The fast-growing need for natural gas processing and fractionation capacity in the Marcellus/Utica is creating tremendous opportunities for midstream companies. But determining which assets to develop and when to develop them is complicated by the volatility of hydrocarbon markets, and by the fact that the region has only minimal NGL storage capacity. In today’s blog, we continue our in-depth review of NGL-related infrastructure in the Upper Ohio River Valley with a look at Blue Racer’s existing and planned assets there.
This year’s natural gas power burn is shaping up as a record-breaker, mostly because gas consumption needs to rise sharply to offset increased production and the power sector is best able to ramp up its gas use. But what will it take, gas-price-wise, for utilities and independent power producers to increase their 2015 power burn by 2, 3 or even 4 Bcf/d this year? And which parts of the U.S. are likely to see the most dramatic coal-to-gas switching? Today we continue our look at this year’s power burn and its significance to Marcellus and other gas producers.
Natural gas processing in the Marcellus and Utica plays has quickly become a much larger—and more complex—business as major players race to keep up with fast-rising capacity needs and to ensure that the various elements of their infrastructure operate as an integrated, well-oiled “machine”. And, in a region with only minimal NGL storage capacity, one of that machine’s most important characteristics must be an ability to deal with all the “what-ifs” that could otherwise lead to logistical chaos, particularly those issues dealing with ethane. Today, we continue our in-depth review of Marcellus/Utica NGL infrastructure with a look at MarkWest’s innovative NGL network and distributed de-ethanization system.
The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest U.S. monthly crude production statistics published March 30th show January production down 135 Mb/d versus December 2014, the largest month-on-month decline since June 2011. There was an earlier warning sign from EIA. The agency’s Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) published March 9th predicted that production would decline in April in three major U.S. oil production regions – Bakken, Eagle Ford and Niobrara. Since oil and NGL prices crashed last fall, the market has been watching with bated breath for the first signs of a production slowdown. Certainly rig counts have nosedived amid producer budget cuts in 2015. But are we really seeing the beginnings of a long-term slowdown just yet? Was the DPR a harbinger of the January production decline? The clues lie within the DPR report. Today’s blog parses DPR methodology, assumptions and risks as well as contributing market factors to get to the bottom of what is driving those reported production declines.
Natural gas liquids production in the Utica and “wet” Marcellus has taken off like a rocket, and all that ethane, propane, butane and natural gasoline needs to be either moved out of the region or consumed there. That presents a real operational challenge to midstream companies, mostly because the Upper Ohio River Valley offers very little of the NGL storage capacity that Mont Belvieu—the center of the NGL universe—has in spades. Storage is the mechanism that helps balance out supply and demand on any given day. How can the nation’s fastest-growing NGL production play function without the luxury of significant NGL storage? Today, we continue our look at infrastructure development in the region.
Producers in the Bakken are making progress reducing the natural gas flaring that had put an unwelcome spotlight on the region. The fix, spurred in part by tightening regulations, is being made possible by the addition of new gas processing capacity and increased efforts to use “stranded” gas at the well-site. (A drilling slowdown associated with soft crude prices is providing an assist.) Today, we take a fresh look at what’s been happening on the flaring front in western North Dakota, where gas flares still light the nighttime sky.
The U.S. Midwest region is slated to get an infusion of cheaper Northeast natural gas supply later this year as the first of five new westbound pipeline expansions is expected to begin service in November. Already a couple of projects are moving gas to the Midwest from the Northeast. The Northeast-to-Midwest capacity will have a huge impact on the Midwest supply stack and consequently on prices. The Chicago Citygates forward curve shows prices flipping from premiums to discounts later this year. Today’s blog continues our look at how new pipeline capacity will re-shuffle the Midwest’s supply stack and change regional pricing.
Fast-rising hydrocarbon production of “wet” natural gas in the eastern Utica and southwestern Marcellus has been creating tremendous opportunities for the small group of midstream firms that saw what was coming—and pounced. Gas processing capacity in the Utica/Marcellus as a whole now tops 7.6 Bcf/d, more than 12 times higher than five years ago.
Last year was a banner year for the sand mining companies that cater to the U.S. shale drilling services industry. That’s because in 2014 well operators significantly increased the amount of sand used to complete fracturing operations in shale plays – from an average of about 5 MMlb for a single well to 15 MMlb (7,500 tons) or more.
Cold weather, abundant supplies of natural gas and lower-than-normal winter gas prices spurred record power burns in January and February, and the power burn for the rest of 2015 is likely to be record-breaking too. It almost has to be; all the gas expected to be produced this year needs to go somewhere, and there’s only so much that can be stored. That suggests continued softness in natural gas prices—hardly good news for gas producers.
For years now, the international LNG trade has been based primarily on long-term contracts between buyers and sellers, and those deals have been indexed to oil prices. That long-standing regime is now tottering, however, and a New World Order that would add considerable flexibility to LNG trading—and increase the role of the LNG spot market—may be in the offing. That would have huge implications for U.S. natural gas producers who want to export increasing amounts of liquefied gas.
Natural gas production is growing faster in the Marcellus and Utica than any other part of North America. Even with lower prices, Appalachia natural gas production will probably hit record highs in the next few days, and NGL production is into the stratosphere, now more than four times where it was two years ago, growing on average 6% PER MONTH!
An average of 13 Bcf/d of natural gas flows into the Midwest from producing regions in Canada, the Midcontinent, the Southeast and the Rockies. Over the past 7 years the region has been in the crosshairs of major infrastructure and supply changes to the North American natural gas market, starting in 2008 with the Rockies Express (REX) pipeline and continuing today as surplus Northeast supplies reverse pipeline flows and push into the Midcontinent.
In the past 10 years Marcellus and Utica shale drilling has transformed the U.S. Northeast from a sleepy backwater of gas production into a powerhouse that (according to the Energy Information Administration) supplied 22% of total U.S. gas production in December 2014. NGL production from the region is already 8% of the U.S. total and likely headed toward 20% by 2020. These vast shale formations cover most of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Eastern Ohio, but it turns out that most of the production comes from only 20 or so counties across those three states. Such geographic concentration has significant implications for regional infrastructure development and capacity. Today we describe where producers have found success in the region.
As if there weren’t enough reasons to add new natural gas pipeline capacity through New England, it’s time to consider another: the Sable Island and Deep Panuke gas production areas off the coast of Nova Scotia are quickly losing their oomph, and soon the Canadian Maritimes will need to rely more heavily on gas from other, more distant sources, including the Marcellus. Developing pipelines to move large volumes of Marcellus gas through New England to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will not be easy though. Today we continue our look at the challenges of supplying gas to New England and its northern neighbors.