RBN Energy

The Nederland/Beaumont crude oil hub has been somewhat overshadowed recently by other Gulf Coast crude export hubs despite hosting America’s largest refinery, a handful of export terminals and pipeline links to the prolific Permian Basin. But while plans to build one or more deepwater crude export terminals could mean big changes for the Gulf Coast hubs, the Nederland/Beaumont area isn’t standing still. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss what’s ahead for the region and its emergence as a leader in NGL exports. 

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, 6/21/2024 (3:00 pm)

US oil and gas rig count declined for the third consecutive week, falling to 588 for the week ending June 21 according to Baker Hughes, a decline of two vs.

By Jason Lindquist - Friday, 6/21/2024 (3:00 pm)

A long-duration energy storage (LDES) project being developed in Alaska was awarded $5.5 million in federal funding this month, allowing work to begin on the project’s Phase 1.

Daily Energy Blog

It took an “Act of Congress” and a decision from the highest court in the land — handed down by the Chief Justice no less — but it’s looking more and more like Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) will be completed as early as by the end of this year, opening up 2 Bcf/d of new takeaway capacity for the increasingly pipeline-constrained Appalachian gas supply basin. That’s shifted the industry’s gaze to bottlenecks downstream of where the bulk of the volumes flowing on the new pipeline will land — on the doorstep of Williams’s Transco Pipeline in southern Virginia. A number of midstream expansions have been announced to capture the influx of natural gas supply from MVP and shuttle it to downstream markets in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, and indications are that more will be announced and greenlighted in the coming months. These projects will be key to both enabling gas production growth in the Appalachia basin as well as meeting growing gas demand in the premium markets lying on the other side of the constraints. In today’s RBN blog, we delve into the details and timing of the announced expansion projects vying to increase market access to MVP supply.

In the last 12 months, U.S. natural gas prices have touched highs not seen since the start of the Shale Revolution as well as depths previously plumbed only briefly during downturns in 2012, 2016 and 2020. Where will prices go next? Well, if we knew that, we wouldn’t be writing blogs. As we’ve seen in the past couple of years, there’s just too much going on in global markets to think you can know where gas prices will be 10 years, five years or even one year from now. But that never stopped us from trying. As we’ve done many times before, we’ll take a scenario approach — a high case and a low case. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll explore these scenarios for domestic natural gas prices and what sort of ramifications each would entail for other markets. 

With the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) project clearing some major legal hurdles in recent weeks and construction resuming, it’s become increasingly likely that Appalachian gas producers will soon have 2 Bcf/d of new takeaway capacity, potentially as early as late 2023. However, the degree to which the pipeline will translate into higher production from the supply basin and improved supply access for the gas-thirsty, premium markets in the Southeast will largely depend on the availability of transportation capacity downstream of MVP. As such, the race is on to expand pipeline capacity from the pipe’s termination point at Williams’s Transco Pipeline Station 165 in southern Virginia, not only to deal with the impending influx of supply from MVP but also to move that gas to growing demand centers in Virginia and the Carolinas. MVP’s lead developer, Equitrans Midstream, is hoping to build an extension to the mainline — the MVP Southgate project — while Transco has designs of its own for capturing downstream customers. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on MVP and the various expansion projects in the works to move newly available supply to market.

Venture Global reached a final investment decision (FID) on Plaquemines LNG Phase 1 in March 2022, making it the first new LNG project to get the green light post-COVID and kicking off a massive expansion period for U.S. LNG. In fact, more than 61 million tons per annum (MMtpa) of new U.S. LNG capacity has been given the go-ahead in the past 17 months, including the full 20-MMtpa Plaquemines LNG project from Venture Global, plus projects from Cheniere, Sempra and, most recently, NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG. Even if no new LNG projects are sanctioned after this — which seems unlikely, given the progress seen on some pre-FID projects — the U.S. will have the capacity to export 167.5 MMtpa, or more than 22 Bcf/d, by later this decade. This unprecedented level of buildout continues to be dominated by our “Big Three” of U.S. LNG — Cheniere, Sempra and Venture Global — which not only already operate LNG export terminals in the U.S. and have projects currently under construction, but all still have more capacity under development and working toward eventual FIDs. In today’s RBN blog, we wrap up our series with a look at the newest member of the Big Three, Venture Global, its projects under development and the controversy surrounding the commissioning of Calcasieu Pass LNG.

Cargo ships move more than 80% of the world’s internationally traded goods, making them essential to the global economy, but they’ve traditionally been fueled by heavy fuel oil or marine gasoil, both of which are emissions-intensive. With 60,000 or so ships in service, they account for an estimated 2.8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a percentage the International Maritime Organization (IMO) would like to reduce. At the 80th session of the IMO’s Maritime Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in July, the group adopted a provisional agreement to eliminate GHG emissions from shipping by a date as close to 2050 as possible, with intermediate goals for emissions reduction by 2030 and 2040. Clearly, radical innovations will be required to meet the IMO’s goals. In today’s RBN blog, we look at some of the initiatives directed at emissions reduction in shipping and the challenges to (and opportunities for) operational improvements, especially regarding LNG carriers.

