RBN Energy

Thursday, 5/19/2022

The race is heating up for building natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian. Associated gas production from the crude-focused basin is at record highs this month and gaining momentum, which means that without additional pipeline capacity, the Permian is headed for serious pipeline constraints — and potentially negative pricing — by late this year or early next, which would, in turn, limit crude oil production growth there. Midstreamers are jockeying for the pole position to move surplus gas from the increasingly constrained basin to LNG export markets along the Gulf Coast. One of the contenders, Matterhorn Express Pipeline (MXP), a joint venture (JV) between WhiteWater, EnLink Midstream Partners, Devon Energy and MPLX, announced its final investment decision (FID) late yesterday. In today’s RBN blog, we provide new details on the greenfield project.

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Daily energy Posts

Thursday, 12/02/2021

Carbon dioxide is not the most potent of the greenhouse gases, but it is by far the most prevalent, which makes it a primary focus of efforts to protect the planet. And while a lot of attention is being paid to ways to reduce CO2 emissions and to capture those that are produced, it’s important to remember one key fact: There’s strong demand for CO2 for a variety of commercial uses, from enhanced oil recovery and fertilizers to industrial processes and beverage production. In other words, CO2 has real value to certain parts of the global economy and capturing CO2 for sale to these customers must be factored into the decarbonization equation. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the industrial CO2 value chain.

Thursday, 11/25/2021

These are troubled times, as the song says, caught between confusion and pain. Following the COVID trauma of 2020, oil, gas, and NGL markets are now coping with uncertainty of medium- and long-term prospects in light of energy transition rhetoric. Will we continue to see sufficient investment in the hydrocarbon-based supplies that the world needs today, or will resources be increasingly diverted toward renewable energy technologies and wider ESG goals? Finding a way to satisfy the global appetite and fuel continued recovery while planning for the future was a core theme for RBN’s Fall 2021 School of Energy: Hydrocarbon Markets in a Decarbonizing World. In today’s advertorial RBN blog, we lay out some key findings and highlights from this fall’s virtual conference.

Monday, 11/22/2021

The U.S. is poised for a massive build-out in renewable diesel production capacity — a boom spurred by capacity rationalization amongst traditional refineries, increasingly supportive government policies, and a big push by ESG-minded refiners wanting to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. It also hasn’t hurt that while renewable diesel is produced from used cooking oil, tallow, and other renewable feedstocks, it meets or exceeds the fuel specifications of traditional ultra-low sulfur diesel and thus is considered a “drop-in” replacement for ULSD — there’s no “blend wall” that limits its use. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down report, which looks at why renewable diesel is a hot topic, what we can learn from California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standards program, and how much new renewable diesel capacity is in the works.

Thursday, 11/18/2021

Discussions about energy transition and increased electrification are all around us, whether they involve accelerating the ramp-up in renewable power sources such as wind and solar, facilitating the shift to electric vehicles, or switching to alternative fuels like hydrogen. But amid all the talk about the evolution to a low-carbon world — and away from oil and gas — there’s one area that is sometimes overlooked: petrochemicals. In the U.S., most steam crackers use natural gas liquids (NGLs) as their primary feedstocks, and they also consume a lot of energy — two big red flags in an increasingly ESG-focused world. And that’s giving bioethylene, billed as a green alternative to traditional ethylene, a moment in the spotlight. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how bioethylene is produced, how it differs from ethylene produced from traditional measures, and why it may someday evolve into an attractive alternative for the petrochemical industry, even though it’s far from a sure thing.

Sunday, 11/14/2021

Leading international shipping associations and many of the large shipowners they represent are pressing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to take a much more aggressive approach to decarbonizing their industry, and calling for a $100/metric ton fee on carbon dioxide emissions from ships to spur investment in no-carbon propulsion systems. In effect, shipowners—themselves under pressure from their large, ESG-minded customers, are telling the IMO that its goals of reducing global shipping’s carbon intensity by 40% by 2030 and total greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 are far too timid. They are insisting that the IMO set the industry on a course to quickly ramp down its carbon dioxide emissions in the 2020s and achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century. If the shipowners prevail, it could result in the phase-out of hydrocarbon-based bunker fuel in favor of low-carbon alternatives like ammonia, hydrogen, and electric batteries. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a review of the big changes ahead for global bunker fuel and what they mean for oil and gas producers and refiners.

