For the first time ever, a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) carrying Bakken crude has sailed from the Gulf of Mexico to Asia, and more may follow. With the startup of the Dakota Access Pipeline set for June 1, Bakken producers are only days away from gaining easier, cheaper pipeline access to the Gulf Coast, and are looking for new markets. Asian refineries are willing to pay a premium for Bakken-type crudes, and want other types of U.S. crude as well. And every 18 hours or so, a VLCC arrives at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port—the only U.S. port capable of handling the mammoth vessels—offloads crude and leaves LOOP empty because the port is currently an import-only facility. Today we consider the potential for transporting more light, sweet crude to Asian refineries on VLCCs, either via ship-to-ship transfers or by reworking LOOP to enable exports.
The 21 oil-focused U.S. exploration and production companies examined in our Piranha! market study are planning an average 47% increase in their 2017 capital expenditures and expecting a 7% increase in production. The 47% boost in capex is huge, but due to draconian cuts in 2015 and 2016 this year’s total is still off 58% from 2014’s—an indication of the big hole the sector is still climbing out of. The Permian Basin continues to attract more capital—no surprise there—but capex in the Bakken is also on the rise after a few lean years. Today we continue our Piranha! series on upstream spending in the oil and natural gas sector, this time zeroing in on E&Ps that focus on crude.
In connection with 2016 earnings releases, U.S. exploration and production companies (E&Ps) have announced a surge in capital spending for 2017 after slashing investment by an average 70% from 2014-16. Our “Piranha” universe of 43 E&Ps is budgeting a 42% gain in organic capital outlays with a strong focus on the major U.S. resource plays. Despite crude prices languishing at an average of ~$47/bbl since January 2015, most of the upstream industry has weathered the crisis remarkably well, primarily through the “high-grading” of portfolios, impressive capital discipline, and an intense focus on operational efficiencies. Today we review the overall outlook for 2017 upstream capital spending and oil and natural gas production, and take an initial look at expectations for our group of companies.
According to Energy Information Administration data, the 26 refineries in the Midwest/PADD 2 region processed an average 3.6 MMb/d of crude oil in 2016—up 300 Mb/d from the 3.3 MMb/d refined in 2010. Over the same six-year period, production of light oil production in the region shot up by over 1 MMb/d, mostly from the prolific Bakken formation in North Dakota. Yet Midwest refiners did little to take advantage of the sudden abundance of “local” production, increasing instead their appetite for imported heavy crude from Western Canada by nearly 1 MMb/d—from 800 Mb/d in 2010 to 1.8 MMb/d in 2016. Today we explore the trend for PADD 2 refineries to run more heavy crude even as shale output surged in their backyard.
A number of the Bakken’s leading producers are talking up the shale play’s prospects for crude oil production gains in 2017—and especially in 2018—but we are still waiting on numbers that would prove that the play has truly turned a corner. What is crystal clear, though, is that the Bakken’s biggest takeaway project ever, the 470-Mb/d Dakota Access Pipeline to Illinois, is finally nearing completion and operation after a very public delay. When DAPL comes online this spring, it will further reduce crude-by-rail volumes out of the Bakken and should help to increase the odds that production in the play will begin to rebound in earnest. Today we update production and takeaway capacity in the nation’s third-largest crude-focused shale play.
Evaluating midstream companies—their assets, their value, their prospects—is a complicated task. It’s not enough to rely on the public face that companies put forward; typically, they highlight their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. To gain a fuller understanding of midstreamers, you need to poke around, consider their individual assets, and assess the status and outlook of the various production areas they serve. Asset location matters for a lot of reasons, but mostly because midstream infrastructure serving a thriving basin—the Permian and Marcellus, for instance—will contribute a lot more to a company’s bottom line than assets serving an area in steep decline. Today we conclude a blog series that highlights key takeaways from East Daley Capital’s new, detailed assessment of more than 20 U.S. midstream companies.
The five refineries in the U.S. Pacific Northwest (PNW) performed better in 2016 than rivals on the East Coast for two main reasons. First, the changing pattern of North American crude supply has worked to their advantage. Faced with the threat of dwindling mainstay crude supplies from Alaska, refiners in Washington State replaced 22% of their slate with North Dakota Bakken crude moved in by rail. They have also enjoyed advantaged access to discounted crude supplies from Western Canada. Second, PNW refiners face less competition for refined product customers than rivals on the East and Gulf coasts, meaning they have a captive market that often translates to higher margins. Today we review performance and prospects for PNW refineries.
