Gulf Coast

Wednesday, 06/15/2022

Freeport LNG is expected to be offline for an extended period following last week’s explosion and fire at the export terminal, leaving the global gas market even more undersupplied than it already was. The outage cuts U.S. export capacity by about 2 Bcf/d at a time when Europe is still taking in huge volumes of LNG to offset declines in Russian supplies and bolster storage ahead of winter. This is all happening as another large exporting nation, Australia, is facing a critical winter energy crisis of its own and South American demand is headed toward its seasonal high, straining an already tight market. Today’s RBN blog continues our series about the ongoing Freeport outage, this time looking at the impact to the global gas and LNG markets.

Sunday, 06/12/2022

An explosion June 8 at Freeport LNG, the 15.3 MMtpa (2 Bcf/d) export terminal on Quintana Island, TX, has knocked it offline at a time when the global market is already facing tight conditions because of the war in Ukraine and other factors. The explosion, fire and subsequent shutdown — which fortunately did not include any injuries — sent U.S. natural gas tumbling off recent highs and shot global gas prices higher. Much is still unknown about the developing situation, including exactly how long the outage will last. While Freeport has said it expects the terminal to be offline for at least three weeks, multiple regulatory agencies have investigations underway and will likely need to approve a return to service. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the latest news from Freeport LNG and run through the potential market implications, starting with impacts to the U.S. gas market.

Thursday, 06/02/2022

The momentum for North American LNG right now is incredible. With Europe’s efforts to wean itself off Russian natural gas supplies boosting long-term LNG demand in the continent and Asian demand expected to grow even further, there has been a strong push for new LNG projects in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, with enough commercial support and capital present to advance at least some of them to construction and operation. Venture Global on May 25 reached a final investment decision on Phase 1 of Plaquemines LNG, the first North American project to take FID since Energía Costa Azul LNG in 2020. But it’s unlikely to be the last. Cheniere’s Corpus Christi Stage III is likely to follow in the coming months and support is coalescing around a handful of other projects too. So far this year, more than 20 MMtpa of long-term, binding commitments tied to new North American LNG capacity have been signed, propelling a new wave of LNG projects towards FID. In today’s RBN blog, we take a look at the trends in the recent commercial commitments.

Tuesday, 05/10/2022

Brace yourself for it. Over the next few weeks, there’s a good chance that a tsunami of crude oil will be released from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and it’s likely that much (if not most) of that oil will be piped to Gulf Coast export docks and loaded onto supertankers. If that happens, the export capacity of crude-handling terminals from Corpus Christi to coastal Louisiana will be stress-tested on their ability to send out much larger volumes than they’re used to dealing with. And that’s only the beginning. Over the next year or two, while U.S. E&Ps ratchet up production in response to higher prices as Europeans and others scramble to replace Russian crude oil, Gulf Coast export terminals may well be called upon to load and ship out even more oil (in addition to refined products) on a regular basis. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impending SPR releases and the ability of Gulf Coast ports and individual terminals to handle increasing volumes.

Monday, 04/18/2022

Vladimir Putin’s fateful decision to invade Ukraine and the ongoing brutality have made Russia a pariah state to many leading hydrocarbon-consuming nations, which in turn has caused cuts in Russian crude oil production and exports. That raises a few important questions, chief among them the degree to which other producers — including the U.S. and the non-Russian members of OPEC+ –– can ramp up their production and displace Russian oil. U.S. output has been increasing recently, albeit only gradually, and production could rise much more quickly under the right circumstances. But if it does, would there be enough crude export capacity available along the Gulf Coast to handle, say, another 500 Mb/d or 1 MMb/d? In today’s RBN blog, we examine the ability of key U.S. export facilities to stage, load and ship out increasing volumes of oil.

Wednesday, 03/30/2022

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed U.S. LNG into the spotlight as Europe seeks to wean itself off Russian natural gas. In the short term, U.S. LNG to Europe is constrained by liquefaction capacity on the LNG output side but also by Europe’s own import capacity and pipeline grid. Very little can be done to quickly increase global LNG production, and while many export terminals will operate at peak capacity for longer to boost output, LNG terminals take time to build, so capacity for this year and the next few years is already set. Further out, however, there is no shortage of new projects hoping to capitalize on the current clamor for LNG and reach a final investment decision (FID), and the U.S. could be headed toward its biggest year for new LNG capacity ever. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series examining key U.S. projects, turning our lens to what is arguably the most discussed and reported-on project on our list — and one that is moving forward potentially without a formal FID — Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG.

