RBN Energy

Sunday, 11/28/2021

Determining whether to approve plans for interstate natural gas pipeline projects has never been an easy task for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. There are so many things to consider, chief among them the need for the pipeline, impacts on the environment and landowners along the route, and what it all means for gas customers. But as complicated as the decision-making process may be, at least pipeline developers, gas producers, and customers knew that once a new pipeline was approved by FERC, permitted, built, and put into service that the matter was closed — that is, the pipeline was here to stay. Now, in the wake of a groundbreaking court ruling on a new gas pipeline near St. Louis, things are not so certain. As it turns out, we’re intimately familiar with the matter, having just made the case that the 65-mile Spire STL Pipeline is an important addition to the regional pipeline network that provides supply diversity, improved reliability, and access to lower-cost gas. In today’s RBN blog, we consider the evolution of FERC regulation of gas pipelines and the new uncertainty that all affected parties face.

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Daily energy Posts

Sunday, 11/28/2021

Determining whether to approve plans for interstate natural gas pipeline projects has never been an easy task for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. There are so many things to consider, chief among them the need for the pipeline, impacts on the environment and landowners along the route, and what it all means for gas customers. But as complicated as the decision-making process may be, at least pipeline developers, gas producers, and customers knew that once a new pipeline was approved by FERC, permitted, built, and put into service that the matter was closed — that is, the pipeline was here to stay. Now, in the wake of a groundbreaking court ruling on a new gas pipeline near St. Louis, things are not so certain. As it turns out, we’re intimately familiar with the matter, having just made the case that the 65-mile Spire STL Pipeline is an important addition to the regional pipeline network that provides supply diversity, improved reliability, and access to lower-cost gas. In today’s RBN blog, we consider the evolution of FERC regulation of gas pipelines and the new uncertainty that all affected parties face.

Wednesday, 11/24/2021

It has been a chaotic couple of years 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 shortages, low inventories, and multi-year or all-time high prices in the biggest LNG-consuming regions. The resulting whiplash has transformed key aspects of the LNG market, 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 last two years and before, the industry must now forge a new path forward. In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our recent Drill Down report, looking at the major trends that will define the North American LNG market in the coming years.

Tuesday, 11/23/2021

The number of floating storage and regasification units in operation has nearly doubled in the last few years, but that’s hardly a shock given the growth in the global LNG market. What might be a surprise is how a number of these specialty vessels are being utilized and what it could mean for the shipowners and the wider LNG market. In today’s RBN blog, we look at specific projects to gauge the progress made in the FSRU space, the recent slowdown in orders, some of the challenges the sector faces, and the trends emerging for new and converted FSRUs.

Monday, 11/15/2021

As the new heating season in North America gets under way, the natural gas sector in Canada, the U.S., and even globally, is experiencing a surge in gas prices to levels unseen in many years. In Canada and the U.S., you would have to go way back to 2008-09 to find the most recent instance of $5/MMBtu-plus gas heading into a heating season. As for the rest of the world, it has never experienced prices at the levels reported in the past few months — north of $30/MMBtu in some places. The big question, as always, is: where do we go from here? In today’s RBN blog, we review our 2021 pricing outlook for Canadian gas and discuss our forecast for 2022.

Wednesday, 11/10/2021

Plato may have said it, Shakespeare wrote about it, and anyone who has engaged in a friendly debate about the best classic car, hunting rifle, or wristwatch knows it to be true: beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Of course, not everyone sees value the same way, or value in the same things. That’s at the heart of the dispute over the recently announced acquisition of Questar Pipeline LLC by Southwest Gas Holdings. The prospective buyer sees Questar as a picture-perfect addition, while an activist investor sees it as a butt-ugly mistake. In today’s RBN blog, we continue an examination of the Southwest Gas/Questar deal with a look at Questar’s relationship with its local distribution companies, potential competition with the nearby Kern River Pipeline, and challenges Questar may face in serving power generators and direct industrial load.

