Crude Oil

Tuesday, 06/28/2022

The oil and gas industry has historically been roiled by global economic and political crises, from the oil embargo in 1973 to the Great Recession of 2008 to the onset of the global pandemic in early 2020.  However, amid the economic and political turmoil from the war in the Ukraine, rampant inflation and supply chain disruptions, E&P companies in recent weeks reported strong results for the first quarter of 2022, riding the wave of rising commodity prices as record volumes of cash flowed into corporate coffers. Producers successfully absorbed service cost increases and resisted calls to abandon their profits-focused fiscal discipline to generate Q1 2022 pre-tax operating earnings and cash flows that were up 25% and 12%, respectively, from the two-decade-high results recorded in the last quarter of 2021. In today’s RBN blog, we detail the industry’s outstanding results and preview its performance for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, 06/22/2022

In film and television, the “boxed crook” trope is where a condemned person is sought as a last-ditch effort to pull off some impossible mission or overcome a formidable opponent. In return, the convict is typically offered amnesty or other consideration by the operatives in charge. Millennials will probably think of the recent Suicide Squad movies. For Generation X, The Rock starring Sean Connery was a great example. And for the boomers, it was The Dirty Dozen. Our current situation in the U.S. energy sector may not be quite as thrilling as those movies but the same plot elements exist. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the predicament faced by industry and political leaders and begin to sort out the various proposals to put a lid on prices and restore energy security.

Monday, 06/20/2022

In the next few days, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will hold an emergency meeting with leading energy executives to discuss steps E&Ps and refiners could take to increase crude oil production, refinery capacity and the production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, all with the aim of reducing prices. The prelude to the get-together was less than ideal, though. In a June 14 letter to the top brass of four integrated oil and gas giants and three large refiners, President Biden criticized them for “historically high refinery profit margins” and for shutting down refining capacity before and then during the pandemic. In addition to rejoinders from the companies, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) defended their actions, discussed the complexity of refined products markets, and asserted that the Biden administration’s statements and policies have actually discouraged investment in refining and oil and gas production. Is there a middle ground here? In today’s RBN blog, we look at the high-level correspondence and discuss how at least some compromises might be possible.

Sunday, 06/19/2022

If you want to get the energy world’s full attention, give it a global pandemic, a rush to decarbonize, and a brutal land war in Europe — all in quick succession. Bam! Bam! Bam! The past two-plus years have shaken the global oil, natural gas and NGL markets to the core, and forced just about everyone involved to rethink the expectations and plans they had before everything seemed to unravel. So what happens next? How do we provide energy security, put a lid on inflation, and save the planet? To answer those questions, a good place to start is to gain a better understanding of the fundamentals — how energy markets develop, work and interact. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from RBN’s recent School of Energy, a like-you-were-there replay of which is now available.

Wednesday, 06/01/2022

Permian crude oil markets are getting interesting again, with triple-digit prices making daily headlines and boosting producers’ cash flows. But there have been few parties in the Permian oil midstream space. There, excess long-haul capacity has been the story for some time, a situation that became more pronounced when Wink-to-Webster (W2W) — the last of the new greenfield pipelines to the Texas Gulf Coast — started up earlier this year. There’s so much capacity in place that price spreads have remained tight and competition for barrels has been fierce. That said, there’s a positive story flying under the radar in the Permian oil markets. One of the new pipelines that started up out of the Permian in 2019 is now full. That may surprise some folks, kind of like when the Texas A&M Aggies pulled in the #1 football recruiting class in the country earlier this year. While Alabama’s coach is apparently still trying to swallow that news, you’re not likely to find yourself doubting the ability of a newbuild to get full in today’s competitive environment. At least you won’t after we tell you the story of the EPIC Crude Pipeline, which we do in today’s RBN blog.

