California

Tuesday, 04/27/2021

As governments and corporations around the world evaluate methods of decarbonization across sectors, one focus area has been transportation, since the petroleum fuels used to mobilize economies are significant contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is one of the longest-running programs for carbon intensity (CI) reduction targeting the transportation sector and provides an ideal case study to review for a better understanding of how one type of GHG reduction policy is anticipated to work. As many of the principles in this pioneering program are being evaluated for replication elsewhere, its results and consequences are still in the making. In today’s blog we’ll provide an overview of the Golden State’s groundbreaking LCFS, looking at its history, how it functions, and its effectiveness at meeting its goals to date.

Sunday, 03/28/2021

As part of the Paris Agreement and other regional sustainability goals, countries across the globe are formulating strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The resultant policies target numerous different areas such as stationary emissions, electricity production, and transportation fuel sourcing. Within the transportation sector, one aspect that has spurred quite a bit of investment relates to reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The “low carbon fuel” policies that are in place today, coupled with those that are being evaluated for the future, have the potential to displace a sizeable portion of the petroleum-based fuels in the regions where they are adopted. In today’s blog, we begin a series on low carbon fuel policies, the mechanisms being evaluated to meet increasingly stringent regulations, and the impact these regulations could have on refined-products markets.

Wednesday, 09/23/2020

There’s no doubt about it: California’s decade-long efforts to expand the use of solar, wind, and other renewable energy and improve energy efficiency have enabled the state to significantly reduce its consumption of natural gas for power generation. But the Golden State’s rapid shift to a greener, lower-carbon electricity sector — and its push to shut down gas-fired power plants — has come at a cost, namely an increased risk of rolling blackouts, especially during extended heat waves in the West when neighboring states have less “surplus” electricity to send California’s way. The main problem is that while solar facilities provide a big share of the state’s midday power needs, there’s sometimes barely enough capacity from gas plants and other conventional generation sources to take up the slack when the sun sinks in the late afternoon and early evening. Today, we discuss recent developments on the power front in the most populous state, and what they mean for natural gas consumption there.

Monday, 07/06/2020

They’re generally small in size, but renewable diesel refineries are popping up in many parts of the U.S., incentivized by government programs aimed at reducing carbon emissions and very gradually weaning Americans — and Canadians — from crude oil-based diesel fuel. Recently, HollyFrontier Corp. announced that it will be converting its decades-old Cheyenne, WY, refinery into a renewable diesel facility. While the news of another entrant into the renewable diesel market is not surprising, the complete shutdown and transformation of an existing refinery for this purpose marks only the second time this has occurred in the U.S. Today, we discuss HollyFrontier’s plans and provide an update on renewable diesel supply and demand dynamics.

Thursday, 01/09/2020

Southern California is poised to have greater natural gas supply flexibility this winter, buoyed by improved access to local storage and the completion of repairs on an important inbound pipeline. Ongoing pipeline outages and maintenance had limited flows over the past few years, creating supply constraints that were then compounded by restricted access to the Aliso Canyon storage field. This led to major volatility in gas prices, which spiked as high as $39/MMBtu in July 2018. Recent repairs and regulatory changes aim to alleviate the situation and limit the likelihood of dramatic pricing moves during the 2019-20 winter season. Today, we provide an overview of recent developments in the SoCal gas market.

Monday, 07/01/2019

Independent refiner PBF Energy on June 11 announced its plan to acquire Shell Oil’s Martinez, CA, refinery for about $1 billion; the deal is expected to close by the end of 2019. The purchase will give PBF its sixth U.S. refinery and add 157 Mb/d to the company’s existing 865-Mb/d refining portfolio, pushing its total capacity past 1 MMb/d. Post-acquisition, PBF will retain overall fourth place in the U.S.

Tuesday, 11/20/2018

Natural gas markets in the U.S. Northwest have been in turmoil ever since a rupture on Enbridge’s BC Pipeline system over a month ago (on October 9) disrupted Canadian gas exports to Washington State at the Sumas border crossing point. Service on the affected line has been restored but at a reduced operating pressure for now, and Canadian gas deliveries to Sumas remain at about half of their pre-outage levels, creating supply shortages in the region. Spot natural gas prices at the Sumas, WA, trading hub have been volatile, soaring well above Henry Hub and rocketing to a record outright price of nearly $70/MMBtu late last week. The outage has reverberated across the Western U.S. gas market, sending regional prices reeling as gas flows adjusted to help offset supply shortages. Today, we examine the knock-on market effects of the outage on Western gas flows and prices, and potential implications for the winter gas market.

Tuesday, 08/14/2018

A perfect storm of hot weather, transportation constraints and limits on storage use recently sent natural gas prices in Southern California surging to the highest levels seen in that market going back to at least 2007. Spot prices at the SoCal Citygate hub averaged close to $40/MMBtu in late July and were again up over $20/MMBtu last week, levels that were several times higher than the national benchmark Henry Hub — and, for that matter, every other U.S. market hub — on the same day. Prices since then have retreated, but the whipsawing price action raises questions about what’s in store for SoCal this coming winter. Today, we analyze the factors behind the recent record prices and prospects for continued volatility at SoCal.