Crude oil and natural gas production growth stalled in 2015 and has declined this year in some of the big shale basins. But we may be seeing a turnaround. The latest EIA Drilling Productivity Report, released on December 12, 2016, included upward revisions to its recent shale production estimates and also projects an increase in its one-month outlook for the first time in 21 months (since its March 2015 report). Today we break down the latest DPR data.
The Shale Revolution changed everything about U.S energy markets, and in the process made forecasting the production and pricing of crude oil, natural gas and NGLs a heck of a lot harder. But we all learn from experience. In the early days of the Revolution, few could have predicted how quickly output would rise, how challenging it would be for pipeline takeaway capacity to keep up with production, or how successfully crude-by-rail would fill the gap – until that gap went away with the Revolution’s most recent phase. Comparing past forecasts to what actually happened is instructive though, and maybe––just maybe––today’s projections for the future are more informed than the forecasts of 2011 or 2013. In today’s blog we look at a recent presentation on forecasting lessons learned at RBN’s School of Energy earlier this month.
The Army Corps of Engineers is said to be considering alternative routes for the most controversial segment of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which could help break the impasse that has stalled construction on that part of DAPL. If the 450-Mb/d crude oil delivery project gets back on track soon––something that no one knows for sure––an important two-part question remains: Where will the crude to fill the 450-Mb/d pipeline come from, and where will it be fed into DAPL? Today we look at the supply sources that will help fill one of the most important oil pipelines now under development.
The prospects for sellers of Williston Basin/Bakken crude oil in what once was a prime growth market—the U.S. East Coast—have been dwindling fast, as have the volumes of Bakken crude being railed and barged to refineries along the Mid-Atlantic coast and the Canadian Maritimes. Today we look at how a combination of weak crude oil prices, declining production, high relative freight costs, and the lifting of the U.S. crude oil export ban have opened the door to more imports from West Africa, and left Bakken producers out in the cold.
For the first time since the start of the crude-by-rail (CBR) boom a few years ago, just as much crude oil is being transported by rail to PADD 5—that is, to states in the western U.S.—as to the Eastern Seaboard states in PADD 1. This primarily reflects the facts that 1) CBR deliveries from the Williston Basin/Bakken to PADD 1 continue to plummet and 2) refineries in the West remain reliable buyers of railed-in crude from the Bakken and Western Canada. Will CBR shipments to the East Coast continue to fall, or have we seen the worst of the decline? Today we take a look at recent trends in crude movements by tank car, and a look ahead.
Let’s face it — for producers, the last couple of years have stung, with low-slung energy prices allowing little-to-no returns on drilling investments in most parts of the major shale basins. A side effect of the low price environment in the past two years has been the shrinking geographic footprint of the Shale Revolution. About 50% of all onshore rigs in the Lower 48 currently are clustered in the top 20 counties for drilling activity. In effect, this also means a lot of the new production growth will come primarily from these same 20 counties, with the potential for all sorts of implications for infrastructure and regional price relationships. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at rig counts by county to see how much the geographic focus of the Shale Revolution has narrowed.
The group of 21 liquids-focused exploration and production companies we have been tracking plans to cut capital expenditures by half in 2016, after a 42% decline in 2015. However, capex for this “oil-weighted” E&P peer group is apparently bottoming out—their mid-year guidance was only 2% lower than their original 2016 estimates. Even with deep cuts in capital spending, the group expects production to fall only 7% in 2016, and those estimates have been revised higher from the initial 2016 guidance. Also worth noting: Pure Permian Basin players, the most optimistic companies in the peer group, are cutting capital spending by only 19% and are expecting a 12% gain in production. And with Apache Corp.’s announcement earlier this week of a huge discovery in the Permian’s Southern Delaware Basin, the market is definitely making a turn. Today we discuss 2016 capex and production for a representative group of E&P companies whose proved reserves are more than 60% liquids.
The 450-Mb/d Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has broken away from the pack of out-of-the-Bakken crude takeaway projects. On August 2, Enbridge Inc., through its master limited partnership Enbridge Energy Partners, agreed to take a large stake in DAPL from Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and Sunoco Logistics Partners (SXL), a move that suggests Enbridge’s own 225-Mb/d Sandpiper Pipeline may drop out of the race soon. Joining Enbridge in the $2 billion deal is Marathon Petroleum, its former joint venture partner and anchor shipper on Sandpiper. Today, we consider these recent developments in the long-running effort to transport North Dakota crude oil to market more efficiently.