This Wednesday (September 30, 2015) PBF Energy announced their acquisition of the 155 Mb/d ExxonMobil Torrance, CA refinery that has been out of commission since February 2015 and will not likely return to service until February 2016. This PBF purchase is their second refinery buy this year and their fifth since 2010. The sophisticated Torrance refinery has a lot of upside potential for PBF but may be constrained by California transport fuel regulations. Today we take a closer look at the deal.
The deluge of light (and super light) sweet crude from U.S. tight-oil plays like the Permian Basin, Bakken and Eagle Ford has had many effects, including a push by refiners to rework facilities designed for heavy-crude processing to handle an excess of lighter oils. Many of these projects are underway and expected online in the next two years. Today, we consider refinery infrastructure investments that might not pan out in a low crude price world.
A question we get asked all the time these days is whether or not U.S. crude output has begun to decline yet and if so by how much? We don’t actually think the answer makes a lot of difference to the market - especially when you consider changing imports and inventory. But ever since the OPEC meeting last November (2014) failed to take action to reduce output to support oil prices - market watchers have placed a lot of emphasis on when U.S. shale producers would respond by cutting production. So regardless of the merits of the question we are all living in a marketplace where knowing the “real” state of U.S. production – and whether it is up or down – has become a big deal. To that end today we look at crude production data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
This month the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) indicated they are leaning towards leniency in their treatment of operators that have drilled but not completed wells within the one-year time frame permitted. Instead of assuming such wells are abandoned, which would otherwise mean an expired drilling permit and about $200,000 in plugging costs, – the State plans to give operators more time. That possibility opens up a whole new underground storage option for producers struggling to make ends meet. Today we explain the NDIC plan.
Floating production, storage and offloading vessels—FPSOs, for short—allow for hydrocarbon production in waters too deep for conventional offshore platforms. While FPSOs have been in limited use around the world since the mid-1970s, they remain a relative rarity in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), mostly because oil and natural gas has been available in shallower parts of the Gulf closer to shore. Now, Royal Dutch Shell will be taking a spanking-new FPSO into the deepest waters yet--9,500 feet, or almost two miles down--for its mammoth Stones development 200 miles off the Louisiana coast. Today, we look at the Stones project, the growing role of FPSOs, and the long-term perspective taken by exploration and production (E&P) companies in the GOM.
Another round of big changes are coming to the markets for natural gas, natural gas liquids (NGLs) and crude oil. The surging production growth that has characterized these markets has slowed and in some basins is starting to fall as the mass exodus of drilling rigs begins to take its toll on shale production. But what about all that infrastructure that has been and continues to be built? Billions of dollars are going into pipelines, processing plants, petrochemical plants, terminals, storage, etc. based on a much higher production growth scenario than now seems likely. Where are the opportunities in this new energy market reality? The answer depends on a discernable pattern of events tied to production volumes, infrastructure capacity, commodity flows and project expenditures. Those are the themes of our latest State of the Energy Markets Conference scheduled for October 28, 2015 in Denver, CO as well as the subject of today’s blog – also an advertorial for the conference.
Blueknight Energy Partners’ 100 Mb/d Knight Warrior pipeline is currently under construction and due online in Q2 2016 to deliver crude from the developing Eaglebine play to the Houston Ship Channel. It complements the 60 Mb/d Sunoco Logistics Eaglebine Express pipeline to Nederland, TX that opened last December. Today we discuss how the promising but relatively complex nature of Eaglebine drilling could scare off producers until prices move substantially higher than today’s levels.
Our recent analysis of Houston area crude infrastructure found new pipelines running half full as more capacity comes online and storage only half utilized as midstream operators continue to plan expansions. Add the current crude production slowdown to that equation and it could spell trouble for midstream companies. Today we ponder the fate of midstream investment in Houston crude oil infrastructure.
Even as Houston area crude oil storage – at refineries and commercial terminals – remains just half utilized according to data from Genscape, midstream operators are busy building more tanks. About 7 MMBbl of storage is under construction now and plans have been announced this year to build another 11 MMBbl. Today we detail plans to expand crude storage in the Houston area.
For the past several months shippers in Midland, TX – in the middle of the prolific Permian Basin - have been paying premiums up to $2/Bbl over the benchmark Cushing, OK trading hub price for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude. That means shipping WTI from Midland to Cushing is a money losing proposition. Historically Cushing WTI has traded at a premium to Midland – usually at least covering the ~$1/Bbl pipeline tariff. Today we explain how traditional price dynamics have been turned upside down.
Close analysis of Houston area crude storage indicates it is only 52% utilized today even as regional crude inventories have reached record levels. Meeting refinery operational needs appears to be the main use of area storage – rather than speculative gains from buying today’s cheap oil to store and sell later. Today we continue our analysis of Houston area refinery infrastructure.
With crude oil prices just over $40/bbl you might think producers would be reducing capex and cutting their 2015 production estimates. But not so. RBN’s analysis of second quarter guidance in 2015 indicates that 31 E&Ps as a group kept their capex outlook at about the same level as they indicated in Q1. And as a group they still expect oil and gas production in 2015 to increase versus last year. But there were significant differences between the peer groups we examined. The Small/Mid-Size Oil-Weighted E&Ps upped 2015 investment by $730 million versus Q1 and now expect 2015 production to be up 16% over last year versus the 13% increase expected last quarter. The Large Oil-Weighted E&Ps slashed capex by another $630 million, yet production is still expected to rise, in this case by 4% versus a 3% growth expectation last quarter. In contrast, capital spending and production guidance were little changed among the gas-weighted peer groups. Today we provide an update to our Q1 analysis of capital spending and production trends.
Pipelines delivering crude to Houston from the South Texas Eagle Ford are estimated to be half empty. Yet over 200Mb/d of crude is shipped from that basin to refineries in Houston and further east along the Gulf Coast by barge. One of the key reasons appears to be that local traffic congestion and a lack of adequate throughway pipeline capacity past Houston pushes barrels not needed locally onto the water to reach refineries in Louisiana. Today we explain the Houston crude traffic problem.
Last Friday (August 14, 2015) the Department of Commerce (DOC) revealed to the press that they would approve a handful of applications to export U.S. domestic light crude to Mexico under a Licensed “swap” arrangement that involves importing the same volume of heavy crude to the U.S. from Mexico. The Licenses are likely to be awarded to Mexican national oil company PEMEX or its affiliates and will last for a year starting at the end of this month (August 2015). Today we update our earlier analysis of Mexican crude swap exports.
During the first 7 months of 2015 the U.S. experienced record setting refinery crude processing and utilization rates. By the end of July crude inputs topped 17 MMb/d for the first time and nationwide refineries ran at over 96% of operable capacity - reaping the rewards of robust margins. But the party has been marred by a number of unexpected outages – the latest of which brought down a 250 Mb/d unit at BP’s Whiting, IN refinery last weekend – causing a spike in Chicago gasoline prices. Today we ponder why outages may be occurring and the upcoming impact of overdue fall maintenance.