Natural Gas

Tuesday, 06/02/2020

Natural gas prices in the U.S. were under pressure for many years, long before the COVID crisis gripped the world and threw energy markets into flux. Shale gas production, from both crude- and gas-focused basins, has driven U.S. output to incredible levels over the last 10 years. That growth has led to persistently low U.S. gas prices across the Lower 48, with the benchmark Henry Hub being no exception. The upshot of low gas prices has been steadily increasing demand, both in the domestic market and for exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to various markets around the globe. Until recently, those international markets had often been viewed as an insatiable demand sink, but reality has set in over the past year. Prices in Europe, one of the most popular destinations for U.S. LNG, have crashed below Henry Hub, and are threatening the once-steady flow of LNG. Market participants in the U.S. and Europe now find themselves poring over the fundamental details of both markets to determine how long the price weakness will last, or if it will only get worse from here. Today, we look at the increasingly interconnected gas markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

Sunday, 05/31/2020

U.S. Northeast natural gas producers may be on the other side of a years-long battle with perpetual pipeline constraints and oversupply conditions. But they’re now facing new challenges to supply growth, at least in the near-term, from low crude oil and gas prices and the decline of a major downstream consumer of Appalachian gas supplies: LNG exports along the Gulf Coast. Most of the U.S. well shut-ins since the recent oil price collapse are concentrated in oil-focused shale plays, and gas volumes associated with those wells will be the hardest hit. However, a number of gas-focused Marcellus/Utica producers also have announced or escalated supply curtailments in recent weeks, as they wait for associated gas declines to buoy prices enough to support drilling. The pullback has had immediate effects on the region’s production volumes and supply-demand balance. Today, we provide an update on the latest Appalachia gas supply trends using daily gas pipeline flow data.

Tuesday, 05/26/2020

Progress for the second wave of U.S. LNG export projects, which already had begun slowing in the latter half of 2019, has come to a near standstill this year, with several developers delaying final investment decisions (FIDs). The economics for U.S. LNG exports have evaporated in recent weeks, and for the first time in the four years or so since the Lower 48 began exporting LNG, cargo cancellations have become a regular part of the U.S. gas market’s vernacular. International prices are signaling that oversupply conditions will linger for a while, likely well after COVID’s impacts on demand ease. Nevertheless, projects that are already under construction are pushing forward, including the last of the first-wave expansions and two facilities from the second wave of proposed projects. There’s also one more second-wave development that could take FID this year. Today, we provide highlights from RBN’s latest LNG Voyager Quarterly report.

Monday, 05/18/2020

Cancellations of U.S. LNG cargoes are starting to take a toll on Lower-48 natural gas demand. Feedgas flows to U.S. terminals last week fell to as low as 5.76 Bcf/d, down from the daily peaks above 9 Bcf/d seen as recently as April and the lowest since October 2019. While some of the slowdown may be attributable to domestic outages or maintenance on feeder pipes — or short-lived marine channel weather conditions — the bulk of it is a precursor to the first big round of cancellations by offtakers for June delivery. This, as COVID-related demand destruction and the resulting supply glut in the past month have collapsed what already were weak economics for exporting U.S. LNG to Europe and Asia, wiping out offtakers’ margins for delivery into those markets. Nevertheless, many cargoes will continue to move. What drives offtakers’ decision of whether to lift or cancel cargoes? Today, we wrap up a short series looking at the market and logistical dynamics forcing cancellations, as well as some of the mitigating factors that could prop up cargo liftings more than you’d expect in the current environment.

Wednesday, 05/13/2020

The collapse in crude oil prices that resulted from the Saudi-Russian price war in March — made only worse by the oil demand-depressing effects of COVID-19-related shelter-in-place orders — has begun to exact a toll on U.S. crude supplies. The Bakken, America’s #3 oil-producing basin, is a prime example of how quickly the price downturn has begun to negatively affect oil supplies as uneconomic wells there have been shut in and oil-focused drilling has ground to a near standstill. The spillover effects on the Bakken’s associated gas supplies have been just as dramatic with a sharp reduction seen since April as oil well shut-ins began to accelerate. The decline in these natural gas and NGL supplies to date provides a stark example of how quickly gas balances may be shifting in the region and may also be creating an opening for long-suffering Canadian gas exports. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at how Bakken oil supply declines are beginning to impact its gas supplies.

