Natural Gas

Sunday, 10/17/2021

If the ongoing global energy crunch is teaching us anything, it’s that decarbonizing the world’s economy may be even more difficult than many had figured. While a strong case can be made for reducing — or even slashing — greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by shifting to low-carbon and no-carbon energy sources, the sheer magnitude of the undertaking means there are likely to be major setbacks and compromises along the way. Setbacks like having to turn to coal-fired generation this winter to help keep parts of the Northern Hemisphere warm and productive, and compromises like acknowledging that sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, the sun doesn’t shine, and utilities need to burn a lot more natural gas to make up the difference — assuming there’s enough gas around to burn, that is. One more takeaway from current events is that energy security in the form of being able to count on your counterparties is a pretty big deal. (We’re looking at you, Vladimir Putin.) With all that in mind, in today’s RBN blog, we examine the long-term outlook for energy and GHG emissions as the United Nations’ climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, looms on the horizon.

Thursday, 10/14/2021

Billionaire Warren Buffett tried to buy it but later bowed out. Billionaire Carl Icahn thinks buying it is a dumb idea — and has launched a tender offer and proxy fight to stop it. The long and winding road leading Southwest Gas Holdings to its planned $1.975 billion acquisition of Questar Pipeline from Dominion Energy started more than a year ago and touches on a number of hot-button topics in today’s energy industry: the divestiture of natural gas assets, the ongoing energy transition, concerns about antitrust regulations, activist investors, and infrastructure. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the sale itself, the current state of natural gas production and pipelines in the Rocky Mountains, and how that gas fits into the nationwide picture.

Wednesday, 10/13/2021

For years, industry experts warned that the global LNG market was entering a period of extreme oversupply that would last until mid-decade. And up until late last year, that bearish scenario seemed to be materializing. Global gas prices had fallen as more LNG export capacity came online, and then COVID-19 decimated global markets and caused existing LNG terminals to shut-in production. But just as quickly as it collapsed, the market flipped. The world is now left scrambling to secure LNG/gas supply ahead of the heating season and global gas prices have hit record highs in recent weeks, signaling a turbulent winter ahead. Suffice it to say, utilities and governments have energy security and reliability on the mind, not just for prompt winter but for the longer term, and that pressure is unlikely to let up anytime soon. That’s brought previously commitment-wary LNG offtakers back to the negotiation table for new LNG export developments — cautiously and with a sharpened focus on de-risking long-term commitments amid heightened uncertainty. One way to do just that is to capitalize on the economic advantages of North America’s Pacific Coast projects. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series looking at the state of LNG development on the North American Pacific Coast.

Monday, 10/11/2021

For six months, European natural gas prices skyrocketed higher almost every day. The soaring prices made sense. Gas inventories in Europe were low following higher-than-normal demand last winter. Economies were recovering from COVID-19. Russia was curtailing gas deliveries. It all added up to a likely supply shortage during the winter of 2021-22. And the market did what markets do: anticipate. Even though the next winter season was months away, gas buyers went to work, stocking up on supplies like squirrels gathering nuts. The more prices increased, the more panic buying kicked in. By last Tuesday, October 5, the European TTF price was up more than 5X what it had been on May 1. Then, on Wednesday, a few comments from Vladimir Putin seemed to pop the bubble, and within a few days the Dutch TTF price was down 27%. Is everything OK now? Was the gas-price run-up all just speculative buying and short covering? Or is a supply crunch still on the horizon, and this is just the calm before the storm? In today’s RBN blog, we explore those questions.

Sunday, 10/10/2021

Given everything that’s happened lately on the ESG front — with a lot more expected — it’s safe to say that while hydrocarbons will continue to play an important role in the global economy for the foreseeable future, the companies that produce, transport and process crude oil, natural gas and NGLs will need to work much harder to minimize and mitigate their impact on the environment. Traditional energy companies have been scrambling to respond to the full-court press by investors, lenders and others to rein in and offset their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition to establishing goals for slashing their GHGs, and taking steps to tighten their upstream, midstream, and downstream operations, they’ve offered and delivered “carbon-neutral” shipments of LNG, oil and LPG to overseas buyers, using “nature-based” carbon credits to offset their life-cycle emissions. Now, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog, there’s a big push by U.S. gas distributors and other buyers to shift to gas that’s been produced, gathered, processed and transported as cleanly as humanly possible.

Wednesday, 10/06/2021

Henry Hub has long been the center of the universe for the Lower 48 natural gas market, but what it represents has changed dramatically since its inception, particularly over the past decade. It has gone from being a benchmark pricing location for a vibrant producing region, to being situated in the fastest-growing demand region and a key hub for wheeling feedgas supply to the proliferating LNG export facilities in Louisiana — all with little change to its infrastructure. As this occurred, the gas price at Henry has gone from being among the lowest in the country to one of the most premium. Physical volumes exchanged at the hub, which have always been dwarfed by financial trades there (and still are), have climbed in recent years and are now at the highest levels since 2008. Moreover, the inflows are concentrated on just a couple of pipelines, and those key interconnects are at risk of becoming constrained. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on the shifting gas flows at Henry Hub.  

