The next wave of Permian crude oil pipeline infrastructure is getting completed as we speak. In West Texas, several new pipeline projects are either finalizing their commercial terms and agreements, wrapping up the permitting process, or actually putting steel in the ground. In the Permian alone, there is a potential for 4.3 MMb/d of new pipeline takeaway capacity to get built in the next two and a half years. Along with those major long-haul pipelines, there are also crude gathering systems being developed to help move production from the wellhead to an intermediary point along one of the big new takeaway pipes. While we often like to give pipeline projects concrete timelines with hard-and-fast online dates, the actual logistics of how producers, traders and midstream companies all bring a pipeline from linefill to full commercial service are never clean and simple. There can be a lot of headaches, learning curves, and expensive — not to mention time-consuming — problem-solving exercises that come with the start-up process. In today’s blog, we discuss why new pipelines often experience growing pains, and how market participants navigate the early days of new systems.
With Permian crude oil production now topping 4 MMb/d — and likely to surpass 5 MMb/d in short order — producers in the play are working closely with midstream companies to help ensure there is sufficient capacity in place to efficiently transport their crude from the lease to larger shuttle systems, regional hubs and takeaway pipelines. Sometimes, gathering systems need to be built from scratch, but in most cases, it is more cost-effective to expand existing systems that are already connected to key infrastructure downstream. Today, we continue our series with a look at a big pipeline network that NuStar Energy acquired two-plus years ago and has been expanding and improving ever since.
Persistent natural gas takeaway constraints out of the associated gas-rich Permian have pushed Waha Hub prices to between $1 and $9/MMBtu below the Henry Hub benchmark for most of 2019. Concerns about gas flaring have flared. Tanker trucks transporting diesel fuel to drilling and completion operations in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico are clogging the region’s roads. And diesel’s not cheap, especially if you’re using thousands of gallons of it a day. With Permian wells producing far more natural gas than takeaway pipelines can handle, and with gas essentially free for the taking, is this the year when electric fracs — hydraulic fracturing powered by very locally sourced gas — gain a foothold in the U.S.’s hottest shale play? Today, we look at the economic and other forces at play in the e-frac debate.
A key to success for midstream companies developing crude oil gathering systems in the Permian is establishing strong, trusting relationships with the producers driving the region’s growth. Hitch your wagon to one or more producers with top-notch rock and aggressive expansion plans, develop gathering systems that meet their needs for flow assurance and destination optionality, and life will be good. Many of the midstreamers whose Permian gathering systems we’ve been discussing in our ongoing series have done just that. Today, we review the existing and planned systems of EnLink Midstream, another company whose growth is founded in large part on the relationships it has developed with major Permian producers.
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.
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.
Most crude oil gathering systems in the Permian — and elsewhere — have a relatively simple aim: to reliably and efficiently deliver crude from the lease to larger pipelines downstream that provide their shippers a high degree of destination optionality — end of story. A select few systems, though, have evolved into key elements of their owners’ larger value chain. With these, crude flows through gathering systems and takeaway pipes to export terminals — maybe even refineries — all held by the same company or its affiliates. By integrating assets from the site of crude production to the refinery or export dock, such owners add value each step of the way. Today, we continue our series with a look at Marathon Petroleum/Andeavor Logistics’ Permian crude gathering system, which started out relatively small and isolated but has evolved into something much bigger and better connected.
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.
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.
For evidence of America’s unwavering entrepreneurial spirit, look no further than smaller midstream companies that develop crude oil gathering systems in the Permian. These midstreamers — many of them backed by private equity — scramble to identify production areas on the cusp of needing gathering lines, propose systems to serve them, convince producers to dedicate acreage, then lay pipe, install tankage and get things up and running. All of this occurs in an atmosphere of intense competition. A number of new and growing crude gathering systems are under development today in southeastern New Mexico, an area that has experienced more than its share of production growth in the past couple of years. Today, we continue our series with a look at 3 Bear Energy’s Hat Mesa Oil Gathering System in the northern Delaware Basin, which was developed from scratch in Lea County and now serves 10 producers there.
By their very nature, crude oil gathering systems in the Permian are works in progress. They often start out small, serving only a few wells owned by a single producer — or maybe two or three. Over time, the systems typically branch out to serve more producers and more wells, and they add capacity as drilling activity picks up. Sometimes, they evolve into much larger systems with multiple gathering hubs and regional transport pipelines that shuttle large volumes of gathered crude long distances to big marketing hubs like Crane, TX, and Midland, where the oil can flow into any number of takeaway pipelines to Cushing or the Gulf Coast. Today, we continue our series on Permian crude gathering systems with a look at Oryx Midstream’s 860-mile gathering and regional transport network in the super-hot Delaware Basin.
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.
On its surface, the development of small-diameter crude oil gathering pipeline systems in the Permian may seem like a ho-hum topic. In fact, though, these systems are at the heart of critically important strategies to ensure the reliable, low-cost flow of crude to multiple takeaway pipelines out of the basin, and thereby enhance the oil’s value and minimize financial risk. A case in point is the 50-mile-plus, 100-Mb/d-capacity gathering system that a producer/midstreamer joint venture has been building in the Delaware Basin along the Texas/New Mexico line. Today, we continue our series on Permian gathering systems with a look at WPX Energy and Howard Energy Partners’ new pipes in New Mexico’s Eddy County and Texas’s Loving and Reeves counties.
Crude oil gathering systems do just that — they gather crude from multiple well sites — but the drivers behind their initial development can vary widely. Some gathering systems are developed by oil producers to reduce their use of trucks and more efficiently transport increasing volumes of crude from the lease to takeaway pipelines. Others are the brainchildren of savvy midstream companies that see an opportunity to serve multiple producers in a fast-growing production area. And then there are systems like the one refiner Delek US is now expanding in the Permian’s Midland Basin near the company’s Big Spring, TX, refinery. It’s designed to feed locally produced crude directly to that refinery — and possibly other Delek refineries too — and may potentially be used to help fill a long-haul takeaway pipeline that Delek still hopes to co-develop with partners. Today, we continue our series on Permian gathering systems with a look at Delek’s 200-mile Big Spring project, part of which is already up and running.
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.