Energy markets will long remember 2015. For producers and midstreamers, the memories won’t be pleasant. But it was not all bad news. Particularly if you happen to be an energy buyer or refiner. As we’ve done for the past four years, today is a day for looking back over the past twelve months in the RBN blogosphere – to see which blogs have generated the most interest from you, our readers. We track the hit rate for each of our daily blogs, and the number of hits tells you a lot about what is going on in energy markets. So once again we have taken a page out of the late Casey Kasem’s playbook to look at the top blogs of 2015 based on numbers of website hits.
Here’s a shocker. The blogs with the most hits in 2015 were about the crash in crude prices, the economic/financial consequences of that crash, and the future implications of those consequences. The crude price blogs tended to focus on productivity improvements, the relationship between inventories and the forward curve, and the benefits of cheap crude for refiners. On the economic/financial side, we addressed why lower capex and less drilling doesn’t necessarily translate into lower production, and how some producers in the right locations can continue to realize attractive rates of return, even in the face of much lower prices. Blogs looking to the future asserted that the market forces unleashed by shale are not short-term phenomena – that we have experienced a transformational shift that will overshadow energy markets for a very long time to come.
Here are the top 10 blogs of 2015 (in reverse order):
#10 – 6/3/2015 – Financials: Free Fallin’ – E&P Capital Spending Slashed but No Problem
By mid-2015, E&Ps had cut Capex to the bone, but as a group they still expected oil and gas production to increase versus 2014. This blog dug into the details of this development, splitting out four different peer groups, discovering that in the oily sector, small and mid-size companies were making deeper cuts but were faring much better than the big boys. On the gassy side, E&Ps in Appalachia were knocking it out of the park, while more diversified gassy players were having a much harder time of it.
#9 – 6/28/2015 – Natural Gas: Big Deal! REX to Open the Marcellus/Utica Natural Gas Floodgates
This was our only natural gas blog that made it into the top ten, highlighting the market’s fixation on crude oil and economic/financial issues. It covered the full scale reversal of Rockies Express Pipeline (REX) Zone 3, which was one of the most significant events to occur in the 2015 gas market. The project brought on an incremental 1.2 Bcf/d of westbound capacity, opening the floodgates for Marcellus and Utica producers. Production kept on increasing, which meant not much relief for downward pressure on Marcellus/Utica prices. And even more unfortunately for producers, all that new Appalachia production backed out still more Gulf Coast supplies from Northeast markets, resulting in increased gas-on-gas competition and contributing to hard times for Henry Hub prices during the last half of 2015.
#8 – 2/22/2015 – Crude Oil: Don’t Stop The Party – Why Gulf Coast Refiners Keep On Dancing
This blog demonstrated that strong refining margins, supported by an ongoing boom in refined product exports were encouraging high levels of refinery utilization as gasoline and diesel demand/exports soaked up production from Gulf Coast refineries. Not long after this blog was posted, crack spreads blasted up to the mid-$20/bbl range, providing U.S. refiners with highly lucrative margins for the next six months.