Monday, 03/28/2022

The Biden administration said last Friday it would help ensure deliveries of an additional 15 billion cubic meters (Bcm) of LNG to the European Union (EU) market in 2022. A frenzy of media articles followed and the targeted increase was widely cited. The April CME/NYMEX Henry Hub futures contract rallied nearly 3% to $5.55/MMBtu on Friday, and the stock price for Cheniere Energy, the largest LNG producer in the U.S., jumped 5.5% the same day. But U.S. liquefaction facilities have already been running full tilt and sending record volumes to Europe. So, what does the news really mean for U.S. LNG exports and the domestic gas market? In today’s RBN blog, we put that 15 Bcm in perspective and distill the key takeaways for U.S. LNG production.

Sunday, 03/20/2022

U.S. LNG exports are at an all-time high, driven primarily by new capacity online or commissioning, but the existing terminal fleet has also been pushing production to the max as offtakers, particularly in Europe, hunt for every spare molecule they can find. Every single terminal in the U.S. set a new monthly export record in either December or January. But is it enough? With the ongoing and tragic war in Ukraine threatening energy security and reliability in Europe, where gas storage inventories are already running low, the focus increasingly turns to LNG to replace at least some of the gas it typically imports from Russia. It sounds great in theory, and in the long term more LNG capacity will be added, but for now, we’re stuck with the infrastructure we’ve got, putting a ceiling on both how much Europe can take and how much exporters, including the U.S., can send. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the potential for incremental LNG exports from the U.S. to Europe to help offset Russian gas.

Monday, 03/07/2022

Cheniere Energy is by far the largest owner and operator of U.S. LNG capacity, with 45 MMtpa across nine liquefaction trains at two terminals: the six-train Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana and the three-train Corpus Christi terminal in South Texas. But when Sabine Pass Train 6 was placed into service earlier this year, it marked the first time since 2012 that Cheniere had no capacity under construction. The pause may not last long. With global demand for LNG super-strong and prices even stronger — the April Dutch Title Transfer Facility (TTF) contract hit a record $72.53/MMBtu on March 7 — and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatening future supplies of Russian gas into Europe, Cheniere may be poised to make a final investment decision (FID) on the next stage of its Corpus Christi LNG. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on the next wave of U.S. LNG projects with a closer look at Cheniere’s Corpus Christi Stage III.

Tuesday, 02/15/2022

Even as winter starts to wind down, global natural gas prices remain elevated as rising tensions between Russia and the Western world have destabilized European energy markets and pushed LNG, and U.S. LNG in particular, to center stage. From a markets perspective, the story of the past year has been high global gas prices — a strong incentive for LNG producers to push production facilities to operate at peak capacity and produce additional cargoes. The tight market has also spurred demand for new long-term sales and purchase agreements (SPAs), creating momentum for a potential new wave of LNG development. But while gas prices in Europe and Asia have been elevated all year, they have not been elevated evenly. The Asia-Europe price spread has swung dramatically from favoring Asia last spring and summer to favoring Europe this winter, and U.S. export destinations have swung with it. Last summer, almost no destination-flexible LNG produced in the U.S. was landing in Europe and now Europe is consuming U.S. LNG at record levels. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how global price spreads impact U.S. LNG export destinations and what the strength in European demand means for the future of LNG development.

Thursday, 02/03/2022

It’s expected to be a big year for U.S. LNG. The U.S. was the top monthly exporter of LNG for the first time in December 2021 and is expected to hold onto that crown as new capacity at Sabine Pass and a new terminal, Calcasieu Pass, begin service this year. The chaos of European gas markets has made U.S. exports particularly attractive, especially after a year or more of high global demand, sky-high global gas prices, and an undersupplied market that has left offtakers clamoring for more. Last year saw those offtakers come back to the negotiating table for long-term sales and purchase agreements (SPAs) from new U.S. LNG capacity and several projects now have a realistic path to a positive final investment decision (FID) in 2022. In today’s RBN blog we begin a series taking a closer look at some of the projects most likely to reach FID this year, starting with arguably the most likely next contender, Venture Global’s Plaquemines LNG.

