RBN Energy

Tuesday, 7/25/2017

Their nickname — teapot refineries — may make them seem small and nonthreatening, but China’s privately owned, independent refining sector is anything but. Teapots have been growing in size and processing sophistication, and they now account for about one-quarter of total Chinese refining capacity. Their rise has raised the ire of China’s big national oil companies, who are pressing the government to rein in teapot refiners’ aggressive tactics and alleged circumvention of tax and environmental laws. Today we look at the growing role of China’s teapot refineries, the challenge they pose to much larger competitors and the Chinese government’s recent efforts to put a lid on the teapots’ ambitions.

Daily energy Posts

Wednesday, 07/05/2017

Midstream giant Enterprise Products Partners (EPD) has attracted significant investor interest because of its simplified structure, 51 consecutive quarters of dividend growth and strong coverage — $2.7 billion in retained cash in the past three years. The company, with a market capitalization of $58 billion, has also quietly continued to build out its large integrated midstream network despite the plunge in commodity prices, investing almost $18 billion in organic growth projects and acquisitions in 2014-16. The end result is impressive: Enterprise is now connected to every major U.S. shale basin, every U.S. ethylene cracker and 90% of the refineries east of the Rocky Mountains. As a result, the company is well positioned to benefit from the recovery in oil and gas production, especially in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale; the surge in hydrocarbon exports; and the rapid growth of the U.S. petrochemical industry. Today we discuss highlights from the second part of our new Spotlight analysis of EPD, which focuses on the company’s Crude Oil Pipelines & Services, Natural Gas Pipelines & Services and Petrochemical & Refined Products Services segments.

Monday, 06/26/2017

After posting huge pretax operating losses in 2015-16, the nine U.S. natural gas-focused exploration and production companies (E&Ps) we’ve been tracking returned to profitability in the first quarter of 2017. This reversal of fortunes in peer group performance was driven mostly due to higher natural gas prices, which ended a massive flow of red ink that had principally resulted from big reserve write-downs. Now, with higher profits and cash flows, these producers are ramping up their 2017 capital budgets and planning for long-term production growth. Today we continue our series on the financial performance of 43 U.S. E&Ps, this time zeroing in on companies whose hydrocarbon reserves are mostly natural gas.

Wednesday, 06/14/2017

Of the 43 major U.S. exploration and production companies we have been tracking, the 13 diversified companies — the ones with a balanced mix of crude oil and natural gas reserves — engineered the most dramatic financial reversal in the first quarter of 2017, generating $4.6 billion, or $11.46 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe), in pretax operating profit after almost $65 billion in pretax losses in 2015-16. These producers, like their oil-weighted and gas-weighted counterparts, benefited from higher prices and sharply lower drilling and completion costs and lease operating costs. The magnitude of the turnaround was driven by exceptional results from giant ConocoPhillips, which generated more than one-third of the total first quarter 2017 pretax operating profits for our 43-company universe and nearly one-quarter of the total cash flow. The remaining 12 diversified companies reported $1.3 billion in first-quarter pretax profit after $54 billion in losses over the past two years. Today we look at how the turnaround efforts of 13 diversified oil-and-gas E&Ps have been paying off.

Thursday, 06/08/2017

After posting significant pretax operating losses in 2015-16, U.S. oil-weighted exploration and production companies returned to profitability in the first quarter of 2017. The 180-degree turnaround in peer group results was driven not only by higher oil prices, but by major strategic and operational shifts. Most of the 21 E&Ps we’ve been tracking responded to the plunge in revenue that started nearly three years ago by optimizing their portfolios, shedding properties with higher breakeven costs to focus on core unconventional plays and implementing operational efficiencies that led to sharply lower drilling and completion costs. Today we discuss how, with higher cash flows and profits, crude oil producers are ramping up their 2017 capital spending to generate long-term production growth.

