A raft of natural gas pipeline projects completed in the past couple of years has — for the first time — left room to spare on most takeaway routes out of the Northeast and provided Marcellus/Utica producers a reprieve from the all-too-familiar dynamic of capacity constraints and heavily discounted supply prices, even as regional production continues achieving new record highs. There’s on average close to 4 Bcf/d of unused exit capacity currently available — more in the winter when higher in-region demand means more of the production is consumed locally and less than that (but still more than in past years) in the spring, summer and fall seasons, when greater outbound flows are needed to help offset the relatively lower Northeast demand. But we’re expecting Northeast production to grow by another 8 Bcf/d or so over the next five years. And the list of projects designed to add more exit capacity has dwindled to just a few troubled ones that, even if built, wouldn’t be enough to absorb that much incremental supply. When can we expect constraints to re-emerge? Today, we conclude this series with a look at RBN’s natural gas production forecast for the Marcellus/Utica and how that correlates to the region’s pipeline takeaway capacity over the next five years.
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Just two years ago, severe transportation constraints and steep price discounts were part and parcel of the Northeast natural gas market. Midstreamers were racing to add much-needed pipeline capacity out of the region, but not fast enough for producers. It was an inevitability that any pipeline expansions would instantaneously fill up. Gas production records were an almost monthly or weekly occurrence, and just as unrelenting were the takeaway constraints and pressure on the region’s supply prices. Not so today. Northeast gas production in June posted a record high, with the monthly average exceeding 31 Bcf/d for the first time. Yet, June spot prices at Dominion South, Appalachia’s representative supply hub, were the strongest they’ve been in six years relative to national benchmark Henry Hub. Why? The spate of pipeline expansions and additions in the past two years have not only caught up to production but capacity now far outpaces it, and consequently, producers now have something they haven’t had in a long time — optionality. Today, we break down how much spare capacity is available and its effect on regional pricing.
The Northeast gas market has come a long way since 2013, when it first began net exporting gas supply to the rest of the U.S. The past several years were marked by dozens of pipeline expansions to relieve takeaway constraints and to balance oversupply conditions in the region; as a result, takeaway capacity is finally outpacing production growth. How much spare capacity is there now, and how long will it be before production growth hits the capacity wall again? Today, we continue our series on Northeast gas takeaway capacity vs. production, this time examining the utilization of pipes in the Northeast-to-Gulf Coast corridor.
Natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity additions out of the Northeast over the past year or two, along with suppressed gas production growth in recent months, have relieved years-long and severe constraints for moving Marcellus/Utica gas out of the region and even left some takeaway pipelines less than full. That, in turn, has supported Appalachian supply prices. Basis at the Dominion South hub in the first five months of 2019 averaged just $0.26/MMBtu below Henry Hub, compared with $0.46 below in the same period last year and nearly $1.00 below back in 2015, when constraints were the norm. Today, we continue our series providing an update on pipeline utilization out of the region, and how much spare capacity is left before constraints reemerge.
Three months ago, the Pacific Northwest natural gas market recorded the highest trade in U.S. spot gas price history. The region at the time was dealing with extreme winter heating demand, a pipeline outage that limited access to gas supply and storage deliverability issues –– all of which were compounding constraints in the power markets. The result was a feeding frenzy that led gas prices to skyrocket to as much as $200/MMBtu at the Sumas, WA, hub on March 1. Fast forward to today — prices there have crumbled, falling to as low as $0.80/MMBtu in trading last week. Winter demand has dissipated, pipeline and storage constraints have eased, and the region is now dealing with an entirely different — even opposite — set of problems. Today, we take a closer look at the factors behind these latest price moves.
