The much-discussed shortfall in natural gas pipeline capacity into New England has been largely mitigated this winter because generators—encouraged by low oil prices and incentives to lock in backup supplies of oil and LNG—are ready, willing and able to switch their dual-fuel power plants away from pipeline natural gas and onto oil and LNG-sourced gas if market conditions warrant. But now that prices for those fuels are more attractive, could switching to oil and imported LNG during winter’s coldest days and nights actually be a longer term solution to New England’s pipeline capacity problem instead of just a stopgap until new pipelines are built? Today, we begin a look at the changing economics of burning oil and LNG-sourced gas to help power New England when the region turns arctic, and what they may mean for proposed pipeline expansion projects.
Can it make sense for a producer to drill a well in today’s low price environment even if the rate of return on that well is below zero? Surprisingly the answer is yes, and the issue has important implications for the impact lower prices will ultimately have on U.S. oil and gas production volumes. Factors such as lease requirements can incentivize drilling and cause production levels to continue growing, even when spot prices don’t seem to support it. As the new economics of lower oil, NGL and natural gas prices suggest that production declines are just down the road, the market’s quest to nail down when and how much production will decline has brought the role of “hold by production” (HBP) drilling into the spotlight. Questions about HBP status and its role in producers drilling strategies have been a staple in the latest round of earnings calls.Today we take a closer look at HBP drilling.
Exports of U.S.-sourced natural gas as liquefied natural gas (LNG) will likely begin within a year’s time, and will ramp up through the 2016-19 period. That much seems certain. What’s less clear is whether the capacity of U.S. liquefaction/export projects will plateau at the roughly 6 Bcf/d in the “First Four” projects now under construction or continue rising higher. Yesterday’s decision by the BG Group to delay it’s commitment to the 2 Bcf/d capacity of the Lake Charles LNG terminal until 2016 certainly casts doubts on those further expansions. Prospects for additional export projects hinge on a few interrelated factors, including the higher capital costs associated with some next-round projects; the costs and challenges of shipping LNG through the expanded Panama Canal; and the possibility of competing LNG export projects being developed elsewhere, including western Canada. Today we consider these factors and handicap the handful of export projects on the cusp of advancing.
The Dominion South Point strip price for the balance of 2015 (March-December) has been settling consistently under $1.90/MMBtu, while Transco Zone 6 in New York is averaging around $2.80/MMBtu in this week’s forwards market. Meanwhile, Northeast and US gas production remain near record levels. The breakeven price environment and looming oversupply leaves producers and the industry vulnerable to the downside. Where and when will prices bottom out? What, if anything, would trigger a rebound? Today Part 4 of our Forward Curve Series, focuses on fundamental factors driving Northeast forward curves over the next few years.
There were—and still are—reasons to be optimistic about the potential for U.S. LNG exports. Worldwide demand for LNG is rising, the U.S. has vast reserves of cheap natural gas, and Asian LNG buyers in particular have been looking to diversify their sources and shift away from oil-indexed LNG pricing. But the collapse in oil prices has shaken the LNG world and undermined confidence in the U.S.’s LNG-exporting future. Today we continue our look at what’s ahead for liquefaction/export projects, given the topsy-turvy nature of today’s energy markets.
Mexico probably has enough shale gas to meet its needs ‘til the vacas—or cows—come home. For technological, security and other reasons, though, it will take years for that now-trapped gas to be tapped on a large scale. In the meantime, Mexico is turning to U.S. gas suppliers, and billions of dollars of new pipelines are being built to transport vast amounts of gas south of the border from the Permian Basin, the Eagle Ford and other plays to run Mexican power plants and factories. Today we consider recent developments in U.S. gas exports to our southern neighbor.
The NYMEX gas futures curve for 2015 was sitting right at $3.00/MMBtu yesterday (January 27, 2015) as colder weather has halted it’s recent slide. This still puts outright prices in the Northeast gas forward curve in dangerous territory for producers – very close to breakeven levels – through 2015 and not much higher even beyond this year. With NGL prices no longer supporting drilling activity for many producers in the region, the gas forwards market is becoming a bigger factor in signaling producers’ drilling prospects. Today in Part 3 of our Forward Curve Series, we continue our look at Northeast forward curves, with a focus on the Dominion South Point price hub, its historical shape and the fundamentals behind where it stands now.