Tuesday, 04/03/2018

Efforts to increase natural gas production in the Rockies are running into a brick wall — make that several brick walls. To the east, burgeoning gas production in the Marcellus/Utica region is surging into Midwest markets, pushing back on Rockies gas supplies. To the south, Permian gas production is ramping up toward 8 Bcf/d, most of it associated gas from crude-focused wells — volumes that will be produced even if gas prices plummet. To the west, Rockies gas faces an onslaught of renewables in power generation markets, where wind and solar are increasingly replacing gas fired and coal generation, especially during non-peak periods when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. To the north, Western Canadian producers facing a where-do-we-send-our-gas problem of their own are only days away from having expanded pipeline access to U.S. West Coast markets — access likely to displace some of the Rockies gas which has been flowing west. Today, we discuss highlights from a new report by our friends at Energy GPS that assesses these developments and explores their implications.

Wednesday, 09/27/2017

Renewable and hydroelectric generation has chomped away at natural gas market share of total power generation along the West Coast this year. The latest electric generation data from the Energy Information Administration shows power sourced from renewables (not including hydro) in California, Oregon and Washington combined in April 2017 through July 2017 edged up about 1% year-on-year, while hydroelectric generation averaged 23% higher year-on-year. At the same time, natural gas-fired generation fell 16% year-on-year. The reduced gas-fired generation demand, along with reduced gas storage capacity in the West, has displaced natural gas from the region and disrupted recent gas flow patterns. These shifts provide a glimpse of what gas flows and pricing dynamics could look like as more renewable capacity is added. In today’s blog, we analyze the effects of electric generation trends on regional gas flows.

Sunday, 09/24/2017

The rise of renewable energy has transformed power markets in the U.S. West Coast states, particularly California. The Golden State has added significant renewable power generation capacity in recent years. Additionally, record precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and California this year boosted hydroelectric generation in the region. These factors have reduced the natural gas market share of power generation in California and other Pacific Coast states, which has important implications for the U.S. gas market as a whole, especially considering that the Eastern U.S. is increasingly oversupplied and pushing its gas supply westward. Today, we look at the year-on-year changes in the West Coast power generation sector and their effect on the gas market this summer and longer term.

Thursday, 09/21/2017

California’s 12 remaining refineries don’t feel much love from their native state. The refinery fleet is particularly sophisticated — capable of refining mostly heavy and sour crude oil into the ultra-clean transportation fuels that state rules require. But state regulators seem to treat refiners like unwanted guests, to the point that rules have been put in place to actively encourage the shift from petroleum-based fuels to lower-carbon alternatives. The reward for refiners’ pain comes in the form of higher refining margins — particularly during unplanned outages. Today we weigh the rewards of higher gasoline and diesel prices today against a questionable future for refining in the Golden State tomorrow.

Sunday, 09/17/2017

California refiners are under siege. State regulators seem to view crude oil refining as a nasty habit that needs to be broken. There’s an important catch, though: car-happy California is not only the nation’s largest consumer of gasoline — and second to Texas in diesel use — it allows only special, superclean blends to be sold within its boundaries. And California’s 12 remaining refineries need to meet tougher emission standards, too, making it difficult for them to expand their business or even modernize their plants. Today we discuss the irony that sophisticated refineries producing the cleanest fuels in the U.S. are faced with a shrinking market and no real hope of expansion.

Monday, 12/12/2016

The Western states continue to ramp up their renewable energy mandates—California and Oregon, for instance, plan to get at least 50% of their electricity from renewable sources, and Colorado has set a 30% requirement. Ironically, this renewable energy trend puts a spotlight on natural gas, whose at-the-ready supply will be needed to fuel the West’s increasing number of gas-fired power plants at a moment’s notice to offset the up-and-down output of solar facilities and wind farms. One way to help ensure natural gas availability is have gas storage capacity close at hand. Today we look at ongoing efforts to add tens of billions of cubic feet of natural gas storage in the Western U.S., primarily to help ensure the fueling of nearby gas-fired power plants that back up variable-output solar and wind.

Monday, 09/12/2016

California and New England are two of the nation’s quirkier regions when it comes to energy –– and we mean that in the nicest way possible. So maybe it’s not too surprising that, at a time when the U.S. is just beginning a big push to export natural gas as LNG, the Golden State and “Yankeeland” (as some still refer to New England) are turning to imported LNG to help them deal with possible gas shortages during peak demand periods this coming winter. In neither case is liquefied natural gas considered to be a long-term fix, but –– for now at least –– LNG may be playing a role in keeping the pilot lights lit and the electric lights on. Today, we look at how the stockpiling and use of LNG can still make sense in a nation with an abundant supply of gas.