The Northeast natural gas market turned a new leaf in 2018, when takeaway pipeline capacity to move supply out of the Marcellus/Utica producing region finally caught up to — and even began outpacing — production growth. More than 4 Bcf/d of takeaway expansions entered service in 2018. Prices at the region’s Dominion South supply hub improved relative to Henry Hub and other downstream markets. And for the first time in years, Appalachian gas producers and marketers caught a glimpse of what an unconstrained, balanced market driven by market economics (as opposed to transportation constraints) could look like. 2019 will be the first full year of operation for many of those takeaway expansions that came online in 2018. Northeast production growth flattened through the first few months of 2019, but has ticked up in the past couple of months, albeit modestly, and the slate of future takeaway expansion projects has shrunk to just a couple stalled projects. Where does that leave capacity utilization out of the region this summer, and how long will it be before production growth hits the capacity wall again? Today, we begin a series providing an update on the Northeast gas market and prospects for balancing takeaway capacity with production growth.
With U.S. natural gas production levels near all-time highs and storage injections running strong, LNG exports will be a critical balancing item for the domestic gas market this year. Yet feedgas demand in recent months has been anything but stable; rather, it’s proving to be susceptible to volatility, driven by a combination of offshore weather conditions, maintenance events, start-up activity and global market conditions, among other factors. At the same time, timelines for the remaining 20 MMtpa (2.6 Bcf/d) of new liquefaction capacity still due online this year are moving targets as coastal weather, construction-related delays and other variables affect target completion dates. Today, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down Report on the impacts of recent and upcoming LNG export capacity additions.
The cascade of LNG export project news continues. In the past week, yet another “second-wave” U.S. LNG export project — NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG — cleared FERC’s environmental review process. That follows news of three other projects that received their environmental approvals this month; plus two other projects — Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG and Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG — got final FERC authorization to construct their facilities, should they make the financial commitment to proceed; and, finally, plans for a brand new export terminal, Venture Global’s Delta LNG, were unveiled. All in all, there are more than 20 announced projects totaling 235 MMtpa (~35 Bcf/d) that are looking to catch the second wave of U.S. LNG exports in the next decade. The timing of their regulatory approvals and final investment decisions will determine, in part, when this next wave — or shall we say tsunami — of export demand will materialize. Today, we wrap up our second-wave LNG project update series with a look at the progress made by some of the remaining projects that we’re tracking.
2019 is slated to be a watershed year for U.S. LNG export projects vying to catch the second wave — the first wave being the slew of liquefaction trains already operational or in the process of being commissioned or constructed. As expected, regulatory and commercial activity has heated up around the two dozen or so longer-term proposals to add liquefaction capacity along the U.S. coastlines over the next decade. Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved two of those projects — Tellurian’s Driftwood LNG and Sempra’s Port Arthur LNG — and several others, including Driftwood and NextDecade’s Rio Grande LNG, also have made progress on the commercial front. Many of these projects are targeting a final investment decision (FID) this year. Today, we continue a series highlighting the second-wave projects’ latest developments.
The winter 2018-19 natural gas market was one of the most chaotic in recent memory, with the NYMEX Henry Hub futures contract last fall rocketing up to nearly $5/MMBtu in a matter of weeks, only to collapse in late 2018/early 2019 down to near $2.60 by early February. The physical gas market also swung to extremes in recent months, setting both the highest ($200/MMBtu at the Sumas, WA, hub) and lowest (negative $9.00/MMBtu at the Waha hub) trades ever recorded in the U.S. These anomalies occurred amid steep supply growth from the Marcellus/Utica and Permian producing regions and rapidly advancing demand, particularly from burgeoning LNG exports along the Gulf Coast, while infrastructure scrambled to keep pace to bridge the two. And there’s more of that volatility ahead. Close to 5 Bcf/d more LNG export capacity is being added this year alone, and Lower-48 gas production is poised to continue growing. Today, we lay out our view of the recent volatility and the biggest factors shaping the gas market over the next five years, based on Rusty Braziel’s Backstage Pass Fundamental Webcast last week.
