The biggest news on the Permian natural gas infrastructure front in the past couple of months was surely the start-up of the 2-Bcf/d Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP), which began flowing gas in the fourth quarter of 2020 and officially entered full commercial service on New Year’s Day. Next among the headlines would be the late-January completion of a 1.8-Bcf/d expansion of the Agua Blanca pipeline system, which increased the capacity of the Delaware Basin-to-Waha network to a staggering 3 Bcf/d. Just as important though is that midstream companies active in the Permian have been completing a number of new gas processing plants in key production areas within both the Midland and Delaware basins, thereby supporting the continuing development of the U.S.’s premier crude oil production region. Today, we begin a short series on all the new gas-handling capacity coming online in the Permian.
We get it — the large-diameter gas pipelines to the Waha Hub, the Gulf Coast, and elsewhere are the shiny, bright objects that draw the market’s day-by-day, week-by-week attention. So much so that we recently dedicated an entire report to it. These days, the Permian-related questions we get in our consulting practice include: How quickly are the flows on PHP ramping up? How will the latest force majeure on Pipeline X, Y, or Z affect prices at Waha? What is sometimes easy to forget is that there is a lot going on behind the scenes to expand existing gas gathering systems (and build entirely new ones), and to construct new gas processing capacity to keep pace with production growth (and reduce gas flaring).
As you might guess, the gas processing plants that came online in 2020 and that will be starting up in 2021 are located in and around the most productive and therefore actively developed sub-regions within the Permian — that is, the plants are being built to meet the need for new gas processing capacity as crude oil-focused drilling-and-completion activity ramps up. It’s also true that, while there was a slowdown in activity and production in the Permian in the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic-related decline in oil demand and prices, most of the processing plant projects stayed on schedule. In fact, a handful were finished ahead of plan.
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