the progress that clean ammonia has made since the IRA became law and the growing list of projects advancing to a final investment decision (FID), construction and production.

By now, just about everyone is aware of and has been impacted by efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — and methane especially — as a way of meeting global climate goals, but that doesn’t mean everyone is on the same page. The energy industry is a leading source of methane emissions in the U.S., but with nearly 1 million active wells across the country and not much common ground on the actual scope of methane emissions and how best to reduce them, finding a path forward without overburdening the sector and its customers is more than a little tricky. In today’s RBN blog, we preview our latest Drill Down Report on efforts to reduce methane emissions.

The Permian natural gas pipeline build-out is entering a new era. With numerous LNG terminals set to expand exports along the U.S. Gulf Coast through the end of this decade, the need to link Permian gas supply to those facilities has never been greater. While there have been three greenfield pipelines built out of the Permian in the last five years, with a fourth on the way in 2024, each has ended in the same general area west of Houston or farther south near Corpus Christi. However, market needs are shifting, with most of the next wave of LNG export capacity to be added east of Houston, closer to Beaumont and in southeastern Louisiana, and those facilities want access to Permian gas. As a result, we weren’t surprised this month when two new proposals to directly link gas from West Texas markets to those export terminals were announced. If built, Targa Resources’ Apex and WhiteWater Midstream’s Blackfin projects could significantly alter Texas gas markets and how Permian supplies move to their final destination. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the latest developments in Texas gas pipeline infrastructure.

The oil and gas industry is being pushed by regulators, third parties and investors to better identify and mitigate its methane emissions, especially the few “super-emitter” sites that make outsize contributions to overall emissions. But while operators are ramping up capital spending on new technology, one thing has become clear: There is no silver bullet when it comes to reducing emissions, and each option includes one or more drawbacks, including source attribution, costs, quantification, and detection limits. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of the different measurement technologies.

From its origins as a specialized energy source sold under long-term, point-to-point contracts to primarily Asian destinations, LNG has become progressively more commodified as its global reach has spread, with 44 countries now importing it. An increasing proportion of cargoes are destination-flexible and can be sent to the market that offers the best price, and the marginal price of LNG is set by supply and demand factors. The spectrum of commercial players has grown and come to resemble more closely the oil market, with not only international oil companies as major participants but also traders and utility buyers, all of whom are contributing to a vibrant international LNG marketplace. But unlike oil and other established commodities, LNG lacks a global reference or benchmark price, and instead is priced regionally, with the divergence in regional market prices giving rise to very profitable arbitrage opportunities for those controlling both product and ships. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the pricing indices used to make LNG trading decisions and two initiatives being implemented by the European Commission (EC) that are intended to improve price transparency for LNG trades and prevent price spikes in European gas markets through a consortium-purchasing approach.

Hardly a day goes by without news related to U.S. LNG export capacity expansions, whether it’s upstream supply deals, offtake agreements or liquefaction capacity announcements. One project is nearing commercialization, another five are under construction and due for completion in the next few years, still others are fully or almost-fully subscribed and will be officially sanctioned any day now, and the announcements keep coming. Just days ago, Venture Global reached a final investment decision (FID) for the second phase of its Plaquemines LNG project. With export development accelerating in the coming years, more natural gas pipeline capacity will be needed, particularly for moving gas supply to the Louisiana coast, where the bulk of the new capacity will be sited. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series highlighting the pipeline expansions targeting LNG export demand, this time focusing on projects moving gas to southeastern Louisiana, including those designed to deliver feedgas to Venture Global’s under-construction Plaquemines LNG project.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 caused panic in European gas markets that were already on the brink due to low winter inventories. Near-term supply/demand balances suddenly took on a heightened urgency, and everyone knew that policy and infrastructure changes were needed, pronto. The most immediate concern was the very real possibility that the winter of 2022-23 could see gas rationing within the European Union (EU) due to supply shortages. However, with winter now in retreat, Europe is emerging with record volumes of stored gas accompanied by prices that have fallen to pre-invasion levels. This is no time for complacency, though. While it’s many months away, the winter of 2023-24 looms, with dire warnings that things could be considerably worse in gas markets. In today’s RBN blog, we evaluate how European gas and LNG markets have managed over the last 12 months and discuss the implications for the next year. In particular, we look at the European Commission’s (EC) efforts to inject reforms into European gas markets, not only to accommodate supply disruptions but also to set the stage for a gas market no longer reliant on Russian supplies.

Oil and gas companies across the value chain are facing new pressures to manage and reduce methane emissions. Their ability to access premium markets and buyers, appeal to investors and avoid costly fees depends on developing a credible plan to measure and reduce methane emissions. At the very least, the industry’s regulatory outlook, its non-governmental quasi-oversight and its access to capital are changing in ways that make understanding sometimes inconsistent emissions data vitally important. In today’s RBN blog, we explore the recent changes and the mounting external pressures around methane emissions.