For the first time ever, U.S. natural gas-fired power plants are routinely generating more electricity than their coal-fired counterparts, at least during the spring, summer and fall. Prior to 2015 coal held a clear lead over natural gas in power generation but last year they were neck and neck at 33% of fuel consumed for power generation according to the latest Energy Information Administration (EIA) statistics released Friday (February 26, 2016). This is partly due to tightening federal environmental rules, but another major driver is very low natural gas prices, which have been averaging below $2/MMBtu. Coal prices have been falling too as coal markets respond to stronger-than-ever competition from gas, but not enough to prevent a lot of coal-to-gas switching in the power sector. Today, we update last fall’s analysis of the death-match battle between coal and natural gas with a look at how persistently low gas prices may keep gas on top.
After years of debate and speculation regarding prospects for U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the first cargo left the Gulf Coast around 8:30 pm EST Wednesday (February 24, 2016) from Cheniere’s Sabine Pass terminal, according to Genscape’s global LNG cargo monitoring service. The vessel carrying a little more than 3.0 Bcf of LNG is reportedly bound for Petrobras in Brazil. The incremental export demand that this LNG cargo and others like it to follow represent, is potentially good news for U.S. gas producers, with benchmark futures prices at Henry Hub, LA closing yesterday (February 25, 2016) near record seasonal lows at $1.711/MMBtu in the face of mild winter demand, record production and brimming storage levels. Today we look at how this first cargo was supplied and what that tells us about current and future impact to flows and regional prices.
General Partners Phillips 66 and Spectra Energy control midstream Master Limited Partnership (MLP) DCP Midstream Partners (DPM). The partnership owns midstream transportation and processing assets along the natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGL) supply chain. Similar to many MLPs its Limited Partner unit price has declined by more than 50% in the past year. Despite exposure to difficult market conditions in the Eagle Ford and East Texas, a strong performance from the NGL logistics segment is expected to propel a 20% gain in net income between 2015 and 2017. Today we review our latest spotlight analysis report on DPM.
The first U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export cargo from the Lower 48 is now likely within just a week or two of shipping from the Cheniere Sabine Pass, LA terminal. In the meantime, physical flow data is already giving us a first glance at how the terminal will be supplied from U.S. natural gas production. In today’s blog, we begin a look at flows to the terminal, how the gas is getting there and where it’s coming from.
Demand for liquefied natural gas has been flat recently, but liquefaction/LNG export capacity is on the rise. The resulting supply/demand imbalance along with the crash in crude oil prices has sent LNG prices to unexpectedly low levels, and raises questions about the competitiveness of all the new Australian and U.S. projects coming online in 2016-20. Today, we continue our examination of the fast-changing international market for LNG with a look at the new capacity being added to an already saturated LNG market, and how U.S. LNG exporters might fare in a hyper-competitive world.
As of the weekly EIA natural gas storage report due out today (Thursday) for the week ending February 5, 2016, the U.S. gas inventory surplus is likely to grow to near 600 Bcf above levels at the same time last year. Current weather forecasts suggest the surplus over 2015 will soar to near 800 Bcf by the end of February. With outright inventory levels already exceptionally high, this surplus growth kicks the market’s oversupply problem further down the futures curve – meaning prices could stay lower for longer. Today we look at the winter 2015-16 fundamentals leading to this surplus and what it means for the rest of 2016.
Prices for CME/NYMEX West Texas Intermediate (WTI) have been on a rollercoaster this week – falling under $30/Bbl one minute then jumping back over $32/Bbl the next. Yesterday (February 4, 2016) WTI closed down 56 Cents at $31.72/Bbl. CME Henry Hub natural gas futures fell back under $2/MMBtu to close at $1.972 yesterday. That left the crude-to-gas ratio (WTI divided by Henry Hub) at just over 16 X – a little higher than the 15 X range we’ve been seeing this year. That is nearly half as much again as the 27X average between 2009 and 2014. The futures market implies that low ratios could continue for years – with December 2024 values implying a ratio of 13.3 X. The potential consequences of these low ratios are dramatic for the natural gas liquids (NGL) business as well as the competitiveness of U.S. natural gas in international markets. Today we describe the implications.