Sunday, 10/03/2021

Last week, panic over gas availability and energy reliability this winter sent international natural gas and LNG prices above $30/MMBtu for the first time. Asia’s Japan Korea Marker (JKM), Europe’s Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) and the UK National Balancing Point (NBP) once again had multiple days in a row of all-time high settlements, as the undersupplied market struggles to find balance. The global shortage has also impacted the gas-rich U.S. market, which is linked to it through LNG exports. The U.S. markets are tight and might also face undersupply this winter, albeit, probably not to the point of triggering reliability issues that are already emerging abroad. If it did, the U.S. exports nearly 10 Bcf/d of LNG, which could be throttled back to free up additional supplies for domestic use. Nonetheless, Henry Hub prices climbed to nearly $6/MMBtu last week and hit post-2008 record highs. This is by no means the first-time various markets have faced considerable imbalance. In fact, last year at this time we were coming out of a period of widespread oversupply and record-low gas prices. But it’s certainly foreboding that it’s not even winter yet, and prices are skyrocketing to new heights. So the big question on everyone’s mind is how bad could this get? The answer of course is complicated and heavily dependent on weather. In today’s RBN blog, “To the Moon and Back – U.S., International Gas Markets Strap in for Wild Winter Ride,” Lindsay Schneider takes a look at how we got here, how LNG has intertwined the international energy markets more than ever, and what that means for the winter ahead.

Tuesday, 09/28/2021

With multiple energy markets around the world facing natural gas shortages, buyers are clamoring for more LNG. Pre-winter panic-buying has sent global gas prices to record highs yet again in the past couple of days, and even hauled Henry Hub gas futures up to new post-2008 records above $6/MMBtu in after-hours and intraday trading. With the incredible run in global gas prices, U.S. export economics have looked extremely attractive for nearly a year now, and you would think that buyers would be lining up for new liquefaction capacity in the U.S. Well, it has certainly drawn prospective offtakers back to the table. But they are wary of rising export costs and committing to projects long-term given the questionable future for hydrocarbon markets. Additionally, Europe’s rising piped gas imports from Russia and overall declining demand in the region have put long-term prospects for European LNG imports, in particular, on shaky ground. So, access to Asia is more important than ever for new LNG development, a key selling point for projects on North America’s Pacific Coast, both because of proximity to Asian markets and the absence of canal fees or constraints versus the Gulf Coast. There are no LNG export terminals on the Pacific Coast currently, but two projects — LNG Canada in British Columbia and Sempra Energy’s Energía Costa Azul (ECA) LNG in Baja California, Mexico — are under construction and due online mid-decade. Those projects are unlikely to be the last, given the more than $1/MMBtu in cost savings due to shorter voyage times and canal-free access to Asia. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a series looking at the state of LNG development on the North American Pacific Coast.

Monday, 09/27/2021

The U.S. natural gas market’s exposure to global gas and LNG markets has come into sharp focus in recent days. A gas supply crunch in Europe and scant LNG cargoes have roiled the international markets and kicked competition into overdrive. European natural gas and Asian LNG prices are at record highs and locked in a race to the top. The U.S. gas market has been relatively buffered from the full extent of the panic-driven premiums enveloping European and Asian markets, constrained primarily by its limited ability to help meet international demand. In other words, the U.S.’s LNG export capacity ceiling is likely the only thing reining in Henry Hub prices from following European and Asian gas/LNG prices to the moon. As explosive as Henry Hub futures are these days, if not for the capacity constraint, they would be much higher. That ceiling is about to get a little higher, however, as two liquefaction projects — Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass Train 6 and Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass — get ready to export LNG from U.S. shores this winter, amid what’s already the most bullish Lower 48 gas market in years. In today’s RBN blog, we detail the timing and demand implications of these two projects.

Wednesday, 09/22/2021

Global gas and LNG prices are currently at record high levels. If we sound like a broken record, it’s because this epic bull run that started in the spring, has been roaring in recent weeks and showing little sign of slowing down. European prices have hit new post-2008 or all-time highs more than 25 times since late June, and prices in Asia, which had been at seasonal all-time highs for most of the spring and summer, finally last week also topped its previous all-time record from last January. A confluence of bullish factors, including high global demand, low storage inventories, weather events, and supply outages, have all contributed to the surge in gas prices. While many of these are near-term drivers and will eventually flip in the other direction, there is one bullish driver of global gas demand — European carbon prices — that will remain a constant in the years to come. That is by design because the carbon market is meant to serve as an incentive for the industry to seek greener solutions over fossil fuels. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the European Union’s Emission Trading System (EU ETS) and how it interacts with the global gas market.

