RBN Energy

Thursday, 7/29/2021

Just a few years ago, Mexico was focused on importing LNG to help meet its natural gas needs, especially in parts of the country far from Permian and other U.S. supplies. Lately though, most of the talk about LNG in Mexico has been about liquefaction and/or exporting, not importing and regasifying, as evidenced by a final investment decision on the Energía Costa Azul liquefaction project in Baja California and progress on Mexico Pacific Ltd.’s liquefaction/export project in Mexico’s Sonora state. Both projects are aimed squarely at Asian markets, but yet another prospective LNG project “south of the border” is targeting bunkering, transportation, and industrial markets for natural gas along the Pacific side of Latin America — from Mexico itself down to Ecuador. In today’s blog, we discuss plans for what could be Mexico’s third major liquefaction project — this one aimed at both domestic and export markets.

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Daily energy Posts

Monday, 07/19/2021

The massive energy-industry dislocations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic forced every upstream, midstream, and downstream player to consider what it all meant for them and what they could and should do to weather the storm. A common theme emerged: management needed to delay or even jettison their plans for growth and instead focus on efficiency by cutting costs, working to maximize the revenue from every molecule, and seeking out opportunities to streamline and optimize their operations. A prime example of this push for efficiency came last week with the announcement by Plains All American and Oryx Midstream that each will contribute assets to a new, Plains-operated crude oil pipeline joint venture in the heart of the Permian’s Delaware Basin. Today, we review the plan and its rationale.

Tuesday, 07/13/2021

Credit is the lifeblood for most individuals and corporations, especially capital-intensive entities like oil and gas producers. The credit score that so strongly impacts our ability to finance a house or car, get approved for an apartment, or qualify for our dream job, is not simply based on how much we own, but several other factors, including metrics that compare our debt load with our net worth and the assets being financed, and consider the percentage of our income needed to service that debt. For E&Ps, similar metrics involving the value of their oil and gas reserves and the relationship between their income and interest payments determine the size of their revolving credit facilities, their ability to access debt capital markets, and the cost of capital they pay. Today, we analyze COVID’s impact on the credit metrics of oil and gas producers and discuss the pace and scope of the ongoing recovery.

Tuesday, 07/06/2021

Financial pain, increasing regulatory scrutiny, and rising environmental mandates have been keenly felt across the entire energy industry in the past few years. When times are tough and companies are struggling to regain their footing, corporate mergers often increase in frequency. One recently announced merger between two large Canadian midstream providers, Pembina Pipeline and Inter Pipeline, has grabbed headlines and is also turning into a corporate dogfight with a prominent third party trying to scuttle the merger and take control of Inter Pipeline. Today, we examine the two companies and what the combined entity might look like and what it might mean for the energy industry in Canada.

Sunday, 06/13/2021

The return of $70/bbl WTI raises an important question: With a lot more cash flowing in, will public E&Ps maintain the financial discipline they’ve tried to live by since the crude oil price crashes of 2014-15 and, more recently, the spring of 2020? We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that many producers once prided themselves on the riverboat-gambling nature of their business but, after a major scare or two, came to adopt a far more conservative approach to investment based on their new 11th commandment: “Thou shalt live within cash flow.” Emerging from the pandemic, E&Ps’ 2021 capital investment announcements guided to maintenance-level outlays designed to maximize free cash flow for debt reduction and returning cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases. Still, old habits die hard, right? So, when oil prices strengthened and cash flow soared in the first few months of 2021, we wondered if producers would give in to temptation to reap short-term benefits from their accelerating output. Today, we analyze the actual first quarter cash-flow allocation of the 39 E&P companies we monitor and compare it with the deployment of cash flow in 2019 and 2020.

Wednesday, 06/02/2021

Nearly 300 million COVID vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S., and normal life is returning to public places across America. Actual fans are replacing cardboard facsimiles in ballpark seats, corner pubs and corner offices are filling up, and family gatherings now feature hugs instead of half-inch squares on a Zoom screen. And another powerful antidote, in the form of higher oil prices, has spurred a significant revival in the fortunes of the pandemic-battered upstream oil and gas industry. The spring-of-2020 crude oil price crash hit the E&P sector like a tsunami, shattering capital and operating budgets, upending drilling plans, eviscerating equity valuations, and raising concerns about whether some companies could generate sufficient cash flow to keep the lights on. Remarkable belt-tightening allowed most producers to survive, and the swift rise of oil prices beginning last fall dispelled the COVID clouds.  But the recovery in profitability and cash flow generation was slow. Today, we review the dramatic surge in E&P profits and cash flows in the first quarter of 2021.

