Natural Gas

Tuesday, 06/19/2018

Permian natural gas production increased by about 10% in the winter of 2017-18, from about 7.1 Bcf/d to 7.8 Bcf/d, but all spring it’s remained relatively flat, never averaging more than an even 8 Bcf/d. There’s good reason for that. While at first glance it might seem as if there’s enough pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian to accommodate considerably more production growth, the big pipes from the Waha Hub to Mexico are transporting far less than they’re capable of because of delays in developing new pipes and gas-fired power plants on the Mexican side of the border. And pipes from the Permian to California are running less than full, in part because of that state’s hard tilt to renewable power. That’s left the Permian with a takeaway conundrum that may not be fully solvable — at least for a time — until new, greenfield pipeline capacity from West Texas to the Gulf Coast comes online in 15 to 18 months. Today, we discuss the options that producers, gas processors and midstream companies may need to consider if things get really tight.

Wednesday, 06/13/2018

Natural gas producers in Western Canada, with their share of U.S. and Eastern Canadian markets threatened by competition from producers in the Marcellus/Utica and other shale plays south of the international border, for years have seen prospective LNG exports to Asian markets as a panacea. But efforts to develop liquefaction “trains” and export terminals in British Columbia failed to advance earlier this decade — for starters, their economics weren’t nearly as favorable as those for U.S. projects like Sabine Pass LNG. Then, by 2016-17, global markets were awash in LNG as new Australian and U.S. liquefaction trains came online, and the BC LNG projects still alive were either delayed further or scrapped. Now, with LNG demand on the upswing and the need for additional LNG capacity in the early-to-mid 2020s apparent, the co-developers of LNG Canada — Shell, PetroChina, Korea Gas and Mitsubishi — have attracted a new and significant investor: Petronas, Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company and owner of Progress Energy Canada, which has vast gas reserves in Western Canada. Today, we continue our review of efforts to send natural gas and crude oil to Asian markets with a fresh look at the LNG project and TransCanada’s planned Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will deliver gas to it.

Tuesday, 06/12/2018

Mexico has been slowly increasing import volumes of natural gas from the U.S., utilizing spare capacity in the newest pipelines south of the border that access supply from the Permian Basin’s Waha Hub. The recent increases have been muted somewhat by delays in completing other infrastructure inside of Mexico, but one of those big delays is about to be resolved. TransCanada’s long-awaited El Encino-Topolobampo Pipeline is finally nearing completion, and once it’s online there may be a surprisingly big gain in gas export volumes to Mexico. As most of this gas will be supplied directly from Waha, Mexico’s impact on Permian gas balances is likely to jump materially in the weeks ahead. Today, we examine the latest development in Mexico’s natural gas pipeline buildout and its effects north of the border.

Sunday, 06/10/2018

On June 1, Energy Transfer Partners’ new Rover Pipeline began service on its market segment from northwestern Ohio into southern Michigan, effectively sending nearly 800 MMcf/d of Marcellus/Utica gas production to Vector Pipeline and its northern destinations in Michigan, and, by extension, to the Dawn Hub. This latest in-service has already shuffled flows in the region and pushed back on other supplies targeting the same markets, including Canadian gas imports. And that’s even before the project has achieved its full expected capacity of 3.25 Bcf/d. Today, we analyze the early effects of Rover’s first flows to the Michigan/Dawn markets via Vector.

Monday, 06/04/2018

Three years ago, U.S. Lower-48 LNG exports were zero. Today that number is above 3.0 Bcf/d. Three years from now, U.S. exports will make up about 20% of the global LNG trade. Perhaps even more momentous, LNG exports will equal 10% of U.S. gas demand. That’s more than deliveries to the entire residential and commercial market sectors during the six summer/shoulder months each year. All of which means that U.S. LNG exports are quickly becoming a much more important factor in both domestic and international markets. The U.S. gas market is no longer an island. In fact, the long-awaited integration of the U.S. into global gas markets is upon us, with significant implications for infrastructure utilization, trade flows and of course, price. To make sense of these new market realities, it is necessary to assess the gas value chain from U.S. wellhead to global destination — in effect, to follow the molecule from the point of production, through pipeline transportation to liquefaction and export, and from the dock to destination markets. That’s exactly what we will do in the blog series we are kicking off today.

