pipeline

Crude oil output in the Permian Basin is now averaging 6.3 MMb/d, up about 400 Mb/d from year-ago levels and 800 Mb/d from April 2022. The gains — and related increases in associated gas — have spurred a new round of concerns about pipeline exit capacity, complicating drillers’ hopes to boost crude production. In today’s RBN blog, we will discuss the takeaway capacity issue and what it means for producers and pipeline operators, including those planning offshore crude export terminals. 

Natural gas prices remain at near-record lows, but with so much production being driven by still-favorable crude oil economics there’s a distinct possibility — especially given the warm winter we’re in — that gas inventories may test storage capacity this year, perhaps as early as Labor Day. Of course, there are many market factors that might prevent this outcome, including lower production, a scorching-hot summer, and gas-to-coal fuel switching. But it could happen. And whenever we approach the limitations of natural gas infrastructure, we’ve seen time and again the disruptions and dislocations the market must deal with. The most obvious market signals are prices. But when it comes to gas flows another important barometer is the use of operational flow orders (OFOs). In today’s blog, we update one of RBN’s Greatest Hits and take a deep dive into the world of OFOs and what they can reveal about the state of the gas market. 

The Raceland crude oil hub is far from Louisiana’s largest but might be positioned to earn a little more of the spotlight after Sentinel Midstream and ExxonMobil Pipeline formed a joint venture in December to enhance business for a few crude oil pipelines connecting Louisiana hubs, including Raceland. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the infrastructure and connectivity that makes up the Raceland hub southwest of New Orleans, see how it stacks up against some of its larger cousins in the state — namely, Clovelly and St. James — and discuss why activity at the hub could be poised to pick up steam. 

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. 

Thanks to expanding heavy crude oil production in Western Canada’s oil sands in recent years and increased pipeline access from the region to the U.S. Gulf Coast, re-exports of Canadian heavy crude from Gulf Coast terminals set a record in 2023. With additional production gains on tap in the oil sands, it might seem natural to think that another re-export record is in the works for 2024. However, assuming the much-delayed Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) does indeed start up this year — offering a vastly expanded West Coast outlet for oil sands production — last year’s re-export high might end up being a peak, at least for the number of years it takes for growth in Western Canadian heavy crude production to exceed the capacity of the TMX expansion. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at TMX’s likely impact on Gulf Coast re-exports. 

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 17 in a pair of cases that are poised to capsize the so-called Chevron Deference, a 40-year-old legal doctrine that provides a key foundation for modern administrative law. It’s a big deal – big enough that we’re willing to wade into a little bit of legalese to help make sense of it. So strap in because in today’s RBN blog, we’ll explain what the Chevron Deference is, why it’s worth knowing about, how it applies to two cases that could alter its application, and how a ruling that limits or eliminates the doctrine’s usage and application could transform energy industry regulation.

U.S. natural gas production continues to increase, with more growth expected at least through the middle of this decade to feed new LNG export capacity coming online along the Gulf Coast. Production growth will require new infrastructure, but long-distance transmission lines have become increasingly difficult to build due to entrenched environmental opposition. Meanwhile, gathering pipes have grown in size and length, blurring the lines between gathering and transmission. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll discuss what separates gathering systems from transmission pipelines, why those differences matter, and how those systems are continuing to evolve. 

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments January 17 in a pair of cases that are poised to capsize the so-called Chevron Deference, a 40-year-old legal doctrine that provides a key foundation for modern administrative law. It’s a big deal – big enough that we’re willing to wade into a little bit of legalese to help make sense of it. So strap in because in today’s RBN blog, we’ll explain what the Chevron Deference is, why it’s worth knowing about, how it applies to two cases that could alter its application, and how a ruling that limits or eliminates the doctrine’s usage and application could transform energy industry regulation.

After a roughly three-year wait for a critical state permit, Enbridge’s Great Lakes Tunnel and Pipe Replacement project for its Line 5 pipeline across the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan has taken a step forward. The Army Corps of Engineers’ permits for the tunnel project would seem to be the only major obstacle standing in the way of construction, but there may well be more challenges ahead. Like a few other oil and gas projects — namely, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) — Line 5 has become entangled in controversy, including local opposition worried that a spill would irreparably damage their surroundings and spoil the state’s natural resources. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the Line 5 project, its next steps, and the opposition it continues to encounter. 

Folks not directly involved in the FERC’s rate-setting process for interstate gas pipelines may think it’s a largely mechanical — and painfully boring — activity. But the process is actually often incredibly dynamic, with a lot of give-and-take among pipeline representatives, pipeline customers and FERC staffers, all aimed at reaching an agreement on rates that everyone involved can live with. We recently explained the “formal process” and (informal, confidential) “settlement process” that usually play out along parallel tracks. In today’s RBN blog, we expand on our look at the rate-setting process for gas pipelines with a few more nuances of how negotiated resolution really works. 

The rates regulators set for transporting natural gas on interstate pipelines are all-important. They determine how much it costs to get gas from A to B, whether new capacity can be funded, and serve as the bedrock of regional gas price relationships around the nation’s pipeline grid. But the process for establishing those rates can seem opaque and is often misunderstood — it’s one of those things you need to be directly involved in to fully grasp. Well, RBN’s Advisory Practice lives and breathes gas pipeline rate cases month in, month out, and we thought it would be interesting — and kind of fun — to take you behind the curtain and explain how rate cases at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) really play out. 

The rates regulators set for transporting natural gas on interstate pipelines are all-important. They determine how much it costs to get gas from A to B, whether new capacity can be funded, and serve as the bedrock of regional gas price relationships around the nation’s pipeline grid. But the process for establishing those rates can seem opaque and is often misunderstood — it’s one of those things you need to be directly involved in to fully grasp. Well, RBN’s Advisory Practice lives and breathes gas pipeline rate cases month in, month out, and we thought it would be interesting — and kind of fun — to take you behind the curtain and explain how rate cases at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) really play out. 

Wider price discounts for Western Canadian heavy crude oil have been weighing on its oil producers for the past few months. This appears to be the result of a combination of weak refinery demand, rapidly rising oil production and insufficient oil takeaway capacity from Western Canada. A more permanent solution for wider discounts might be to increase pipeline export capacity to ensure that rising oil production has more options to reach markets. In today’s RBN blog, we consider the pending startup of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX) as a means to do just that.

The price discount for Western Canada’s benchmark heavy crude oil has seen yet another widening in the past few months. Increased pipeline access to the U.S. was believed to be the key to solving this problem in the long term, but more recent fundamental developments surrounding pipeline egress, refinery demand and increasing heavy oil supplies demonstrate that larger discounts can — and do — still happen. This problem could persist for several more months until a better balance is achieved in downstream markets. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the latest drivers of the wider price discounts for Western Canada’s heavy oil. 

When Navigator CO2 Ventures decided to pull the plug on its long-planned Heartland Greenway project, a vast network that would have captured carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from dozens of ethanol producers in the Midwest and Great Plains then piped them hundreds of miles for permanent sequestration, it was a significant setback for the Biden administration’s climate goals. More than that, it showed how large-scale carbon-capture projects face opposition from seemingly all sides and how the lack of a meaningful regulatory framework at the federal level only adds to the industry’s challenges. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the Heartland Greenway cancellation, what it says about the future of similar projects, and what regulatory changes might be needed at the federal level to make large-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) a reality.