Tuesday, 05/12/2020

Global natural gas demand disruptions and high storage levels resulting from the COVID crisis have turned international LNG markets upside down. Price spreads for U.S. LNG exports, which were well above $1/MMBtu two months ago, have disappeared and even flipped to negative, with the UK NBP and Dutch TTF price benchmarks — and briefly also Asia’s JKM index — trading below the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub for the first time since the U.S. began exporting LNG in early 2016. Despite the uneconomic price spreads, U.S. cargo liftings have slowed only modestly so far. That’s likely to change in the coming months as both Cheniere Energy and Sempra have confirmed cancellations or modifications to lifting schedules by some offtakers, and other terminal operators are likely facing the same pressure. However, many U.S. cargoes will still move, regardless of prices. What are the economics of cancelling versus lifting a seemingly out-of-the-money cargo? Today, we begin a short series examining the factors affecting U.S. LNG cargo liftings.

Tuesday, 05/05/2020

The initial start-up of Cheniere Energy’s Midship Pipeline two weeks ago occurred in a radically different market environment than when the project was conceived. As the first greenfield, large-diameter natural gas pipeline project out of the SCOOP/STACK in years, it was meant to provide relief for the once takeaway-constrained producers in the Central Oklahoma production region and connect what was until the past year a rapidly growing supply region to emerging LNG export demand along the Gulf Coast, including at Cheniere’s own Corpus Christi, TX, terminal. Instead, SCOOP/STACK production hit the skids last fall, and rig counts since then have plunged to the lowest levels in well over a decade. On the delivery end of the pipe, U.S. LNG export demand is being challenged by a global gas glut and disappearing margins to international markets. Still, the Midship project’s initial capacity of 1.1 Bcf/d is more than 80% subscribed by firm shippers, and the new pipeline is slated to provide some of the most economic routes out of the SCOOP/STACK. Today, we provide an update on the project’s start-up and the changed market environment it’s facing.

Thursday, 04/30/2020

Significantly reduced demand for crude oil by refineries is spurring production cuts in Alberta’s oil sands, and that could lead to a major decline in demand for Western Canadian natural gas. The oil sands are the single largest consumer of natural gas in Canada, accounting for more than half of the gas used in Alberta year-round and up to 37% of the gas used nationwide. With that kind of clout, anything that affects gas consumption in the oil sands is bound to have an outsized impact on the Alberta and overall Canadian natural gas markets. Today, we conclude our series on the effects of COVID-related disruptions on the Canadian natural gas market.

Monday, 04/27/2020

The market’s spotlight in recent days has been on negative prices for both Permian crude oil and natural gas, but in the shadows a powerful rally has taken place in the forward market for Permian gas at the Waha hub.  Much of this month’s price weakness for gas in West Texas has been driven by pipeline maintenance. But the Waha forward curve indicates market expectations for higher prices in May, and the possibility of a summer in which Permian gas prices could be some of the strongest on a consistent basis since negative pricing first appeared in the basin back in 2018. Today, we dive into the drivers behind the rise in forward Permian gas prices.

Thursday, 04/16/2020

Despite the pandemic-driven economic slowdown wreaking havoc on the global LNG market, U.S. LNG export volumes from operating terminals have proven resilient, so far. Total feedgas deliveries to the liquefaction and export facilities peaked at 9.44 Bcf/d less than a month ago and are averaging about 8.3 Bcf/d in April to date. But for many of the already-struggling second wave of U.S. liquefaction projects still under development, the one-two punch of the crude oil price crash and COVID-related lockdowns has further stymied — or in some cases even reversed — their progress toward securing long-term capacity commitments and reaching final investment decisions anytime soon. Today, we provide an update on the status of the next round of prospective LNG export projects.