Sunday, 11/07/2021

Market signals are suggesting that we’re on the cusp of another midstream revival. Higher crude oil and natural gas prices are prompting producers to ramp up output, and higher production will lead to increasing midstream constraints and cratering supply prices. We’ve seen this reel before and in past cycles, midstreamers would swoop in right about now with plans for a host of pipeline expansions to relieve bottlenecks and balance the market again. The problem is that for capacity to get built, you need producers to sign up with long-term commitments, and that’s the catch. Wall Street has drawn a hard line when it comes to capital and environmental discipline in the energy industry, and regulatory support for hydrocarbon newbuilds has waned. This is especially a problem for two major basins — the Permian and Marcellus/Utica — but is liable to affect producer behavior across the Lower 48. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at how this will play out at the basin level, starting with the Permian.

Wednesday, 11/03/2021

The U.S. oil and gas industry’s upstream sector has seen more than its share of mergers and acquisitions in the year and a half since COVID-19 put energy markets on a wild roller coaster. ConocoPhillips buying Concho Resources and then Shell’s Permian assets. Chevron snapping up Noble Energy. Pioneer Natural Resources acquiring Parsley Energy. And yesterday’s big news: Continental Resources’ planned purchase of Pioneer’s assets in the Permian’s Delaware Basin. It’s not just hydrocarbon producers that are consolidating and expanding, however. There’s also been a flurry of large-scale M&A activity in the midstream sector, mostly involving oil and gas gatherers in the Permian and the Bakken — the nation’s two largest crude oil-focused basins. What’s driving these combinations? In today’s RBN blog, we begin a review of recent, major pipeline-company combinations and the benefits participants expect to realize from them.

Tuesday, 11/02/2021

After a record-breaking year in which the Japan-Korea Marker topped $30/MMBtu, it looks like 2022 could finally be the year when multiple projects in the long-awaited “second wave” of North American LNG export facilities reach final investment decisions. Developers, financiers, and offtakers are all taking their time, however, to make sure projects make sense in the long term. The recent run of high prices comes after years of price declines and a COVID-related price collapse in 2020, which reduced the spreads between U.S. production and LNG destination markets, slowing the pace of LNG project development. One thing’s clear: Asia — always the focus of LNG demand growth — will become even more important going forward, and perhaps the best way to attract Asian offtakers to U.S., Canadian, and Mexican projects is to export from the Pacific Coast, assuming that feedgas can be sourced and delivered easily. In today’s RBN blog, we conclude our series on Pacific Coast LNG export development, this time focusing on projects in Western Canada.

Monday, 11/01/2021

In the past few months, there’s been a flurry of interest in certified responsibly sourced gas (RSG). RSG is natural gas — it still comes out of wells in the Marcellus, Haynesville, Permian, and other U.S. production areas. What distinguishes RSG is that its producers and pipeline companies have made efforts to significantly reduce the greenhouse gases — mostly methane — that are needlessly emitted along the value chain, and that an independent and respected outsider has certified the success of these efforts. RSG is still new to a lot of folks, including those in the natural gas business, so it’s reasonable to ask, who does the certifying, and what are the differences between them? In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on RSG with a look at the different approaches taken by RSG certifiers: Project Canary and MiQ.

Sunday, 10/31/2021

The U.S. natural gas market is primed for supply growth. The Lower 48 supply-demand balance is the most bullish it has been in years. Exports are at record levels and poised to increase with additional terminal expansions on the horizon, while international prices have recently notched record highs. Henry Hub gas futures prices are at the highest in over a decade. So, producers will unleash a torrent of natural gas, triggering a midstream build-out like we’ve seen in the past, right? Not so fast. The world has changed. For additional capacity to be built, you need producers or utilities to commit to use it. But Wall Street has drawn a hard line when it comes to capital and environmental discipline in the energy industry and regulatory approvals can also be an uphill battle. Therein lies the conundrum. More midstream capacity is needed for production to grow, but it’s harder than ever for that infrastructure to get built, which means constraints for some period of time are all but a certainty. Natural gas may not be as constrained as crude oil, but it is already butting up against capacity in parts of the Permian and Marcellus/Utica. And in the crude-focused Permian, those gas constraints will also cascade to crude production. In today’s RBN blog, we consider the implications of the new world order.

