Energy markets will long remember 2015. For producers and midstreamers, the memories won’t be pleasant. But it was not all bad news. Particularly if you happen to be an energy buyer or refiner. As we’ve done for the past four years, today is a day for looking back over the past twelve months in the RBN blogosphere – to see which blogs have generated the most interest from you, our readers. We track the hit rate for each of our daily blogs, and the number of hits tells you a lot about what is going on in energy markets. So once again we have taken a page out of the late Casey Kasem’s playbook to look at the top blogs of 2015 based on numbers of website hits.
What do you do when prices are in the cellar, hundreds of rigs are idle, production growth has evaporated and the whole industry seems to be wondering how the numbers are going to work. Well of course, it’s time to head back to school to understand the new realities of energy markets. That is what School of Energy Spring 2016 is all about. This is nothing like other natural gas, crude oil or NGL conferences! The course work is hands-on. In each module we’ll drill down on an important aspect of the market, explain how it works, download spreadsheet models and learn how to use them. This time we’ve added more models than ever, crunching the numbers that explain everything from production economics to petrochemical margins in the context of today’s prices. You walk out the door with the how-to Powerpoints and the Excel models on your hard drive. Warning - today’s blog is a blatant commercial for our upcoming Houston conference.
The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub contract for January delivery hit a 17-year low yesterday (December 10, 2015) of $2.015/MMBtu, 46 % below year-ago price levels. But US gas production has been humming along near 73 Bcf/d, more than 3.0 Bcf above a year ago and about 1.0 Bcf below the all-time high earlier this year. It’s a similar story for crude oil, with oil prices closing at $36.76/Bbl yesterday, but production hanging in there above 9 MMb/d. This is a testament to lower drilling service costs and producers’ ability to improve drilling productivity. But can productivity gains and drilling costs keep up with continually lower commodity prices? Today we look at how productivity gains and falling drilling costs are impacting producers’ rates of return.
Mexico has emerged as an important and growing market for U.S. natural gas producers, and for U.S. midstream companies scrambling to develop gas pipelines to serve Mexico’s gas consumers. Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) exports to Mexico are also up. Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex)—the state-owned hydrocarbon giant, now in the midst of a major reboot—is on the hunt for private-sector partners to help revive Mexico’s sagging oil and gas production, and U.S. oil producers and Pemex are planning their first swaps of crude. Today we highlight RBN Energy’s latest Drill Down report examining the changing yins and yangs of cross-border energy relations.
Eager to boost oil and natural gas production, the government of Mexico is in the midst of a multi-year effort to introduce more private-sector involvement and competition. The hope is that a series of reforms will lead to more investment and—over time—a Mexican energy sector that more closely resembles that of Mexico’s amigos North of the Border. Today, we continue our look at the ongoing transformation of U.S.-Mexico hydrocarbon trade and what it may mean for energy companies on both sides of the Rio Grande.
In connection with third-quarter earnings announcements, North American exploration and production companies (E&Ps) continued to announce large reductions in 2015 and 2016 capital budgets. But the most dramatic news is that RBN’s analysis of a study group of 31 E&Ps fourth quarter forecasts indicates that oil and gas production is now expected to level off in the fourth quarter of 2015 and into 2016. Today we update our analysis of E&P capital spending and oil and gas production guidance.
Mexico’s energy relationship with the U.S. is undergoing radical changes as its oil production sags, its refineries produce too much high-sulfur fuel oil and too little gasoline and diesel, and its imports of U.S. natural gas and transportation fuels rise. Add to this already complicated story the Mexican government’s efforts to inject competition and private-sector participation into a national energy sector long-dominated by state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and that company’s plan to swap light U.S. crude for heavy Mexican oil. In today’s blog, “With A Little Help From My Friends—Mexico’s Oil Sector in a State of Flux,” Housley Carr begins a look at the ongoing transformation of U.S.-Mexico hydrocarbon trade and what it may mean for U.S. players—and Pemex.