An ugly combination of sagging overseas demand for liquefied natural gas (LNG), new LNG supply coming online in Asia and cheaper oil dragging down prices has taken some wind out of the sails of U.S. LNG export prospects. After all, the LNG export boom was premised on rising world LNG demand and the pricing of gas at Henry Hub natural gas levels—a welcome alternative to traditional suppliers indexed to what used to be higher cost oil. The question becomes, will these setbacks just slow the pace of new LNG export projects in the U.S., or will the potential market be limited to the projects already locked in? Today, we consider recent developments and what they mean for LNG export projects—and U.S. natural gas producers.
On Friday (January 23, 2015) West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures prices closed under $46/Bbl for the second time this year. RBN’s analysis of producer internal rates of return (IRRs) for typical oil wells indicates that Bakken IRRs have fallen from 39% in the fall of 2014 to just 1% today. IRRs for typical Permian wells are down to 3% and typical Eagle Ford wells are at breakeven. Everything is underwater or close to it except for the sweet spot wells with higher production. Today we present highlights from RBN’s IRR and breakeven analysis – published in full today in our latest Drill Down Report.
There was no open outcry trading on the CME NYMEX yesterday because of the MLK holiday but after rallying on Friday U.S. crude prices resumed their descent here in electronic trading and the London ICE Brent contract lost $1.40/Bbl to close at $48.77/Bbl. Unsurprisingly the Baker Hughes oil drilling rig count is down by 209 (13%) since December 2014 as producers take a hard look at their production budgets. Yet production is still expected to increase in the short term – in part because the rigs that are left will focus on “sweet spots”. In today’s blog “It Don’t Come Easy – Low Crude Prices, Producer Breakevens and Drilling Economics – Part 2” Sandy Fielden looks at the assumptions behind RBN’s IRR and breakeven scenario analysis.
Lately the ethane market seems out of whack. Ethane production continues to increase even as it’s become the lowest margin (highest cost) feedstock for Gulf Coast petrochemical crackers – it’s main market. Ethane production by processing plants has been at an all-time high since June this year even as ethane prices fell to historical lows. Meanwhile, ethane inventories have fallen from their recent peak in July. How can all that make sense? Today we speculate as to what may be going on.
While uncertainties remain about the future of U.S. hydrocarbon production in a time of low oil prices, natural gas producers in the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford have made it clear they will continue to need more gas processing capacity. After all, the oil price slide has led many producers to shift their focus to sweet spots in the best, liquids-rich shale plays that produce crude, associated gas and natural gas liquids. There are two ways to add gas processing capacity—build it or buy it—and, with demand for processing capacity in the Permian and Eagle Ford potentially still rising, Targa Resources is doing both. Today we continue our look at gas processing plants, NGL pipelines and fractionators in two key NGL production plays near Mont Belvieu, TX, the center of the NGL world.
By Friday (January 9, 2015) crude prices had fallen 55% since June 2014, natural gas prices are at the lowest since 2012 and natural gas liquids are suffering as well. The potential revenues from U.S. shale oil production in 2015 would be a whopping $66 billion lower at $50/Bbl than when oil was $100/Bbl last year. In this new world where prices may not return close to pre-crash levels for a number of years, producers are scrambling to reconfigure drilling budgets and locations. The exercise is all about rates of return and figuring out breakeven prices. Today we start a new series looking under the hood at production drilling economics including results from our own models.
Welcome to 2015! No, the last few months of 2014 were not a dream – or nightmare, depending on your perspective. Crude oil prices really did come crashing to earth, sucking down NGL prices in the process. And natural gas prices followed, falling to $3/MMbtu last week. Price relationships are out the window, as are drilling budgets. Over the next few months, these markets will be going through some of the most dynamic changes in years, with unpredictable consequences. Unpredictable? Nah. No mere market turmoil will dissuade RBN from sticking our collective necks out a third year in a row to peer once more into the crystal ball. Today we wrap up RBNs Top Ten Energy Prognostications for 2015 – Year of the Goat – #5 to #1.
Time to sober up. Not from excessive New Year’s Eve reveling, but instead from the past five years of euphoria in the shale oil and gas markets. In the past two months crude oil prices have come crashing to earth, sucking down NGL prices in the process. And lately even natural gas has succumbed to the malaise, falling below $3/MMbtu this week. Price relationships are out the window, as are drilling budgets. Over the next few months, these markets will be going through some of the most dynamic changes in years, with unpredictable consequences. Unpredictable? Nah. No mere market turmoil can dissuade RBN from sticking out our collective necks to peer into the crystal ball for a third year in a row for 2015 – Year of the Goat. Really. We did not make that up.