Gulf Coast

Tuesday, 01/08/2019

In 2018, a handful of midstream companies started racing to develop deepwater export terminals along the Gulf Coast that can fully load Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) with 2 MMbbl of crude oil from the Permian and other plays. While some of those companies are moving toward final investment decisions (FIDs) that would bring their plans to fruition in the early 2020s, terminal operators with existing VLCC-capable assets — both onshore and offshore — turned up the volume in a major way in December. Today, we outline the strides made in recent days by the export programs of the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), Seaway Texas City and Moda Midstream.

Sunday, 01/06/2019

Way back in 2012, the U.S. flipped from being a net LPG importer to a net exporter. Since then, exports by ship have skyrocketed, up from 0.3 MMb/d in 2013 to more than 1.1 MMb/d at year-end 2018, an astronomical compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30%. The vast majority of waterborne exports was out of a handful of LPG terminals along the Gulf Coast. These facilities — plus Ferndale in the Pacific Northwest and Marcus Hook near Philadelphia — so far have managed to handle the increasing flow of LPG, but with U.S. NGL production still rising, it looks like new export capacity is needed — and is on the way. All the while, imports of LPG, almost all from Canada, have remained relatively flat, averaging only 130 Mb/d in the 2013-18 period. Today, we begin a series on existing and planned LPG export capacity along the Gulf, West and East coasts — and what’s driving the build-out of these assets.

Sunday, 12/02/2018

Two months ago, NGL prices and market differentials were soaring, in large part due to fractionation capacity constraints on the Gulf Coast at Mont Belvieu. The constraints have not eased, yet the same prices and differentials have come crashing down from those lofty levels. Why has this happened, you ask, and how long will it last? There are a lot of factors contributing, but two of the most significant are seasonal NGL demand shifts and what’s going on with crude oil. Today, we examine the recent swings in NGL prices and market differentials and what may be around the next corner for these markets.

Tuesday, 11/06/2018

U.S. Northeast natural gas producers will soon get another boost of pipeline capacity with direct access to Gulf Coast demand. TransCanada’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf transmission systems are gearing up to place into service their tandem Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress expansions, which will allow another 1 Bcf/d of Marcellus/Utica gas to flow south as far as Louisiana. The new capacity should further ease takeaway constraints for moving gas out of the Northeast, potentially redistributing outflows across the various takeaway routes, while also allowing Appalachian gas supply to grow. The duo of expansions is also the last of the southbound expansions from the Northeast, at least until late 2019, when the embattled Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects are due online. Today, we detail the upcoming expansions.

Wednesday, 08/29/2018

It’s been a year since Hurricane Harvey made landfall and devastated the Texas Gulf Coast, and the Atlantic Basin is once again entering peak hurricane season. Among the widespread and prolonged effects of Harvey was the disruption of refinery and refined product pipeline capacity along the Gulf Coast, which then reverberated in downstream markets across Texas, and the U.S. East Coast and Midwest regions. As such, a closer look at Harvey’s timeline provides key insights into the importance of Gulf Coast refineries to the broader U.S. market. Today, we continue our series on Gulf Coast refining and pipeline infrastructure, and how a natural disaster along the coast can impact the rest of the country.

Sunday, 08/26/2018

On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near the popular Gulf Coast vacation town of Rockport, TX, just east of Corpus Christi. Harvey was the first major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) to make landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast since the devastating 2005 hurricane season that included hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, and is tied with Hurricane Katrina as the most expensive storm ever to hit the country. Harvey also highlighted just how important the Gulf Coast refining and refined product pipeline infrastructure is to the rest of the U.S. Today, we mark the one-year anniversary of the devastating storm with a three-part series on Gulf Coast refining and pipeline infrastructure, and how a natural disaster along the coast can impact the rest of the country.

Sunday, 05/20/2018

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the desperate need to transport increasing volumes of crude oil out of the severely pipeline-constrained Permian is spurring midstream companies and logistic folks in the play to be as creative as humanly possible. With the price spread between the Permian wells and the Gulf Coast exceeding $15/bbl in recent days — and possibly headed for $20/bbl or more soon — there's a huge financial incentive to quickly provide more takeaway capacity, either on existing pipelines or by truck or rail. Are more trucks and drivers available? Is there an idle refined-products pipe that could be put back into service? Could drag-reducing agents be added to an existing crude pipeline to boost its throughput? How quickly could that mothballed crude-by-rail terminal be restarted? Today, we discuss frenzied efforts in the Permian to add incremental crude takeaway capacity of any sort — and pronto.

Monday, 03/12/2018

Natural gas flows and market dynamics are shifting at national benchmark Henry Hub. Supply receipts at Henry this year to date have doubled since the comparable period last year to nearly 450 MMcf/d, on average. That’s also a five-fold increase from the same period in 2016. In fact, current gas flows through the hub are the highest we’ve seen since 2009. The last time we saw this level of flows through the hub was when Gulf of Mexico offshore gas production volumes — much of which hit the U.S. pipeline system in southern Louisiana — were still topping 6.0 Bcf/d. That was also before the Marcellus/Utica Shale gas supply ballooned, effectively emptying out the pipeline capacity that used to flow gas north from the Gulf Coast. Now, many of those pipelines have reversed flows and the hub is showing signs of becoming a destination market for that Northeast gas and other supply targeting LNG export demand on the Gulf Coast. Today, we continue our short series looking at the changing physical flows at Henry Hub.