Thursday, 10/28/2021

A major driver for global growth in natural gas use, including LNG, derives from the power-generation sector. Large Japanese utilities introduced LNG into the power fuel mix in the early 1970s. More recently, a number of utilities in other countries have increased their use of gas-fired generation — and their imports of LNG — largely due to gas’s lower emissions profile and the flexibility that gas plants offer in balancing variable demand loads with variable dispatch profiles, including wind farms and solar facilities. The growing availability of LNG has also spurred interest among independent power producers (IPPs) in developing similar gas-fired projects, but so far fewer than 10 such projects have come online and some do not operate at their full potential. Why has LNG-to-power made such little headway in the independent-power segment? In today’s RBN blog, we examine the special nature of IPP-owned LNG-to-power projects and the challenges they pose not only to their sponsors but to LNG suppliers.

Wednesday, 10/27/2021

The recently announced acquisition of Questar Pipeline LLC by Southwest Gas has stirred up a hornet’s nest. Southwest sees it as a milestone moment that will allow it an increased role in the energy transition, but activist investor Carl Icahn sees it as a serious blunder that would make all previous management missteps pale in comparison. As Dave Mason sang in “We Just Disagree,” a dispute over value is at the heart of the matter, one which has led to a proxy fight, a tender offer for Southwest Gas, and a lot of harsh words. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at Questar’s natural gas pipelines and other assets, the roles they play in relation to the Rockies’ other pipelines, and how it all factors into Questar’s perceived value.

Monday, 10/25/2021

Some things you can pretty much count on this time of year, like the end of 100-degree days in Houston, Aggies rooting against Longhorns, and the Astros in the World Series. Permian natural gas production has also been consistently higher the last few years. It’s usually on its way to new highs as we approach the holidays and 2021 is another fine example. After a bang-up 2020, this year has been one of continuously solid gas production growth in the Permian, with gas volumes currently sitting near 14 Bcf/d, up around 1.5 Bcf/d versus this time last year. What’s more, at today’s crude oil prices, which encourage increasing production of oil and associated gas, there is no end in sight for Permian gas growth. Which means, as many gas traders already know, that the Permian’s primary gas market, the Waha Hub, may soon be headed back into the familiar territory of deep basis discounts. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the latest developments in Permian gas markets.

Sunday, 10/24/2021

It seems that hardly a week goes by without another announcement on responsibly sourced natural gas (RSG). Either in response to rising interest among electricity generators, gas-distribution utilities, and gas-consuming industrials in procuring RSG or as proactive moves to boost their own ESG cred, a number of players in the gas sector — from producers to pipeline companies to LNG exporters — have been working to qualify their natural gas, their long-haul pipes, or their liquefaction plants for RSG status. A few producers have also been reaching deals to supply independently verified RSG to the market, with the expectation that at least a subset of gas/LNG buyers will be willing to pay the price premium involved. But all this is relatively new, and there’s still a lot that needs to be sorted out on the RSG front. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on RSG with a look at recent announcements and the associated challenges when selling RSG.

Tuesday, 10/19/2021

After years of waiting on the so-called “second wave” of North American LNG, 2022 could finally be the year that sees multiple LNG export projects reach a final investment decision (FID). Global gas fundamentals have been bullish for about a year, and prices hit record highs throughout the summer and fall. Offtakers around the world are clamoring and competing for LNG cargoes, anticipating a volatile and undersupplied winter. But with Russian piped exports to Europe expected to increase dramatically as the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline finally comes online, likely early next year, North American LNG is looking for ways to be more attractive to Asian offtakers. One option on the table for North America is to go west and export from the Pacific Coast, which cuts the voyage time to Asia in half. Exporting from the Pacific Coast is not without its challenges, however, including where and how to source the feedgas required for liquefaction. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series looking at Pacific Coast LNG export developments, this time focusing on feedgas and infrastructure for the LNG projects in Mexico.