It was a wild ride for Asian butane in 2017, driven by a range of diverse market factors, including U.S. ethane and LPG exports, a government program in India to encourage switching from firewood to LPG, the OPEC/NOPEC crude oil production cuts and LPG contract pricing set by Saudi Arabia. It was a textbook example of how today’s energy markets are buffeted by changes in production trends, government intervention and the growing influence of exports. Today, we introduce a series on the supply and demand dynamics that shaped Asian butane markets in 2017, and that will drive LPG markets in Asia, Europe and the U.S. in coming years.
Posts from David Braziel
Last week the U.S. NGL markets entered uncharted territory. According to OPIS, cash propane prices in the Conway, KS market reached almost $5.00/gallon for a time, responding to a massive product shortage across the entire eastern half of the country. But at the same NGL hub, OPIS also reported that the price for ethane/propane mix (EP mix) dropped deep into negative territory at $(0.50)/gallon. That’s crazy. The seller is paying the buyer to take the product. Nothing like this has been seen before in these markets. Propane inventories continue to drop, transport trucks are moving product hundreds of miles to markets, terminals remain on allocation and a state of emergency has been declared by at least 20 state governors. The inventory graphs look so scary that the Black Swan is frozen stiff. Today we begin a series on the NGL markets of 2014, a year that this industry will be talking about for a long time.
Here at RBN, we have an often repeated view that the flood of oil and gas being produced from unconventional plays will change everything we once knew about energy markets (see Top Ten Energy Prognostications for 2014). One such fundamental change is that the U.S. is now producing more natural gas, NGLs and some grades of crude oil than we can use (except for the past three weeks of Polar Vortex weather, of course). Consequently the U.S. has shifted from a position of hydrocarbon shortage to one of surplus. That is great news. But just down the road there are potential problems developing – distortions in the markets. Some of those surplus products can be exported, some can’t. The rules regarding exports of these hydrocarbon products that we are living with today were all put on the books during the decades of shortage. When you look closely at what those rules really say, you’ve got to scratch your head. Today we begin a series to examine those rules.