The U.S. natural gas market in the past two years has undergone massive change, from breaking storage records and crossing long-held thresholds to flipping flow patterns and pricing relationships on their heads. This November, the market crossed yet another milestone: the U.S. became a net exporter of natural gas for the first time ever on September 1, 2016. That lasted only a few days. But net exports resumed again starting November 1 and have continued through the month, almost without interruption, with pipeline deliveries to Mexico and to the first two liquefaction “trains” at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass LNG terminal exceeding imports from Canada and LNG import terminals by an average 0.6 Bcf/d. Today, we look into what’s really driving this shift and what that tells us about the trend going forward.
Every day, crude oil producers on Alaska’s North Slope re-inject nearly 7.8 Bcf of natural gas into their wells, enough gas to supply the entire U.S. West Coast—California, Oregon and Washington State. If only there were some way to monetize that gas supply, to move it to market. The problem is that there isn’t, at least in today’s gas/LNG market, which is characterized by ample supply and relatively low prices. This same market also favors infrastructure projects that are simple and low-cost; no one wants to make multibillion-dollar commitments when natural gas prices and margins are so low. Today we conclude our series on the tough times ahead for Alaska’s energy sector with a look at the state’s vast natural gas reserves and the challenges associated with tapping them.
The natural gas flow patterns that characterized the U.S. energy-delivery sector for the decades preceding the Shale Revolution are gradually being undone, and few, if any, states are more affected by these changes than Texas. The state remains the nation’s largest natural gas producer, and it still produces nearly twice as much gas as its consumes within its borders. But traditional Northeast and Midwest markets for Texas gas are being ceded to Marcellus/Utica producers, and more and more Northeast gas is flowing south/southwest to the western Gulf Coast, drawn by power/industrial demand, new LNG export terminals and rising pipeline-gas exports to Mexico. Today we begin a look at the dramatic shifts in gas flows out of Texas through key gas pipeline exit points.
Demand for U.S. natural gas exports via Texas is set to increase by close to 6 Bcf/d over the next few years. At the same time, Texas production has declined more than 3.0 Bcf/d (16%) to less than 17 Bcf/d in the first half of November from a peak of over 20 Bcf/d in December 2014, and any upside from current levels is likely to be far outpaced by that export demand growth. Much of the supply for export demand from Texas will need to come from outside the state, the most likely source being the only still-growing supply regions—the Marcellus/Utica shales in the U.S. Northeast. Perryville Hub in northeastern Louisiana will be a key waystation for southbound flows from the Marcellus/Utica to target these export markets along the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast, particularly given the hub’s connectivity and prime location. Today, we look at the pipeline expansion projects into Perryville that will make this flow reversal possible.
With today’s low crude oil and natural gas prices, the survival of exploration and production companies depends on razor-thin margins. Lease operating expenses––the costs incurred by an operator to keep production flowing after the initial cost of drilling and completing a well have been incurred––are a go-to variable in assessing the financial health of E&Ps. But it’s not enough for investors and analysts to pull LOE line items from Securities and Exchange Commission filings to find the lowest cost producers, plays, or basins. More than ever we need to understand—really, truly, deeply—what LOEs are, why they matter, how they change with commodity prices, production volumes, and other factors, and how we should use them when comparing players and plays. Today we begin a series on a little-explored but important factor in assessing oil and gas production costs.
Some 3.2 Bcf/d of new LNG export capacity will be coming online along Texas’s Gulf Coast over the next two and a half years, and 8 Bcf/d of new natural gas pipeline capacity is under development to transport vast quantities of gas through Texas to the Mexican border. But while gas-export opportunities abound, Texas gas production is down, mostly due to a big fall-off in Eagle Ford output, so exporters will need to pull gas from as far away as the Marcellus/Utica to meet their fast-growing requirements. That will flip Texas from a net producing region to a net demand region once when you factor in exports that will flow through the state. This profound shift will put extraordinary pressure on Texas’s unusually complex network of interstate and intrastate pipeline systems, which will need to be reworked and expanded to deal with the new gas-flow patterns. It also will have a significant effect on regional gas pricing––putting a premium on Texas prices. These issues and more are addressed in RBN’s latest Drill Down Report, highlights of which we discuss in today’s blog.
The natural gas pipeline grid in Texas is undergoing a historic transformation as interstate pipelines designed to move gas north and east from the Gulf Coast region are being reversed, enabling Marcellus/Utica gas to flow to LNG export markets in Louisiana and Texas, and via Texas for pipeline export to Mexico. With a history of oil and gas production going back more than 100 years, no region in the world has a more convoluted network of pipelines than Texas. The state can be viewed as a dense “spaghetti bowl” of interconnected interstate and intrastate systems that defies traditional gas market analysis, in part because intrastate pipelines do not post receipts and deliveries on their systems as required by federally regulated interstate pipelines. However, it is possible to assess the dynamics of regional flows and capacities by examining the morass of flow data available from interstate pipelines in the region that connect to the intrastates. To help make sense of this data, RBN has developed a simplified model that facilitates an understanding of Texas natural gas flows and capacities that we call (unsurprisingly since it’s RBN) the Fretboard Model because the region’s interstate pipelines and capacity constraints look (with just a bit of artistic license) very much like a guitar fretboard. In today’s blog, we introduce this model.