Thursday, 11/11/2021

Electric vehicles sit front and center in the effort to decarbonize passenger transportation, a movement that helped make Tesla’s Elon Musk the richest man in the world. Pair this with heavy attention to EVs from the broader car-and-truck market and the White House’s goal of 50% EV sales by 2030 and it makes you wonder how EVs will impact the energy and power-generation sectors. We’ve all seen how power grids can be overwhelmed during periods of extreme heat or cold, by relying too heavily on intermittent renewables like wind and solar, or — as many Texans saw last February — by interruptions in natural gas deliveries to gas-fired power plants. What might happen when we add tens of millions of power-hungry EVs to the mix? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impacts that scaling electric vehicles may have on energy and power markets and the power grid.

Monday, 11/08/2021

Admittedly, the idea of capturing carbon dioxide, cooling and compressing it into a weird, neither-liquid-nor-gas state, and pumping it deep underground for permanent storage would have baffled the crude oil wildcatters and pipeline builders that created the modern energy industry back in the 1940s and ’50s. They’d surely say, “You’re proposin’ to do what?!” But times have changed. The oil and gas business is entering an extraordinary era of transition, and producers, midstreamers, and refineries alike need to keep abreast of what’s happening regarding carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), how it will affect them, and — ideally — figure out ways to profit from it. That’s the impetus behind today’s RBN blog, in which we begin a deep dive into efforts to reduce emissions of man-made CO2 by capturing it from industrial sources and piping it to specially designed wells for permanent storage.

Thursday, 11/04/2021

For all who thought an energy transition was going to be orderly, economic, or rational, the chaos of 2021 energy markets is a wake-up call. It’s not that the shift from fossil fuels to renewables is causing most of the market turmoil, but it is certainly magnifying the effects of a host of energy market glitches that, together with the mechanics of the transition, are wreaking havoc on the global economy. Which underscores the challenge of this generation: We must live, work, and produce hydrocarbons the way the world functions today, while at the same time preparing for — and investing in — a much-lower-carbon future. As we’ve heard this week from Glasgow, it’s a future that a lot of folks believe means net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and no hydrocarbons. That challenge is the underlying theme for RBN’s Fall 2021 School of Energy, to be held next week, November 9-10. Not only have we restructured our agenda to include a half day covering the impact of hydrogen, CO2 sequestration, and renewable diesel, we’ve reworked and updated our core hydrocarbons market curriculum to examine how crude oil, natural gas, and NGL markets will evolve to accommodate what lies ahead. In today’s encore RBN blog edition — a blatant advertorial — we’ll consider these issues and highlight how our upcoming School of Energy integrates existing market dynamics with prospects for the energy transition.

Thursday, 10/21/2021

None of us knows with any certainty how big a role hydrogen will ultimately play in helping the U.S. and the rest of the world decarbonize. Sure, some true believers are convinced H2 is the next big thing, but even they must acknowledge the economic and other challenges associated with scaling up the production of “green” or “blue” hydrogen. Do we really want to devote the energy from thousands of wind turbines or many square miles of solar panels to produce relatively small volumes of green H2 from water via electrolysis? And is blue hydrogen — produced by breaking natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, then capturing and sequestering the CO2 — really a solution considering efficiency losses and the fact that only about 50% of the CO2 from steam methane reforming (SMR) units is actually snared? Which brings us to Air Products & Chemicals’ newly announced final investment decision (FID) on a $4.5 billion complex in Louisiana that will use a proprietary process — and not SMR — to produce what you might call deep-blue hydrogen and capture and sequester 95% of the resulting CO2. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the project and its implications.

Monday, 10/18/2021

For all who thought an energy transition was going to be orderly, economic, or rational, the chaos of 2021 energy markets is a wake-up call. It’s not that the shift from fossil fuels to renewables is causing most of the market turmoil, but it is certainly magnifying the effects of a host of energy market glitches that, together with the mechanics of the transition, are wreaking havoc on the global economy. Which underscores the challenge of this generation: We must live, work, and produce hydrocarbons the way the world functions today, while at the same time preparing for — and investing in — a much-lower-carbon future. A future that a lot of folks believe means net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and no hydrocarbons. That challenge is the underlying theme for RBN’s Fall 2021 School of Energy, to be held November 9-10. Not only have we restructured our agenda to include a half day covering the impact of hydrogen, CO2 sequestration, and renewable diesel, we’ve reworked and updated our core hydrocarbons market curriculum to examine how crude oil, natural gas, and NGL markets will evolve to accommodate what lies ahead. In today’s RBN blog — a blatant advertorial — we’ll consider these issues and highlight how our upcoming School of Energy integrates existing market dynamics with prospects for the energy transition.

