Nustar

In the first eight months of last year, the Corpus Christi area ranked third among its Gulf Coast brethren in crude oil export volumes — Houston was consistently #1 then, and Beaumont was the regular runner-up. Since September 2019, though, Corpus has been out front, often by a wide margin, and there’s good reason to believe it will stay ahead of the pack, at least for a while. What’s driving the South Texas port’s export-volume growth? First, there are three big new pipelines now moving crude from the Permian to Corpus: Cactus II, EPIC Crude and Gray Oak. Second, Corpus Christi and nearby Ingleside, TX, have a lot of existing storage and marine-dock capacity, and more is being developed. Today, we continue our review of crude export facilities with a look at three terminals along Corpus’s Inner Harbor.

After a decade in which unprecedented upstream production growth triggered massive investment in infrastructure to get crude oil, natural gas and NGLs to market, 2020 is a major inflection point for the U.S. midstream industry. The good news is that after peaking at a whopping $37 billion in 2019, midstream capital expenditures are forecast to steeply decline over the next few years as the lion’s share of the infrastructure needed to gather, transport, process, and store current and expected hydrocarbon volumes has already been built or is nearing completion. And, despite continued cutbacks in capex by exploration and production companies, output is still forecast to rise in 2020, which should boost earnings growth for the midstream sector. But all midstream companies aren’t alike, and the prospects for individual entities vary widely because of the specific basins and hubs where they’ve decided to build, acquire, expand or divest. Today, we analyze the headwinds and tailwinds these companies will experience, and how their decisions over the past few years will help determine their prospects.

It’s safe to say that Permian producers had a good Christmas. Sure, their stock prices may be off a bit and their rig counts are down. But the absolute prices they are paid for their crude oil are up by almost $20/bbl versus this time in December 2018, and the price spreads between the Permian and neighboring markets have significantly narrowed as a result. What’s driving this change? There are a variety of factors at play, but chief among them is the new pipeline infrastructure that has helped lift Permian producers’ oil price realizations. Today, we check in on the status of one of the major new pipelines that have contributed to the seismic shift in the Permian oil market this year.

The midstream sector in Texas is still in the midst of what seems to be a never-ending build-out of new pipelines, storage terminals and export docks, all aimed at keeping pace with rising production and refining volumes and the increasing need to move incremental output to foreign markets. Given the understandable desire of midstream companies to earn revenue and profits multiple times as hydrocarbons move from the lease to end-users, it’s not surprising to find midstreamers at work on a variety of projects along the way. A prime example would be NuStar Energy, whose capital spending plan for 2019-20 is focused on helping to resolve three bottlenecks: between its crude oil gathering system and takeaway pipelines in the Permian, between takeaway pipes and export docks in the Corpus Christi area, and between South Texas refineries and refined products customers in Mexico. Today, we look at a leading midstreamer’s multifaceted expansion effort in the Lone Star State.

Despite last month’s much-publicized start-up of two new crude oil pipelines from the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast — Plains All American’s Cactus II and EPIC Crude Holding’s EPIC Pipeline — tangible evidence of how much crude is actually moving on those pipelines has been hard to come by. That’s because crude oil pipelines don’t post daily flow data, like some natural gas pipelines do, and shipper volumes are a closely held secret that often only becomes available long after the fact. However, Cactus II and EPIC both deliver into the Corpus Christi, TX, market area, where a number of export facilities have been waiting to move Permian barrels out into the global market. We’ve been keeping a close eye on Corpus-area docks and have noticed a significant increase in export volumes over the last few days — a clear indication that Permian crude on Cactus II and EPIC has broken through to the global market. Today, we detail a recent rise in Corpus Christi oil export volumes driven by new supply from the Permian Basin.

It’s no secret by now that Permian oil markets have struggled over the last two years as nagging takeaway-pipeline constraints put a damper on production growth and, at times, hammered pricing in the basin. Like the Houston Astros’ opponents in the AL West, though, the days are numbered now for Permian oil market constraints, as two new large-diameter pipelines from West Texas to Corpus Christi will be in-service by the end of the month. One of those pipes, Plains All American’s Cactus II, is set to enter service this week. Today, we assess the potential implications of the latest Permian long-haul pipeline expansion, and introduce RBN’s new weekly publication, Crude Oil Permian!