The bulk of the second wave of U.S. LNG export projects will be situated along a small stretch of the Gulf Coast, from Port Arthur at the Texas-Louisiana border to the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana. Three of these projects — Golden Pass LNG, Port Arthur LNG and Plaquemines LNG — are under construction there and will add nearly 7 Bcf/d of new gas demand by 2028, and others could reach a final investment decision (FID) in the coming months or years. That’s prompted a frenzy of natural gas pipeline projects vying to serve this growing demand center, whether by moving incremental supply into the area or providing “last mile” delivery to the terminals. These pipeline expansions — and how well the incremental capacity, geography and timing align with liquefaction capacity additions — will drive the pace of overall gas demand growth and how the Lower 48 gas market will balance in the coming years. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report detailing the slew of announced pipeline projects targeting LNG exports from the Port Arthur, TX/Louisiana region.

In natural gas markets, warmer-than-average winters usually translate into oversupply conditions as heating demand draws less gas out of storage than what would normally be expected. When compounded by rapidly rising domestic production and soft gas exports, the result is even greater oversupply. That is exactly how the Canadian gas market finished the most recent heating season, facing a substantial oversupply of gas that, if it persisted, could result in domestic gas storage reaching capacity well before the start of the next heating season. However, when it comes to natural gas markets, or any other market for that matter, expect the unexpected. Gradually improving demand and export conditions, combined with a significant decline in domestic gas production event in Western Canada, has rapidly shifted the market from substantial to slight oversupply in a matter of months. This has reduced downward pressure on prices and created conditions that might lead to a more manageable storage level before the next heating season gets underway. In today’s RBN blog, we consider what has been generating the rapid shift in Canadian gas market balances this summer.

U.S. LNG development has seen a resurgence in the post-COVID world, with five projects with a combined 61.1 MMtpa (8.1 Bcf/d) of new LNG export capacity reaching a final investment decision (FID) in the past 18 months and one additional project closing in on that milestone. Five of these six projects are from the “Big Three” of U.S. LNG — Cheniere, Sempra and Venture Global — leading some to wonder if there’s room for anyone else. But while all three companies are big in U.S. LNG and have projects under development, only one is a behemoth. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at the pre-FID projects under development by the Big Three, focusing on the king of U.S. LNG, Cheniere.

Even an “Act of Congress” may not be enough to keep the Mountain Valley Pipeline out of trouble. The long-stalled natural gas takeaway project in Appalachia briefly appeared to be unfettered from regulatory and legal shackles after Congress rolled an MVP mandate into the debt-ceiling bill — the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) of 2023. With the MVP provision, Congress effectively approved all required permits for the greenfield project without judicial review in a bid to fast-track the completion and initial startup of the pipeline. The FRA, which President Biden signed into law on June 3, appeared to instantly clear MVP’s path. But that reprieve didn’t last long. Earlier this week, the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals once again halted construction of the project, seemingly in defiance of the FRA, setting the stage for a fight at the Supreme Court. In today’s RBN blog, we break down the latest developments and how they impact MVP’s prospects.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) revived Mountain Valley Pipeline’s (MVP) prospects of being completed this year, but the outlook for new, large-scale natural gas takeaway projects in the Northeast beyond MVP hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is how Appalachian natural gas-focused producers respond to pipeline constraints and lower prices. Gone are the days of drilling with abandon, crushing supply prices and assuming the necessary pipeline capacity will eventually get built. Instead, producers have demonstrated a willingness to slow drilling activity, delay completions and choke back producing wells in the short-term to manage their inventory during periods of lower gas prices. In today’s RBN blog, we lay out our view of what that shift in producer behavior will mean for Northeast supply, demand and pricing trends in the long-term.

Western Canada’s natural gas production has been on a roll in the past couple of years, reaching a record 17.3 Bcf/d in 2022. Another year of strong growth was expected in 2023, but Mother Nature had other plans — as usual. First, a milder-than-average heating season left plenty of gas in storage, pushing natural gas prices lower across North America. Second, tinder-dry conditions in some of the best gas production areas in Alberta and British Columbia sparked what so far has been a very active wildfire season — and forced producers to curtail their gas output numerous times in May and June. From our early expectations for production growth of 1.2 to 1.4 Bcf/d this year, the impacts from wildfires and a healthy dose of pipeline maintenance has chopped our 2023 production growth outlook to just 0.4 Bcf/d. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, this slowdown in growth is exactly the opposite of what’s needed to avoid a runup in prices. Strong production momentum will be required into 2024 and 2025 to deal with the startup of the LNG Canada export facility, ongoing Canadian gas demand growth and pipeline exports to the U.S.

Three new LNG export projects have reached a final investment decision (FID) in the past year or so — Venture Global’s Plaquemines LNG, Cheniere’s Corpus Christi Stage III expansion, and, most recently, Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG. What do these projects have in common? They are all being developed by companies that are already exporting North American LNG. These companies are arguably the “Big Three” of U.S. LNG, with Cheniere the reigning king, at least for now. Not only do they all have at least one operating terminal and at least one under construction, but all three have multiple pre-FID projects under development, including some that are decently close to FID. With their proven track records and deep balance sheets, being one of the big guys is a definite advantage when it comes to getting a project across the finish line. With a total of 43.5 MMtpa (5.8 Bcf/d) of capacity currently under construction and more than 100 MMtpa (13.4 Bcf/d) under development by these three, is there even room for anybody else? In today’s blog, we look at the pre-FID projects under development by the Big Three, starting with Sempra.

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.