Natural Gas

Wednesday, 09/19/2018

It’s no secret by now that Permian natural gas pipelines have been running near full the last few months, jam-packed like Southern California traffic while trying to whisk away copious volumes of mostly associated natural gas to markets north, south, west and east of the basin. Despite every major artery running near capacity this summer, Permian prices had so far managed to avoid falling below the dreaded $1.00/MMBtu threshold, a precipice that historically defines a gas producing basin as definitively oversupplied. That all changed yesterday, as word came in that Southern California Gas Company, one of the largest recipients of Permian gas, has nearly filled its gas storage caverns and will soon need far less gas hitting its borders. That’s particularly bad news for the Permian, which has few other options if it needs to reduce the supply that is currently flowing west out of the basin to California. A large unplanned outage for maintenance was also announced on one of the pipelines leaving the Permian and heading north to the Midcontinent. As a result, the SoCalGas news and maintenance combined to put a huge dent in Permian gas prices, some of which plunged as low as 50 cents in Wednesday’s trading. Today, we detail this most recent development and the implications for Permian gas takeaway.

Wednesday, 09/12/2018

For the first time in years, natural gas takeaway capacity constraints from the Marcellus/Utica producing region appear to be easing, even as production volumes from the area continue to record new highs. That’s allowed regional supply prices this year to strengthen dramatically relative to national benchmark Henry Hub. A closer look at pipeline flow data indicates these developments stem from shifting gas flows that coincide with the ramp-up of Energy Transfer Partners’ Rover Pipeline. In today’s blog, we continue our update of the Northeast gas market with the latest on Rover’s gas receipts, along with its effects on other regional takeaway capacity and price relationships.

Monday, 09/10/2018

Each of the “second wave” liquefaction/LNG export projects along the U.S. Gulf Coast now closing in on a Final Investment Decision (FID) believes it has an edge — that special something that will enable it to cross the finish line ahead of its competitors. Things like a prime location, access to an existing network of natural gas pipelines, lower capital costs, or going with smaller “midscale” liquefaction trains instead of traditional big ones. Some tout the experience and depth of their executive teams, while others claim that thinking outside the box is key. Time will soon tell which two or three (or four) projects advance to FID. Today, we continue our series on the next round of liquefaction/LNG export terminals “coming up” with a look at NextDecade’s plan for the Rio Grande LNG project in Brownsville, TX, which would export large volumes of Permian and Eagle Ford gas.

Wednesday, 09/05/2018

The Marcellus/Utica region is in the midst of a major turning point. Natural gas production from the region continues to post record highs. But regional basis differentials to Henry Hub are the strongest they’ve been at this time of year since 2013. Spot prices at Dominion South — the representative location for the overall Marcellus-Utica supply — averaged at a $0.35/MMBtu discount to Henry Hub this August, compared with a $1-plus discount to Henry in each of the past four years. The deep discounts in previous years reflected the inadequate takeaway capacity and the resulting pipeline constraints to get gas out of the region. Now, basis shifts suggest those constraints are easing somewhat — a trend that will redefine pricing relationships across the broader gas market. In today’s blog, we continue a series examining the changing flow and price dynamics in the Northeast gas market.

Tuesday, 09/04/2018

The race is on to be the first to reach a Final Investment Decision (FID) for the next round of U.S. liquefaction/LNG export terminals along the Gulf Coast. And like the Kentucky Derby, being first — or, at worst, second or third — is a do-or-die proposition, because only a very small number of these projects are likely to line up the multibillion-dollar commitments needed to push them over the FID line. The tried-and-true approach of LNG project financing has been to secure a stack of long-term Sales and Purchase Agreements (SPAs) from international LNG trading companies or huge overseas utilities, and that’s the tack being taken by Venture Global LNG, which is developing two projects near the Louisiana coast that, if built, would consume a total of nearly 4 Bcf/d of U.S. natural gas. Today, we continue our series on the next round of liquefaction/LNG export terminals “coming up” with a look at Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass and Plaquemines projects.

