RBN Energy

Permian production may have plateaued over the past few months — the shale play’s crude oil output has bounced between 6 MMb/d and 6.3 MMb/d for almost a year now, and natural gas production has hovered around 18 Bcf/d for about as long. But producer-backed plans to continue adding gas processing capacity in the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins strongly suggest that E&Ps in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico see a lot more production growth “up around the bend.” As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, midstream companies haven’t tapped the brakes on their plans for new gas processing capacity in the Permian — in fact, they’ve been keeping the pedal to the metal. 

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 - Monday, 5/20/2024 (3:15 pm)

Enbridge Inc has concluded an open season to recontract up to 50 Mb/d of existing capacity on its Express Pipeline after term commitments ended. The open season began April 11 and ended May 15, and service agreements are expected to be signed by end-May.

By John Abeln - Monday, 5/20/2024 (3:15 pm)
Report Highlight: NATGAS Permian

After plumbing multi-year lows in the first half of the month, Waha cash gas prices rebounded significantly last week, even turning positive for three days according to data from Natural Gas Intelligence (NGI).

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Daily Energy Blog

Folks not directly involved in the FERC’s rate-setting process for interstate gas pipelines may think it’s a largely mechanical — and painfully boring — activity. But the process is actually often incredibly dynamic, with a lot of give-and-take among pipeline representatives, pipeline customers and FERC staffers, all aimed at reaching an agreement on rates that everyone involved can live with. We recently explained the “formal process” and (informal, confidential) “settlement process” that usually play out along parallel tracks. In today’s RBN blog, we expand on our look at the rate-setting process for gas pipelines with a few more nuances of how negotiated resolution really works. 

Think energy markets are getting back to normal? After all, prices have been relatively stable, production is growing at a healthy rate, and infrastructure bottlenecks are front and center again. Just like the good ol’ days, right? Absolutely not. It’s a whole new energy world out there, with unexpected twists and turns around every corner — everything from regional hostilities, renewables subsidies, disruptions at shipping pinch points, pipeline capacity shortfalls and all sorts of other quirky variables. There’s just no way to predict what is going to happen next, right? Nah. All we need to do is stick our collective RBN necks out one more time, peer into our crystal ball, and see what 2024 has in store for us. 

The rates regulators set for transporting natural gas on interstate pipelines are all-important. They determine how much it costs to get gas from A to B, whether new capacity can be funded, and serve as the bedrock of regional gas price relationships around the nation’s pipeline grid. But the process for establishing those rates can seem opaque and is often misunderstood — it’s one of those things you need to be directly involved in to fully grasp. Well, RBN’s Advisory Practice lives and breathes gas pipeline rate cases month in, month out, and we thought it would be interesting — and kind of fun — to take you behind the curtain and explain how rate cases at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) really play out. 

A year ago, as New Year’s Day approached, we were looking ahead into very uncertain market conditions, having lived through a pandemic, crazy weather events, collapsing and then soaring prices, and Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine. Our job was once again to peer into the RBN crystal ball to see what the upcoming year had in store for energy markets. We’ll do that again in our next blog. But another part of that tradition is to look back to see how we did with our forecasts for the previous year. That’s right! We actually check our work. And that’s exactly what we’ll do today: review our prognostications for 2023. 

The rates regulators set for transporting natural gas on interstate pipelines are all-important. They determine how much it costs to get gas from A to B, whether new capacity can be funded, and serve as the bedrock of regional gas price relationships around the nation’s pipeline grid. But the process for establishing those rates can seem opaque and is often misunderstood — it’s one of those things you need to be directly involved in to fully grasp. Well, RBN’s Advisory Practice lives and breathes gas pipeline rate cases month in, month out, and we thought it would be interesting — and kind of fun — to take you behind the curtain and explain how rate cases at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) really play out. 

The price of the Tier 3 gasoline sulfur credit hit $3,600 in October, up by a factor of 10 since 2022 and roughly in line with the all-time high reached in 2019. The high price of this important credit is a direct indicator of the true cost of compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Tier 3 gasoline sulfur standard and has raised some alarm recently in refining and financial circles. In today’s RBN blog, we give some specific examples of how refiners and investment analysts are reacting. 

Renewable diesel (RD) production has been surging this year, far surpassing blending mandates established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But there may be storm clouds on the horizon. The jump in RD production has led to excess generation of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), the tool used to ensure compliance with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), impacting RD economics. With RD production set to move even higher in 2024 amid already-declining margins, it has left some to wonder how the market will come back into balance. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the growth in RD production, the resulting impact on RIN volumes and prices, and how things could shake out next year. 