Sunday, 04/18/2021

As the U.S. starts to emerge from under the dark cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, one hopes that some valuable lessons have been learned as a result of the hardships and sacrifices so many have endured.  While the most profound impacts were on government, healthcare and other essential services, the sudden drop in hydrocarbon demand a year ago triggered severe financial hardships for the E&P sector and provoked unpleasant memories of previous energy industry crises in 2008 and 2014-16. Producers have historically put the brakes on capital spending when commodity prices fell, then stomped on the accelerator like a race car heading into a straightaway when prices rose. But recently unveiled 2021 budgets for many E&Ps suggest that, even with the rebound in prices, they are maintaining a conservative investment paradigm that highlights strengthening balance sheets and rewarding shareholders at the expense of rapid production growth. Today, we’ll analyze the 2021 capital spending plans of the 39 E&Ps we monitor and the likely impact on their crude oil and natural gas output.

Tuesday, 04/06/2021

Just one year ago, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the energy industry’s exploration and production (E&P) sector — already reeling from a steep decline in oil prices in late 2019 — into a memorably brutal spring that threatened its survival. Demand cratered, price realizations fell to the lowest point in a decade, and cash flows dried up. Sure enough, E&P results for the first half of 2020 were a train wreck, with the three-dozen companies we track reporting a whopping $45 billion in losses, including impairments. But the dark clouds hovering over the industry began to clear in the second half of the year as the combination of production cutbacks and recovering demand triggered rising prices.  With the massive price-related impairments largely in the rear-view mirror, year-end 2020 results revealed that most E&Ps had clawed their way back to near-profitability. Today, we review their latest numbers and preview what we expect will be a sunny 2021 for the industry.

Monday, 02/01/2021

For many midstream companies, the experience of the past 12 months has been akin to falling down a flight of stairs. The fortunate sit at the bottom — stunned a bit, with arms and legs akimbo — and gradually determine that they’re generally alright, and that they’ll be more careful next time. The less lucky? They’re banged up and bloodied, and maybe headed to the ER and, after that, weeks of physical therapy. But were the “fortunate” really just lucky? Or were they in better shape, more athletic, more prepared for any eventuality? And what about companies when they’re hit hard with a sudden, negative shift in market conditions, out of the blue? Today, we discuss highlights from the second part of East Daley Capital’s 2021 edition of Dirty Little Secrets report, which examines the assets and outlooks of 26 leading midstream companies. We’ll focus on two representative midstreamers: Energy Transfer and EnLink Midstream.

Sunday, 01/10/2021

Much the way that COVID-19 accelerated the trends toward working from anywhere, shopping online, and exercising at home, the pandemic and its far-reaching energy-market effects fast-forwarded the challenges that many North American midstream companies had been expecting to face more gradually through the 2020s. The good news — if you can call it that — is that a lot of economic pain was front-loaded into the past 10 months. The bad news is that a sizable subset of midstreamers is saddled with too much capacity in shale basins where drilling activity and production are down sharply. For them, there’s still more pain ahead, even bankruptcy in a few cases. In today’s blog, we discuss highlights from the newly released 2021 edition of East Daley Capital’s Dirty Little Secrets report about what’s ahead for the midstream sector and 27 leading companies within it.

Thursday, 12/24/2020

To succeed over the long term in the music business, professional sports, or the midstream sector, you need to learn from your successes and failures, and — most important — continue adapting and evolving. For many North American midstreamers, a key to success has been a thoughtful combination of expansion and diversification, plus an affinity for financial discipline, especially when the broader energy industry is going through tough, uncertain times. A prime example of that strategy is Canadian midstreamer Pembina Pipeline Corp., which after C$14 billion in acquisitions over the last four years is instituting a more cautious approach to new investment that’s largely based on self-funding and a new, more rigorous return criteria for new projects. Today, we preview our new Spotlight report, which focuses on the risks and rewards of Pembina’s new strategy.

