Sunday, 03/27/2016

Two weeks ago, Tallgrass Energy, operator of the Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) received final approval to begin construction on its Zone 3 Capacity Enhancement (Z3CE) expansion project, its second east-to-west flow capacity expansion in as many years. The last one went into service last August and has been running at capacity near 1.8 Bcf/d for much of winter 2015-16. The Z3CE expansion will again increase westbound takeaway capacity on the mainline from the heart of the Marcellus/Utica shale by another 0.8 Bcf/d, on top of the existing 1.8 Bcf/d. Today we bring you the up-to-the-minute scoop on the latest REX expansion.

Thursday, 03/17/2016

Tallgrass Energy’s Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) last week received final approval to begin construction on its Zone 3 Capacity Enhancement expansion project (Z3CE), which would expand east-to-west capacity out of the Marcellus/Utica shale production area to a record 2.6 Bcf/d. This project comes on the heels of REX’s East-to-West expansion (E2W), which came online last August and in one fell swoop gave Northeast producers their first substantial westbound firm forward-haul transportation capacity, totaling a full 1.8 Bcf/d. The upcoming Z3CE capacity (0.8 Bcf/d) will mark yet another milestone in the Great Pipeline Reversal that’s expected to ease supply congestion in the Northeast and support beleaguered Marcellus/Utica pricing points. That new capacity is not due in-service until late 2016. But now with nearly a full winter’s worth of pipeline flow data for the first E2W expansion, we can get a preview of potential impacts of the additional capacity on flows and pricing. Today we look at winter-to-date gas flows on REX and what they tell us about the Marcellus/Utica market.

Monday, 02/15/2016

Most Canadian oil sands crude production comes from very expensive mining or underground steam heating operations designed to produce consistently for decades that are costly to shutter in a downturn. Right now the crude netbacks (market price less transport costs) for these projects are more or less under water depending on transport routes. Yet production continues and new projects are still coming online. Today we estimate the netbacks (market price less transport cost) that Canadian producers are realizing.

Tuesday, 12/22/2015

While recent analysis has raised concerns crude oil pipelines are running half empty the opposite is true for many of the nations’ refined product distribution pipes. Take the huge Colonial Pipeline system that delivers as much as 2.7 MMb/d of refined products from Gulf Coast refineries to destinations up the East Coast as far as New York. The southern stretch of the pipeline from Pasadena near Houston to Greensboro, NC has been running full since 2012 - meaning that shipper volumes are subject to rationing or apportionment. Today we start a two-part series explaining why the Colonial pipeline is so congested and how it operates.

Monday, 11/02/2015

Prior to 2012 the only U.S. produced crude delivered by pipeline to Houston area refineries came from offshore Gulf of Mexico or onshore Louisiana fields. The majority of supplies were imports delivered by waterborne tanker. But in just three short years between 2012 and 2015, roughly 2 MMb/d of crude pipeline capacity was built or repurposed to deliver surging light shale crude production and heavy crude from Canada into the Houston area. Refiners have adapted quickly to take advantage of new sources of supply. But with much of the newly minted infrastructure underutilized, midstream companies still need to improve pipeline connectivity and storage accessibility to overcome area logistical challenges. Today we review RBN’s latest Drill Down report on Houston crude infrastructure – released today -- and announce RBN’s new infrastructure database and mapping system, called MIDI.

Monday, 08/31/2015

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.

Monday, 08/24/2015

Fast-rising propane production in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays, the reversal and repurposing of the Cochin Pipeline and other factors have exposed gaps in the midstream infrastructure that shuttles and stores large volumes of propane within the U.S.  Perhaps one of the most obvious of those gaps is the inability to pipe propane from Ohio/West Virginia/southwestern Pennsylvania to big propane consumption areas in the nation’s heartland.  Enterprise Products Partners has been working on a fix—a relatively short pipeline across northern Illinois that it seems would add a lot of flexibility per mile.Today, we consider Enterprise’s planned propane takeaway project and how it might affect the propane market.

