LNG

Observers of the natural gas market over the past 20 years know that the main story has been one of enormous growth. The Shale Revolution gave new life to the U.S. natural gas sector, leading to the record production levels we are seeing in early 2024. The economy has found many uses for this new gas: increased power generation, more pipeline exports to Mexico, expanded industrial gas usage and — most prominently — the many LNG export facilities that have cropped up since 2016. But with the pause on new LNG export licenses and the push to renewables in the power sector, there’s a looming question of where the new natural gas would go if production continues to expand. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how that new gas might be absorbed, both domestically and internationally, and what continued growth would imply for gas prices and producers in the long term. 

As mightily as U.S. LNG exports have impacted global trade dynamics, so have U.S. natural gas flows been reshaped by the pull toward Gulf Coast export terminals. The next new terminal on deck is Venture Global’s enormous Plaquemines facility in Louisiana, which could begin taking feedgas as early as late fall 2024 and will eventually ramp up to more than 2.6 Bcf/d. For Southeast Louisiana, home to a massive industrial corridor along the Mississippi River as well as the U.S. natural gas benchmark Henry Hub, the introduction of such a huge source of demand will change how gas flows into and out of the region — with knock-on effects across the Gulf Coast. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll turn once again to our Arrow Model to help illuminate what the path forward may look like. 

The Biden administration’s recently announced decision to pause further action on new LNG export permits for at least several months sent shockwaves through the industry and shook up expectations regarding which projects will be hurt by — or benefit from — the pause. As we’ll discuss in today’s RBN blog, the decision is likely to put a number of Gulf Coast LNG export projects (one of them a real giant) in limbo, set back a Mexican project that would depend on Permian and Eagle Ford gas, and boost a couple of projects up in Canada. Oh, and there’s this: The pause also may help two avowed enemies of the U.S.: Russia and Iran. 

So far this winter, front-month CME/NYMEX natural gas futures have fallen, risen and fallen again but, until their most recent dip, generally remained within the same $2.30-to-$3.30/MMBtu range where they have been lingering since mid-2023. With production sustaining near-record levels, LNG export volumes down from the winter highs, and temperatures back to normal, the supply of gas remains plentiful — a bearish scenario. In today’s RBN blog, we look at why there’s been a lid on natural gas prices — and the odds that the situation might change before the rapidly-approaching end of the winter season.

There’s no doubt about it: The Biden administration’s decision to pause approval of LNG export licenses  poses a new threat to a number of projects thought to be nearing a final investment decision (FID). The questions brought on by the move are profound: how big of a problem is this for U.S. developers, how does the timeout affect the projects now in limbo, and — over the longer term — what does the added uncertainty regarding incremental LNG exports mean for U.S. crude oil and natural gas production and what does it mean for the global energy landscape? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the factors that led to the administration’s announcement — and the case to be made that expanded LNG exports are in the U.S.’s economic and strategic interest. 

In a deal the energy industry had been whispering about for months, Chesapeake Energy and Southwestern Energy will combine to form what will be the largest natural gas producer in the U.S., with 7.3 Bcf/d of production in the Marcellus/Utica and the Haynesville and ready access to the Northeast and the LNG export market — assuming the merger passes muster with federal regulators. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the merger and why it makes sense for both E&Ps. 

Think energy markets are getting back to normal? After all, prices have been relatively stable, production is growing at a healthy rate, and infrastructure bottlenecks are front and center again. Just like the good ol’ days, right? Absolutely not. It’s a whole new energy world out there, with unexpected twists and turns around every corner — everything from regional hostilities, renewables subsidies, disruptions at shipping pinch points, pipeline capacity shortfalls and all sorts of other quirky variables. There’s just no way to predict what is going to happen next, right? Nah. All we need to do is stick our collective RBN necks out one more time, peer into our crystal ball, and see what 2024 has in store for us. 

A year ago, as New Year’s Day approached, we were looking ahead into very uncertain market conditions, having lived through a pandemic, crazy weather events, collapsing and then soaring prices, and Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine. Our job was once again to peer into the RBN crystal ball to see what the upcoming year had in store for energy markets. We’ll do that again in our next blog. But another part of that tradition is to look back to see how we did with our forecasts for the previous year. That’s right! We actually check our work. And that’s exactly what we’ll do today: review our prognostications for 2023. 