Although many industry observers predicted draconian cuts to the credit lines of North American E&Ps during the fall borrowing base redeterminations by their lenders, the average reduction for 17 companies disclosing the results to date is just 4%. Today we describe how these results may indicate that significantly lower industry costs and less dramatic reductions in long-term commodity price forecasts could be partially offsetting the negative factors used to determine borrowing capacity under secured and unsecured credit lines.
With crude oil prices just over $40/bbl you might think producers would be reducing capex and cutting their 2015 production estimates. But not so. RBN’s analysis of second quarter guidance in 2015 indicates that 31 E&Ps as a group kept their capex outlook at about the same level as they indicated in Q1. And as a group they still expect oil and gas production in 2015 to increase versus last year. But there were significant differences between the peer groups we examined. The Small/Mid-Size Oil-Weighted E&Ps upped 2015 investment by $730 million versus Q1 and now expect 2015 production to be up 16% over last year versus the 13% increase expected last quarter. The Large Oil-Weighted E&Ps slashed capex by another $630 million, yet production is still expected to rise, in this case by 4% versus a 3% growth expectation last quarter. In contrast, capital spending and production guidance were little changed among the gas-weighted peer groups. Today we provide an update to our Q1 analysis of capital spending and production trends.
The E&Ps have cut Capex to the bone, but as a group they expect oil and gas production in 2015 to increase versus last year. That’s true from an overall perspective, and it is an important indicator of upcoming production trends. But the real revelations come when you dig into the details. In the oily sector, small and mid-size companies are making deeper cuts but are faring much better than the big boys. On the gassy side, E&Ps in Appalachia are knocking it out of the park, while more diversified gassy players are having a much harder time of it. Today we begin a blog series to drill deeper into the company numbers to see why and how these differences happen.
Last year was a banner year for the sand mining companies that cater to the U.S. shale drilling services industry. That’s because in 2014 well operators significantly increased the amount of sand used to complete fracturing operations in shale plays – from an average of about 5 MMlb for a single well to 15 MMlb (7,500 tons) or more.
Producer rates of return are far below where they were a few months back, and the Baker Hughes crude rig count is down 553 since November. A third of pre-crash crude rigs are now idled. That means that crude oil production will be falling soon, right? Not necessarily. There are a number of factors working to keep production up, not the least of which is the rapidly declining cost for drilling and completion services. Today we examine the impact of these factors, review RBN’s crude oil production scenarios and consider what it all means for the long-term relationships between prices, returns and production volumes.
Can it make sense for a producer to drill a well in today’s low price environment even if the rate of return on that well is below zero? Surprisingly the answer is yes, and the issue has important implications for the impact lower prices will ultimately have on U.S. oil and gas production volumes. Factors such as lease requirements can incentivize drilling and cause production levels to continue growing, even when spot prices don’t seem to support it. As the new economics of lower oil, NGL and natural gas prices suggest that production declines are just down the road, the market’s quest to nail down when and how much production will decline has brought the role of “hold by production” (HBP) drilling into the spotlight. Questions about HBP status and its role in producers drilling strategies have been a staple in the latest round of earnings calls.Today we take a closer look at HBP drilling.
If you work for a producer or oil field services company, you might have a bit of an issue with that title. But just for a moment, put your worries aside and consider the silver lining – huge improvements in our industry’s productivity over the last few years. Things are getting better and better. In fact that is part of the problem. Producers have just become too productive for their own good. We’ve seen the consequences of this kind of productivity improvement before, not in the energy industry, but in electronics. Moore’s law, remember? In today’s posting we’ll look at some of the evidence of huge productivity improvements, what it has meant for production volumes, and the implications for U.S. producers now facing many of the same issues that electronics companies have dealt with for decades.
In time honored RBN blogging tradition – we’ve been at this blogging business three years –we look back today at the 250 blogs posted this year to see which ones had the highest hit rates. The number of hits any blog gets tells you a lot about what is going on in the energy markets – which topics resonate with our members, and which don’t attract much attention. Last year the big hitter blogs came in about 17,000 hits. This year the big numbers are closer to 50,000. With that many folks paying attention these days it is even more important that we take a page out of the late Casey Kasem’s playbook to look at the top blogs of 2014 based on numbers of website hits.