Natural Gas Production

Sunday, 06/23/2019

Permian midstream development activity has been happening at a rapid pace over the past few years, and we’ve featured many of those projects in the RBN blogosphere. One of the most aggressive players has been Salt Creek Midstream, which is in the midst of a big Permian buildout focusing on natural gas, crude oil, natural gas liquids and even produced water. Salt Creek isn’t only developing local midstream infrastructure; it’s also at work on long-haul solutions that will enable Permian producers to access markets along the Texas Gulf Coast — a wellhead-to-water strategy, you might call it. Helping Permian producers meet their needs to take away all three hydrocarbons plus produced water with integrated transport and pricing options is the key to Salt Creek’s effort. Today, we dive into the details of the company’s expansive Permian infrastructure development plan.

Thursday, 06/20/2019

Permian gas marketers were likely breathing a sigh of relief earlier this month when news came that the developers behind the Whistler Pipeline had made a final investment decision (FID) to proceed with the new 2.0-Bcf/d link between the Permian and South Texas. The project provides a crucial link in the gas takeaway picture for the Permian and makes it less likely that gas pipeline capacity constraints in the future will result in the negative prices that are plaguing the present-day gas markets in West Texas. Combined with the two other Permian greenfield gas pipelines that have taken FID — Kinder Morgan’s Gulf Coast Express (GCX) and Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) — there is now ~6 Bcf/d of incremental Permian supply pointed at the Texas Gulf Coast over the next two years. That’s great news for Permian producers, as well as demand centers along the coast, where tremendous growth in LNG exports is under way. Today, we detail the third natural gas pipeline being built from the Permian to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Monday, 06/17/2019

This much seems clear: natural gas demand along Texas’s Gulf Coast will be rising sharply, as will gas supply from the Permian and other inland plays to the coast. The catch is that, like clumsy dance partners, the increases in demand — mostly from new liquefaction/LNG export terminals and Mexico-bound gas pipelines — and the incremental supply to the coast via new, large-diameter pipes from the Permian are likely to be out of sync. That shifting imbalance, in turn, may well cause volatility in Houston Ship Channel gas prices as they relate to Henry Hub. In fact, we’re already seeing signs of what’s to come. Today, we continue our look at upcoming gas infrastructure expansions and their potential impact on the greater Texas Gulf Coast gas supply-demand balance.

Tuesday, 06/11/2019

When it comes to Texas natural gas markets, the Permian has been getting much of the attention lately, with its rapid supply growth, limited pipeline takeaway capacity and sometimes negative prices. However, a wave of gas infrastructure development just starting to come online along the Texas Gulf Coast is set to steal some of the Permian’s spotlight over the next few months. Two large liquefaction/LNG export facilities are ramping up on the coast, as are the pipeline reversal projects designed to supply them. Also, three announced Permian-to-Gulf-Coast gas pipelines slated for completion over the next 24 months will move supply cross-state to destinations spanning the area from the Houston Ship Channel to the Agua Dulce Hub near Corpus Christi. That’s a lot of change ahead for these key Texas gas markets. Today, we turn our attention downstream of the Permian to the Houston Ship Channel market, including upcoming gas infrastructure expansions and their potential impact on the greater Texas Gulf Coast gas supply and demand balance.

Monday, 05/27/2019

There’s never a dull moment in the Permian gas market these days, as prices at the major trading hubs remain extremely volatile, fueled by insufficient natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity. After prices tumbled to fresh lows in late April, with the Waha hub trading as much as $9/MMBtu below zero, the market appeared to regain its footing somewhat in early May as production curtailments lifted prices above zero. However, that reprieve was short-lived; prices last week again fell into negative territory heading into Memorial Day weekend. That said, the possibility of new takeaway capacity materializing in the weeks ahead, earlier than expected, has renewed hope among some market participants that the Permian gas price woes will soon be a thing of the past. How likely is that really, and will it be enough to equalize the beleaguered market? Today, we look at potential near-term developments that could support Permian gas prices.

Monday, 05/13/2019

Permian natural gas prices have been on a wild ride lately, trading more than $5/MMBtu below zero in early April before recovering to just above zero over the last few weeks. It’s hardly a secret that the Permian’s gas market woes have been the direct result of production exceeding pipeline capacity. That situation is set to change in a few months, when Kinder Morgan starts up its 1.98-Bcf/d Gulf Coast Express Pipeline, providing much needed new takeaway capacity. And that’s not all GCX will do. Its start-up will shift huge volumes of gas toward the Texas Gulf Coast that currently flow out of the Permian to other markets, likely causing a ripple effect across more than just the West Texas gas market. Today, we look at how Kinder Morgan’s new gas pipeline will redirect significant volumes of Permian gas currently flowing north to the Midcontinent.

Thursday, 05/09/2019

U.S. exploration and production companies (E&Ps) are tapping the brakes on their capital spending in 2019 after two years of strong investment growth and a return to profitability that in 2018 approached the level generated in the $100+/bbl crude oil price environment back in 2014. The pull-back in capex this year appears likely to slow the pace of production growth, and comes despite a 30% rebound in crude oil prices in the first quarter of 2019. What’s going on? Well, many investors remain skeptical about E&Ps, as evidenced by stock prices that remain in the doldrums, and to gain favor with investors, a number of E&Ps are returning cash to them in the form of share buybacks and higher dividends. Today, we consider the current state of investment in the E&P sector, how it’s affected by stock valuations and how it affects production growth.

