RBN Energy

Faced with sustained sub-$2/MMBtu natural gas prices and dim prospects for significant gas-demand growth until sometime next year, a number of major gas-focused E&Ps have been tapping the brakes on production and trimming their planned 2024 capex. But one company — Chesapeake Energy, slated to become the U.S.’s largest gas producer thanks to a recently announced acquisition — has taken a more dramatic step, implementing a novel strategy that will slash production by 25% but leave the E&P ready to quickly ramp up its output as soon as demand and prices warrant. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll review the 2024 guidance of the major U.S. gas producers and delve into the analysis of Chesapeake’s unusual approach. 

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 John Abeln - Monday, 3/04/2024 (12:45 pm)

The largest natural gas producer in the U.S., Appalachian pure-play producer EQT, announced on Monday that it had already begun implementing what it termed a “strategic production curtailment.” The curtailment has been underway since late in February, but is being announced publicly for the first

By RBN Team - Monday, 3/04/2024 (10:00 am)

In December 2023, EIA started reporting inventory for purity propane separately from propane entrained in unfractionated y-grade NGL mix. The new data is a huge improvement in the visibility into propane market conditions. 

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Daily Energy Blog

We’ve been saying for a while now that the natural gas storage market may be on the verge of a comeback. At the same time, we’ve cautioned that the world has changed since the heyday of gas storage in the mid-to-late 2000s, and that while market participants are clamoring for storage solutions and storage values are rising, what’s driving storage values today is vastly different than what drove the last big capacity build-out (which resulted in a major storage overbuild). As a result, only a handful of storage projects meeting special needs in particular places are likely to reach a final investment decision (FID). In today’s RBN blog, we discuss one such project: a greenfield storage facility under construction at two depleted dry-gas reservoirs 90 miles southeast of Dallas.

Kinder Morgan owns and operates natural gas pipelines across pretty much every part of the U.S., from California to Massachusetts and North Dakota to Florida. But if you look at a map of its gas pipeline assets, you’ll notice a focus on lines in the Lone Star State that serve as critical pathways for Permian- and Eagle Ford-sourced gas flowing to Mexico, Texas’s Gulf Coast and a number of existing and planned LNG export terminals. Now, Kinder is poised to significantly expand its pipeline network in that part of the world with the planned $1.8 billion acquisition of NextEra Energy Partners’ STX Midstream unit, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog. 

The Biden administration’s recent announcement at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai that it has issued a final rule on reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry raises an important question: If the feds will be requiring every producer to phase out flaring, install new equipment, and meet new, aggressive standards for emissions monitoring and leak detection and repair, will there still be a need for entities like MiQ and Project Canary to score or assess the lower-emissions natural gas produced by a significant subset of enviro-conscious E&Ps? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the potential impacts of the new EPA rule on gas certification/differentiation and the development of a market for low-methane gas. 

The Everett LNG import terminal, a mainstay of Boston’s gas grid, is expected to close by the end of May 2024, raising questions about future gas supply in New England. The terminal’s closure is closely tied to the imminent loss of its biggest customer, the 1,413-MW Mystic generating station — the region’s largest fossil-fuel plant. Constellation Energy, which owns both the Everett terminal and the Mystic power plant, has said it can’t keep Everett open next year when the Mystic plant closes unless another gas purchaser takes its place. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll address the impacts of Everett’s potential demise on New England in the short term and on regional gas supply during future polar vortex events.

When it comes to midstream development in the Northeast, Appalachian natural gas producers have learned by now not to hold their breath. The region is notorious for its staunch environmental opposition to hydrocarbon infrastructure and its propensity for sending gas pipeline projects to the trash pile. Against all odds, however, midstream development in the region has thawed in recent months, in large part spurred by the unlikely advancement of Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the long-embattled project to move up to 2 Bcf/d from the Appalachia gas supply basin to the Transco Corridor, which runs north-south along the Eastern Seaboard. In today’s RBN blog, we take a look at historical flows on Williams’s Transco Pipeline and what they can tell us about how MVP and Transco’s own planned expansions might reshape gas flows along the corridor. 

The drive to minimize methane emissions along the natural gas value chain — and have entities like MiQ and Project Canary certify or differentiate natgas as “low-emissions” — may have started upstream with E&Ps eager to boost their environmental cred, but the effort also has been monitored closely by gas utilities, industrials and others that consume large volumes of gas, and regulators. In what may be a hint of what’s to come, a number of initial deals for certified/differentiated gas have been announced and a handful of pilot programs are in the works. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our examination of the emerging low-emissions natgas market with a look at “first-mover” gas buyers and regulatory bodies. 

There’s a lot of nitrogen out there — it’s the seventh-most common element in the universe and the Earth’s atmosphere is 78% nitrogen (and only 21% oxygen). And there’s certainly nothing new about nitrogen in the production, processing and delivery of natural gas. That’s because all natural gas contains at least a little nitrogen. But lately, the nitrogen content in some U.S. natural gas has become a real headache, and it’s getting worse. There are two things going on. First, a few counties in the Permian’s Midland Basin produce gas with unusually high nitrogen content, and those same counties have been the Midland’s fastest-growing production area the past few years. Second, there’s the LNG angle. LNG is by far the fastest-growing demand sector for U.S. gas. LNG terminals here in the U.S. and buyers of U.S. LNG don’t like nitrogen one little bit. As an inert gas (meaning it does not burn), nitrogen lowers the heating value of the LNG and takes up room (lowers the effective capacity) in the terminal’s liquefaction train. Bottom line, nitrogen generally mucks up the process of liquefying, transporting and consuming LNG, which means that nitrogen is a considerably more problematic issue for LNG terminals than for most domestic gas consumers. So as the LNG sector increases as a fraction of total U.S. demand, the nitrogen issue really comes to the fore. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll explore why high nitrogen content in gas is happening now, why it matters and how bad it could get. 