Sunday, 06/03/2018

Gas producers in the Permian are facing the prospect of severe transportation constraints over the next year or so before additional gas takeaway capacity comes online. Left unchecked, continued production growth could send gas at Waha spiraling to devastatingly low prices for producers. However, there are a number of ways producers and other industry stakeholders could mitigate the growing supply congestion in West Texas, at least in part, and possibly dodge the proverbial bullet. The longer-term solution will come in the form of new pipeline capacity, which will shift vast amounts of Permian gas east to the Gulf Coast and potentially create a new problem — supply congestion and price weakness along the Gulf Coast, at least until sufficient export capacity is built there to absorb the excess gas. Today, we wrap up our Permian gas blog series, with our analysis of how these events will unfold, including an outlook for Waha basis.

Monday, 05/28/2018

Natural gas supply growth from the Permian Basin has flooded the Texas market in recent months, filling up takeaway pipelines and sending Waha spot prices to steep discounts relative to its downstream markets. Incremental demand — from exports to Mexico for gas-fired power generation as well as for power demand in Texas — has provided some relief for West Texas prices in recent weeks. But Texas power demand is seasonal and, while Waha’s exports to Mexico are expected to continue growing, it’s likely to be on a piecemeal basis. Thus, longer term, new Permian takeaway capacity will be needed to balance the Waha market. To that end, there are a bevy of takeaway projects vying to expand capacity from the Permian. These projects — their timing and routes — will drive the Texas gas flows and pricing relationships over the next several years. Today, we continue our series on Permian gas, this time delving into the various takeaway capacity projects competing to move Permian supply to market.

Wednesday, 05/23/2018

With natural gas production growth outpacing gas-demand growth in both the U.S. and Canada, gas producers in both countries are engaged in an increasingly fierce and costly fight for market share. Until recently, there were only skirmishes. For instance, when burgeoning Marcellus/Utica shale gas supplies lowered Northeast destination prices, TransCanada cut transportation rates on its mainline to help Western Canadian suppliers compete. When Northeast supply eventually exceeded Northeast demand on an annual basis, Canadian producers and shippers redirected more gas exports to the Midwest and West markets. But now, supply congestion on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border is worsening in every border region, to the point where options to maneuver into alternative markets are shrinking. This is war, folks — competition for U.S. gas market share between Canadian and U.S. producers is about to get much stiffer and the price discounts much deeper — deep enough to eventually price some production basins out of the market. Today, we discuss highlights from RBN’s new Drill Down Report on the subject.

Monday, 05/14/2018

Natural gas production in the Permian has increased by about 1 Bcf/d since last November to about 8 Bcf/d today. That incremental gas production has used up virtually all of the remaining interstate and intrastate pipeline capacity out of the region, including the all-important pipes that move gas to the Houston area and East Texas. There’s considerable takeaway capacity still available on pipes from the Waha Hub to the Mexican border, but they can’t fill up until connecting pipelines and new gas-fired power plants are completed within Mexico. Permian supply is coming on faster than takeaway pipelines and demand can’t handle it. Something’s got to give. But what? Today, we continue a series on Permian gas with a look at the effects of Permian and Gulf Coast gas supply growth on Texas gas flows and pricing.

Wednesday, 05/09/2018

The basis blowout at the Waha Hub in the Permian Basin arrived in full force over the last few weeks, with natural gas prices reaching discounts to the Henry Hub not witnessed since 2009. Available takeaway capacity has been quickly eroding on the existing pipeline corridors out of the basin, leaving many in the market pondering where all the incremental gas production will go before a new greenfield expansion pipe relieves the market in late 2019. Last week, a partial answer came in the form of a pipeline expansion project by Enterprise Products Partners and Energy Transfer Partners slated for completion later this year. While the project’s estimated size is far too small to preclude additional greenfield pipelines beyond 2019, it does highlight the attractive economics of brownfield expansions on the Texas intrastate pipelines at Waha. Today, we analyze announced and possible intrastate pipeline projects around Waha.

