Recently there has been a spate of pipeline tariff filings to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concerning crude oil quality specifications for Bakken crude in North Dakota. While the immediate disagreement between pipeline company Enbridge and shipper Plains Marketing appears to have been resolved, it has highlighted an issue which has not received much attention until now. Today we detail the concerns.
Two years ago in June 2011 Bentek forecast that crude production in the Williston Basin would grow to 900 Mb/d by 2016. Today’s production in North Dakota and Montana is already at that level. What we are learning about US shale production is that it has been growing at twice the rate of every forecast out there. Today we begin a new series looking at what we are learning about the accelerating pace of North American shale production.
Houston is getting swamped with crude that isn’t being consumed by area refineries. Light sweet crude prices are being discounted by up to $6/Bbl versus St James, LA. There is no pipeline capacity to move crude from Houston to Louisiana so it can only go by barge. The reconfiguration of terminalling and storage capacity on the Texas Gulf Coast to handle rising volumes of incoming crude more smoothly is underway but far from finished. Enterprise Product Partners (EPP) announced their latest expansion plans for their ECHO terminal earlier this month. Today we review progress on the Enterprise Texas crude network.
Kinder Morgan is conducting an open season to convert an El Paso Natural Gas pipeline to crude oil service from the Permian Basin in West Texas to California refineries. The ”Freedom Pipeline” project would cost as much as $2 Billion. Before going ahead they need to convince crude producers in the Permian and/or refiners in California to make long term commitments to the pipeline. Today we begin a two part assessment of the chances that this pipeline will get built.
Yesterday the Intercontinental Exchange Brent premium to WTI NYMEX closed at $9.31/Bbl, its lowest value since January 2012. Spread watchers have long anticipated this narrowing but it throws a spanner in the economics of crude by rail shipments from North Dakota. Today we suggest that the Brent/WTI spread may have narrowed before crude supply fundamentals justify the move and that it could widen again quickly to $15 or higher.
Last June (2012) the largest refinery on the East Coast was on the brink of closing - in part due to higher international crude prices (versus US inland grades). Since then the 330 Mb/d Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery has reopened and along with several of its competitors the new owners have developed means to get access to lower priced crude from North Dakota and Western Canada using rail. Today’s episode of our continuing crude by rail series is a survey of East Coast rail offloading facilities.
Cushing, Ok has historically been known as the “Pipeline Capital of the World”. That was before the pipelines got congested in 2011 and inventory piled up – creating a discount warehouse for crude. As producers waited for pipeline infrastructure to come to the rescue the railroads took up the slack. Now crude rail loading terminals are being operated and built in every production region in North America and it is reported that crude is being trucked out of Cushing and loaded onto trains. Today we complete our survey of crude loading terminals.
Western Canadian heavy crude oil producers have a lot of rail tank cars on order but so far none of the loading terminals in the production region can handle unit trains. The pace of terminal development in Alberta is far slower than North Dakota in 2012. Because you can ship raw bitumen without diluent there are potential cost savings over pipelines but the load and offload facilities are more complex. Today we conclude our mini survey of Canadian heavy crude loading terminals.
Western Canadian heavy crude production is set to increase by more than 1 MMb/d over the next 5 years. Pipelines out of the region are full and new capacity is not expected online until 2014. Just like the Bakken in 2012, producers are looking more seriously at rail. The economics of getting crudes like Western Canadian Select (WCS) to market by rail instead of pipeline are favorable because of heavy discounts versus Gulf Coast equivalent crudes like Mexican Maya. Today we look at the rail options for Canadian producers.
The dramatic growth in North Dakota crude by rail during 2012 included large unit train terminals built to load 80 Mb/d or more. At the same time smaller companies successfully operated alongside the big guys – loading manifest trains at out-of-the-way terminals. North of the border in Saskatchewan, Canadian railroads are advertising their terminal facilities but most have limited capacity. Today we continue our crude by rail series with a look at the plethora  of smaller Bakken terminals.
The US crude by rail industry has expanded rapidly since January 2011 as domestic crude production soared by 1.4 MMb/d over the same period. The growth of crude by rail followed pipeline bottlenecks in the Midwest that caused landlocked inland crudes to be discounted by upwards of $20/Bbl versus coastal destinations. That made shipping oil by rail to the coast a viable proposition in the absence of new pipeline capacity. Crude rail terminals in the Bakken now load over 400 Mb/d for shipment to coastal markets. Today we continue our survey of Bakken crude rail loading terminals.
North Dakota Bakken crude production continues to grow at record rates with nearly 770 Mb/d produced in December 2012 up 40 percent since January 2012. The North Dakota Pipeline Authority estimates that 64 percent of that crude was transported to market by rail in December. After local refinery consumption (80 Mb/d) that means 440 Mb/d moving by rail. Today we continue our survey of North Dakota crude rail loading terminals with an in-depth look at three midstream companies that between them can potentialy load 280 Mb/d of crude in North Dakota.
In the space of just over one year North Dakota crude rail takeaway capacity has reached close to 1 MMBb/d. According to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority 58 percent of October 2012 Williston Basin production of over 800 Mb/d was transported out of North Dakota by rail. There are now 18 crude loading terminals operating in North Dakota on the BNSF and Canadian Pacific (CP) railroads. Today we continue our series on crude by rail with a North Dakota terminal inventory.
The US energy midstream sector will remember 2012 as the “Year of the Tank Car”. Venerable pipeline companies were reduced to investing in rail terminals. Although reluctant at first, coastal refiners embraced the margin boost that crude by rail provides them. Producers signed up to move landlocked crudes by rail to coastal destinations in search of higher prices. Petroleum shipments increased 46 percent from 370 M carloads in 2011 to 540 M carloads in 2012. Rail car manufacturers struggled to meet an order book of 40,000 rail cars and the backlog for new delivery is 18 months. Today we begin a crude by rail series.
Back in October we posted a blog forecasting that the Brent/WTI price spread (at that time $22.76/Bbl) would narrow by the time of the Super Bowl (see Place Your Bets on Narrow Brent /WTI Spread for the Super Bowl). That turned out to be true (it is now $18.99/Bbl) but no Lambeau Leap for the RBN team. A $19 differential is still a big number, and the crude supply congestion in the Midwest that led to a wide WTI discount to Brent in the first place continues. Last week the congestion showed every sign of moving to Houston and staying there at least until the end of the year. Today we present our post-Super Bowl Brent/WTI spread analysis.