Monday, 08/03/2015

Yesterday (August 3, 2015) Brent crude closed under $50/Bbl for the first time since January 2015. At that price expensive crude-by-rail (CBR) freight costs to the East Coast leave Bakken producers with netbacks not much over $30/Bbl. Yet CBR shipments to the East Coast were still over 400 Mb/d in May 2015 according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). By 2017 there should be adequate capacity to get all Bakken crude to market by pipeline. But direct pipeline competition against rail to the East Coast is not expected until at least 2020. Today we look at the future of East Coast CBR.

Sunday, 08/02/2015

Tallgrass Energy’s Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) opened the floodgates for Marcellus/Utica producers this Saturday, August 1, bringing online its Zone 3 East-to-West (E2W) expansion capacity. The expansion tripled westbound design capacity to a full 1.8 Bcf/d from the Marcellus/Utica producing region to delivery points in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Potentially this additional takeaway capacity eases supply congestion in the Northeast and will support beleaguered Marcellus/Utica pricing points. As REX touches nearly every part of the US gas market, the expansion can ultimately be expected to reconfigure gas flows and price relationships across multiple regions as it comes online. Today we review the changes and how quickly they are likely to impact the market.

Sunday, 05/17/2015

Crude oil production is expected to be slowing down in U.S. shale basins in the wake of lower oil prices and drastic cuts in the number of working rigs. Most forecasts for future growth are far more conservative now. Yet new midstream pipeline projects continue to emerge. The latest proposal in the Bakken would add a minimum of 220 Mb/d of takeaway capacity sometime after 2018. At that point, between rail and pipeline, North Dakota takeaway capacity will be more than double RBN’s Growth Scenario production forecast – suggesting new pipelines will need to attract defectors from existing routes to market. Today we examine the rationale behind the proposed TransCanada Upland pipeline.

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.

Thursday, 02/12/2015

A new light sweet crude oil trading market is developing in Houston at the Magellan Midstream Partners East Houston terminal – delivery point for that company’s Longhorn and BridgeTex (50/50 owned with Plains All American) pipelines delivering crude from the Permian Basin. Light sweet crude from the Permian is also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) the domestic U.S. benchmark crude - widely traded at Cushing, OK where it underpins the CME NYMEX futures contract.  Today we review the developing market and the price relationships that underpin it.

Tuesday, 02/03/2015

The combination of crashing crude prices and freight costs for long distance transport to refinery markets is tightening pressure on Bakken crude producer break-even economics. There is plenty of more expensive rail transportation capacity and not enough cheaper pipeline capacity to carry all production to market. For the moment producers appear to be sticking to favored markets on the East and West Coasts that can only be reached by rail. New pipeline capacity is two years away. Today we review the big shifts in North Dakota crude transport options.

Monday, 01/05/2015

Last week’s clarification from the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) about the process required to export lease condensate may make exports easier on paper but it won’t stimulate export demand. The BIS move is timely because available exports of this light hydrocarbon material could increase significantly, depending on what happens to crude prices. However current low price levels and questions about future overseas demand could diminish the significance of the BIS process improvements. Today we describe the BIS clarifications and whether they are likely to make a difference.

Sunday, 10/19/2014

There’s been a lot of talk--and angst—this summer and early fall about the flood of crude oil headed to the Houston area from the Eagle Ford, the Permian Basin and other burgeoning oil-production regions. The angst seems worst for crude producers, who rightly wonder whether Houston’s looming shortfall of storage capacity will further disrupt crude oil logistics, contribute to more downward pressure on crude prices, or worse.  Understanding what’s ahead requires an in-depth look at the changing crude flows into Houston and that is precisely the subject of RBN Energy’s latest drill-down report. In today’s blog, we provide highlights of the report, which is available for download by RBN Backstage Pass holders, and discuss how the shift from waterborne to pipeline delivery of crude already is affecting the market.