Gulf Coast

The Houston crude oil hub has become busier over the last few months, and if one or more proposals to build a deepwater export terminal nearby capable of fully loading a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) cross the finish line, it could become the hub supplying them. That could push Permian Basin oil flows on Houston-bound pipelines higher at the expense of flows to Nederland and Corpus Christi. In today’s RBN blog, the third in a series, we will examine the latest Permian oil flows to Houston and how that could change if and when a deepwater project comes online. 

In the race to build the next deepwater crude oil export terminal in the Gulf of Mexico, Sentinel Midstream’s proposed Texas GulfLink (TGL) is currently in second place in the regulatory race, behind only Enterprise’s Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) — and seems to be emerging as a serious contender. The plan offers some compelling attributes, including Sentinel’s status as an independent midstream player and plenty of pipeline access to crude oil volumes in the Permian and elsewhere. In today’s RBN blog, we turn our attention to TGL and what it brings to the table. 

The deepwater crude oil export projects under development along the U.S. Gulf Coast offer a number of potential benefits to shippers and customers alike. These include the ability to fully load a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) and the economies of scale that come with that, the elimination of reverse lightering and the corresponding decrease in emissions, and freed-up access on congested ship channels for other exports such as NGLs, refined products and clean ammonia. So, given all the potential upside, why hasn’t anyone fully committed to building one? In today’s RBN blog, we focus on the obstacles faced by deepwater export facilities and where each of the projects under development is in the permitting process. 

Thanks to expanding heavy crude oil production in Western Canada’s oil sands in recent years and increased pipeline access from the region to the U.S. Gulf Coast, re-exports of Canadian heavy crude from Gulf Coast terminals set a record in 2023. With additional production gains on tap in the oil sands, it might seem natural to think that another re-export record is in the works for 2024. However, assuming the much-delayed Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) does indeed start up this year — offering a vastly expanded West Coast outlet for oil sands production — last year’s re-export high might end up being a peak, at least for the number of years it takes for growth in Western Canadian heavy crude production to exceed the capacity of the TMX expansion. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at TMX’s likely impact on Gulf Coast re-exports. 

Crude oil, natural gas and NGL production roared back in 2023. All three energy commodity groups hit record volumes, which means one thing: more infrastructure is needed. That means gathering systems, pipelines, processing plants, refinery units, fractionators, storage facilities and, above all, export dock capacity. That’s because most of the incremental production is headed overseas — U.S. energy exports are on the rise! If 2023’s dominant story line was production growth, exports and (especially) the need for new infrastructure, you can bet our blogs on those topics garnered more than their share of interest from RBN’s subscribers. Today we dive into our Top 10 blogs to uncover the hottest topics in 2023 energy markets. 

We’ve reached the two-year anniversary of the reversal of the joint-venture Capline crude oil pipeline. With its current north-to-south flow, it adds to the few conduits that can move oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, specifically the St. James, LA, oil hub. Flows have been on a steady climb since southbound service began in December 2021, but volumes appear to be short of its available capacity, and there are looming headwinds. In today’s RBN blog, we examine whether Capline’s flows could be affected by the impending startup of the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX). Could rising Alberta production be its golden ticket?  

Storage has long been a critically important balancing mechanism in the Lower 48 natural gas market. Now, after languishing for much of the Shale Era, storage values are coming out of the doldrums. The key driver behind this change is that, unlike in the old days, when the storage market was driven primarily by the intrinsic value of capacity — i.e., the need to sock away gas in the lower-demand summer months for use in the peak winter months — the value of storage is being driven almost exclusively by extrinsic economics — i.e., how flexible and responsive capacity allows market participants to manage supply and demand during short-term market swings. This flexibility and responsiveness have become increasingly important criteria for ensuring reliability as LNG export facilities and an increasingly renewables-heavy power sector navigate frequent demand fluctuations day to day, or even intraday, as well as during high-stakes, extreme weather events like 2021’s Winter Storm Uri. In today’s RBN blog, we delve into the fundamental shifts influencing today’s storage market. 

LNG feedgas demand has averaged a record of about 12 Bcf/d this summer and fall. While that may sound like an impressive number (and it is), it could increase significantly — even without new capacity additions — over the next few months as seasonal demand rises and maintenance activity slows. And that’s just for starters. Next year, the first of several planned LNG export terminals and expansions of existing ones will start commissioning, and by the end of this decade feedgas demand may well double. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how current LNG feedgas demand stacks up compared to past years, the factors driving current demand, and the potential for additional upside.

When you’re in competition for billions in federal dollars, you need more than just a sensible approach and a strong economic case. You need a real competitive advantage. That’s what Hy Stor Energy believes it has with its proposed Mississippi Clean Hydrogen Hub (MCHH). It sees off-the-grid renewable power and extensive salt-dome storage capabilities as the surest path to decarbonization for a myriad of industrial needs. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the overall strategy behind the MCHH, the plan to produce 100% green hydrogen, and how Hy Stor hopes to beat the competition and secure Department of Energy (DOE) funding for a regional hydrogen hub.