The price of the Tier 3 gasoline sulfur credit hit $3,600 in October, up by a factor of 10 from two years ago and roughly in line with the all-time highs seen in late 2019. This tradable credit allows refiners to sell gasoline that exceeds the sulfur specification on gasoline sold in the U.S. In today’s RBN blog, we examine what’s behind the credit’s steep and steady rise — and why it matters. 

Florida is entirely dependent on others for the vast amounts of refined products it consumes — every gallon of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel that’s pumped into cars, SUVs, trucks, locomotives and airplanes in the Sunshine State needs to be either shipped or trucked in. Now, a midstream company is planning a project that would enable large volumes of refined products to be railed into Florida by unit trains to three new storage and distribution terminals — and eventually several more. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the plan. 

Many governments around the world are looking for ways to incentivize reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and two approaches have received the most attention: cap-and-trade and a carbon tax. The European Union (EU) has chosen the former, Canada has opted for the latter, and the U.S. — well, that’s still to be determined. It’s logical for oil and gas producers, refiners and others in carbon-intensive industries to wonder, what does it all mean for us? In today’s RBN blog, we look at Canada’s carbon tax (which it refers to as a “carbon price”), explain how it works, and examine its current and future impacts on oil sands producers, bitumen upgraders and refiners. 

Just as homeowners in parts of the Northeast are thinking about turning on the heat again, the market for heating oil, diesel and other middle distillates in PADD 1 is unusually tight. Inventories are hovering near their five-year lows; prices are up sharply; and the near-term prospects for rebuilding stocks are modest at best. For one thing, the import-dependent region can’t rely on them as much as it used to; for another, at least a couple of in-region and nearby Canadian refineries the Northeast counts on are offline for major turnarounds. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the latest developments in PADD 1’s distillates market.

The world consumes about 100 MMb/d of liquid fuels, which are critically important to every segment of the global economy and to nearly every aspect of our daily lives. The size and scope of this market means it’s impacted by all kinds of short-term forces — economic ups and downs, geopolitics, domestic developments and major weather events, just to name a few — some of which are difficult, if not impossible, to foresee. But while these events can sometimes come out of nowhere, there are some long-term forces on the horizon that will shape markets in the decades to come, even if the magnitude of these changes might be up for debate. One is a move to prioritize alternative fuel sources rather than crude oil, but a meaningful shift won’t happen as quickly as many forecasts would indicate — and that has big implications for liquid fuel demand and the outlook for U.S. refiners. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss these issues and other highlights from the recent webcast by RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics (RFA) practice on their newly released update to the Future of Fuels report.

When it comes to proposals to build large-scale energy projects, whether it’s a new electric transmission line, a mining complex, or an interstate oil or gas pipeline, the permitting process can be a delicate balancing act. Nearly everyone understands that appropriate social and environmental safeguards are essential. At the same time, the permitting process can’t be so cumbersome that it takes a decade or more to build that transmission line, complete that mine, or get a pipeline into operation. There’s a general understanding that the permitting process needs to be improved but, as the title of today’s blog implies, it’s a whole lot easier said than done. In today’s RBN blog, we preview our latest Drill Down Report on the major themes around permitting reform and examine the factors that could help — or hinder — further efforts.

A wide range of ever-changing economic and other forces — domestic and international — are constantly impacting the U.S. refinery complex, for good and for bad. Fluctuations in crude oil supply and prices. Ups and downs in demand for refined products. Refinery closures and expansions. And don’t forget this: the pace of the much-discussed transition to lower-carbon energy sources. There’s a lot at play in the world of gasoline, middle distillates and resid — renewable fuels too — and while industry players can’t fully anticipate what’s next in the refined-product roller coaster ahead, it’s critically important to keep up with the latest developments and to have a deep understanding of the many factors influencing crude oil and fuel markets — and the relationships among those drivers. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the key findings in a newly released update to Future of Fuels, an in-depth report by RBN’s Refined Fuels Analytics (RFA) practice on everything you need to know about U.S. and global supply and demand for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and biofuels over the short, medium and long term.

When it comes to large-scale energy and infrastructure projects, permitting can sometimes look like a game of Whack-a-Mole, where efforts to conclude the process are continually frustrated by issues that appear (and then sometimes reappear again and again), encompassing everything from environmental reviews and the vagaries of different federal agencies to legal challenges and public (and political) opposition. But if the difficulties in building a new pipeline, transmission line, or solar farm seem immense, they pale in comparison to what developers of mining projects can face. In today’s RBN blog, we look at why mining projects take so long to develop, the unique challenges of the permitting process, and some ways that it might be improved.