Several oil-sands expansion projects committed to when crude oil prices were double what they are today are finally coming online, and midstream companies active in Alberta are building new crude/diluent pipelines and storage capacity to keep pace. New storage caverns for natural gas liquids are also in the works, giving a much-needed boost to Canada’s Energy Province. Today we conclude our series on midstream infrastructure under development in or near Western Canada’s oil sands region that move and store hydrocarbon liquids.
Many factors are weighed before a midstream company commits to building, or a shipper commits to shipping on, a major crude oil pipeline. Where is incremental pipeline capacity needed? What would be the logical origin and terminus for the pipeline? What should the project’s capacity be, and what would be the capital cost of building the project? Where the economic rubber really meets the road is the question of what unit cost––or rate per barrel––would the pipeline developer need to charge to recover its costs and earn a reasonable rate of return on its investment. A really important aspect of that is what the developer will be allowed to charge, once regulators get into it. Today we continue our review of crude oil pipeline economics with an overview of who regulates oil pipelines, how they do it, and what it means for rates.
Oil-sands expansion projects coming online and the resulting need for more diluent are among the drivers behind a number of midstream infrastructure projects in the province of Alberta, including natural gas processing plants and fractionators; oil and diluent pipelines; and oil/NGL storage facilities. The total volume of work is surprising, considering the fact that oil-sands production economics are iffy right now, if not downright upside down. Today, we continue our look at midstream projects under development within Canada’s Energy Province, this time focusing on gas processing and fractionation facilities.
A group of 15 diversified exploration and production companies we have been tracking collectively has slashed capital expenditures by 70% since 2014, but so far the cumulative effect of these spending cuts has been only a 5% decline in production. Now, several of these E&Ps––especially those targeting the Permian Basin and the SCOOP/STACK plays––are planning capex increases and/or expecting production gains. Today we discuss 2016 capital spending and production for a representative group of E&Ps whose operations are roughly balanced between oil and natural gas.
Term charter rates for medium-range Jones Act tankers have fallen by two-thirds since they peaked at $120,000/day in mid-2014, to only $38,000/day done in September 2016, which is good news for producers but a punch in the stomach for ship owners. A sharp rise in the number of vessels being added to the Jones Act fleet has surely contributed to the charter-rate collapse. Less obvious are the degrees to which the rate drop may have been influenced by the decline in superlight Eagle Ford crude oil production, or by the lifting of the ban on U.S. crude oil exports. Today, we examine the evidence.
Many factors are weighed before a midstream company commits to building, or a shipper commits to shipping on, a major crude oil pipeline. Where is incremental pipeline capacity needed? What would be the logical origin and terminus for the pipeline? What should the project’s capacity be, and what would be the capital cost of building the project? Where the economic rubber really meets the road is the question of what unit cost––or rate per barrel––would the pipeline developer need to charge to recover its costs and earn a reasonable rate of return on its investment. Today we continue our review of crude oil pipeline economics with a look at the rules-of-thumb for determining what pipeline transportation rates would be.
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.
More midstream projects than you might expect are “goin’ on” in the Western Canadian province of Alberta, considering the challenges that bitumen/crude oil and natural gas producers there continue to face. There are several drivers behind the relatively long list of oil and diluent pipelines; gas processing plants and fractionators; and oil/NGL storage facilities being built in Canada’s Energy Province, but much of the work is being done to meet the expected needs of oil-sands expansion projects approved during better times and set to come online soon. Today we begin a blog series on Alberta midstream projects with an overview of where the province’s energy sector stands today.
The ratio of NGL-to-crude oil prices looks like it will be rebounding, and over the next two or three years could rise to levels not seen since the Shale Revolution brought down NGL prices at the end of 2012, a signal that all of the new NGL-consuming petrochemical cracker projects now under construction may not be as lucrative as their developers had once hoped. Several factors are driving the ratio’s rise: increasing U.S. demand for NGLs; more exports; stubbornly low crude oil prices and a lower trajectory of NGL production growth. Today, we examine the historical relationship between NGL and crude oil prices and the reasons why that ratio may be headed back above 50%.
More than four years after the Utica and the “wet” part of the Marcellus became a hot spot for drillers, the field condensate and natural gasoline produced there are still moved to market by barge, rail and truck. A three-part, $500 million plan by MPLX LP and the midstream master limited partnership’s (MLP’s) subsidiaries, now well under way, will enable more efficient pipeline transport of these important hydrocarbons to Midwest refineries, Western Canadian diluent pipelines and other end-users. To hold down costs, the effort involves a creative mix of new and existing pipelines. Today we continue our review of MPLX’s plan with a look at its “Utica Build-Out Projects.”
Net crude oil imports to the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2016 have been running well above the pace set last year, the increase driven by a combination of lower U.S. crude oil production, rising import levels and relatively flat export volumes. The trend toward higher net imports –– an outgrowth of the end of the ban on U.S. crude exports –– is significant in that it affects oil inventories and oil prices. What’s driving this trend, and how soon might net imports peak? Today, we survey recent developments on the crude oil import/export front, with a focus on the Gulf Coast.
Two new 50-Mb/d, Kinder Morgan-owned and -operated condensate splitters came online during the first seven months of 2015, backed by a 10-year BP commitment to process a total of 84 Mb/d through the units. Located in the Houston Ship Channel’s refinery row, the splitters were expected to provide a profitable outlet to process growing volumes of the ultra-light crude oil known as condensate. Instead, average plant throughput through July 2016 has been only 71% of capacity, well below the 90% average operating level of neighboring refineries. The relatively low level at which these units have been operating reflects sagging condensate processing margins. Today, we detail how Kinder Morgan’s new splitters have been run during their first year or so of operation.
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.
Enable Midstream Partners stands at a crossroads. It has great assets –– natural gas gathering and processing operations in the Anadarko, Arkoma, and Ark-La-Tex basins; a crude oil gathering system in the Williston Basin; and interstate/intrastate gas pipelines that ship natural gas from its gathering regions to the Texas Panhandle and Illinois. The company also has an excellent position in gathering systems and processing plants in the prolific STACK and SCOOP plays in Oklahoma. But everything is not rosy. Earnings from STACK/SCOOP are being offset by production declines in its other areas of operation. On top of that, CenterPoint Energy, which owns 55.4% of Enable’s limited partnership units, is seeking to divest its shares, which would bring a new majority owner into the picture. In today’s blog we review our latest Spotlight analysis.