Natural gas pipeline takeaway projects under development out of the U.S. Northeast would enable ~10 Bcf/d to flow south from the Marcellus/Utica supply area. About half of that southbound capacity is geared to serve growing power generation demand directly south and east via the Mid-Atlantic states. But another nearly 5.0 Bcf/d is headed southwest to the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast for growing LNG export and Mexico demand—and that is on top of about 4.4 Bcf/d of reversal (or backhaul) capacity already added over the past two years. Much of the Gulf Coast-bound backhaul capacity will converge on the Perryville Hub, a market center located in northeastern Louisiana, about 220 miles north of the U.S. national benchmark Henry Hub. As such, the ability for gas to move through Perryville and get to downstream demand market centers will be key to balancing the natural gas markets. Today, we take a closer look at the historical and future pipeline capacity in and around the Perryville Hub.
The Shale Revolution changed everything about U.S energy markets, and in the process made forecasting the production and pricing of crude oil, natural gas and NGLs a heck of a lot harder. But we all learn from experience. In the early days of the Revolution, few could have predicted how quickly output would rise, how challenging it would be for pipeline takeaway capacity to keep up with production, or how successfully crude-by-rail would fill the gap – until that gap went away with the Revolution’s most recent phase. Comparing past forecasts to what actually happened is instructive though, and maybe––just maybe––today’s projections for the future are more informed than the forecasts of 2011 or 2013. In today’s blog we look at a recent presentation on forecasting lessons learned at RBN’s School of Energy earlier this month.
Intrastate natural gas pipelines in Texas reach far and wide, and can transport extraordinary volumes of gas. The problem is, the traditional supply/demand dynamics that spurred the development of all that pipe decades ago are being up-ended by burgeoning Marcellus/Utica production headed to the Gulf Coast and the demand-pull of gas to planned LNG export terminals along the Texas coast and to Mexico. Lone Star State pipelines that for years have flowed north and east to the Houston Ship Channel and beyond now must flow south and west. Today, we continue our review of efforts to rework and expand key elements of Texas’s intrastate gas pipeline network to meet growing export needs, this time with a look at plans by Enterprise Products Partners.
Northeast production growth, the primary driver of overall gains in U.S. natural gas output in recent years, has largely stalled in 2016. Rig counts in the Marcellus/Utica dropped to near six-year lows, and the region has been facing constraints—from takeaway capacity and in the past month or two from storage injection capacity. But market factors are again about to roil the Northeast: 1) winter heating demand is on its way, and 2) more takeaway capacity has come online in the past month and still more is coming before the year is up. Today, we review recent Northeast natural gas production trends using pipeline flow data from Genscape and assess factors that will impact regional production this winter.
Providing the capacity to transport Marcellus/Utica natural gas to and through the state of Texas to LNG export terminals and to Mexico will require pipeline reversals, new pipe and other enhancements along a combination of interstate and intrastate lines. In many ways, the long-distance part of the job––the reversal of large-diameter pipelines between the Northeast and the Lower Mississippi Valley––is the more straightforward; the greater challenge will be reworking the complicated pipeline networks between the Texas/Louisiana state line and the U.S./Mexico border. Today we review Texas pipeline projects being planned to allow increasing southbound flows of Northeast gas.
A total of 13 U.S. liquefaction trains with a combined capacity of about 58 MTPA (~8 Bcf/d) are either in early stages of operation along the Gulf Coast or under construction and scheduled to be online by the end of 2019. Of that, about 3.2 Bcf/d is being developed along the Texas Gulf Coast. Beyond that, a “second wave” of liquefaction projects is lining up, with as much as an additional 11 Bcf/d of capacity proposed for Texas by the early 2020s. While many of these second-wave projects may not get built, those that do will require the construction or rejigging of hundreds of miles of pipelines, particularly along that Gulf Coast corridor. Several of the first and second wave liquefaction projects have proposed to build laterals that connect to and branch out from nearby long-haul pipelines, creating new Gulf Coast-bound delivery points for Eagle Ford shale gas as well for supply that will eventually move south from supply basins as far north as the Marcellus and Utica shales. Today, we take a closer look at these liquefaction-related pipeline projects and how they will connect to and impact the existing pipeline network.
Natural gas utilities and power generators in southern New England will have access to additional gas supplies this winter as Spectra Energy brings its 342-MMcf/d Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) project into service. But Kinder Morgan’s planned 72-MMcf/d Connecticut Expansion has been set back a year (to November 2017) due to permitting delays and, more important, a multi-state effort to enable electric distribution utilities (EDUs) to contract for gas pipeline capacity for generators appears to have died, and with it prospects for at least one major project. Is New England destined to remain gas-supply constrained for years to come? Today we consider recent developments regarding gas supply in the northeastern corner of the U.S., and what they may mean for Marcellus/Utica producers.
Fundamental, far-reaching changes in natural gas pipeline flows within the Lone Star State to enable increased gas supplies to reach LNG terminals and Mexico cross-border points give new significance to the issue of federal versus state pipeline regulation. Given Texas’s independent streak, it comes as no surprise that federal and state rules are night-and-day, with the Texas regs being largely hands-off and the feds’ being very hands-on. The differences are worth examining because they affect project development, pipeline tariffs, relationships between pipeline owner/operations and gas sellers/buyers—even the degree of transparency regarding shipper contracts and daily pipeline flows. Today we consider the differences between federal and state regulatory oversight of gas pipelines in Texas, and why they matter.