Thursday, 10/07/2021

When most people think about alternative fuels in the transportation sector, they think electric vehicles (EVs): Teslas, Mustang Mach-E’s, F-150 Lightnings, and other zero-to-60 stunners. EVs have certainly jumped to the fore among low-carbon options, but other possibilities may prove to be even better. One is hydrogen-fueled vehicles, which while posing a number of economic and logistical challenges, could eliminate the range anxiety associated with EVs — assuming that a robust, nationwide network of hydrogen fueling stations can be developed. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss hydrogen’s potential as a transportation fuel, including its infrastructure-related challenges and how it qualifies for credits under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Thursday, 09/30/2021

You may not have noticed it, but in news that feels cosmically reflective of life on Earth recently, the moon began to wobble this year — a natural phenomenon that occurs every 18.6 years. While it won’t cause the sky to fall, it will influence our seas, with global tides suppressed in the near-term but amplified in the second half of the cycle. That’s got some watchers concerned about rising sea levels, but it also presents an interesting dynamic to one developing but often overlooked renewable energy source: our planet’s oceans. “Wave energy” proponents believe ocean-focused technologies can someday complement wind and solar, while also being more reliable. In today’s RBN blog, we examine what wave energy is and how it’s produced, the potential pros and cons compared with other renewables, and what type of projects are being developed.

Wednesday, 09/29/2021

With the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow just over a month away, it’s natural to reflect on the progress achieved since the Paris Agreement (signed at COP 21), which is approaching its sixth anniversary. In the past half decade, the world has taken tremendous strides toward decarbonization – not only in rhetoric, but in real and substantial investment. Green hydrogen and carbon capture are among the notable solutions many are pursuing to that end. But perhaps no green business has been in the spotlight as much recently as renewable diesel. Low-carbon fuel standards have spurred a lucrative renewable diesel market that refiners are lining up to access, with units being built and planned across North America. The nationwide buildout is being underwritten by the states that have enacted policies to induce low-carbon solutions, and while the Golden State is paramount among them, Californians are not alone. The largess being generated by those policies is so substantial that it will have an impact on and may incubate other low-carbon technologies that can be paired with renewable diesel to create even lower-carbon fuel sources and capture more of the credits that are ultimately driving the economics of the energy transition. In today’s RBN blog, we identify key manufacturing centers for low-carbon fuel supply growth, the at-times lengthy route the fuels may take to LCFS markets, and the economic incentive structure that justifies all those costs.

Sunday, 09/19/2021

In the recently fervent efforts of oil and gas companies to mitigate their environmental impact and improve their standing with investors and lenders, they are progressively striving to cut their own emissions of greenhouse gases and to offset the GHG emissions that are unavoidable through the use of carbon credits. Cutting emissions from well sites, pipeline operations, refineries, and the like won’t be easy or cheap, but at the least the results are measurable and provable — before, we emitted X, and now we emit X minus Y. The true value of voluntary carbon credits is more difficult to calculate. Sure, each credit is said to equal one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent, but how do you really measure with any certainty how many metric tons of CO2 will be absorbed by 1,000 acres of preserved forest in Oregon, or how much methane won’t be produced by changing the diet of 1,000 cows in Wisconsin? And how can you be sure that slice of Oregon wouldn’t have been left in place anyway, or that the dairy farmer has actually changed what he’s feeding his herd? In today’s RBN blog, we look at voluntary carbon credits, concerns about their validity, and ongoing efforts to ensure that they actually accomplish the goal of GHG reductions.

Sunday, 08/15/2021

Every day, midstream companies in North America transport massive volumes of crude oil, natural gas, NGLs, and refined products to market. Without their pipelines, economic activity would rapidly grind to a halt. Still, environmental critics and ESG-conscious investors and lenders are quick to point out that the commodities that midstreamers pipe are among the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and that, at the very least, pipeline companies should be reducing or even offsetting the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs associated with operating their networks. That’s now happening in a big way — and in a variety of ways — as we discuss in today’s blog.