Cushing

Sunday, 03/13/2022

The world is in desperate need of more crude oil right now and anybody with barrels is scouring every nook and cranny for any additional volume that can be brought to market. Some of that may come from increased production, but the oil patch is a long-cycle industry, just coming off one of the most severe bust periods ever, and it will take time to get all the various national oil companies, majors, and independents rowing in the same direction again. For now, part of the answer will be to drain what we can from storage — after all, a major purpose of storing crude inventories is to serve as a shock absorber for short-term market disruptions. To that end, the U.S. is coordinating with other nations to release strategic reserve volumes to help stymie the global impact of avoiding Russian commodities. Outside of reserves held for strategic purposes though, commercial inventories have already been dwindling as escalating global crude prices have been signaling the market to sell as much as possible. Stored volumes at Cushing — the U.S.’s largest commercial tank farm and home to the pricing benchmark WTI — have been freefalling for months, which raises the question, how much more (if any) can come out of Cushing? In today’s RBN blog, we update one of our Greatest Hits blogs to calculate how much crude oil is actually available at Cushing.

Thursday, 03/10/2022

Russia’s war on Ukraine turbocharged global crude oil prices and spurred price volatility the likes of which we haven’t seen since COVID hit two years ago. The price of WTI at the Cushing hub in Oklahoma — the delivery point for CME/NYMEX futures contracts — has gone nuts, and the forward curve is indicating the steepest backwardation ever. In other words, the market is telling traders in all-caps, “SELL, SELL, SELL! Sell any crude you can get your hands on. It’s going to be worth far less in the future.” So anyone with barrels in storage there for non-operational reasons is pulling them out, and fast! In today’s RBN blog, we look at the recent spike in global crude oil prices and what it means for inventories at the U.S.’s most liquid oil hub.

Sunday, 12/26/2021

You would expect the start-up of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement project early this fall to have eased the constraints on crude oil pipelines from Western Canada to the U.S. — and it did. You’d also expect that L3R coming online would narrow the price spread between Western Canadian Select and West Texas intermediate — but it didn’t. The latest widening of the WCS-WTI spread, one of many in recent years, is another reminder that oil price differentials can be affected by many factors other than pipeline capacity availability. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the host of issues that affect this all-important Canadian oil price metric.

Tuesday, 11/09/2021

Crude oil production in Western Canada has been rising steadily for most of the past decade. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for its oil pipeline export capacity to the U.S., which has generally failed to keep pace with the increases in production. Dogged by regulatory, legal, and environmental roadblocks, permitting and constructing additional pipeline takeaway capacity has been a slow and complicated affair, although progress continues to be made. The most recent tranche arrived last month with the start-up of Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement pipeline, which provides an incremental 370 Mb/d of export capacity and should help to shrink the massive price discounts that have often plagued Western Canadian producers in recent years. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the long-delayed project and how its operation is likely to affect Western Canada’s crude oil market, now and in the future.

Sunday, 09/05/2021

The seven years since the heady days of $100/bbl oil in mid-2014 have been a tumultuous time for midstream companies tasked with funding a massive infrastructure build-out to support surging crude oil and natural gas production. Midstreamers have been buffeted by volatile commodity prices, waves of E&P bankruptcies, rapidly shifting investor sentiment, and, finally, a global pandemic. Perhaps no company has had a more challenging road than master limited partnership (MLP) Plains All American, which had to cut unitholder distributions three times over a turbulent five years as it built out a crude gathering and long-haul transportation portfolio focused on the Permian Basin. With its capital program winding down, commodity prices rising, and a new joint venture in the works, can Plains performance rebound and win back investor support? In today’s blog, we discuss highlights from our new Spotlight report on Plains, which lays out how the company arrived at this juncture and how well-positioned it is to benefit from the significant recovery in commodity prices and Permian E&P activity.

Tuesday, 08/31/2021

The seven years since the heady days of $100/bbl oil in mid-2014 have been a tumultuous time for midstream companies tasked with funding a massive infrastructure build-out to support surging crude oil and natural gas production. Midstreamers have been buffeted by volatile commodity prices, waves of E&P bankruptcies, rapidly shifting investor sentiment, and, finally, a global pandemic. Perhaps no company has had a more challenging road than master limited partnership (MLP) Plains All American, which had to cut unitholder distributions three times over a turbulent five years as it built out a crude gathering and long-haul transportation portfolio focused on the Permian Basin. With its capital program winding down, commodity prices rising, and a new joint venture in the works, can Plains performance rebound and win back investor support? In today’s blog, we discuss highlights from our new Spotlight report on Plains, which lays out how the company arrived at this juncture and how well-positioned it is to benefit from the significant recovery in commodity prices and Permian E&P activity.

