RBN Energy

Monday, 9/18/2017

Three weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey threw a wrench in — well in a lot of things — but also into the natural gas market, curbing gas demand for power generation, curtailing pipeline exports to Mexico and stymying LNG exports. The market is still digesting the full impact of these disruptions and their potential effects on the gas market balance and storage. Adding to recent market shifts is the start-up of Energy Transfer Partners’ (ETP) Northeast-to-Midwest Rover Pipeline Phase 1A on September 1, which already is flowing 0.7 Bcf/d and lifting gas production out of Ohio. The market is hurtling towards winter, with just five weeks or so left until heating demand typically starts showing up and storage facilities officially begin to flip into withdrawal mode. What can recent supply and demand volumes tell us about what to expect from the gas market this winter? Today, we wrap up our most recent gas market update series with a forward look at potential scenarios for supply, demand and storage in the coming withdrawal season.

Daily energy Posts

Thursday, 09/07/2017

Last week Hurricane Harvey roiled the entire energy complex, with NGL markets suffering substantial disruption — curtailed natural gas liquids production from gas processing in the Eagle Ford and other basins, reduced operating rates at Mont Belvieu and other fractionation sites, shuttered LPG and ethane export docks, widespread refinery closures and a virtual shutdown of Gulf Coast petrochemical plants. While little major damage to facilities has been reported and several plants are now restarting, operating conditions continue to be extremely difficult for both the supply and demand sides of the market. Today we continue our look at how high winds and days of torrential rain affected the U.S. energy industry, this time focusing on NGLs.

Thursday, 08/24/2017

The widely held expectation that Permian NGL production will rise sharply through the early 2020s has set off fierce competition among midstream companies to develop new pipeline capacity out of the play — mostly to the NGL storage and fractionation hub in Mont Belvieu, TX, but also to Corpus Christi. Only some of the incremental pipeline takeaway capacity being planned is likely to be needed, though, raising the stakes among midstreamers to line up the long-term commitments they need to finance and build their projects. Today we continue our series on NGL-related infrastructure in the U.S.’s hottest shale play with a look at efforts to add new takeaway capacity as NGL production in the Permian ramps up.

Thursday, 08/17/2017

Production of natural gas liquids in the Permian is growing so quickly that within a year or two some parts of the super-hot play may experience NGL takeaway constraints. That is good news for the owners of the eight existing NGL pipelines out of the Permian, which are likely to see flows on their pipes increase as NGL production rises — assuming, that is, that they have capacity to spare and that they are connected to natural gas processing plants within the faster-growing parts of the region. Today we continue our blog series on Permian NGL production, processing and pipelines with a look at ONEOK’s West Texas LPG Pipeline and the Chevron Phillips Chemical EZ Pipeline.

Tuesday, 08/15/2017

Nearly two-thirds of the effective NGL pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian is controlled by Energy Transfer Partners and DCP Midstream. But there are several other NGL pipelines used to flow Permian NGLs to faraway storage facilities and fractionators — assuming, that is, that their natural gas processing plants are connected to the pipe alternatives in question. Today we continue our blog series on the NGL side of the Permian with a look at Enterprise Products Partners’ Chaparral and Seminole pipelines and Enterprise’s and BP’s Rio Grande Pipeline, including the volumes of NGLs that have been flowing through them.

Wednesday, 08/09/2017

The year-ago completion of Energy Transfer Partners’ Lone Star Express NGL pipeline from West Texas to the Mont Belvieu storage and fractionation hub near Houston was a big deal. The new, 533-mile pipe increased effective NGL takeaway capacity out of the Permian by more than 25% and gave Energy Transfer a larger conduit for moving NGL produced at its Permian natural gas processing plants directly to the company’s still-growing complex of fractionators in Mont Belvieu. Energy Transfer also owns another big NGL pipeline out of the Permian: the Lone Star West Texas Gateway. Today we continue our blog series on the NGL side of the Permian with a look at what is currently the biggest fish in the play’s NGL pond.

Tuesday, 08/08/2017

In the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest ethane production stats — for the month of May — gas plant production of ethane exceeded 1.4 MMb/d for the first time. In the same month, ethane exports also hit a record at 191 Mb/d, and ethane demand for petrochemical production — you guessed it — hit still another all-time high, topping 1.2 MMb/d. All this is just the beginning. These numbers and the throughput of any midstream infrastructure transporting or fractionating ethane will continue to increase over the next two years as new, ethane-only crackers come online, ethane rejection dwindles and overseas exports of ethane ramp up. By 2020, U.S. ethane demand is expected to reach 2 MMb/d — up by two-thirds from where it stands now. Today we continue our series on rising ethane demand, how the new demand will be met and what it all means for ethane prices.

Sunday, 08/06/2017

The utilization of NGL takeaway pipelines out of the fast-growing Permian is determined to a significant degree by the natural gas processing plants that the pipes are connected to. Midstream companies prescient — or lucky — enough to own NGL pipelines that extend out of the hottest, most productive sub-regions within the Permian’s Midland and Delaware basins are benefiting not only from higher NGL volumes now, but the likelihood of even fuller pipes as Permian production continues to ramp up. Today we continue our blog series on the NGL side of the Permian phenomenon with a look at existing gas processing plants in the play and their connections to NGL pipelines that move y-grade to storage and fractionators.

