Liquefaction capacity additions will add about 5 Bcf/d of natural gas demand in 2019, with almost all of that happening along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. The planned start-up of new liquefaction trains at the Sabine Pass, Corpus Christi, Cameron, Freeport and Elba Island projects means we can expect U.S. LNG export demand to double to nearly 9 Bcf/d by the end of the year. How fast will that new capacity and gas demand come on and how will the gas get to where it needs to be? Today, we take a closer look at the timing of the liquefaction capacity build-out and the related feedgas routes.
It’s so ironic. New England is only a stone’s throw from the burgeoning Marcellus natural gas production area, but pipeline constraints during high-demand periods in the wintertime leave power generators in the six-state region gasping for more gas. Now, with only minimal expansions to New England’s gas pipeline network on the horizon, the region is doubling down on a long-term plan to rely on a combination of gas liquefaction, LNG storage, LNG imports and gas-to-oil fuel switching at dual-fuel power plants to help keep the heat and lights on through those inevitable cold snaps. Today, we discuss recent developments on the gas-supply front in “Patriots Nation.”
Feedgas demand for U.S. LNG exports has accelerated in recent months with the addition of new liquefaction and upstream pipeline capacity. The latest export facility contributing to the winter surge in feedgas flows is Cheniere Energy’s Corpus Christi LNG (CCL) in South Texas — the first greenfield LNG export terminal in the Lower 48 and the first such terminal, greenfield or otherwise, in Texas. Train 1 has yet to be commercialized, but already it’s added 0.5 Bcf/d of gas demand to the Texas market through December. The facility sources its gas via a number of legacy interstate and Texas intrastate pipelines, many of which have undergone reversals and expansions in order to serve LNG terminals but also another competing export market: Mexico. How will CCL change gas flows in South Texas? Today, we provide an update of feedgas flows to Corpus Christi, including a closer look at the upstream pipeline routes facilitating those flows.
During 2018, U.S. crude oil, natural gas and NGL production hit new all-time highs almost every month. Oil production grew by a staggering 1.7 MMb/d from January to December, an increase of about 18%. NGLs soared even more: by 27%, up 1.0 MMb/d over the same 12-month period. Natural gas production zoomed skyward by 10 Bcf/d, a gain of about 13%. All this new supply came on in a price environment marked by wild swings. WTI ran up from $60/bbl to $75, then collapsed below $50. Henry Hub gas spiked to nearly $5/MMBtu, then beat a hasty retreat back to the $3/MMBtu range. Permian gas traded negative. Ethane prices blasted to the moon (62 c/gal), then crashed back to earth (below 30 c/gal). Is this the way it’s going to be? Massive production growth, extreme price volatility, widespread market uncertainty? It’s impossible to answer such a question, right? Nah. All we need to do is stick our collective RBN necks out one more time, peer into our crystal ball, and see what 2019 has in store for us.
One way or the other, all of 2018’s Top 10 blogs had something to do with infrastructure. There’s not enough. Or it’s taking too long to come online. Or there is too much being built too soon. Even the financial underpinning of U.S. energy infrastructure development — the MLP model — ran into tough sledding in 2018. Then, toward the end of the year, all of the best-laid infrastructure planning got whacked by the crude-market wild card: prices crashing below $50/bbl. We scrupulously monitor the website “hit rate” of the RBN blogs that go out to about 26,000 people each day and, at the end of each year, we look back to see what generated the most interest from you, our readers. That hit rate reveals a lot about major market trends. So, once again, we look into the rearview mirror to check out the top blogs of the year based on the number of rbnenergy.com website hits.
Production of natural gas liquids in the Rockies has increased by half since the end of 2012, with the bulk of the output — and those gains — coming from the greater Niobrara play in Colorado and Wyoming. As a result, a number of NGL pipelines out of the Rockies are now running full or close to it, and midstream companies are planning a mix of new pipelines, pipeline expansions and pipeline conversions with the aim of easing takeaway constraints by the latter half of 2019. But, with crude oil prices tanking and crude-focused producers reevaluating their drilling and completion plans, could the Niobrara be headed for an NGL takeaway over-build? In today’s blog, we continue our series with a look at existing and planned NGL pipes out of the Denver-Julesburg (D-J) and Powder River basins.
After somewhat of a lull in U.S. LNG export growth through much of 2018, demand for feedgas has revved up this fall. Total feedgas deliveries to U.S. LNG export terminals topped 5 Bcf/d for the first time this past weekend, thereby also surpassing exports to Mexico for the first time. All five commercialized liquefaction trains — four at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass and one at Dominion’s Cove Point LNG — are operating at or near full capacity for the first time. Simultaneously, commissioning activity is under way now for four new liquefaction trains, including the initial trains at two new export terminals. This steady gas demand is underpinned by gas pipeline expansions designed to provide more direct and economical connectivity between U.S. producing regions and the export terminals. Today, we continue our blog series looking at feedgas pipeline projects and their effect on feedgas flows, this time with a focus on Dominion’s Cove Point LNG.
