RBN Energy

There’s never been any reason to question the drivers for energy infrastructure development — until now.  Historically, the drivers were almost always “supply-push.” The Shale Revolution brought on increasing production volumes that needed to be moved to market, and midstreamers — backed by producer commitments — responded with the infrastructure to make it happen. But now things seem to be different. U.S. energy infrastructure investment is soaring across crude oil, natural gas and NGL markets and, as in previous buildouts, midstreamers are bringing on new processing plants, pipelines, fractionators, storage facilities, export terminals and everything in between. We count nearly 70 projects in the works. But crude production has been flat as a pancake, natural gas is down, and lately NGLs are up — but as you might expect, only in one basin: the Permian. So what is driving all the infrastructure development this time around? In today’s RBN blog, we’ll explore why that question will be front-and-center at our upcoming School of Energy: Catch a Wave. Fair warning, this blog includes an unabashed advertorial for our 2024 conference coming up on June 26-27 in Houston. 

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 Sheela Tobben - Wednesday, 6/19/2024 (7:30 am)

The operator of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) pipeline plans to amend certain quality rules for heavy crude from September 1 after complaints from shippers and buyers of oil on the system that began service in May. 

By Sheela Tobben - Tuesday, 6/18/2024 (3:45 pm)

Genesis Energy’s Cameron Highway Oil Pipeline System (CHOPS) is expected to be shut in October for two weeks of planned work. It’s not clear if the entire system will be down all at once, or if segments will be worked on in phases.

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Daily Energy Blog

The pandemic-induced shackles on U.S. E&P capital spending were shattered by rising commodity prices in 2022, and total investment for the 42 producers we follow rose a dramatic 54% over 2021. But E&Ps haven’t abandoned the fiscal discipline or focus on cash-flow generation that allowed them to survive COVID-related demand destruction and resuscitate investor interest. Their 2023 capital budgets generally sustain the pace of Q4 2022 spending and reflect a modest 17% increase over full-year 2022. However, commodity price trends and changes in investment opportunities have resulted in significant shifts in the allocation of the total investment among the major U.S. unconventional plays. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll analyze 2023 capital spending, region by region.

Last August, we titled our review of Q2 2022 E&P financial results Camelot after rising oil prices and surging natural gas realizations drove revenues, profits and cash flows to levels that seemed like an unrealizable dream for producers that had teetered on the brink of financial instability just two years before. Recent year-end results revealed the strongest returns in the industry’s history, much of which were distributed to long-suffering shareholders. But dreams fade and prices retreat, and Q4 2022 results suggest a far less idyllic 2023. In today’s RBN blog, we review the record 2022 performance and more sobering Q4 results.

In marking the third anniversary of COVID’s onset, the Washington Post detailed a study that showed most of us are already shedding the virus-impacted memories of that tedious and often traumatic time to concentrate on looking ahead — a trait scientists label “future-oriented positivity bias.” That transition was clearly evident in the 2022 investment decisions of U.S. E&Ps as the capex budgets of the 42 companies we monitor, pared to the bone during the pandemic, expanded through last year from initial guidance of a 24% increase over 2021 to a final 54% reported increase for the full year. They increased production by 9% year-over-year, but producers haven’t forgotten fiscal discipline or a focus on cash flow generation. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze 2023 capital budgets that generally sustain the pace of Q4 2022 spending and eschew additional increases in a lower commodity price environment.

Punxsutawney Phil presaged six more weeks of winter when he saw his shadow on February 2, the famous groundhog’s annual attempt to predict the arrival of spring that garners national headlines, despite his dismal 39% success rate over the last 150 years. Although we haven’t turned to rotund rodents, we spend a lot of time exploring ways to predict energy industry trends. A far more reliable way to gain early insights into E&P spending and production patterns is by analyzing the year-end results and forecasts issued by the major oilfield services firms, which release their year-end reports well before E&Ps typically do. In today’s RBN blog, we review the data and insights from the reports and conference calls of the major firms that are in constant communication with the major oil and gas producers.