Enterprise Products Partners doesn’t just extract mixed NGLs from associated gas at processing plants, transport that Y-grade to the NGL hub at Mont Belvieu, and fractionate NGLs into “purity products” like ethane, propane and butanes. The midstream giant also distributes purity products to Gulf Coast steam crackers and refineries, converts propane to propylene at its two propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plants, distributes ethylene and propylene, transports propane and butane to wholesale markets across much of the eastern half of the U.S., and exports a wide range of products — ethane, LPG, ethylene and propylene among them — from two Enterprise marine terminals on the Houston Ship Channel. (Another export terminal in Beaumont, TX, is in the works.) Talk about a value chain! In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on NGL networks with a look at Enterprise’s NGL and petrochemical production, distribution and export assets.

Three new LNG export projects have reached a final investment decision (FID) in the past year or so — Venture Global’s Plaquemines LNG, Cheniere’s Corpus Christi Stage III expansion, and, most recently, Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG. What do these projects have in common? They are all being developed by companies that are already exporting North American LNG. These companies are arguably the “Big Three” of U.S. LNG, with Cheniere the reigning king, at least for now. Not only do they all have at least one operating terminal and at least one under construction, but all three have multiple pre-FID projects under development, including some that are decently close to FID. With their proven track records and deep balance sheets, being one of the big guys is a definite advantage when it comes to getting a project across the finish line. With a total of 43.5 MMtpa (5.8 Bcf/d) of capacity currently under construction and more than 100 MMtpa (13.4 Bcf/d) under development by these three, is there even room for anybody else? In today’s blog, we look at the pre-FID projects under development by the Big Three, starting with Sempra.

New U.S. LNG export projects battling rising labor and equipment costs and/or financing woes have one more thing to worry about that the first wave of projects didn’t: ensuring the feedgas supply will be there when they need it. Bottlenecks have already developed for moving natural gas volumes to the Louisiana coast, where the bulk of future export capacity will be sited. As more liquefaction capacity is built out and more export projects are greenlighted, a lot more pipeline capacity will be needed to move feedgas supply from the Haynesville and other supply basins into southern Louisiana and across the last mile to the terminals. In today’s RBN blog, we conclude our roundup of pipeline expansions in the Bayou State that would help ease transportation constraints and balance the market, this time with a look at announced-but-yet-to-be sanctioned greenfield pipeline expansions, along with an update on their associated export projects.

The U.S. won’t add new LNG export capacity this year for the first time since it became an exporter in 2016. But that lull is not going to last long. At least five facilities are under construction and due for completion in the next few years, several other expansions were recently sanctioned, and there are more final investment decisions (FIDs) on the way. With export development expected to accelerate in the coming years, the race to debottleneck feedgas pipeline routes is on. More natural gas pipeline capacity will be needed, particularly for moving gas supply to the Louisiana coast, where the bulk of new liquefaction will be sited. In today’s RBN blog, we resume our series on the pipeline expansions targeting LNG export demand, this time highlighting TC Energy’s Gillis Access Project and how it fits into the Louisiana LNG market picture.

Hardly a day goes by without news related to U.S. LNG export capacity expansions, whether it’s upstream supply deals, offtake agreements or liquefaction capacity announcements. One project is nearing commercialization, another five are under construction and due for completion in the next few years, still others are fully or almost-fully subscribed and will be officially sanctioned any day now, and the announcements keep coming. Just days ago, Venture Global reached a final investment decision (FID) for the second phase of its Plaquemines LNG project. With export development accelerating in the coming years, more natural gas pipeline capacity will be needed, particularly for moving gas supply to the Louisiana coast, where the bulk of the new capacity will be sited. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series highlighting the pipeline expansions targeting LNG export demand, this time focusing on projects moving gas to southeastern Louisiana, including those designed to deliver feedgas to Venture Global’s under-construction Plaquemines LNG project.

As U.S. LNG export project development accelerates in the coming years, a lot more natural gas pipeline capacity will be needed to supply the numerous liquefaction facilities vying for a piece of the global gas market pie. That’s particularly true for a small stretch of the Gulf Coast from the Sabine River on the Texas-Louisiana border to the Calcasieu Pass Ship Channel — where the bulk of planned export capacity additions are concentrated — even as transportation bottlenecks are emerging for getting natural gas supply to the area. To address the growing demand, a number of pipeline expansions are planned or proposed to bring more supply into the region or deliver feedgas across the “last mile” to these multibillion-dollar facilities. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series highlighting some of these LNG-related pipeline projects, this time focusing on ones aiming to feed exports out of southwestern Louisiana.