Sunday, 05/06/2018

Production of crude oil and associated gas in the Permian continues to rise, despite pipeline takeaway constraints that have widened crude spreads and depressed natural gas prices at the Waha Hub. But while oil can be — and is being — transported by trucks and railroads when crude pipelines are full, natural gas needs to be either piped away or flared, and Permian gas production is now approaching the effective maximum takeaway capacity out of the basin. While a slew of new projects have been announced to relieve the Permian gas takeaway problem, the new capacity won’t arrive soon enough to keep Permian production from hitting the takeaway-capacity wall sometime in 2019.  Today, we begin a series examining Permian production trends and their implications for pipeline flows and pricing in Texas.

Wednesday, 05/02/2018

The U.S. gas market in April — the first month of the official storage injection season — was anything but typical. Production was at record highs, nearly 8.0 Bcf/d higher than last year. At the same time, weather in April was exceptionally cold, which meant storage activity remained in withdrawal mode on a net U.S. basis through the first three weeks of the month — a first for the April gas market going back at least eight years. That anomaly, in turn, led to an expanding deficit in storage compared to previous years, deferring the inevitable — shoulder season weather and supply surpluses — for another month. But now, in May, with the cold-weather effects on gas demand fading and record production levels here to stay, the market is bracing for a storage tsunami. The question is, will it be enough to erase the massive inventory deficit compared to recent years? Today, we update our analysis of the gas market balance and implications for the 2018 injection season.

Monday, 04/30/2018

For years, the U.S. Midwest has been a perennial net exporter of natural gas to Eastern Canada. But with Marcellus/Utica and Canadian gas supplies barraging the region, that’s changing. Less Midwest gas is flowing across the border into Ontario. At the same time, Canadian gas supply that used to serve U.S. Northeast demand is being displaced to the Midwest. That’s on top of Marcellus/Utica gas that’s physically moving to the Midwest via new capacity on the Rockies Express and Rover pipelines. The result is that the Midwest’s net exports to Canada are declining and even flipping into net imports during some summer months when the market is in storage injection mode. Thus far, this reshuffling of supply has occurred at the expense of Gulf and Midcontinent gas that historically has served the Midwest. But now there’s little of that left to displace from the Midwest, even as still more supply is expected to move there. Canadian producers are banking on capturing more of the Midwest market, as are Northeast producers via expansions like Rover’s Phase II and NEXUS. In other words, there’s a fierce battle brewing for Midwest market share. Today, we look at flow dynamics and factors affecting Canadian gas flows to the U.S. Midwest.

Thursday, 04/26/2018

Imported liquefied natural gas from the U.S. is helping Mexico address major challenges facing its gas sector. For one, LNG shipments from the Sabine Pass export terminal in Louisiana to Mexico’s three LNG import facilities have been filling a gas-supply gap created by delays in the country’s build-out of new pipelines to receive gas from the Permian, the Eagle Ford and other U.S. sources. Imported LNG also is playing — and will continue to play — a key role in balancing daily gas needs within Mexico, which has virtually no gas storage capacity but is planning to develop some. Today, we consider recent developments in gas pipeline capacity, gas supply, LNG imports and gas storage south of the border.

Tuesday, 04/24/2018

This past winter’s gas price spikes shined a bright light on the changing dynamics driving Eastern U.S. natural gas markets, especially the growth in gas-fired generation that is contributing to more frequent — and more severe — spikes in gas prices in the region on very cold days. There are other changes too. For one, gas is increasingly flowing from the Northeast to the Southeast as prodigious Marcellus/Utica production growth is pulled into higher-priced, higher-demand growth markets. In today’s blog, we conclude our series on ever-morphing gas markets on the U.S.’s “Right Coast” by examining how gas pipeline flows back East have changed on days besides the winter peaks, how much demand could be unlocked by forthcoming pipeline projects, and what that new demand will mean for flow and price patterns.