Monday, 07/24/2017

A big question mark hanging over the Permian like a dark cloud is whether there will be sufficient pipeline takeaway capacity to deal with continued production growth in the U.S.’s hottest shale play. Mostly, takeaway-adequacy questions are asked about either crude oil or natural gas, but ensuring sufficient NGL pipeline capacity out of the Permian may ultimately be the biggest challenge of all. Why? Because just about everything involving NGLs seems to be more complicated — how they are produced, transported, stored and even priced. Today we begin a series on Permian natural gas processing, natural gas liquids production growth and existing plus planned NGL pipelines out of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

Wednesday, 07/19/2017

MPLX is wrapping up a three-part, $500 million plan to facilitate the pipeline transport of large volumes of field condensate and natural gasoline from the Marcellus and Utica plays to Midwest refineries, western Canadian heavy-crude shippers and other end users. But “wrapping up” may be the wrong phrase. In fact, MPLX sees its Cornerstone Pipeline, Utica Build-Out Projects and other elements of the company’s Midwest pipeline push as part of a larger and continuing effort to deal with remaining inefficiencies in the delivery of Marcellus/Utica liquids to market. Today we review what has been accomplished so far, and what expansions and enhancements to MPLX’s pipeline plan may be in the offing.

Tuesday, 07/18/2017

The last couple of years have been a wild ride for the U.S. ethane market, but look out ahead.  It’s going to get crazy. The onslaught of new, ethane-only crackers is upon us at the same time overseas exports are expected to ramp up. At first glance, it might appear there is enough ethane to meet all that demand, coming from molecules that today are being rejected — that is, sold as natural gas rather than liquid ethane. But the big question — will it be enough? Because not all that rejected ethane has access to pipeline capacity needed to get it to market, at least not right now. In today's blog, we begin a new series on rising ethane demand, how the new demand will be met, and what it all means for ethane prices.

Sunday, 07/02/2017

Plans are afoot to double and maybe triple the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) export capacity of the Pacific Northwest — British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon — giving the region an enhanced role in what has been a booming business. Volumes being shipped to Asia out of the Ferndale marine terminal in northwestern Washington State are at near-record levels, and AltaGas and Royal Vopak are building a 40-Mb/d (and expandable) export facility in northwestern BC that is planned to come online in early 2019. Further, Pembina may be only months away from committing to the construction of a 20-Mb/d LPG marine terminal, also in BC. Today we continue our series on the expanding role of Western Canada in LPG exports with a look at plans for new propane/butane marine-dock capacity in BC.

Wednesday, 06/21/2017

The Pacific Northwest will never be a Houston or even a Marcus Hook when it comes to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) export volumes, but the region — British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon — is finally poised to get a second marine terminal dedicated to loading propane and butane, the two LPG family members. When AltaGas and Royal Vopak’s planned 40-Mb/d LPG export terminal on BC’s Ridley Island comes online in the first quarter of 2019, it will join Petrogas’s 30-Mb/d terminal in Ferndale, WA, in offering time-saving, straight-shot LPG deliveries to Asia, which has emerged as a leading destination for North American-sourced propane and butane. Other LPG export terminals in the Pacific Northwest have been proposed. Today we begin a blog series on propane and butane exports from Ferndale and the prospects for regional export growth.

Sunday, 04/02/2017

In the five years since the U.S. flipped from a net LPG importer to net LPG exporter, the vast majority of those exports have gone out from Gulf Coast marine terminals. That makes perfect sense. After all, Mont Belvieu, TX is North America’s main fractionation and storage center—most of the natural gas liquids produced in the U.S. are piped there to be fractionated into propane, butane and other “purity products.” But what’s also true is that a growing share of NGLs are produced and fractionated in the Northeast, that increasing export volumes are moving out of Sunoco Logistics Partners’ Marcus Hook, PA marine terminal, and that NGL pipeline capacity from the “wet” Marcellus and Utica production areas to Marcus Hook is about to increase significantly. Today we continue our review of the LPG export data with a look at propane and butane exports from East Coast marine terminals.

Sunday, 03/19/2017

Five years ago, the U.S. was a net importer of propane and butanes, those products collectively called LPG, or liquefied petroleum gasses. Back then, demand from residential, commercial, refining and chemical markets slightly exceeded supply for the products. But then came shale, and LPG production from natural gas processing more than doubled, from 0.8 Mb/d to 1.7 Mb/d. Suddenly the U.S. was a net exporter—a very big exporter at that. Last year roughly half of all LPG from U.S. gas processing plants was exported, with the vast majority shipped to overseas markets. All those exports are now having an outsized impact on pipeline flows, inventories and prices. Consequently, it is increasingly important to keep close tabs not only on export volumes but on which export terminals are handling all these volumes, and where the LPG is heading. Today we discuss the current state of the LPG export market and insights on it from RBN’s most recent NGL Voyager Report. Warning, today’s blog includes a subliminal promo for the report.

Tuesday, 02/21/2017

Anticipating renewed growth in natural gas and natural gas liquids production in the Marcellus and Utica plays, midstream companies active in the region are planning new gas processing plants and fractionators, as well as new NGL takeaway capacity and in-region NGL storage. And Shell Chemicals has made a Final Investment Decision to build a $6 billion, ethane-consuming steam cracker in western Pennsylvania by the early 2020s. In today’s blog, “Unleashed in the (North)East—New Gas Processing and Fractionation Capacity in Marcellus/Utica,” Housley Carr continues our series on on-going efforts by midstreamers and others to keep pace with NGL growth in the epicenter of U.S. gas and NGL production.