Tuesday, 08/28/2018

The U.S. Northeast’s reign on natural gas supply growth has factored heavily into broader U.S. gas supply-demand dynamics ever since the Marcellus/Utica shales burst onto the production scene. This year is no different. Lower-48 gas production in 2018 to date has averaged 8 Bcf/d higher year-on-year. Nearly 50% of that growth has come from the Northeast, and, what's more, the bulk of that incremental supply has flowed out of that region, flooding markets in neighboring areas. Now, the Marcellus/Utica is in the midst of yet another major inflection point. After years of perpetual pipeline constraints, pipeline utilization data indicates that some Northeast takeaway pipelines have a little bit of capacity to spare — a trend that has major implications for regional pricing relative to downstream markets. At the same time, more pipeline expansions are on the horizon that promise to bring on even more gas supply from Marcellus/Utica producers. (Just last Thursday, Energy Transfer’s Rover Pipeline was approved to begin service on two additional supply laterals — Majorsville and Burgettstown — and Williams’s Atlantic Sunrise expansion of Transco Pipeline is due for completion within weeks.) What does this new reality look like and what does it mean for the broader U.S. gas market? Today, we begin a short series providing our latest analysis of the Northeast gas market, starting with how it fits into the current U.S. supply-demand picture.

Thursday, 08/23/2018

Florida’s increasing demand for natural gas for power generation isn’t new, but like a young alligator in the Everglades, its appetite is voracious and growing. More and more gas-fired power plants have been coming online, increasing gas demand and spurring the development of new gas pipeline capacity into the state. And, because of big shifts in where gas is being produced and where it’s flowing, the Sunshine State will soon be receiving an increasing share of its gas needs from the Marcellus region. Today, we begin a two-part look at how rising generation-sector demand for gas and a new pipeline are changing gas-flow dynamics in the U.S. Southeast.

Tuesday, 08/21/2018

With global demand for LNG rising and U.S. natural gas producers needing markets for their burgeoning output, it’s not a question of whether another round of U.S. liquefaction/LNG export facilities will be built, but which developer will be first and when it will make its final investment decision (FID). Odds are that the initial FID for this “next round” of projects is only months away, but as for the specific developer and project that will lead the pack, that has yet to be determined. We do know, however, that a handful of projects appear to be making real progress, and today we consider one of them: Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG project near Lake Charles, LA.

Sunday, 08/19/2018

Natural gas production volumes from the Haynesville Shale have raced up over the past 18 months or so, from about 5.3 Bcf/d in December 2016 to more than 8 Bcf/d now. In fact, volumes are now just 1 Bcf/d or so shy of the all-time peak of 9.5 Bcf/d in January 2012. Despite the gains, there’s been a cloud of skepticism hanging over the play’s longer-term growth prospects — most of the recent gains have come from a relatively small footprint in the play’s western Louisiana sweet spot, and many of the surrounding areas are fraught with geological challenges, such as high water and clay content. But now the Haynesville story is changing once again, with a shift in rigs to the Texas side. How does this shift affect Haynesville’s growth prospects? Today, we provide an update of our view of the Haynesville Shale.

Tuesday, 08/14/2018

A perfect storm of hot weather, transportation constraints and limits on storage use recently sent natural gas prices in Southern California surging to the highest levels seen in that market going back to at least 2007. Spot prices at the SoCal Citygate hub averaged close to $40/MMBtu in late July and were again up over $20/MMBtu last week, levels that were several times higher than the national benchmark Henry Hub — and, for that matter, every other U.S. market hub — on the same day. Prices since then have retreated, but the whipsawing price action raises questions about what’s in store for SoCal this coming winter. Today, we analyze the factors behind the recent record prices and prospects for continued volatility at SoCal.