Crude oil, natural gas and NGL production roared back in 2023. All three energy commodity groups hit record volumes, which means one thing: more infrastructure is needed. That means gathering systems, pipelines, processing plants, refinery units, fractionators, storage facilities and, above all, export dock capacity. That’s because most of the incremental production is headed overseas — U.S. energy exports are on the rise! If 2023’s dominant story line was production growth, exports and (especially) the need for new infrastructure, you can bet our blogs on those topics garnered more than their share of interest from RBN’s subscribers. Today we dive into our Top 10 blogs to uncover the hottest topics in 2023 energy markets. 

The Everett LNG import terminal, a mainstay of Boston’s gas grid, is expected to close by the end of May 2024, raising questions about future gas supply in New England. The terminal’s closure is closely tied to the imminent loss of its biggest customer, the 1,413-MW Mystic generating station — the region’s largest fossil-fuel plant. Constellation Energy, which owns both the Everett terminal and the Mystic power plant, has said it can’t keep Everett open next year when the Mystic plant closes unless another gas purchaser takes its place. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll address the impacts of Everett’s potential demise on New England in the short term and on regional gas supply during future polar vortex events.

There’s a lot of nitrogen out there — it’s the seventh-most common element in the universe and the Earth’s atmosphere is 78% nitrogen (and only 21% oxygen). And there’s certainly nothing new about nitrogen in the production, processing and delivery of natural gas. That’s because all natural gas contains at least a little nitrogen. But lately, the nitrogen content in some U.S. natural gas has become a real headache, and it’s getting worse. There are two things going on. First, a few counties in the Permian’s Midland Basin produce gas with unusually high nitrogen content, and those same counties have been the Midland’s fastest-growing production area the past few years. Second, there’s the LNG angle. LNG is by far the fastest-growing demand sector for U.S. gas. LNG terminals here in the U.S. and buyers of U.S. LNG don’t like nitrogen one little bit. As an inert gas (meaning it does not burn), nitrogen lowers the heating value of the LNG and takes up room (lowers the effective capacity) in the terminal’s liquefaction train. Bottom line, nitrogen generally mucks up the process of liquefying, transporting and consuming LNG, which means that nitrogen is a considerably more problematic issue for LNG terminals than for most domestic gas consumers. So as the LNG sector increases as a fraction of total U.S. demand, the nitrogen issue really comes to the fore. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll explore why high nitrogen content in gas is happening now, why it matters and how bad it could get. 

LNG export projects looking to take a positive final investment decision (FID) need to sell a high proportion of their nameplate capacity under long-term contracts to ensure sufficient cash flows to underpin the project and obtain financing. U.S.-based projects (new and expansions) totaling more than 350 million tons per annum (MMtpa, 48.3 Bcf/) — against a current global market of 400 MMtpa (52.9 Bcf/d) — are vying for creditworthy offtakers from multiple markets in their pre-FID deliberations. The sense of urgency among project sponsors has been boosted by the Russia/Ukraine war and a potentially resurgent Chinese economy, both of which should promise a bright future for new projects. Plenty of those have reached FID in the last couple of years, but what is holding others back from taking the same step? In today’s RBN blog, we’ll look at some of the factors impacting those decisions and the long-term implications that flow from them. 

Sometimes, courtship is better the second time around. After some previous rumors and flirting with a deal in the spring of 2023, ExxonMobil, the largest international integrated oil company, reached an agreement to acquire Pioneer Natural Resources, the largest pure-play Permian producer, for $64.5 billion, the largest-ever U.S. upstream transaction. In today’s blog, we analyze the deal that would make ExxonMobil the top Permian producer, including shifts in the focus and depth of its upstream portfolio, the integration with its existing midstream and downstream infrastructure, and its energy transition goals.

LNG feedgas demand has averaged a record of about 12 Bcf/d this summer and fall. While that may sound like an impressive number (and it is), it could increase significantly — even without new capacity additions — over the next few months as seasonal demand rises and maintenance activity slows. And that’s just for starters. Next year, the first of several planned LNG export terminals and expansions of existing ones will start commissioning, and by the end of this decade feedgas demand may well double. In today’s RBN blog, we look at how current LNG feedgas demand stacks up compared to past years, the factors driving current demand, and the potential for additional upside.

U.S. oil, natural gas and NGL markets are more interconnected than ever — with each other and with global dynamics. The deep connections we see today have evolved in the 15 years since the start of the Shale Revolution, and in recognizing how the various segments have impacted one another, we can better explain how they are driving today’s markets. That was the focus of our Fall 2023 School of Energy and it’s the subject of today’s RBN blog, which (warning) is a blatant advertorial for School of Energy Encore, a newly available online version of our recent conference.