Monday, 04/19/2021

Well, it’s been 365 days since the unthinkable happened: the price of WTI at Cushing went negative last April 20, and by a solid $37.63 a barrel at that. The insanity didn’t end there, though. The pandemic that many thought would be behind us in a season or two at most had a second wave, then a third and, some say, a fourth. U.S. refinery demand for crude oil, which plummeted by more than 3 MMb/d last spring, still has only recouped only half that loss. E&Ps, who shut in thousands of wells when oil demand and prices tanked, still are only producing 11 MMb/d — 2 MMb/d less than they were pre-COVID. LNG exports took a big hit too, another victim of demand destruction. As if all that weren’t enough, a couple of months ago, just as new vaccines were providing hope that everything would soon be returning to normal, the Deep Freeze put the Texas economy on ice and slowed production and refining once again. Strange times indeed. But we’re learning from it all, right? Today is the one-year anniversary of oil price Armageddon, so we take a look back at 12 months of market madness that no one could have predicted.

Tuesday, 03/16/2021

The crude oil hub in Patoka, IL, is in many ways a smaller version of the hub in Cushing, OK. Like its larger sibling, Patoka receives a broad variety of crudes from Western Canada, the Bakken, and other production areas, stores and blends oil, and sends it out to refineries and Gulf Coast terminals tied to export docks. In Patoka’s case, there are only five major incoming pipelines that directly connect to the hub, but many of them receive crude from a number of upstream systems, some as far away as the Alberta oil sands. Important for Patoka’s future, a few of the pipelines feeding the hub are being expanded. Today, we continue our series on the second-largest oil hub in PADD 2 with a look at the pipelines that flow into Patoka and the sourcing of their crude.

Thursday, 03/04/2021

The crude oil hub in Cushing, OK, is larger and grabs the headlines, but don’t you forget about the Patoka hub in south-central Illinois. It plays critically important roles in receiving Western Canadian, Bakken, and other crude, distributing it to a slew of Midwestern refineries, and directing oil south to the Gulf Coast on the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline to Nederland, TX — and soon on Capline to St. James, LA, when reversed flows on that large-bore pipe begin in early 2022. Better still, there are great stories behind the development of the Patoka storage and distribution hub and how it works. Today, we begin a series on the second-largest crude oil hub in PADD 2 and why, with the upcoming Capline reversal and other changes, the hub is more relevant than ever.

Tuesday, 01/19/2021

U.S. crude oil imported from Western Canada averaged almost 3.6 MMb/d in the first 10 months of 2020 and accounted for 60% of total imports over the period. That’s some growth! Ten years ago, Canada was sending less than 2 MMb/d south and contributing only 21% of total U.S, import volumes. Alberta oil sands producers are planning for more production and export growth through the 2020s, with most of the incremental volumes bound for Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries and export docks. If that happens — and there’s no certainty it will — more north-to-south pipeline capacity through the U.S. heartland will be needed. Today, we continue our series on the efforts to expand or reverse crude oil pipelines between the U.S./Canada border and the Gulf of Mexico.

Sunday, 01/17/2021

If you are looking for a way to focus on 2021 without reflecting on the last 12 months, we might have a deal for you. That’s because Permian natural gas and oil production is starting off this year at levels very close to where they finished 2019. That’s right: as far as the Permian is concerned, you can almost skip entirely over 2020 and pick up right where we left off the prior year. Well, for the most part. Oil prices are lower, rig counts have been reduced, and industry consolidation has removed some of the familiar Permian names from the stock ticker. In general, the atmosphere out in West Texas has calmed down dramatically from the headiest days of Permian growth and it’s safe to say it’s easier to grab lunch in Midland these days. Does that mean things in the basin aren’t still interesting out there? If you ask us, the answer is a resounding “No!” For starters, growth is back in the basin, even if it is at a slower pace than in 2019, and natural gas prices are stronger, with negative-price trades a thing of the past thanks to new pipelines. Even crude prices are better than some might think, with Permian barrels pricing over Cushing for many months now. The Permian in 2021 is certainly a half-empty or half-full type of market. We go for the latter in today’s blog, in which we outline our view of production growth in West Texas this year.