Wednesday, 05/25/2022

The pace of multibillion-dollar M&A activity among oil and gas producers may have slowed a bit from 2020 and 2021, but big deals are still happening. Just last week, publicly held Centennial Resources Development and privately held Colgate Energy Partners III announced plans for a $7 billion “merger of equals” that will combine two midsize E&Ps in the Permian’s Delaware Basin to form one of the area’s larger producers. Each of the companies brings similar and complementary production assets to the deal, as well as corporate leaders very much in sync about the significance of scale in today’s increasingly concentrated upstream sector — and the importance of returning a big chunk of free cash flow to investors. Speaking of investors, an extraordinary 12% stake in the combined Centennial and Colgate will be held by the pro forma company’s management — that’s about 12x the norm among its peers. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the Centennial/Colgate merger and what’s driving the ongoing consolidation in the U.S.’s most prolific hydrocarbon play.

Monday, 05/23/2022

U.S. diesel inventories are at their lowest level for May since 2000 and East Coast stocks recently hit their lowest mark for any week or month since the EIA started tracking them in 1990. Crack spreads for diesel — and, more recently, for gasoline — have gone parabolic, giving refiners the strongest financial signal ever to produce more diesel and gasoline as we enter the summer travel season. More jet fuel too. The problem is, U.S. refineries already are running flat-out. And Europe? It’s facing big cuts in crude oil and refined-products imports from Russia as well as much higher prices for — and possible shortages of — oil and natural gas, the latter being the primary fuel for operating refinery hydrocrackers, which upgrade low-quality heavy gas-oils into high-quality diesel, gasoline and jet. It’s a mess, and not easily fixable, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.

Tuesday, 05/10/2022

Brace yourself for it. Over the next few weeks, there’s a good chance that a tsunami of crude oil will be released from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and it’s likely that much (if not most) of that oil will be piped to Gulf Coast export docks and loaded onto supertankers. If that happens, the export capacity of crude-handling terminals from Corpus Christi to coastal Louisiana will be stress-tested on their ability to send out much larger volumes than they’re used to dealing with. And that’s only the beginning. Over the next year or two, while U.S. E&Ps ratchet up production in response to higher prices as Europeans and others scramble to replace Russian crude oil, Gulf Coast export terminals may well be called upon to load and ship out even more oil (in addition to refined products) on a regular basis. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impending SPR releases and the ability of Gulf Coast ports and individual terminals to handle increasing volumes.

Friday, 05/06/2022

Over the past few weeks, many U.S. refiners reported even-stronger-than-expected first-quarter results, and it’s likely their good fortune will continue. Why? Despite the skyrocketing price of crude oil — refiners’ primary feedstock — the prices of the gasoline and diesel they produce have risen even more. And it’s that now-yawning gap between crude oil and refined-products prices that’s been driving refining margins — and refiners’ profits — to near-historic levels. Refining margins, like the character and capabilities of thoroughbreds like “Rich Strike” in Saturday’s amazing Kentucky Derby, are unique to each refinery because of their different sizes, equipment and crude slates (among other things), but there’s a tried-and-true way to estimate the refining sector’s general profitability, as we discuss in today’s blog on U.S. refiners’ sky-high crack spreads.

Tuesday, 05/03/2022

The energy market has been in chaos for some time. Even before Russia’s horrific attack on Ukraine, the multinational push to decarbonize the global economy was slow-motion-crashing into reality. Of course, global supply shortages only got worse following the invasion and the widespread response to it. The disruptions highlight the critical need for a balanced energy policy, both in the U.S. and abroad. This became evident in Europe last year, when a heavy, early reliance on renewable energy, largely wind, left much of the continent short on fuel and scrambling for natural gas when the wind didn’t blow enough. The overall supply-demand balance caused prices to rise steadily as the global economy climbed out of its COVID-induced recession. Then the situation became more dire as embargoes on Russian crude oil and gas were planned and implemented. In the U.S., the Biden administration, eager to both “green” the economy and keep gasoline prices in check, has been giving mixed signals to E&Ps and their investors, telling them to both ramp up investments in production and expect to play a smaller and smaller role going forward. It’s a confusing world. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the current energy environment, the policy roller-coaster, challenges to the increased usage of renewables that remain unaddressed, and how the politics of decarbonization are making the ongoing energy transition a very difficult row to hoe.