Monday, 06/05/2017

Midstream giant Enterprise Products Partners, with a market capitalization of $57 billion, has attracted significant investor interest because of its simplified structure, 51 consecutive quarters of dividend growth and strong distribution coverage — $2.7 billion in retained cash in the last three years. The company has continued to build out its large integrated midstream network despite the plunge in commodity prices, investing almost $18 billion in organic growth projects and acquisitions in 2014-16. Enterprise (NYSE: EPD) is now connected to every major U.S. shale basin, every U.S. ethylene cracker and 90% of the refineries east of the Rocky Mountains. As a result, it is well positioned to benefit from the recovery in crude oil and natural gas production, especially in the Permian and the Eagle Ford; continuing NGL and crude oil exports; and the impending growth of the U.S. petrochemical industry. Today we discuss highlights from the first part of our new Spotlight analysis of EPD, which focuses on the company’s NGL Pipelines & Services segment.

Wednesday, 05/31/2017

From an expenditure perspective, the refining side of the U.S. oil sector couldn’t be more different from the exploration and production side. Sure, both demand a lot of capital, but while E&P companies’ capex can ramp way up or way down year-to-year, reflecting shifts in hydrocarbon supply, demand and (mostly) pricing, refiners’ spending tends to be more consistent over time. Refiners focus primarily on maintaining existing assets and on making the incremental enhancements needed to refine new grades of crude, to expand refining capacity and to comply with ever-tightening environmental regulations. Today we review historical capital spending by a few of the largest refining companies in the U.S. and examine several of the larger projects where refiners’ dollars are being invested today.

Tuesday, 05/23/2017

Higher crude oil and natural gas prices, improved efficiency in drilling and completion and other factors combined to give most U.S-based exploration and production companies (E&Ps) solid financial results in the first quarter of 2017 — a stark contrast to their performance in 2015 and 2016. Better yet, the turnaround is providing E&Ps with the optimism and wherewithal to significantly ramp up their planned capital spending this year and in 2018. It’s also giving them an opportunity to zero in on shale plays with low breakeven costs that will help them maintain profitability even if commodity prices stay flat or sag. Today we analyze the first-quarter financial results of a group of 43 U.S. exploration and production companies.

Sunday, 05/07/2017

After reducing capital expenditures by 70% in 2014-16, U.S. exploration and production companies (E&Ps) have collectively taken their foot off the brake and stomped on the gas, boosting 2017 capital outlays by an impressive 42% to kick-start production growth. At first glance, the move may seem somewhat reckless. After all, E&Ps just weathered a crisis caused by plunging oil prices partially through impressive capital discipline, and the price for benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil has once again drifted below $50/bbl over concern that U.S. output may be rising too fast. But as we’ve learned from a new report by our friends at Bloomberg Intelligence, most major U.S. oil producers paired their increased investment with significant oil-price protection, aggressively snapping up hedges in late 2016 as oil prices were buoyed by the announcement of planned OPEC output cuts. Today we review BI’s examination of the efforts by many E&Ps to lock in $50/bbl-plus prices for much of their 2017 production.

Wednesday, 04/26/2017

As a group, the nine natural gas-focused exploration and production companies that were analyzed in our Piranha! market study are forecasting a 62% increase in capital spending in 2017 compared with 2016, a significantly higher percentage gain than their oil-focused and diversified counterparts. The driver of accelerated investment is the expected completion of natural gas infrastructure that will boost takeaway capacity from the Marcellus and Utica shales, the operational focus of eight of the nine gas-weighted E&Ps.  Expanded access to Canadian, Midwestern, Gulf Coast and export markets should significantly boost realizations and margin. Production growth by the nine E&Ps, which slowed to 4% in 2016 after a 19% rise in 2015, is expected to accelerate to 10% in 2017 and to rise rapidly in 2018 and beyond. Today we continue our analysis of U.S. E&P capital spending and production trends by taking a deep dive into the investment strategies of the natural gas-weighted peer group.

