RBN Energy

The Nederland/Beaumont crude oil hub has been somewhat overshadowed recently by other Gulf Coast crude export hubs despite hosting America’s largest refinery, a handful of export terminals and pipeline links to the prolific Permian Basin. But while plans to build one or more deepwater crude export terminals could mean big changes for the Gulf Coast hubs, the Nederland/Beaumont area isn’t standing still. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss what’s ahead for the region and its emergence as a leader in NGL exports. 

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 Jeremy Meier - Friday, 6/21/2024 (3:00 pm)

US oil and gas rig count declined for the third consecutive week, falling to 588 for the week ending June 21 according to Baker Hughes, a decline of two vs.

By Jason Lindquist - Friday, 6/21/2024 (3:00 pm)

A long-duration energy storage (LDES) project being developed in Alaska was awarded $5.5 million in federal funding this month, allowing work to begin on the project’s Phase 1.

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Daily Energy Blog

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. 

Refinery distillation units separate crude oil into light, medium and heavy fractions. After that, refiners start performing chemical reactions using catalysts — materials that accelerate chemical reactions — to change the oil’s natural molecules into the forms needed in modern fuels. In recent years, refiners have stepped up their efforts to recycle those catalysts to improve their profitability and environmental performance. In today’s RBN blog, we explain how catalysts, which were formerly disposed of as hazardous waste, are increasingly being recycled and reused in refineries. 

The March appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden to fund the federal government mandated the emptying of the federal gasoline reserve in fiscal year 2024, which concludes September 30, followed by its eventual closure. That means about 1 MMbbl — 42 MM gallons — of gasoline will find its way to the market in the next few months, or in as little as a few weeks. The Department of Energy (DOE) is planning to distribute those barrels by the end of June to help keep a lid on gasoline prices ahead of the July 4 holiday and into the heart of the summer driving season. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the decision to close the reserve and the potential impact of those barrels hitting the market. 

The federal Renewable Identification Number (RIN) and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) have long served as tools to force renewable fuels like ethanol into the U.S. fuel supply. They are environmental credits that subsidize production of renewable fuels that would not otherwise be economically justified. Nuances embedded in the design of these credit systems have again kicked in to surprise the markets, this time with a hit to renewable diesel (RD) margins. Today’s RBN blog zeroes in on two root causes for that hit. 

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. 

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. 

How can a business survive and thrive while spending $5.30 to make a product that sells for $1.90? That’s what’s happening in the booming renewable diesel (RD) market, where government subsidies allow RD to compete directly with petroleum diesel even though RD is inherently more costly to produce. But as new plants keep coming on stream, RD profit margins are coming under closer scrutiny. In today’s RBN blog, we analyze RD profit margins and show how they are changing as the market continues to expand. 

The new 650-Mb/d Dangote refinery in Nigeria instantly became Africa’s largest and the world’s seventh-largest by capacity when it finally began processing crude into diesel and aviation fuels in January after years of delays and cost overruns. Long touted as Nigeria’s ticket to ending refined fuels imports by supplying its own markets — with plenty to spare for exports — the Dangote facility could substantially impact trade flows and global supply if it lives up to years of homegrown ballyhoo. In today’s RBN blog, we will examine Dangote’s long road to production, and why we see a slow ramp-up to full capacity through 2026. 

The boom in renewable diesel (RD) production has triggered a race to secure the dozen different bio-feedstocks suitable for refining into diesel fuel. It’s an interesting story that impacts both the oil and agriculture industries, with twists and turns that will take years to play out. In today's RBN blog, we describe the current state of the market and highlight recent happenings in supply chains for two of those increasingly important bio-feedstocks — soybean oil and used cooking oil. 

One of the most anticipated and potentially impactful refinery startups in North America in years is the Dos Bocas project (officially the Olmeca Refinery), a 340 Mb/d plant under development by Mexico’s state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) in the southeastern state of Tabasco. The project was seen as the cornerstone of Pemex’s plans to reduce Mexico’s dependence on the U.S. for refined fuels. Construction began in 2019 with startup originally scheduled for 2022, but that timeline was never really feasible, and the Mexican government has issued multiple public statements since mid-2023 proclaiming that construction was complete and startup was imminent. However, almost a year has passed and there is no indication that any meaningful operations have occurred. So how close is Dos Bocas to startup and, more importantly, full (or close to full) production? In today’s RBN blog, we’ll provide our views on those vitally important questions. 

The Biden administration recently announced a very ambitious — to say the least — rule on tailpipe emissions. But while the rule’s legal and political standing might be a bit uncertain — it’s seen by many as a de facto ban on conventionally fueled cars and trucks and is likely to face several court challenges — doubts also remain about whether it matches up with the realities of today’s energy world. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the new rule, what it would mean for U.S. consumers and automakers, and how it conflicts with the views of RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics (RFA) practice on the future of global oil and refined products demand and the rate of electric vehicle (EV) adoption. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved a request by governors from eight Corn Belt states to remove a summertime waiver for Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) included in the Clean Air Act (CAA) for E10 gasoline, a 90/10 blend of petroleum-derived gasoline blendstock and ethanol. The motive for the governors’ request was a desire to increase sales of E15 gasoline and, by extension, boost ethanol/corn demand by putting it on the same summertime footing as E10. In granting the approval, the EPA conceded that the distribution system wasn’t ready for the change. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the decision and the impact it will have on refiners, retailers and drivers, and how it is likely to work against the Biden administration’s plans to keep a lid on gasoline prices. 

There’s always a risk when you take a new approach to doing or making something that your expectations won’t pan out — that something you hadn’t figured on happens and messes things up. But oh, the satisfaction that comes when the stars align exactly as you foresaw. The folks who developed Project Traveler, a recently completed Houston-area plant that produces high-value, octane-boosting alkylate from ethylene, isobutane and other widely available and low-cost feedstocks, know that good feeling, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog on the project’s economics. 

It’s been nine years since Formosa Petrochemical filed its first permit applications for a proposed $9.4 billion petrochemical complex in Louisiana and, while the greenfield project has faced legal setbacks, it recently posted an important win and may — emphasis on may — eventually make it across the finish line. The Sunshine Project would be massive and consequential, with two steam crackers each capable of consuming 75 Mb/d of ethane, a big propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit and a number of other petchem production facilities that together would employ more than 1,200. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll look at the project and its long and winding road toward potential construction and startup. 

Everyone in Texas remembers the infamous Winter Storm Uri of three years ago. What started out as a simple cold snap for many quickly turned into something far more serious: the biggest power outage in state history, with billions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of lives lost. Since then, the expected arrival of frigid temperatures has been met with some trepidation, but the critical failures of February 2021 have so far been avoided in subsequent storms. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the steps the state has taken in recent years to weatherize its power grid, show why January’s cold snap turned out to be no big deal, and explain why renewables are playing an increasingly important role in grid reliability during extreme weather conditions.