Crude Oil

Tuesday, 04/21/2015

Natural gas producers are probably turning green with envy: Processed condensate exports out of the US Gulf are strong and getting stronger. Since the Department of Commerce threw the doors open to the export of lightly processed condensate, new loading points have emerged, new target markets have been found, and more companies have become involved. Today we describe how attention is now turning from regulatory and logistical issues to the challenge of finding buyers.

Monday, 04/20/2015

The flood of domestic light shale crude showing up at the Texas Gulf Coast by pipeline in the past two years is not best matched to most refineries in the region that are configured to run heavier crude. But flows across the Gulf Coast to refineries in the Mississippi Delta more suited to process light crude are constrained by a lack of pipeline capacity between Texas and Louisiana. New domestic shale crude has been delivered to eastern Gulf Coast terminals such as St. James by rail but narrowing coastal differentials to inland prices have reduced the CBR advantage. Today we detail how new pipeline projects promise to increase the flow of crude from Texas to the Eastern Gulf.

Thursday, 04/16/2015

The Plains All American (PAA) Cactus Pipeline comes online in the West Texas Permian this month (April 2015). Cactus will bring up to 250 Mb/d of crude and condensate from Midland and McCamey in the Permian to Gardendale, TX - the heart of the Eagle Ford shale – linking the two basins for the first time by pipeline.  It also forms a major component of an expanded pipeline and dock infrastructure owned by a combination of PAA and Enterprise Product Partners (EPD) set to deliver as much as 600 Mb/d of crude and condensate to Corpus Christi and 470 Mb/d to Houston by the end of 2015. Today we describe how a good deal of those deliveries will be processed condensate eligible for export.

Monday, 04/13/2015

Data from the new Energy Information Administration (EIA) monthly report on crude-by-rail (CBR) shows that shipments from Canada increased from less than 10 Mb/d two years ago in January 2012 to over 130 Mb/d in January 2015. The increase in CBR movements mirrors increasing Canadian crude exports to the U.S. – the majority of which are still pipeline movements. Today we look at the destination markets for Canadian CBR in the light of congested pipeline capacity out of Western Canada.

Thursday, 04/09/2015

Data from the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) indicate that production in January 2015 slowed by 37 Mb/d from record levels over 1.2 MMb/d in December. The number of new well completions also slowed in January – leading to a large backlog of wells drilled and waiting to start producing. Lower production and completions are in part due to producer caution following the crude price crash last year but producers waiting for a North Dakota state tax break and the usual impact of winter weather could also be responsible. Today we describe how new state tax incentives could boost summer output back to record levels.

Monday, 04/06/2015

According to a new set of data released at the end of March by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), crude-by-rail (CBR) movements jumped from 20 Mb/d in January 2010 to almost 1 MMb/d by December 2014. The big increase in CBR shipments has coincided with a 71% increase in U.S. crude production and has successfully helped alleviate a number of pipeline transport constraints. While overall crude-by-rail volumes have grown in the past 5 years, favored origins and destinations have changed considerably as the midstream industry has successfully re-plumbed the pipeline network to handle new crude flows. Today we review the new EIA report data on rail.

Wednesday, 04/01/2015

The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest U.S. monthly crude production statistics published March 30th show January production down 135 Mb/d versus December 2014, the largest month-on-month decline since June 2011.  There was an earlier warning sign from EIA.  The agency’s Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) published March 9th predicted that production would decline in April in three major U.S. oil production regions – Bakken, Eagle Ford and Niobrara. Since oil and NGL prices crashed last fall, the market has been watching with bated breath for the first signs of a production slowdown. Certainly rig counts have nosedived amid producer budget cuts in 2015. But are we really seeing the beginnings of a long-term slowdown just yet?  Was the DPR a harbinger of the January production decline? The clues lie within the DPR report.  Today’s blog parses DPR methodology, assumptions and risks as well as contributing market factors to get to the bottom of what is driving those reported production declines.

Tuesday, 03/31/2015

RBN has documented many fundamental influences on crude oil prices including supply, demand and inventory levels as well as infrastructure constraints. One that we don’t often mention is the strength or weakness of the U.S. dollar. As with most international commodities - oil is bought and sold priced in U.S. dollars. As a result, a change in the value of the dollar relative to other currencies has an impact on oil prices. Likewise the dramatic fall in oil prices since June of 2014 has been mirrored by the dollar rising to levels not seen since 2003. Today we look at how oil prices are impacted by the value of the dollar.

Sunday, 03/29/2015

In spite of a brief respite provided last week by increased geopolitical risk in Saudi Arabia, crude oil prices are still in the $50/Bbl range – down more than 50% since last Summer - and inventories at Cushing and on the Gulf Coast continue at record levels. The fall in crude prices was initially consistent across markets with international benchmark Brent trading within $1/Bbl of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Gulf Coast marker Light Louisiana Sweet (LLS) in January 2015. But since February the relationship between Brent, WTI and LLS has changed as the build up of Cushing inventories weighs on prices in the Midwest. Today we provide an update on crude price differentials at The Gulf Coast.

Thursday, 03/26/2015

Producers in the Bakken are making progress reducing the natural gas flaring that had put an unwelcome spotlight on the region. The fix, spurred in part by tightening regulations, is being made possible by the addition of new gas processing capacity and increased efforts to use “stranded” gas at the well-site. (A drilling slowdown associated with soft crude prices is providing an assist.) Today, we take a fresh look at what’s been happening on the flaring front in western North Dakota, where gas flares still light the nighttime sky.

Tuesday, 03/24/2015

Ever since crude oil prices began their precipitous fall in June 2014 market watchers have picked through the tealeaves of every OPEC statement - particularly those of Saudi Arabia - for signs of a change in policy. One widely watched signal comes every month when the Saudi’s publish differentials that determine the price customers pay for their crudes. Today we explain how Saudi pricing formulas work.

Sunday, 03/22/2015

Last year was a banner year for the sand mining companies that cater to the U.S. shale drilling services industry. That’s because in 2014 well operators significantly increased the amount of sand used to complete fracturing operations in shale plays – from an average of about 5 MMlb for a single well to 15 MMlb (7,500 tons) or more.

Monday, 03/16/2015

Newfield Exploration - the largest crude oil producer in Utah’s Uinta basin - has temporarily suspended new drilling operations there in response to lower prices. Other producers in the region have reduced their drilling and capex budgets as well. The cutbacks stem in part from the extra logistics expense required to deliver and process the thick yellow and black “waxy” Uinta crudes that do not flow at room temperature.

Tuesday, 03/10/2015

The proposed 400 Mb/d Shell Pipeline Company Westward Ho pipeline from St. James, LA to Nederland, TX was first touted in 2011 and initially expected to be in service by Q3 2015 but is now delayed at least until the end of 2017. The project is designed to replace the Shell Ho-Ho pipeline that used to ship crude from Louisiana to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast until it was reversed in 2013. Westward Ho has struggled to attract shipper commitments to bring additional crude into the saturated Texas Gulf Coast market. Today we review the project’s rationale.

Sunday, 03/08/2015

U.S. crude stocks are at their highest level in over 30 years and the contango market pricing structure continues to encourage increases in the stockpile. No one knows exactly how much storage space remains. The surplus is keeping U.S. crude prices low compared to international rivals but petroleum product prices (gasoline and diesel) are climbing higher, having bounced back from recent lows. Refining margins are sky high as bad weather and outages hamper operations. But as we describe today, the crude surplus remains a dark cloud on the horizon.