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Crude Oil

Texas Bound and Flyin’ – Strained Gulf Coast Crude Infrastructure Under Threat of Disruption

In the eight weeks since January 24, 2014 crude oil stocks in the Gulf Coast region grew by 34 MMBbl to reach record levels. Much of the crude pouring into the Gulf Coast is coming by pipeline from Cushing where stocks have been draining over the same period. In addition the Gulf Coast is receiving increased domestic and Canadian supplies from the Midwest via waterway and rail as well as by pipeline from the Permian Basin and by pipeline and barge from the Eagle Ford. Existing Gulf Coast infrastructure is being strained by the challenge to stage crude supplies to area refineries. Today we describe increasing flows of crude into the Gulf Coast region.

Texas Bound and Flyin’ – The Cushing Crude Stockpile Heads to the Gulf Coast

Cushing crude oil inventories have fallen by 28 percent from 42 MMBbl on January 24 to less than 30 MMBbl on March 14, 2014 according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. Since the startup of TransCanada’s Cushing Marketlink pipeline at the end of January, outgoing crude pipeline capacity has exceeded inbound supplies at Cushing and the surplus has been headed to the Gulf Coast. Backwardation in the futures market has also encouraged shippers to move supplies out of storage. Today we begin a new series looking at the Cushing exodus and the resultant growing Gulf Coast stockpile.

Once, Twice, Three Times a Pipeline – The Dakota Access Bakken Crude Gateway to the Gulf

No sooner had we finished up our analysis of the divergent fates of two North Dakota crude oil pipeline projects - the Enbridge Sandpiper (going ahead after a successful second open season) and the Koch Dakota Express (cancelled in January) – then we learned that competitor Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) had launched a binding open season for a third pipeline proposal following basically the same route. The ETP press announcement provided few specifics but it seems remarkably similar to the cancelled Koch proposal. Today we look at plusses and minuses of this new pipeline proposal.

We Are The Champions – Could Alberta’s Oil Reserves Be The Largest on Earth? – Part 2

Western Canada’s vast bitumen sands are estimated to contain reserves of 575 billion Bbl of recoverable crude oil. The largely untapped bitumen carbonate formations lying beneath the oil sands could contain another 243 billion Bbl of recoverable reserves. When added to untapped tight oil shale reserves these huge hydrocarbon deposits potentially could make the Province of Alberta the world’s largest crude oil resource. Today contributor Mike Priaro concludes his description of Alberta’s crude oil reserves.

Rock the Boat, Don’t Rock the Boat—Crude-by-Water and the Jones Act

Much like the “crude-by-rail” phenomenon, the burgeoning interest in transporting crude oil by tanker or tanker barge to U.S. refineries represents an innovative answer to a simple question: What is the best, most cost-effective way to move growing domestic and Canadian oil production from the wellhead to refineries? Using waterborne transportation to move crude to market requires a comprehensive understanding of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920—better known as the Jones Act—which regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. RBN’s latest Drill-Down Report provides a thorough review of the law and its impact on crude oil markets.  In today’s blog we examine the highlights of – Rock the Boat, Don’t Rock the Boat— Impact of the Jones Act on U.S. Crude Oil Markets.

Eight Bucks Low in the Permian – Midland Discount to Cushing Blows Out


Prices for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude at Midland, TX -- close to the Permian Basin production region -- traded at a discount of $7.78/Bbl to WTI at Cushing, OK on Monday of this week (3/10/14), even though the pipeline tariff between the two trading hubs is less than $1/Bbl. Soaring production and tight pipeline capacity out of West Texas mean small changes in the region’s supply balance can cause the discount to blow out - a situation expected to continue at least until the middle of 2014. Today we investigate the probable causes.

Rock The Boat Don’t Rock The Boat – The Inland Crude Tank Barge Fleet

There are approximately 3,350 inland tank barges in the US that are all part of the Jones Act fleet. These barges move crude oil, refined products and petrochemicals along 12,000 miles of navigable inland waters – most along the Mississippi River system. Crude by barge traffic has grown 8 fold in the past three years and barges are over 90 percent utilized. Most of the increasing volume of crude moving from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast by barge is coming from Canada by pipeline and loading onto barges in Illinois. Today we review barge movements along the Mississippi River.

Don’t Fear the (Catalytic) Reformer – Changes in the US Reformate Market

Reformate is a blending component that makes up about 30 percent of US gasoline supplies. It is also an important source of aromatics used as feedstocks for the petrochemicals industry. Ongoing changes in the US crude oil slate are reducing the volume of heavy naphtha available to feed catalytic reformer units that make reformate. At the same time better economics for lighter ethane feedstock are reducing the volume of aromatics produced as byproducts of olefin cracking. The result is a shortage of the aromatic materials used to produce a number of petrochemical intermediates such as polymers and fibers. But more changes are coming to the reformate market due to reductions in the use of reformate in gasoline.  Today we look at the changing role of reformate.

We Are The Champions – Could Alberta’s Oil Sands Reserves Be The Largest on Earth?

The US Energy Information Administration ranks Alberta’s bitumen oil sands reserves second or third to those of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. However, evidence from the field and new research indicate that Western Canada’s oil reserves are possibly far larger and could rival or exceed those of the Saudis or the Venezuelans. Today contributor Mike Priaro begins a two part series describing Western Canada’s vast bitumen resources.

Rock the Boat Don’t Rock The Boat – Jones Act Vessels Through the Panama Canal?

There are no crude pipelines running from the Gulf Coast refining region to the West Coast. A Kinder Morgan plan to build such a pipeline last year (2013) floundered on lack of shipper interest. Surging crude supplies at the Gulf Coast and downward pressure on prices in the absence of an end to the crude oil export ban raise the tantalizing possibility of moving crude East to West through the Panama Canal (or the Transpanama pipeline). Today we look at the economics of such shipments.