Sunday, 04/14/2019

It’s said that everything is bigger and better in Texas, and when it comes to the magnitude of negative natural gas prices, the Lone Star State recently captured the crown by a wide margin. By now, you’ve probably heard that Permian spot gas prices plumbed new depths in the past couple of weeks, falling as low as $9/MMBtu below zero in intraday trading and easily setting the record for the “biggest” negative absolute price ever recorded in U.S. gas markets. Certainly, that was bad news for many of the Permian producers selling gas into the day-ahead market. But every market has its losers and winners, and negative prices were likely “better” — dare we say much better — for those buying gas in the Permian. Today, we look at some of the players that are benefitting from negative Permian natural gas prices.

Wednesday, 03/27/2019

Permian natural gas prices are having a rough spring. After a volatile winter that saw two periods of negative-priced trades followed by a period of relatively strong prices, values at the Permian’s major trading hubs hit the skids earlier this week just as Spring Break set in for most in the Lone Star state. Once again, pipeline maintenance and burgeoning production appear to be the main culprits, but this upheaval feels different, in our view. Clearly, the price crash has reached a new level of drama, with day-ahead spot prices at West Texas’s Waha hub now settling below zero — some days by more than $0.50/MMBtu. Gas production has raced higher too, now within striking distance of 10 Bcf/d, on the coattails of continued oil pipeline capacity expansions, but new gas pipeline takeaway capacity is an estimated six months away. What becomes of Permian gas prices in the meantime, and how much worse could already-negative prices get? Today, we discuss the drivers behind the latest price deterioration and assess what’s ahead for the Permian natural gas markets.

Thursday, 03/07/2019

The Mexican market is critically important to Permian producers. Rising gas demand south of the border — along with expected gains in LNG exports from new liquefaction/export facilities along the Gulf Coast — are key to their plans to significantly increase production of crude oil, which brings with it large volumes of associated gas. All that gas needs a market, and nearby Mexico is a natural. For a number of years now, Mexico’s Comisión Federal de Electricidad has been working to implement a plan to add dozens of new gas-fired power plants and to support the development of new gas pipelines to transport gas to them from the U.S. The new pipelines have been coming online at a slower-than-planned pace. But what pipeline capacity has been added across the border from West Texas is already changing Mexico’s gas market. The El Encino Hub in Northwest Mexico is one such area where there are signs of a shifting supply-demand balance. Today, we continue a blog series on key gas pipeline developments down Mexico way and the implications for gas flows, this time delving into the dynamics at the El Encino Hub.

Tuesday, 03/05/2019

The forward curve for natural gas supports 2019 production growth that is likely to far outpace expected gains in gas demand. This impending supply/demand imbalance suggests that gas prices will be pressured lower. Lower gas prices will boost demand, but there are real limits to how much demand can rise in the short term. What will really be needed to balance the market is for producers in at least a few plays — the Marcellus and Utica among them — to rethink and rework their 2019 production plans. Which raises the questions, how much will production growth need to be cut, and where will the bulk of the pruning occur? Today, we continue our review of key themes and findings in East Daley Capital’s newly updated “Dirty Little Secrets” report on the midstream sector.

Wednesday, 02/20/2019

Once the “riverboat gamblers” of U.S. industry, executives at exploration and production companies got religion after the brutal oil price crash in late 2014 and adopted a far more conservative approach to investment based on their new 11th commandment: “Thou shalt live within cash flow.” So it’s no surprise that early 2019 guidance issued by more than half of the 45 major E&Ps we track shows them cutting back capital investment in response to last fall’s decline in oil prices from a more optimistic scenario a year ago. Nearly three-quarters of the 26 companies reporting their 2019 guidance are reducing exploration and development outlays, while only three of the remainder are budgeting increases greater than 10%. What is surprising is that these forecasts include solid production growth virtually across the board, especially for E&Ps that focus on crude oil. Today, we look at how a representative group of U.S. E&Ps are dealing with lower crude prices.

Wednesday, 01/30/2019

While Permian natural gas pipeline announcements came fast and furious last year, it had been relatively quiet on that front the past few weeks. Leave it to the folks at WhiteWater Midstream to break the lull, which is exactly what they did with the recent announcement of a binding open season for a new interstate pipeline in the heart of the Delaware Basin. Named Steady Eddy, the pipeline would originate in an underserved corner of the Permian and provide access to the Waha Hub, where a number of planned greenfield pipelines leaving the Permian will begin. Today, we look at the details of WhiteWater’s proposed Steady Eddy pipeline project.

Sunday, 01/27/2019

Mexico’s energy sector has been dealing with a fair amount of uncertainty of late. Newly installed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised to undo elements of the country’s historic energy reform program, limit imports of hydrocarbons, and focus on domestic production and refining. How much will all this affect the export of natural gas from the U.S. to Mexico? It’s too soon to know what the long-term impact might be, but for now, gas exports remain near record highs and the pipeline buildout within Mexico is proceeding. That’s not to say, however, that the infrastructure work has gone without its own set of challenges — many of those were apparent well before the recent political changes. Today, we begin a series examining the opportunities and potential pitfalls ahead this year for Mexico’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure additions.

Tuesday, 11/27/2018

Crude oil and natural gas production in the Bakken are at all-time highs, as are the volumes of gas being processed in and transported out of the play. The bad news is that for the past few months, the volumes of Bakken gas being flared are also at record levels, and producers as a whole have been exceeding the state of North Dakota’s goal on the percentage of gas that is flared at the lease rather than captured, processed and piped away. State regulators last week stood by their flaring goals, but in an effort to ease the squeeze they gave producers a lot more flexibility in what gas is counted — and not counted — when the flaring calculations are made. Today, we update gas production, processing and flaring in what’s been one of the nation’s hottest production regions.