The latest weather forecasts for the second half of December have taken the edge off the U.S. natural gas market and reduced the chance of a true doomsday storage scenario. But U.S. gas storage inventories nonetheless remain at historically low levels, and long-term weather forecasts are notoriously fickle. So this winter could still see a resurgence in volatility before the market finds a balance. And while Henry Hub prices went on a wild ride earlier this month before settling back in below $4/MMBtu, for most of December thus far, Eastern gas prices have traded at levels that make LNG exports from there uneconomic. In today’s blog, we continue our review of the winter U.S. gas market with a closer look at how Cove Point Liquefaction (CPL) might respond to high prices.
Feedgas demand at U.S. LNG export terminals has climbed 1.3 Bcf/d, or ~40%, in just three months to an average 4.4 Bcf/d in December to date and hit an all-time single-day high of over 4.6 Bcf/d last Tuesday. The big jump in demand came as U.S. Gulf Coast LNG operators have begun commissioning three new liquefaction trains, including the initial trains at two new export terminals. At the same time, pipeline expansions targeting both existing and newly active terminals have been completed to meet that demand. How are the new trains being supplied and what’s the effect on gas flows? Today’s blog takes a closer look at recent changes in liquefaction and feedgas delivery capacity and their effect on feedgas flows, starting with Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass Liquefaction.
Gross production of natural gas in the Niobrara region topped 5 Bcf/d for the fourth consecutive month in November 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration, and it's estimated that regional output this month will hit another record: nearly 5.2 Bcf/d. These production gains, and the concentration of new wells in or near Weld County, CO — the epicenter of the Niobrara’s Denver-Julesburg Basin — are straining the ability of existing gas processing plants to keep up, and spurring the rapid development of new processing capacity. The scale of the build-out in the D-J is impressive: some 2.7 Bcf/d in new cryogenic plants are either under construction or in various stages of pre-construction planning in northeastern Colorado. Today, we continue our review of Rockies crude oil, gas and NGL production and infrastructure, this time focusing on gas-processing needs in the sky-high D-J.
The third quarter of 2018 was a moment in the sun for U.S. exploration and production companies. The 44 major companies we track reported a 35% increase in pre-tax operating income over the previous quarter and seven-fold increase from the year-ago period on rising commodity prices and narrowing differentials in some key regions. Oil-Weighted producers outside the infrastructure-constricted Permian posted generally higher realizations, and a number of Permian-focused E&Ps minimized the impact of takeaway constraints by employing basis hedges, utilizing firm transportation contracts and reducing their operating costs. Diversified producers saw higher quarterly per-unit profits thanks to the tilt of their portfolios toward oil. And as lower Appalachian differentials lifted the realizations of Gas-Weighted producers, portfolio readjustments and the liquids content of production also positively impacted their profitability and cash flow. Today, we analyze third-quarter results by peer group, and discuss the potential impacts of the sudden plunge in oil prices this fall.
The U.S. natural gas market’s supply-demand balance in 2018 has been razor thin, with demand ramping up to match strong production gains. The result has been a large and stubborn storage deficit compared to prior years and price volatility, the likes of which the market hasn’t seen in a decade or more. How will the current storage level affect the winter gas market, and what are the prospects for storage to catch up before the winter is up? Today’s blog considers potential scenarios for the season-ending gas inventory balance.
The build-out of new natural gas pipelines in Mexico has been progressing two-steps-forward, one-step-back, and that’s been a downer for Texas producers eager to access new markets south of the border. Just a few weeks ago, TransCanada very publicly halted construction on part of a major pipeline network it has been building in east-central Mexico, citing social and legal challenges that already had caused long delays and added costs. But there’s good news out there too. Some new Mexican pipelines are finally coming online, and gas flows through them are ramping up, mostly to serve gas-fired power plants. Better yet, some important pipe and generation projects may finally be completed in 2019. Today, we discuss gas flows across the U.S.-Mexico border and zero in on recent flows through the Nueva Era Pipeline, a 630-MMcf/d pipe from the Eagle Ford to the industrial center of Monterrey.
Reliably low Henry Hub natural gas prices are a primary, long-term driver of U.S. LNG exports. But prices were up as much as 40% during November and, with gas inventories unusually low, Henry prices could spike considerably higher if winter weather continues to come in colder than normal. Which raises the question, how high would gas prices need to go before U.S. liquefaction becomes the lever that balances the U.S. gas market? The short answer is, it depends on where the LNG is headed — and lately, a lot more is bound for Europe. Today, we continue our review of the current gas market with an analysis of LNG variable costs and UK National Balancing Point prices, and how they will help determine LNG export volumes if U.S. gas prices spike.
Volatility is back big time in the U.S. natural gas market. The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub prompt natural gas futures contract in mid-November raced up more than $1.00 (28%) in the span of two days to a settlement of about $4.84/MMBtu on November 14, the highest price since February 2014, only to whipsaw back down 80 cents the next day. And, since then it hasn’t been unusual to see daily swings of 20-45 cents in either direction. As of yesterday, the now-prompt January 2019 contract was at about $4.34/MMBtu, down 27 cents on the day. The gas market hasn’t seen quite this level of volatility in a decade or more. Why now and what are the fundamentals behind it? With the coldest, highest-demand months still ahead, today’s blog provides an update of the gas supply-demand balance driving the recent price volatility.