It’s been nine months since Plains All American’s Sunrise II crude oil pipeline started service out of the Permian to the Wichita Falls, TX, crude hub. In that time, it has transformed the balance of supply versus downstream takeaway capacity at Wichita Falls and become a critical conduit of Permian crude to the Cushing and Gulf Coast markets. What’s more, Plains is planning to build the Red Oak Pipeline from Cushing through Wichita Falls to the Gulf Coast in 2021, which will further solidify Sunrise II as an important outlet for Permian oil for some time. With two other new long-haul Permian crude pipelines — EPIC and Cactus II — days away from starting interim service to the Gulf Coast, an analysis of Sunrise II’s impacts thus far provides some clues as to how future expansions will reshape the region. Today, we discuss how Plains’ Sunrise II project has affected crude oil flows from the Permian to Wichita Falls, and from there to Cushing and the Gulf Coast, as well as what its role will be when Red Oak comes online.

Mexico’s need to import increasing amounts of transportation and cooking fuels--mostly gasoline, diesel, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)—from the U.S. is spurring an infrastructure development boom on both sides of the Rio Grande. Over the past few years this has been a frequently reoccurring pattern:   A fast growing market for hydrocarbons emerges, and the need to efficiently move increasing volumes of product from points A and B to points C, D and E quickly becomes urgent. All hands are called on-deck: trucks, railroads, barges, pipelines—plus storage facilities and distribution terminals. Today, we consider the latest initiatives to deliver gasoline, diesel, jet-kero and LPG from Texas to its southern neighbor.

The St. James, LA crude trading hub provides feedstock to 2.6 MMb/d of regional refining capacity as well as refineries in the Midwest. St. James is also an important distribution hub for crude from North Dakota, South Texas, the Gulf of Mexico and onshore Louisiana as well as imports arriving at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP). Crude storage and midstream infrastructure at St. James has been expanding in recent years as the trading hub handles larger volumes of domestic production. Today we begin a new series looking at infrastructure and crude pricing at St. James.

Mexican production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel continues to fall and Mexico’s imports of these refined petroleum products from the U.S. are rising fast to keep pace with increasing demand. Longer term upgrade projects to increase Mexican refinery transport fuel are finally underway. But before refinery upgrades make a dent in imports, two ambitious refined-products pipeline/terminals projects will make it easier and more efficient to move large volumes of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from Texas refineries into Mexico.  Today, we update our coverage of fast-moving developments in Mexico-U.S. hydrocarbon trading.

Corpus Christi has emerged as an important crude refining and distribution market hub for Eagle Ford and Permian Basin crude and lease condensate. Corpus has a lot going for it: it’s close to--and well-connected by pipeline with--the Eagle Ford, it has new and potentially growing connections with Permian; and Corpus and its environs boast considerable crude/condensate storage, refining and processing capacity, as well as one of the nation’s busiest ports. Today we continue our review of Eagle Ford crude/condensate pipelines feeding Corpus including Kinder Morgan, NuStar, Magellan and Harvest pipelines.

Natural gas producers are probably turning green with envy: Processed condensate exports out of the US Gulf are strong and getting stronger. Since the Department of Commerce threw the doors open to the export of lightly processed condensate, new loading points have emerged, new target markets have been found, and more companies have become involved. Today we describe how attention is now turning from regulatory and logistical issues to the challenge of finding buyers.

The prolific, liquids-rich Permian Basin and Eagle Ford plays have attracted more than a dozen midstream companies interested in meeting the growing need for natural gas processing plants, fractionators and natural gas liquids pipelines. Some of the larger players have assembled broad-based portfolios of assets, while others have focused on more stand-alone NGL pipeline or gas processing investments. Today we begin wrapping up our series on NGL-related assets in two of the nation’s most important shale plays.

Since the start of 2013 Corpus Christi marine terminal facilities have increased crude and condensate storage by 10 MMBbl and throughput capacity from 225 Mb/d to nearly 1 MMb/d. Upwards of 700 Mb/d is leaving the Port of Corpus Christi by barge and tanker – most of it headed along the Gulf Coast to Houston or Louisiana. Waterborne traffic congestion in Corpus is already limiting terminal throughput but the potential for increased exports of condensate and refined products from planned condensate splitters suggest the traffic will get worse soon. Today we survey current Corpus terminal facilities.

They say that being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with success in business. Two companies with infrastructure in the Eagle Ford can certainly attest to that. Koch Industries and NuStar Energy both owned pipeline assets supplying crude to refineries in South Texas long before the shale boom – putting them in a strong position to benefit from the flood of crude on their doorstep. Since 2011 both companies have expanded pipeline and terminal infrastructure to ship nearly 600 Mb/d of crude and condensate between them. Today we explain how.