Natural Gas

Monday, 10/05/2015

Crude oil producers in the Bakken region responded to the oil price collapse with drilling cutbacks and a laser-like focus on sweet-spot areas with high initial production rates. It turns out those oil sweet spots also produce a lot of associated natural gas. But there’s not enough infrastructure in place to deal with the extra gas, and that’s slowing North Dakota’s efforts to reduce flaring (burning gas that can’t be utilized for various reasons). Today, we consider the multiple, domino-like effects that low oil prices are having on one of the U.S.’s most important tight oil plays.

Monday, 09/21/2015

U.S. Lower 48 natural gas production is averaging a record 74.2 Bcf/d in September to date, according to PointLogic Energy. Meanwhile, CME’s Henry Hub natural gas futures contract has languished at an average of $2.68/MMBtu this month to date, the lowest for any September since 2001. Much of the recent gain in natural gas production has come from  new Utica Shale output.  In today’s blog, we drill down into the region’s pipeline flow data to see where exactly the growth is coming from, what’s driving it and what it could mean for natural gas supply.

Monday, 09/14/2015

Only a few months ago, it seemed likely that Hawaii’s electric and gas utilities would wean themselves off crude oil and naphtha-based gas in favor of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Now though, with oil prices low—and expected by many to stay low—the Aloha State’s governor says that he thinks the planned shift to LNG would be too costly and that he’ll fight it. The utilities still see LNG as the way to go, pointing to falling LNG prices and natural gas’s environmental benefits over oil. Today, we consider how lower prices for crude oil and LNG are affecting the debate about Hawaii’s energy future.

Thursday, 09/10/2015

U.S. natural gas production has been essentially flat this summer as many producers curtailed, deferred or delayed drilling and well completions earlier in the year. However, some of the same producers, particularly in the Northeast, in their most recent earnings calls, indicated they expect to meet their 2015 production targets by increasing output this winter. In today’s blog, we look at how and why producers defer production and the potential impacts on the market in Q4.

Wednesday, 09/09/2015

Natural gas has always had a yin-yang relationship with coal. When coal’s fortunes were on the rise, as they were only a few years ago, the long-term role of gas as a U.S. power plant fuel was being questioned—there simply wasn’t enough gas in the ground, some said. Now, with the shale revolution and a push to slash greenhouse gas emissions, coal is frequently portrayed in a death spiral, with gas the clear victor. But it is not that simple. Today, we examine the ongoing interplay between the electric industry’s two favorite fossil fuels, and whether coal is heading out or hanging on—and what it means for natural gas producers.

Thursday, 09/03/2015

Projected growth in U.S. methanol production was based in large part on the expectation that domestic natural gas prices would remain significantly lower (on a per-MMBtu basis) than the price of crude oil, and that Asian demand for U.S.-sourced methanol would continue rising at a fast clip. Today both of those assumptions look dicey.  Natural gas prices remain low, but crude prices have languished below $50/Bbl for most of the past two months, and there are worries that China (by far the world’s largest methanol consumer) may be an economic bubble about to burst. Today, we consider recent developments that could slow the long-anticipated growth in natural gas use by U.S. methanol producers.

Sunday, 08/30/2015

The U.S. natural gas market has been dogged all summer by uncertainty on both sides of the supply-demand equation and a looming threat of storage constraints and supply congestion by the end of the gas storage injection season. But production volumes have flattened and demand has responded at record levels taking some of the edge off the bearish sentiment. Cash and futures prices at U.S. benchmark Henry Hub in Louisiana have traded in a remarkably tight 60-cent range all summer and averaged $2.75/MMBtu season to date, indicating the market has found an equilibrium. However with just two months of the natural gas summer season left and the hottest, highest-demand months behind us, the price stalemate may come under pressure, with more downside risk in the near-term. In today’s blog, we revisit where the supply-demand balance stands and what it tells us about where the gas market is headed in the near term.

Sunday, 08/23/2015

As natural gas production growth in the U.S. has shifted from the Gulf Coast region to the Northeast’s   Marcellus and Utica shale, some have suggested that time may have passed by Louisiana’s Henry Hub as the national benchmark for all U.S. gas prices, and have questioned whether it can maintain its position as the third largest physical commodity futures contract in the world.   Should Henry be replaced by some pricing point in Appalachia?  Is Henry really in trouble?  In today’s blog, we continue our series looking at what makes Henry Hub tick with a closer look at the implications of changing physical and futures volumes at the hub.