Sunday, 02/11/2018

Permian crude oil production continues to march steadily upward, headed toward 3.0 MMb/d sometime in the next few months. Most of the recent growth responsible for pushing total U.S. output past 10 MMb/d has come from increases in Permian volumes. Pipeline capacity out of the super-hot play is on the ragged edge of maxing out, and a myriad of new projects to relieve capacity constraints are in the works. Why then has the price differential between Midland, TX, and the Gulf Coast dropped over the past few weeks? Why did the Brent vs. WTI/Cushing spread crater? And what does this all mean for Midland-to-Gulf Coast transport deals getting struck for $2.00/bbl or less? Today, we look at these developments, try to make sense out of the Permian/Midland crude oil market, and consider what the future might hold for West Texas barrels moving to the Gulf Coast.

Tuesday, 01/02/2018

After being left for dead for more than five years, natural gas production in the greater Haynesville region has been surging upward — from about 5.7 Bcf/d this time last year to more than 7 Bcf/d today, an increase of 25% during 2017. Much of this growth has been coming from a new cast of characters, employing different technologies and different strategies than the first wave of Haynesville pioneers that established the play back in 2008, then abandoned it in 2012. But a couple of big challenges face the Haynesville. Today, we begin an examination of the Haynesville that will take us from production trends through producer strategies and finally into detailed calculations of production economics for the play. 

Sunday, 12/03/2017

U.S. exports of crude oil really took off in 2017, and the exporting pace has only accelerated this fall. In the 10 weeks since mid-September, crude exports have averaged nearly 1.6 million barrels/day, with the vast majority of that oil leaving by ship out of ports along the Gulf Coast. The lifting of the ban on most crude exports two years ago this month and the growth in exports since then have put a spotlight not only on coastal storage facilities, pipelines and marine docks, but also on the huge vessels used to transport crude to far-away destinations. Today, we discuss crude-export vessel configurations, tanker chartering practices, ship-loading challenges and transportation costs.

Sunday, 03/19/2017

Five years ago, the U.S. was a net importer of propane and butanes, those products collectively called LPG, or liquefied petroleum gasses. Back then, demand from residential, commercial, refining and chemical markets slightly exceeded supply for the products. But then came shale, and LPG production from natural gas processing more than doubled, from 0.8 Mb/d to 1.7 Mb/d. Suddenly the U.S. was a net exporter—a very big exporter at that. Last year roughly half of all LPG from U.S. gas processing plants was exported, with the vast majority shipped to overseas markets. All those exports are now having an outsized impact on pipeline flows, inventories and prices. Consequently, it is increasingly important to keep close tabs not only on export volumes but on which export terminals are handling all these volumes, and where the LPG is heading. Today we discuss the current state of the LPG export market and insights on it from RBN’s most recent NGL Voyager Report. Warning, today’s blog includes a subliminal promo for the report.

Tuesday, 11/01/2016

Fundamental, far-reaching changes in natural gas pipeline flows within the Lone Star State to enable increased gas supplies to reach LNG terminals and Mexico cross-border points give new significance to the issue of federal versus state pipeline regulation. Given Texas’s independent streak, it comes as no surprise that federal and state rules are night-and-day, with the Texas regs being largely hands-off and the feds’ being very hands-on. The differences are worth examining because they affect project development, pipeline tariffs, relationships between pipeline owner/operations and gas sellers/buyers—even the degree of transparency regarding shipper contracts and daily pipeline flows. Today we consider the differences between federal and state regulatory oversight of gas pipelines in Texas, and why they matter.

Sunday, 10/16/2016

Handling the flood of Marcellus/Utica gas headed to Gulf Coast LNG export terminals and to Mexico will require pipeline reversals and expansions, new pipe and a coordination of interstate and intrastate pipeline capacity. That’s a tall order in itself, but there’s more: Texas’s intrastate pipelines operate under an entirely different set of regulations than their interstate counterparts––different rules on pipeline tariff rates, pipeline rules, permitting, eminent domain, you name it. In today’s blog we continue our look at developmental history of the Lone Star State’s two gas pipeline systems––one regulated in Washington, DC and the other in Austin––and how it may affect the transformation of the overall natural gas transportation grid.

Wednesday, 10/12/2016

Texas’s vast natural gas pipeline network is undergoing a major transformation to enable gas from the Marcellus/Utica shale plays to flood south/southwest into and through Texas to LNG export terminals and to Mexico. To grasp the complexity of the task at hand, it is critically important to understand how Texas’s “spaghetti bowl” of interstate and intrastate pipeline systems evolved in parallel but under very different regulatory constructs, and with the intention of serving very different market needs. In today’s blog, we begin an examination of the state’s two pipeline systems––one regulated by the Feds in Washington, DC and the other by the Texas Railroad Commission in Austin, TX––and why the intrastate system has taken on a new significance for U.S. natural gas markets.