Thursday, 01/07/2021

If you are looking for a way to focus on 2021 without reflecting on the last 12 months, we might have a deal for you. That’s because Permian natural gas and oil production is starting off this year at levels very close to where they finished 2019. That’s right: as far as the Permian is concerned, you can almost skip entirely over 2020 and pick up right where we left off the prior year. Well, for the most part. Oil prices are lower, rig counts have been reduced, and industry consolidation has removed some of the familiar Permian names from the stock ticker. In general, the atmosphere out in West Texas has calmed down dramatically from the headiest days of Permian growth and it’s safe to say it’s easier to grab lunch in Midland these days. Does that mean things in the basin aren’t still interesting out there? If you ask us, the answer is a resounding “No!” For starters, growth is back in the basin, even if it is at a slower pace than in 2019, and natural gas prices are stronger, with negative-price trades a thing of the past thanks to new pipelines. Even crude prices are better than some might think, with Permian barrels pricing over Cushing for many months now. The Permian in 2021 is certainly a half-empty or half-full type of market. We go for the latter in today’s blog, in which we outline our view of production growth in West Texas this year.

Wednesday, 01/06/2021

The province of Alberta has lifted its cap on crude oil production, oil-sands producers are implementing plans to increase their output through the 2020s, and new pipeline capacity from Western Canada into the central U.S. is being added on the all-important Enbridge Mainline system. With those stars aligning, the next big push by midstream companies will be expanding their ability to move Canadian barrels south to the Cushing hub in Oklahoma, the Patoka hub in Illinois, and refineries and export docks along the Gulf Coast. As a group, these new and expanded lines — plus a major pipe reversal — will represent one of the biggest midstream build-outs in the U.S. of this coming decade. Today, we begin a blog series about these projects and what’s driving their development.

Wednesday, 12/23/2020

Cushing. This small town in central Oklahoma is the center of the U.S. crude oil universe, with prices at the Cushing hub serving as the reference price for all of the crude produced in the U.S. — and given the role that U.S. oil has assumed on the global stage, one of the most important determinants of global crude oil pricing. Considering the hub’s significance, it’s frequently surprising to industry veterans just how misunderstood Cushing can be. Like, for example, how SHOCKED the world was when Cushing prices dropped below zero back in April. Cushing traders had seen that coming for weeks — the only surprise to them was how far the price plunged that crazy Monday morning. It’s easy to see how something as enigmatic and complex as Cushing might be misunderstood — or underestimated — if you’re not familiar with its history, its inner workings, and its many crucial roles in both the physical and financial crude oil markets. It’s also tempting to think you can get by with only a passing knowledge of Cushing and how it operates. Au contraire! Cushing really matters, and market participants ignore it at their peril. The good news is that there’s finally a combo encyclopedia and user’s manual for “The Pipeline Crossroads of the World.” Today, we examine the hub’s significance to producers, refiners, midstreamers, marketers, and traders, and discuss highlights from RBN’s new Cushing Playbook.

Tuesday, 12/08/2020

Cushing. This small town in central Oklahoma is the center of the U.S. crude oil universe, with prices at the Cushing hub serving as the reference price for all of the crude produced in the U.S. — and given the role that U.S. oil has assumed on the global stage, one of the most important determinants of global crude oil pricing. Considering the hub’s significance, it’s frequently surprising to industry veterans just how misunderstood Cushing can be. Like, for example, how SHOCKED the world was when Cushing prices dropped below zero back in April. Cushing traders had seen that coming for weeks — the only surprise to them was how far the price plunged that crazy Monday morning. It’s easy to see how something as enigmatic and complex as Cushing might be misunderstood — or underestimated — if you’re not familiar with its history, its inner workings, and its many crucial roles in both the physical and financial crude oil markets. It’s also tempting to think you can get by with only a passing knowledge of Cushing and how it operates. Au contraire! Cushing really matters, and market participants ignore it at their peril. The good news is that there’s finally a combo encyclopedia and user’s manual for “The Pipeline Crossroads of the World.” Today, we examine the hub’s significance to producers, refiners, midstreamers, marketers, and traders, and discuss highlights from RBN’s new Cushing Playbook.