CME/NYMEX Henry Hub gas futures prices are currently struggling to stay above $2.00/MMBtu in the face of milder weather and record high production (closing up slightly at $2.038/MMBtu yesterday February 3, 2016). The market is on edge and at the mercy of daily weather forecast revisions that may signal further downside for prices. At the same time gas demand from power generation could increase in response to lower prices. To help navigate these volatile market conditions, we’ve teamed up with Criterion Research to develop the daily NATGAS Billboard: Natural Gas Outlook report. In today’s blog, we highlight specific features of the report and what they tell us about the market.
The US natural gas market is in a precarious state. CME/NYMEX futures contract prices have been settling at historic lows for this time of year. Producer returns are dismal in most shale basins. Yet production volumes remain robust, and the supply/demand balance is way out of whack. The surplus in storage is soaring at more than 500 Bcf above last year and more than 400 Bcf above the 5-year average. It’s clear something has to give. But how will the imbalance get resolved and how will the resolution impact the price of natural gas? To help you navigate market signals and stay ahead of upcoming turning points, today we introduce our new daily NATGAS Billboard: Natural Gas Outlook report featuring storage and price forecasts plus a daily market outlook.
Things are not looking so good in the liquefied natural gas sector. LNG prices--both in the spot market and in contracts linked to oil prices—are very low, LNG demand growth is weak or non-existent, and a flood of new liquefaction capacity is coming online. But as we’re starting to see with crude oil, markets thrown out of whack respond; they try to self-heal. Low LNG prices are spurring demand growth in Europe and attracting some new buyers—Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan among them. The pace of liquefaction-capacity expansions is slowing. And Asia may finally get an LNG hub, which would only improve LNG’s long-term prospects there. Today, we continue our look at the fast-changing international market for LNG with an assessment of demand and destinations.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CME NYMEX crude futures settled up 92 cents/Bbl yesterday (January 28, 2016) at $33.22/Bbl and NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures settled up slightly at $2.182/MMBtu. The crude-to-gas ratio - meaning the crude price in $/Bbl divided by the gas price in $/MMBtu - was 15.22 X. For most of this year so far the ratio has been less than 15X On January 20, 2016 it dipped to 12.5 X – its lowest point since March 2009. Over the 5 years between 2010 and 2014 the ratio averaged 27X - reaching a high of 54X in April 2012. That lofty five year run for the crude-to-gas ratio was arguably responsible for much of the crude and natural gas liquids production boom since 2011 and a “Golden Age” of natural gas processing. Today we begin a two-part series discussing the ratio and the market implications if it stays low.
Yesterday (January 14, 2016) Cheniere Energy announced a delay to the first shipment of liquefied natural gas (LNG) out of its Sabine Pass liquefaction/export terminal in Louisiana that was expected this month (January 2016), but is now planned for late February or March of this year. Meanwhile, LNG demand has leveled off. LNG prices have collapsed and stayed low. And a slew of liquefaction capacity planned and committed to years ago—Sabine Pass and other U.S. projects included—is coming online, suggesting an LNG supply glut that could last into the early 2020s. But are the LNG market’s prospects really as grim as all that sounds? Today we begin a review of recent developments in the LNG market, and consider their implications for U.S. natural gas producers, midstream companies, and LNG exporters.
From waves of reanimated corpses feeding on unfortunate strangers trapped in a western Pennsylvania farmhouse in Night of the Living Dead to the hordes stalking the beleaguered survivors in the current smash TV hit The Walking Dead, zombies have captivated audiences. But real life zombie companies aren’t as entertaining. The dramatic and sustained plunge in hydrocarbon prices since mid-2014 has ravaged the finances of oil and gas producers to the extent that some observers have labeled the weakest of these “zombie” companies. These cannot sustain themselves on current pretax cash flow and look to be shuffling slowly toward their ultimate demise. Today we take a walk through the living dead to uncover the zombies.
The mild winter in the U.S. thus far has created a balancing nightmare for the natural gas market. A freakishly warm December has meant below-average withdrawals and contributed to a record storage surplus over last winter’s levels. Not surprisingly, natural gas futures prices have been struggling under the weight of this surplus. However, a closer look at gas consumption over the past few weeks shows some underlying demand strength despite the warm weather. Today we take a closer look at where gas demand is coming from.
Energy market volatility in 2015 was neither the result of random market fluctuations nor geopolitical orchestration. The market pressures had been building for years, as one market event triggered another, leading inexorably to the carnage of Q4 2015. In fact, there were thirty such market events, which are represented by dominos in the new book by Rusty Braziel, titled The Domino Effect now Amazon’s #1 bestselling book in four categories. More dominoes will topple in 2016 and the years b