Sunday, 01/09/2022

Global natural gas prices went through the roof in December, and while prices are back down from those highs, they remain incredibly strong compared to years past and the economics for U.S. LNG exports are riding high. LNG exports have been in the money for quite some time, but feedgas deliveries to U.S. export terminals throughout the spring and summer of 2021 were somewhat lackluster as maintenance and operational issues at terminals and nearby pipelines kept feedgas from hitting its full potential. Gas deliveries to those terminals began climbing in the fall, first back to full utilization levels, and then beyond. Much of the record feedgas demand has been from commissioning activity at Sabine Pass Train 6, which produced its first LNG in December and is on track to begin full service early this year. But beyond that, operators have been pushing the existing fleet of terminals to operate at peak levels and produce additional cargoes, likely for sale in the spot market or on short-term contract, an extremely profitable endeavor given the prices in Europe, where most if not all destination-flexible cargoes have headed. In today’s RBN blog, we look at what’s driving LNG feedgas demand to its recent highs and how much higher it could go.

Sunday, 12/12/2021

It has been an epic year for U.S. LNG. After COVID-19 and the subsequent global market crash brought LNG development to a standstill and shut-in production from existing terminals in 2020, this year has seen global prices repeatedly smash previous record highs, driving existing terminals to operate at peak levels and renewing interest in new LNG buildout. U.S. feedgas demand and LNG production will close out the year at all-time highs, but with just a few weeks left it looks like 2021 will be the first year since 2017 that no new LNG terminals will achieve a positive final investment decision. But that’s driven more by the tailwinds of 2020 — the back half of 2021 has seen a tremendous amount of commercial activity in the LNG sector. More than 21 million metric tons per annum of medium- and long-term capacity from planned LNG projects has been sold this year, creating enough forward momentum for multiple projects to move toward FID in 2022. We cover all the latest developments in our LNG Voyager Quarterly report, and in today’s RBN blog we take a look at some of the recent LNG deals and what they tell us about the future of North American LNG.

Wednesday, 11/24/2021

It has been a chaotic couple of years for North American LNG and the global gas market. In a short time, international gas markets went from oppressively oversupplied balances, high storage inventories, and historically low prices for much of 2020 to reckoning with panic-inducing supply shortages, low inventories, and multi-year or all-time high prices in the biggest LNG-consuming regions. The resulting whiplash has transformed key aspects of the LNG market, making a profound impact on the way existing LNG terminals operate, how projects secure funding and capacity commitments, and what offtakers expect for the next generation of LNG capacity buildout. The tight market appears to have settled the question of whether more export capacity is needed, at least for now, but the market’s sharp U-turn has also put potential offtakers on edge and underscored the need for contractual flexibility. Additionally, pressure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is higher than ever, and LNG offtakers are increasingly demanding greener solutions to address government regulations and public concerns. This convergence of factors has put the LNG market at a crossroads. Taking all of the lessons learned from the last two years and before, the industry must now forge a new path forward. In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from our recent Drill Down report, looking at the major trends that will define the North American LNG market in the coming years.

Monday, 09/27/2021

The U.S. natural gas market’s exposure to global gas and LNG markets has come into sharp focus in recent days. A gas supply crunch in Europe and scant LNG cargoes have roiled the international markets and kicked competition into overdrive. European natural gas and Asian LNG prices are at record highs and locked in a race to the top. The U.S. gas market has been relatively buffered from the full extent of the panic-driven premiums enveloping European and Asian markets, constrained primarily by its limited ability to help meet international demand. In other words, the U.S.’s LNG export capacity ceiling is likely the only thing reining in Henry Hub prices from following European and Asian gas/LNG prices to the moon. As explosive as Henry Hub futures are these days, if not for the capacity constraint, they would be much higher. That ceiling is about to get a little higher, however, as two liquefaction projects — Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass Train 6 and Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass — get ready to export LNG from U.S. shores this winter, amid what’s already the most bullish Lower 48 gas market in years. In today’s RBN blog, we detail the timing and demand implications of these two projects.