While soaring commodity prices have been the most important driver of record E&P cash flow generation over the past 12 months, shareholders have also benefited from a new, post-pandemic financial discipline that has lowered the industry’s reinvestment rate to an all-time low of 35%. However, the 2022 capital expenditures initially planned by the 42 U.S. producers we track were expected to rise a healthy 24% over 2021 levels and their spending plans for the just-finished year continued to increase as 2022 wore on. While only a handful of E&Ps have released their actual 2023 budgets, their most recent conference call comments suggest that the investment momentum will keep building in the new year. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze producers’ 2022 capital investment and the key indicators for 2023 growth.

One of life’s vicarious pleasures is indulging in some daydreaming about what we’d do with a substantial financial windfall, maybe from a lottery win, a bequest from a long-lost relative, or a five-horse parlay. Thanks to a dramatic surge in post-pandemic commodity prices, U.S. E&Ps are living out that dream as 2022 cash flow from operating activities (CFOA) is on track to quadruple from 2020 lows and more than double from pre-pandemic levels. In allocating those funds, producers face the same kinds of decisions we would all face: ramping up current spending, whittling away at debt, tucking cash away for a rainy day, or distributing funds to family and friends. Possibly influenced by the upcoming holiday season, oil and gas producers turned extremely generous in the third quarter as shareholder returns reached record levels. In today’s RBN blog, we detail the cash-flow allocations made by the 42 publicly owned E&Ps we follow and speculate on future trends.

Storm clouds may be gathering on the economic horizon as concerns about persistent inflation and looming recession roil markets and politics. But for oil and gas producers, the third quarter was the equivalent of a driver putting the top down under a flawless azure sky, dialing up the road tunes, and cruising without a care down an endless highway. Lower oil prices led to a dip in earnings and cash flow after a record-breaking second quarter, but cash still filled producers’ coffers at the second-highest rate in decades. In today’s RBN blog, we review the Q3 results of U.S. E&Ps and discuss what may lie ahead as those storm clouds move closer.

Bragging rights are a big deal in Texas, and we’re not just talking pride about the Astros’ annual rampage through baseball’s post-season. Getting to the top is also a source of immense pride for oil and gas midstreamers, and right now Targa Resources claims the bragging rights as the largest gatherer and processor of associated natural gas in the Permian Basin. Targa’s bold decision to build an integrated gas and NGL business, its timely infrastructure expansions through and after the pandemic, and a recent, accretive acquisition have resulted in a massive footprint where a stunning 25% of forecast Permian gas production growth is expected to take place. But strong competitors such as Enterprise Product Partners, DCP Midstream and Energy Transfer are nipping at Targa’s heels. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our Spotlight Report on the company.

Bragging rights are a big deal in Texas, and we’re not just talking pride about the Astros’ annual rampage through baseball’s post-season. Getting to the top is also a source of immense pride for oil and gas midstreamers, and right now Targa Resources claims the bragging rights as the largest gatherer and processor of associated natural gas in the Permian Basin. Targa’s bold decision to build an integrated gas and NGL business, its timely infrastructure expansions through and after the pandemic, and a recent, accretive acquisition have resulted in a massive footprint where a stunning 25% of forecast Permian gas production growth is expected to take place. But strong competitors such as Enterprise Product Partners, DCP Midstream and Energy Transfer are nipping at Targa’s heels. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our new Spotlight Report on the company.

Champagne corks were popping in E&P boardrooms and executive suites over the past few weeks as they unveiled record-high second-quarter 2022 earnings and cash flows. The strong financial results in the near-idyllic quarter — pre-tax operating earnings and cash flows surged by 29% and 22%, respectively, from the already elevated Q1 2022 levels — were driven by soaring commodity prices and producers’ strict financial discipline. And the celebrations weren’t limited to E&P headquarters. Shareholders have also benefited as companies passed on the unprecedented largess to their investors. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze how U.S. oil and gas producers distributed their soaring free cash flows and discuss the underlying corporate strategies.