Midstreamers have been struggling to keep processing and natural gas pipeline constraints at bay in Oklahoma’s SCOOP/STACK plays, and the situation hasn’t gotten any easier in the past 18 months or so. Associated gas production from the Cana-Woodford has surpassed expectations, climbing 1 Bcf/d in that time to new highs near ~4.5 Bcf/d. Efforts by pipeline operators to keep pace with production gains have largely been on a piecemeal basis, mostly to tie in processing plants or modify/expand existing systems. Cheniere Energy’s Midship Project is looking to change that. The greenfield project, which received its final notice to proceed with construction from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) late last month, will level-shift takeaway capacity out of Oklahoma up by 1.44 Bcf/d in one fell swoop by the end of 2019. Today’s blog provides an update on Midship and other expansions in the region.
After a period of delays, commissioning activity at the newest U.S. LNG export terminals is poised to accelerate in the coming months, in turn bringing on incremental feedgas demand. Sempra’s Cameron LNG has said it’s ready to introduce feedgas to its fuel system and is awaiting federal approval. Meanwhile, liquefaction projects at Kinder Morgan’s Elba Island LNG and Freeport LNG terminals are gearing up to take feedgas in the next month or so. Feedgas deliveries to the operating export facilities in the past seven days have averaged 5.5 Bcf/d. These three projects alone are slated to add another 1.2 Bcf/d of incremental feedgas demand by July, bringing the total to 6.7 Bcf/d by then, if all goes well. In today’s blog, we continue examining the status and timing of LNG export projects in 2019, this time with a closer look at the Cameron, Elba and Freeport projects.
U.S. demand for LNG feedgas has picked up in recent weeks, posting a record high of 5.6 Bcf/d in late February and averaging more than 5 Bcf/d in March to date, as Cheniere Energy completed the fifth train at Sabine Pass and the first at Corpus Christi. That level is nearly 1 Bcf/d higher than last month and nearly double what it was at this time last year. But it’s just the start. Train 2 at Corpus Christi was approved for feedgas just yesterday and Kinder Morgan’s Elba Island project in Georgia just days before that. With about 30 MMtpa, or ~4.5 Bcf/d, of liquefaction and export capacity due online this year, feedgas deliveries are poised to surpass 9 Bcf/d by the end of the year, with nearly all of that incremental demand coming online along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. The pace of this demand growth over the course of the year will come down to how quickly the anticipated trains can complete construction and testing, the timing of which can depend on a whole host of factors, including the extent of the repairs or modifications that are needed along the way, the timing of regulatory approvals, or the timing of gas pipeline connections to supply the facilities. Today, we continue our series examining the status and timing of LNG export projects in 2019.
Natural gas spot prices at Sumas, WA, on Friday went as high as $200/MMBtu, a record price not only for the Pacific Northwest spot gas market, but for the U.S. That level surpassed even the highest price seen in the premium Northeast market in the pre-Shale Era. Other Western prices also rose Friday but not to anywhere near Sumas, with intraday highs at the other hubs mostly staying below $10/MMBtu. This is just the latest instance of turmoil in the Pacific Northwest gas market since last fall, when a rupture on Enbridge’s Westcoast Energy/BC Pipeline system (on October 9) disrupted Canadian gas exports to Washington State at the Sumas border crossing point. Ongoing testing on the Westcoast system and the resulting capacity reductions for deliveries to Sumas, along with reduced deliverability at the region’s largest storage facility, Jackson Prairie, over the past month have made the Pacific Northwest more of a demand “island” than ever, especially as those issues coincide with this week’s polar-vortex weather. Sumas prices for today’s flows re-entered the stratosphere, averaging just under $16/MMBtu, but remained the highest price in the country. Today, we review the market conditions contributing to the sky-high prices.
With about 30 million metric tons per annum (MMtpa) of liquefaction capacity scheduled to come online in 2019, feedgas deliveries are poised to be the biggest driver of Lower-48 natural gas demand this year. The timing of this emerging export demand growth from these complex, multi-process facilities will come down to a veritable obstacle course of construction and testing timelines and regulatory approvals. Understanding these factors will be key to anticipating the gas-market impacts of the oncoming demand. Today, we begin a short series breaking down the liquefaction train commissioning process and what it tells us about the timing of incremental feedgas demand over the next several months.