Sunday, 12/13/2020

Wafting through the late autumn air in November, along with the sharp scent of burning leaves and the cinnamon-tinged aroma of pumpkin pie, was a moderate whiff of optimism for the energy industry’s long-beleaguered exploration and production sector. Equity prices in general were buoyed by news on the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines and the prospects of imminent approval that could finally bring the pandemic under control and improve industry fundamentals. E&P stocks, which also benefited from a rebound in third-quarter earnings, recorded the largest monthly gain in history: a 32% rise in the S&P E&P Index. However, their share prices were still down 69% from the 2019 highs and 45% from end-of-last-year levels as oil and gas producers still face a long road to return to “normal.” Today, we analyze the third-quarter earnings of the 40 major E&P companies we track and review the major impacts on the sector since the onset of the pandemic.

Sunday, 12/06/2020

To succeed over the long term in the music business, professional sports, or the midstream sector, you need to learn from your successes and failures, and — most important — continue adapting and evolving. For many North American midstreamers, a key to success has been a thoughtful combination of expansion and diversification, plus an affinity for financial discipline, especially when the broader energy industry is going through tough, uncertain times. A prime example of that strategy is Canadian midstreamer Pembina Pipeline Corp., which after C$14 billion in acquisitions over the last four years is instituting a more cautious approach to new investment that’s largely based on self-funding and a new, more rigorous return criteria for new projects. Today, we preview our new Spotlight report, which focuses on the risks and rewards of Pembina’s new strategy.

Wednesday, 12/02/2020

There’s no question, the pressures on many U.S. midstream companies have been steadily increasing for some time now, and the past few months have really tested them. Like exploration and production companies, refiners, and others in the energy space, midstreamers have seen their well-considered plans for 2020 upended by demand destruction, commodity-price gyrations, and cutbacks in capex, drilling, and production. While it may be tempting to simply wait out the last few weeks of this crazy, unforgettable year and hope that 2021 will be better, there’s actually at least some good news out there for the midstream sector, and good reason to believe that midstreamers have been positioning themselves to financially weather whatever next year may have in store. Today, we discuss highlights from East Daley Capital’s newly issued 2021 Midstream Guidance Outlook, which focuses on key trends affecting midstream asset owners.

Monday, 11/30/2020

It’s no surprise that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic early this year shut down upstream mergers & acquisition (M&A) activity, just as it did America’s corporate offices, restaurants, entertainment venues, and schools. U.S. M&A deal flow slowed to a trickle in the first half of 2020 as companies’ valuations dropped along with bid prices and E&P executives struggled to realign expenditures with dwindling cash flows. But, as we’ve seen in the past, energy-commodity price crashes eventually spur a resurgence in M&A activity. The dam finally broke in late July, when Chevron announced a $13 billion takeover of Noble Energy, followed in short order by other, major corporate consolidations that brought the deal value total for the last five months to nearly $50 billion. This time was different in one important way, though: Instead of the strong preying on the weak, the strong merged with the strong in low-premium, all-stock transactions. Today, we analyze this new paradigm and delve into the details of the high-value deals.

Wednesday, 11/25/2020

The energy industry in North America is in crisis. COVID-19 remains a remarkably potent force, stifling a genuine rebound in demand for crude oil and refined products — and the broader U.S. economy. Oil prices have sagged south of $40/bbl, slowing drilling-and-completion activity to a crawl and imperiling the viability of many producers. The outlook for natural gas isn’t much better: anemic global demand for LNG is dragging down U.S. natural gas prices — and gas producers. The midstream sector isn’t immune to all this negativity. Lower production volumes mean lower flows on pipelines, less gas processing, less fractionation, and fewer export opportunities. But one major midstreamer, Enbridge Inc., made a prescient decision almost three years ago to significantly reduce its exposure to the vagaries of energy markets, and stands to emerge from the current hard times in good shape — assuming, that is, that it can clear the major regulatory challenges it still faces. Today, we preview our new Spotlight report on the Calgary, AB-based midstream giant, Enbridge, which plans to de-risk its business model.

In observance of today’s holiday, we’ve given our writers a break and are revisiting a recently published blog on our last Spotlight Report on Enbridge, Inc. If you didn’t read it then, this is your opportunity to see what you missed! Happy Thanksgiving!