Out of the long, brutal struggles to create a British nation in the Medieval Ages arose the legend of Camelot, an idyllic kingdom that for a “brief shining moment” enabled its inhabitants to bask in peace and prosperity. In the second quarter of 2022, U.S. oil and gas producers that had, for the last two decades, been roiled with severe price volatility, recession, environmental pressures, investor hostility and a pandemic, finally found their Camelot. Rising oil prices and surging natural gas realizations drove per-unit revenues to a 15-year high, and nearly nine out of 10 of the incremental dollars fell straight to the bottom line as producers successfully wrangled inflation to keep costs under control. The result was E&P coffers overflowing with record earnings and cash flows. However, Camelot, in the words of the 1960 musical, was “a fleeting wisp of glory,” and clouds are emerging on the horizon for U.S. E&Ps in the third quarter. In today’s RBN blog, we catalog Q2 2022 results and preview the issues that could impact third-quarter earnings.

Just two years ago, the onset of the pandemic slashed the share prices of many oil and gas producers and the idea of parking cash in a U.S. E&P seemed to make as much sense as leaving your Porsche on a midtown street with the keys in it and the motor running. But times — and commodity prices — have changed, and hydrocarbon producers have transformed themselves into cash-flow-generating machines that attract the sagest investors. Want proof? Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway recently purchased another 10.4 million shares of Occidental Petroleum (Oxy) for over $500 million, bringing its stake in the company to a substantial 16.4%. In today's RBN blog, we detail how the major U.S. E&Ps are allocating their cash flow to keep investors happy.

We’ve written a lot lately about how U.S. E&Ps, whipsawed over the last decade by extreme price volatility and negative investor sentiment, have adopted a new fiscal discipline that de-emphasizes production growth and prioritizes generation of free cash flow to reduce debt and reward shareholders. But what about midstreamers? They too have been buffeted in recent years by volatile commodity prices, eroding investor support, shifting upstream investment patterns, and finally, a global pandemic. Midstream companies face a different set of challenges than oil and gas producers in repairing their balance sheet and restoring investor confidence, however, mostly because midstream investment decisions are determined both by downstream market changes and by E&Ps’ development and production activity — including producers’ ever-increasing focus on the Permian at the expense of other basins. In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from RBN and East Daley’s Spotlight Report on Western Midstream Partners and how the master limited partnership has been working to reduce its debt and make the most of its strong base in the Permian’s Delaware Basin.

The oil and gas industry has historically been roiled by global economic and political crises, from the oil embargo in 1973 to the Great Recession of 2008 to the onset of the global pandemic in early 2020.  However, amid the economic and political turmoil from the war in the Ukraine, rampant inflation and supply chain disruptions, E&P companies in recent weeks reported strong results for the first quarter of 2022, riding the wave of rising commodity prices as record volumes of cash flowed into corporate coffers. Producers successfully absorbed service cost increases and resisted calls to abandon their profits-focused fiscal discipline to generate Q1 2022 pre-tax operating earnings and cash flows that were up 25% and 12%, respectively, from the two-decade-high results recorded in the last quarter of 2021. In today’s RBN blog, we detail the industry’s outstanding results and preview its performance for the rest of the year.

We’ve written a lot lately about how U.S. E&Ps, whipsawed over the last decade by extreme price volatility and negative investor sentiment, have adopted a new fiscal discipline that de-emphasizes production growth and prioritizes generation of free cash flow to reduce debt and reward shareholders. But what about midstreamers? They too have been buffeted in recent years by volatile commodity prices, eroding investor support, shifting upstream investment patterns, and finally, a global pandemic. Midstream companies face a different set of challenges than oil and gas producers in repairing their balance sheet and restoring investor confidence, however, mostly because midstream investment decisions are determined both by downstream market changes and by E&Ps’ development and production activity — including producers’ ever-increasing focus on the Permian at the expense of other basins. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from RBN and East Daley’s Spotlight Report on Western Midstream Partners and how the master limited partnership has been working to reduce its debt and make the most of its strong base in the Permian’s Delaware Basin.