Sunday, 08/16/2015

Few factors will have a greater effect on future U.S. natural gas production—or gas pricing—than the degree to which U.S. LNG exporters are successful in penetrating Asian, European and other markets. The dozen liquefaction/LNG export facilities now under construction along the Gulf and East coasts could demand up to 7 Bcf/d, or about one-tenth of current U.S. production. It’s possible, though, that demand could be far less if U.S. LNG can’t compete successfully, or several Bcf/d higher if exporter success leads to development of additional projects. Today, we review our latest Drill Down Report on the international LNG market and how U.S. exporters may fare.

Tuesday, 08/11/2015

The Henry Hub, LA physical interconnect at the center of North American natural gas pricing is about to go through big changes with the in-service of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals as soon as the end of 2015 and growing industrial demand in the Gulf Coast region. These changes are also likely to impact the CME/NYMEX futures contract that is based on delivery at Henry.  To understand how the demand growth nearby will impact Henry Hub cash and futures markets, we must first understand what really goes on physically at Henry. In today’s blog, we dive into the workings of the physical Henry spot market.

Tuesday, 08/04/2015

The site of Cheniere Energy’s new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal in Corpus Christi is only a short drive from the heart of the Eagle Ford. But for supply diversity’s sake, Cheniere won’t depend only on Eagle Ford gas for supply—far from it, in fact. Plans are in the works to enable Corpus Christi LNG’s five planned liquefaction “trains” to access gas from a wide variety of shale plays and basins, in some cases moving gas long-distance. Today, we continue our look at the challenges of securing and moving huge volumes of gas to LNG export terminals, the emerging epicenters of U.S. gas demand.

Sunday, 08/02/2015

Tallgrass Energy’s Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) opened the floodgates for Marcellus/Utica producers this Saturday, August 1, bringing online its Zone 3 East-to-West (E2W) expansion capacity. The expansion tripled westbound design capacity to a full 1.8 Bcf/d from the Marcellus/Utica producing region to delivery points in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Potentially this additional takeaway capacity eases supply congestion in the Northeast and will support beleaguered Marcellus/Utica pricing points. As REX touches nearly every part of the US gas market, the expansion can ultimately be expected to reconfigure gas flows and price relationships across multiple regions as it comes online. Today we review the changes and how quickly they are likely to impact the market.

Wednesday, 07/29/2015

The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures contract turns 25 years old this year. The contract is now the third largest physical commodity futures market in the world. The price of virtually every Btu of gas sold in North America is linked in some way to the underlying physical hub at Henry. But over the past five years shale gas has revolutionized North American supply and changed the shape of delivery patterns. These trends have altered the flow of physical gas through Henry Hub and could jeapordize the success of the futures contract. Today we look at  why Henry Hub has been so successful.

Monday, 07/27/2015

How the international market for liquefied natural gas (LNG) expands and evolves is of critical importance to U.S. and Canadian natural gas producers and midstream companies alike. The success of North American-sourced gas in penetrating LNG demand centers--Asia and Europe in particular—will help determine not only how much gas needs to be produced, but how much incremental pipeline and liquefaction/LNG export capacity needs to be developed, and how much upward pressure there will be on U.S. and Canadian natural gas prices. There is a lot of uncertainty about how things will shake out. Today, we conclude our series with an assessment of what we know, what we aren’t sure about, and what we think we’re likely to see happen.

Wednesday, 07/22/2015

The Henry Hub in Louisiana is the best known natural gas trading location in the world. There is certainly no more liquid point in the industry. An average of 350,000 Henry Hub natural gas futures contracts trade on the CME/NYMEX each day. The Henry price is used to compute locational ‘basis’ at all other natural gas trading points in North America and thus is the reference price for tens-of-thousands of derivative instruments and other commercial contracts. But the U.S. natural gas industry is changing rapidly. Henry started out as a supply market hub but a natural gas demand renaissance in and around Louisiana is transforming it into a demand market hub. How will this impact Henry and can/will it endure as the national benchmark price? Today, we begin an in-depth series looking at Henry Hub, starting with its origins.