Wednesday, 04/19/2017

After cutting capital investment 71% between 2014 and 2016, the 13 diversified U.S. exploration and production (E&P) companies examined in our Piranha! market study are planning to increase 2017 capital spending by 30%. While this seems like a lackluster rebound compared to the 47% boost announced by oil-focused E&Ps, the diversified group’s totals are skewed by the pull-back strategy of giant ConocoPhillips. Excluding ConocoPhillips, the 12 other companies are guiding to a 48% increase in 2017 investment—very similar to their oil-weighted peers. Today we continue our Piranha! series on upstream spending in the crude oil and natural gas sector, this time zeroing in on E&Ps with a rough balance of oil and gas assets.

Tuesday, 04/11/2017

The 21 oil-focused U.S. exploration and production companies examined in our Piranha! market study are planning an average 47% increase in their 2017 capital expenditures and expecting a 7% increase in production. The 47% boost in capex is huge, but due to draconian cuts in 2015 and 2016 this year’s total is still off 58% from 2014’s—an indication of the big hole the sector is still climbing out of. The Permian Basin continues to attract more capital—no surprise there—but capex in the Bakken is also on the rise after a few lean years. Today we continue our Piranha! series on upstream spending in the oil and natural gas sector, this time zeroing in on E&Ps that focus on crude.

Tuesday, 04/04/2017

In connection with 2016 earnings releases, U.S. exploration and production companies (E&Ps) have announced a surge in capital spending for 2017 after slashing investment by an average 70% from 2014-16.  Our “Piranha” universe of 43 E&Ps is budgeting a 42% gain in organic capital outlays with a strong focus on the major U.S. resource plays. Despite crude prices languishing at an average of ~$47/bbl since January 2015, most of the upstream industry has weathered the crisis remarkably well, primarily through the “high-grading” of portfolios, impressive capital discipline, and an intense focus on operational efficiencies. Today we review the overall outlook for 2017 upstream capital spending and oil and natural gas production, and take an initial look at expectations for our group of companies.

Wednesday, 03/29/2017

Adapting to a new era of low crude oil and natural gas prices, U.S. exploration and production companies, have been reconfiguring their portfolios to focus on a small group of shale plays whose production economics can hold up even through tough times. Among the largest producers, no company is a better example of this trend than Anadarko Petroleum, which has sold over $12 billion in assets since the beginning of 2014—including properties that generated one-third of its 2016 production—to focus 80% of its capital investment on just three U.S. plays. Since year-end 2013, Anadarko has lowered its net debt by 16%, or $8 billion, and it exited 2016 with over $8 billion in liquidity. The company forecasts 15% compound annual production growth through 2021 at current prices, with the liquids weighting of output increasing from 44% in 2015 to 65% in 2021. Today we zero in on one of the 43 E&Ps whose new-era strategies are detailed in RBN’s new Piranha! market study.

Wednesday, 03/22/2017

U.S. oil and natural gas exploration and production companies, anticipating continuing low crude oil and natural gas prices, have been reshaping their portfolios to focus on a half-dozen top-notch resource plays whose production economics can hold up even through the roughest of patches. The biggest of these asset purchases and sales grab the headlines, but countless other, smaller deals are having profound effects too. Taken together, this piranha-like devouring of E&P assets in the Permian Basin, SCOOP/STACK and other key production areas is transforming who owns what in the plays that matter most, and positioning a select group of E&Ps for success. Today we review highlights from “Piranha!” —a just-released market study from RBN.

Wednesday, 02/08/2017

Evaluating midstream companies—their assets, their value, their prospects—is a complicated task. It’s not enough to rely on the public face that companies put forward; typically, they highlight their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. To gain a fuller understanding of midstreamers, you need to poke around, consider their individual assets, and assess the status and outlook of the various production areas they serve. Asset location matters for a lot of reasons, but mostly because midstream infrastructure serving a thriving basin­—the Permian and Marcellus, for instance—will contribute a lot more to a company’s bottom line than assets serving an area in steep decline. Today we conclude a blog series that highlights key takeaways from East Daley Capital’s new, detailed assessment of more than 20 U.S. midstream companies.