Monday, 09/20/2021

With natural gas prices reaching levels not seen in seven years, Western Canada is doing all it can to help increase gas supply, with recent data showing monthly production hitting multi-year highs. Moreover, Canadian forward gas prices are at the highest levels since 2014, gas pipeline expansions are in place or being constructed to accommodate future supply expansion, and gas-focused drilling activity remains strong — all of which may as well be a prescription for sending gas production to record levels later this year and in 2022. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on the recent gas production growth in Alberta and neighboring provinces and why more growth is coming.

Tuesday, 09/14/2021

It has been a chaotic 18 months for North American LNG and the global gas market. In a short time, international gas markets went from oppressively oversupplied balances, high storage inventories, and historically low prices for much of 2020, to reckoning with panic-inducing supply shortage, low inventories, multi-year or all-time high prices in the biggest LNG-consuming regions. The resulting whiplash has transformed key aspects of the LNG market, including making a profound impact on the way existing LNG terminals operate, how projects secure funding and capacity commitments, and what offtakers expect for the next generation of LNG capacity buildout. The tight market appears to have settled the question of whether more export capacity is needed, at least for now, but the market’s sharp U-turn has also put potential offtakers on edge and underscored the need for contractual flexibility. Additionally, pressure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is higher than ever, and LNG offtakers are increasingly demanding greener solutions to address government regulations and public concerns. This convergence of factors has put the LNG market at a crossroads. Taking all of the lessons learned from the past 18 months and before, the industry must now forge a new path forward. Today, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down report, looking at the major trends that will define the North American LNG market in the coming years.

Monday, 09/13/2021

It will still be a few years until Canada joins the ranks of nations exporting natural gas in the form of LNG. Until then, a great deal of work has to be completed on both the LNG Canada liquefaction and export facility in Kitimat, BC, and the primary gas pipeline linked to it: the Coastal GasLink. Unlike most LNG export sites in the U.S., which can receive feedgas from multiple production basins via an array of major trunklines, the LNG Canada plant will be relying on gas supplies from primarily one basin: the Montney in Western Canada. And all that feedgas will be transported across British Columbia through one mammoth pipeline. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the small number of pipelines that will supply gas from the Montney to Coastal GasLink for eventual delivery to LNG Canada.

Thursday, 09/09/2021

Global natural gas and LNG prices have spent the summer going from high to higher to the highest on record. The major European indices hit post-2008, and then all-time highs multiple times throughout the summer — even surpassing Asian prices on a handful of days. At the same time, Asian prices have set all-time seasonal records and are now sitting just below the previous single-day high settle from this past January. Usually, as the weather cools heading into fall, so do prices, but that’s unlikely this year as the European gas storage inventory is at the lowest level for this time of year than we’ve seen in recent history, and the time to replenish stocks for the winter is rapidly running out. The incredible bull run for global gas prices has been underpinned by high demand for LNG and the cascading effect of a supply squeeze in Europe, brought on by the triple threat of low domestic production, decreased imports from Russia, and a scarcity of incremental LNG cargoes. Not only is this driving record-high gas prices and increased volatility now, but the low inventory means sustained high prices for the heating season ahead. In today’s blog, we take a look at recent global gas price trends and the precarious European storage situation ahead of what is shaping up to be an incredibly bullish winter.

Wednesday, 09/08/2021

The natural gas futures contract for the prompt month barreled a net ~$1.00 (26%) higher in the past 12 days as the potential for prolonged production shut-ins in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida amplified already-heightened supply fears in both the U.S. and international gas markets. The blistering price action sent the CME/NYMEX Henry Hub October futures contract soaring on Wednesday to an intraday high above $5/MMBtu and a settle of $4.914/MMBtu, the highest during September trading since 2008, while the prompt December and January contracts settled above $5/MMBtu for the first time in years. Prices at European and Asian gas/LNG hubs have similarly rallied this summer to multi-year or even all-time highs. Offshore Gulf gas production has since begun to recover, slowly, after the Ida-damaged Port Fourchon in Louisiana, the base of offshore oil and gas operations, reopened over the Labor Day weekend, but the bulk of it remains offline as power outages and other operational challenges persist. The shut-ins are exacerbating an already tight market, marked by record LNG exports, lackadaisical production growth, and a growing inventory deficit compared with year-ago and five-year average levels. Those underlying fundamentals will remain a trigger point for price spikes well after Ida-related shut-ins recover. Today, we discuss where the gas market stands heading into the final months of the injection season and the implications for winter gas pricing.