Appalachian natural gas producers got good news earlier this month: Williams announced it was moving forward with the Southeast Supply Enhancement project, a large-scale expansion of southbound capacity out of the Northeast on its Transco Pipeline system. Not only that, but it super-sized the project to 1.4 Bcf/d of capacity — nearly double the 800 MMcf/d it had offered in an open season held this summer. The project is one of several brownfield expansions planned to provide additional supply access in Transco’s premium Zone 5 market area, which runs through Virginia and North Carolina — and the first large-scale takeaway expansion to be announced in the area since the long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) was cleared for completion following years of regulatory and legal hurdles. In today’s RBN blog, we provide the latest on the Transco Corridor expansions.

Over the past couple of years, a growing number of natural gas producers — from global integrateds like ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP to E&Ps large, medium and small — have contracted with entities like MiQ and Project Canary to scrutinize their upstream operations and score their relative success in minimizing methane emissions. By some estimates, as much as one-third of U.S. gas production is already “certified” or “differentiated,” and with growing interest in “low-emissions” gas among domestic and international buyers the trend seems likely to accelerate. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at certified/differentiated gas with a review of the gas producers leading the way. 

Six months ago, the U.S. West Coast natural gas market looked like it was in dire straits. A harsh winter had depleted stocks to the lowest level in over a decade and it seemed like the region would be hard-pressed to refill storage to a reasonable level, given limited and constrained pipeline options to flow incremental gas west. Instead, a combination of mild weather and operational changes eased demand and pipeline constraints, and Pacific Region storage staged a remarkable comeback this summer. In today’s RBN blog, we delve into how the region escaped a worst-case scenario heading into the heating season. 

LNG export projects looking to take a positive final investment decision (FID) need to sell a high proportion of their nameplate capacity under long-term contracts to ensure sufficient cash flows to underpin the project and obtain financing. U.S.-based projects (new and expansions) totaling more than 350 million tons per annum (MMtpa, 48.3 Bcf/) — against a current global market of 400 MMtpa (52.9 Bcf/d) — are vying for creditworthy offtakers from multiple markets in their pre-FID deliberations. The sense of urgency among project sponsors has been boosted by the Russia/Ukraine war and a potentially resurgent Chinese economy, both of which should promise a bright future for new projects. Plenty of those have reached FID in the last couple of years, but what is holding others back from taking the same step? In today’s RBN blog, we’ll look at some of the factors impacting those decisions and the long-term implications that flow from them. 

Certified or differentiated natural gas — an upgrade from the old “responsibly sourced gas” — is on the rise. More and more producers, pipeline companies, gas utilities and LNG exporters and buyers want their gas to be certified as having a lower emissions profile, and for a variety of reasons, chief among them achieving their ESG goals and winning over ESG-minded investors and customers. But while there’s a consensus that methane and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can and should be reduced significantly, there are differing views about the best ways to monitor wells, pipelines and other infrastructure for methane leaks, measure total emissions, and ensure that emission reductions are real and sustainable. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our deep dive on certified/differentiated gas with a look at the approaches the leading certification/differentiation entities and others are taking in emission monitoring, measuring and scoring. 

Continued growth in Permian crude oil production can’t happen without sufficient infrastructure — not just takeaway capacity for crude, natural gas and NGLs but also the capacity to process the fast-increasing volumes of associated gas being produced in the Midland and Delaware basins. The incremental need for processing capacity is enormous, as evidenced by the ongoing, almost frenetic build-out of gas processing plants across the Permian. More than 1 Bcf/d of new capacity is slated to come online by the end of this year, with another 1.9 Bcf/d in the first half of 2024 and another 1.8 Bcf/d after that. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the race to add processing plants in key locations in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico and the drivers behind it. 

Storage has long been a critically important balancing mechanism in the Lower 48 natural gas market. Now, after languishing for much of the Shale Era, storage values are coming out of the doldrums. The key driver behind this change is that, unlike in the old days, when the storage market was driven primarily by the intrinsic value of capacity — i.e., the need to sock away gas in the lower-demand summer months for use in the peak winter months — the value of storage is being driven almost exclusively by extrinsic economics — i.e., how flexible and responsive capacity allows market participants to manage supply and demand during short-term market swings. This flexibility and responsiveness have become increasingly important criteria for ensuring reliability as LNG export facilities and an increasingly renewables-heavy power sector navigate frequent demand fluctuations day to day, or even intraday, as well as during high-stakes, extreme weather events like 2021’s Winter Storm Uri. In today’s RBN blog, we delve into the fundamental shifts influencing today’s storage market. 

New England is hell-bent on decarbonizing quickly, and it’s been making some progress. But like it or not, the region still depends heavily on natural gas for both power generation and space heating, and gas supplies are stretched to the limit during periods of extreme winter demand. Worse yet, the Everett LNG import terminal, which for years has fed a big, soon-to-close gas-fired power station and supported the Boston area’s gas grid, may be on the verge of shutting down. Well, help may finally be on the way. Enbridge recently proposed an expansion to its 3-Bcf/d Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline system. The question is, can it get built in a region notorious for its opposition to energy infrastructure projects? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss Enbridge’s Project Maple and the role it could play in New England’s aggressive plan to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.