Monday, 04/13/2020

The Canadian natural gas market has exited the most recent heating season in reasonable shape. Storage withdrawals were below average thanks to mild winter temperatures, but overall storage levels at the end of the season were not too far out of line with the five-year average thanks to below-average storage levels in the west more than offsetting above-average storage levels in the east. However, Canadian gas storage may be facing a most unusual test this coming summer as storage injection activity will be influenced by reduced gas demand in the U.S. due to COVID-19 disruptions, as well as the potential for similar pandemic-driven weakness in homegrown demand, especially in Alberta’s gas-intensive oil sands. How the various pushes and pulls on gas flows play out this summer could very well determine if Canadian gas storage might test capacity limits this injection season. Today, we consider this possibility.

Wednesday, 04/08/2020

The U.S. natural gas market has been on edge as it awaits more clarity on the extent of the demand destruction that could transpire, both from COVID-related commercial and industrial closures and potential disruptions to U.S. LNG export activity from demand losses downstream, particularly in Europe and Asia. The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub prompt contract last week set at all-time lows for April trading — twice — before gaining ground again this week as forecasts turned decidedly more bullish for April. But the market remains under pressure, as it heads into the storage injection season with an inventory that’s well above the year-ago and five-year average levels. With the economic slowdown likely persisting, in the U.S. and globally, in the coming weeks and months, the question is, could potential demand loss send the inventory barreling toward record-high, or even capacity-testing, levels by this fall? How much demand loss would it take for that to happen? Today, we assess the potential impacts of domestic demand loss and possible LNG cargo cancellations on the U.S. gas market.

Monday, 03/30/2020

While the crude oil market meltdown has taken center stage in recent weeks, and for good reason, the natural gas market is bracing for its own fallout. The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub April futures price, which was already at a multi-year low, buckled last week, falling to as low as $1.602/MMBtu on March 23, and expired Friday at $1.634/MMBtu, the lowest April expiration settle since 1995. On its first day in prompt position, the May futures contract yesterday eked out a late-day, 1.9-cent gain that brought it back up near $1.70/MMBtu as traders continued weighing competing market factors. Gas futures earlier in March were initially buoyed by the assumption that the low oil-price environment would slow associated gas production — and it will, eventually. But that initial bullish sentiment was quickly usurped by the more immediate effects of demand losses resulting from the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19, as well as from mild weather. Today, we look at how these developments are shaping gas supply-demand fundamentals heading into the gas storage injection season.

Sunday, 03/15/2020

The natural gas market dynamics that were expected to turn gas flow patterns and price relationships in the Eastern U.S. on their heads and, in turn, transform supply-demand dynamics in Louisiana — including around the U.S. price benchmark Henry Hub — have come to fruition. LNG exports have surged as new liquefaction and export terminals have come online, injecting a new demand source along the Louisiana coastline. Producers have lined up to serve that demand. And midstreamers have worked to get the gas there, reversing and expanding existing northbound pipelines to move gas south into and through the Bayou State. Now, Louisiana’s gas market is nearing a critical juncture: the pipelines that connect the supply gateways in northern Louisiana to the demand centers along the Gulf Coast are nearing saturation. Today, we begin a series providing an update on Louisiana’s gas pipeline constraints and the projects lining up to alleviate them.

Wednesday, 03/11/2020

New U.S. liquefaction trains and export terminals have added LNG to an oversupplied global market. International gas prices are at their lowest levels in several years, price spreads between the U.S. and destination markets have collapsed and — to make matters even worse — a coronavirus pandemic threatens to undermine LNG demand growth. U.S. LNG exports nevertheless have been increasing with each new liquefaction train that comes onstream, though, mostly because their long-term offtake contracts make cargo liftings relatively insensitive to global prices. The question is, will dire global market conditions somehow undo U.S. LNG production growth? Today, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report on the future of U.S. LNG exports.