Sunday, 08/05/2018

Constructing greenfield pipelines is never easy — just ask any midstream developer you know — but building them across the breadth of Texas comes with its own unique challenges. There’s distance, for starters, and today’s massive associated gas growth in the Permian Basin is occurring more than 400 miles from the closest demand along the Gulf Coast. That makes the pipelines relatively expensive at somewhere near $2 billion a copy. Integrating Permian supply with Gulf Coast demand also requires a big network of pipelines along the coast, as the demand is spread out from Louisiana to Mexico. Few midstream companies have such a network. Kinder Morgan does, one reason why, in our view, the Gulf Coast Express project was the first — and to-date the only — greenfield project from the Permian to proceed with a final investment decision. In the race to be the next Permian natural gas relief valve pipeline, the same hurdles will have to be overcome. On Friday, news came that a group of four companies is planning the Whistler Pipeline, and a closer look at the project reveals it may be capable of meeting the challenges needed to make it a serious player in the Permian pipeline race. Today, we look at the details of the latest Permian natural gas pipeline project.

Thursday, 08/02/2018

A big push is on to mitigate and ultimately fix the Permian’s natural gas takeaway constraints, which in recent months have widened the price spread between gas at Waha and at Henry Hub to levels not seen in years. Despite the efforts to quickly add incremental capacity to existing pipelines and build greenfield pipes, however, the momentum behind Permian crude production growth — and, with it, the production of more associated gas — make a months-long blowout in the Waha basis in 2019 a good bet.  Questions about the degree and duration of that basis pain and the amount of new pipeline capacity that will be needed (and how soon) can only be answered by taking a detailed look at what’s been happening and what’s being planned. Today, we discuss highlights from our new 24-page report on Permian gas takeaway constraints and their effects.

Sunday, 07/29/2018

Federal regulators are preparing to accelerate their review of a wave of applications to build new liquefaction plants and LNG export terminals — most of them sited along the Gulf Coast and scheduled for commercial start-up in the early 2020s. Only a few of the multibillion-dollar projects are likely to advance to final investment decisions (FID), construction and operation, but even they will have profound impacts on U.S. natural gas production, pipeline flows, and the global LNG market. Today, we begin a look at projects still awaiting FIDs, their developers’ efforts to line up Sales and Purchase Agreements (SPAs), and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) push to review project applications in a timely manner. Warning: this blog includes a few ever-so-subtle promotions for RBN’s new LNG Voyager Report.

Wednesday, 07/25/2018

After idling near the 4.6-Bcf/d level for months, piped gas flows to Mexico raced to a record of more than 5 Bcf/d for the first time earlier in July, and have hung on to that level since. This new export volume signifies incremental demand for the U.S. gas market at a time when the domestic storage inventory is already approaching the five-year low. At the same time, it would also signify some much-needed relief for Permian producers hoping to avert disastrous takeaway constraints — that is, if the export growth is happening where it’s needed the most, from West Texas. However, that’s not exactly the case. What’s behind the sudden increase, where is it happening and what are the prospects for continued growth near-term? Today, we analyze the recent trends in exports to Mexico.

Sunday, 07/22/2018

Permian producers continue to walk a tightrope, almost perfectly balanced between still-rising production of natural gas and the availability of gas pipeline takeaway capacity to transport that gas to market. Don’t get us wrong. There are gas takeaway constraints out of the Permian, as evidenced by a Waha cash basis that averaged more than 50 cents/MMBtu last week. But a combination of factors — including increased flows to Mexico and a couple of small, under-the-radar expansions of existing takeaway pipes — has prevented the Waha basis from tumbling to $1 or even $2/MMBtu. But that big fall may still happen — in fact, you could say that odds are that severe takeaway constraints and differential blowouts will occur within the next few months. If and when that happens, what can producers do to quickly regain their balance? Today, we discuss recent developments in Permian gas markets and the options that producers, gas processors and midstream companies may need to consider if things get really tight.