Tuesday, 04/19/2022

It’s no secret that higher gasoline prices are a problem for a lot of folks, including everyday drivers, businesses and — maybe especially — the politicians who hear the complaints from the first two. Although prices at the pump have been trending higher for some time, they’ve really come to the forefront in the past several weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has stressed global energy markets and sent U.S. officials looking for any and all options to keep a lid on prices. In today’s RBN blog, we look at President Biden’s decision to allow the sale of E15 gasoline during the summer months, whether it’s likely to provide U.S. drivers significant relief from high prices this summer, and how global pressures are moving ethanol prices higher too.

Monday, 04/18/2022

Vladimir Putin’s fateful decision to invade Ukraine and the ongoing brutality have made Russia a pariah state to many leading hydrocarbon-consuming nations, which in turn has caused cuts in Russian crude oil production and exports. That raises a few important questions, chief among them the degree to which other producers — including the U.S. and the non-Russian members of OPEC+ –– can ramp up their production and displace Russian oil. U.S. output has been increasing recently, albeit only gradually, and production could rise much more quickly under the right circumstances. But if it does, would there be enough crude export capacity available along the Gulf Coast to handle, say, another 500 Mb/d or 1 MMb/d? In today’s RBN blog, we examine the ability of key U.S. export facilities to stage, load and ship out increasing volumes of oil.

Thursday, 04/14/2022

The battle lines were drawn. The drive toward decarbonization was rushing headlong into the reality of energy markets. Things were going to get messy, but at least it was becoming more evident how the energy transition would impact key market developments, from the chaos in European natural gas, to producer capital restraint in the oil patch, to the rising impact of renewable fuels and, of course, the escalating roadblocks to pipeline construction. Then, a monkey wrench was thrown into the works. The world was confronted with the madness of war in Europe, with all sorts of consequences for energy markets: sanctions, boycotts, cutbacks, strategic releases, price spikes and, here in the U.S., what looks to be a softening of the Biden administration’s view against hydrocarbons — at least natural gas and LNG. So now the markets for crude oil, natural gas and NGLs aren’t only inextricably tied to renewables, decarbonization and sustainability, they must navigate the transition turmoil under the cloud of wartime disruptions. It’s simply impossible to understand energy market behavior without having a solid grasp of how these factors are linked together. That is what School of Energy Spring 2022 is all about! In the encore edition of today’s RBN blog — a blatant advertorial — we’ll highlight how our upcoming conference integrates existing, war-impacted market dynamics with prospects for the energy transition.

Monday, 04/04/2022

The battle lines were drawn. The drive toward decarbonization was rushing headlong into the reality of energy markets. Things were going to get messy, but at least it was becoming more evident how the energy transition would impact key market developments, from the chaos in European natural gas, to producer capital restraint in the oil patch, to the rising impact of renewable fuels and, of course, the escalating roadblocks to pipeline construction. Then, a monkey wrench was thrown into the works. The world was confronted with the madness of war in Europe, with all sorts of consequences for energy markets: sanctions, boycotts, cutbacks, strategic releases, price spikes and, here in the U.S., what looks to be a softening of the Biden administration’s view against hydrocarbons — at least natural gas and LNG. So now the markets for crude oil, natural gas and NGLs aren’t only inextricably tied to renewables, decarbonization and sustainability, they must navigate the transition turmoil under the cloud of wartime disruptions. It’s simply impossible to understand energy market behavior without having a solid grasp of how these factors are linked together. That is what School of Energy Spring 2022 is all about! In today’s RBN blog — a blatant advertorial — we’ll highlight how our upcoming conference integrates existing, war-impacted market dynamics with prospects for the energy transition.

Thursday, 03/31/2022

At first glance, it would appear that President Biden’s announcement regarding the release of up to 180 MMbbl of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months could have a significant impact. After all, it would, in a sense, increase the flow of U.S. oil into the market by almost 9% –– 11.7 MMb/d of current U.S. production plus an incremental 1 MMb/d from the SPR — and boost global supply by about 1%, which is no small thing. There are a few unknowns, though, such as (1) how much sweet crude oil and how much sour will be released, (2) where the pipelines connected to the four SPR sites could take that oil, (3) whether those pipelines have sufficient capacity to absorb the incremental flows out of SPR, and (4) what the ultimate market impacts of the SPR releases will be. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the president’s announcement and its implications.