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.
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Crude oil gathering systems are, by their very nature, growing and evolving things, especially in super-hot shale plays like the Permian. These systems typically sprout when economics and the expectation of growing production support the development of small-diameter pipeline networks to transport crude from the lease to takeaway pipes — reducing the need for truck deliveries in the process. They then are organically extended as drilling-and-completion activity expands into nearby areas. Over time, some crude gathering systems grow so large — and are so well interconnected with takeaway pipelines — that they become intra-basin header systems that allow shippers to move crude to many interconnection points, thereby providing the highest level of destination optionality. Today, we look at one such highly evolved gathering system — Medallion Midstream’s gathering/header network in the Midland Basin — and at other Medallion pipes that gather Delaware Basin crude oil.
It may be easy to forget in these days of Permian this and Permian that, but crude oil production in the offshore Gulf of Mexico (GOM) set a number of new, all-time records in the past couple of years. Better yet, with a handful of key producers in the Gulf planning low-cost, subsea tiebacks to existing platforms — and still discovering more oil — it’s a good bet that offshore production will continue its upward trajectory into the early 2020s. And, unlike U.S. shale wells, whose production peaks early then trails off, wells in the GOM typically maintain high levels of production for years and years. Where do offshore production and drilling activity stand in the Shale Era, and where are they headed? Today, we review recent production gains in the Gulf and examine why the GOM remains the oil sector’s Energizer Bunny.
The run-up in Permian crude oil production over the past few years — and the expectation of continued gains — has been spurring the development of a number of crude gathering systems in the play’s Midland and Delaware basins. These small-diameter pipeline networks are critically important to producers and shippers in that they enable them to transport crude more quickly and cost-effectively than by truck, and (ideally) they connect to takeaway pipelines that flow to multiple destinations. But there is more than one approach to developing a gathering system. For example, a midstream company could plan a system that appeals to several producers in an area and then try to sign them up. Or, it might work closely with a single producer — sometimes an affiliated company — and design a gathering system to meet its specific needs, then work to add other producers and shippers later. Today, we look at the West Texas and southeastern New Mexico systems developed by a joint-venture company of Matador Resources and Five Point Energy to serve Matador and others.
The competition among midstream companies to transport light, sweet U.S. crude to Louisiana refineries and to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) is heating up. On April 1, Energy Transfer and Phillips 66 Partners finally started up the Lake Charles-to-St. James portion of their Bayou Bridge pipeline, which is designed to move light oil to the heart of Louisiana’s refining country. Two weeks later, Shell initiated an open season for newly available space on its Zydeco Pipeline from Houston to the St. James and Clovelly hubs, the latter of which can send crude to either local refineries or LOOP — the only Gulf Coast port currently able to fully load Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs). Then, earlier this week, Bayou Bridge’s co-owners launched an open season of their own, this one to gauge shipper interest in joint-tariff transportation service on certain connecting pipes that haul light crude from the Bakken, the Niobrara, the Cushing crude hub and the Permian. The fight for barrels doesn’t end there — don’t forget plans for the Capline reversal and the Seahorse, ACE and Swordfish pipelines, all of which also are targeting Louisiana refineries and/or the export market. Game on! Today, we update midstreamers’ efforts to transport more high-API-gravity oil to Louisiana refineries and LOOP.
Crude oil production in the Permian Basin is now approaching 4 MMb/d, and with more than 2 MMb/d of new pipeline takeaway capacity out of the resource-rich play set to come online over the next 12 months, there soon will be plenty of room for more production growth. To efficiently transport crude to takeaway pipes, however, producers and shippers need ever-growing networks of gathering systems in the Permian’s sweet spots where much of the drilling and completion activity is occurring. Ideally, these systems offer their users a high degree of optionality — that is, interconnections with multiple takeaway pipelines to different markets — so they can capture the best prices for their oil. Today, we continue our review of major gathering networks in the Permian with a look at Reliance Gathering’s nearly 250-mile system in the Midland, TX, area.
The rapid development of the Permian’s vast hydrocarbon resources that we expect will continue through the 2020s and beyond can’t happen if there’s insufficient gathering-pipeline infrastructure in place to transport crude from well sites to takeaway pipelines. Similarly, the favorable pricing that Permian producers hope to receive for their crude oil is possible only if their gathering systems are interconnected to two or more long-haul, big-bore pipelines that offer them some serious destination optionality. The need for new gathering pipes with multiple links to Gulf Coast- and Cushing-bound takeaway pipes is the driving force behind the Beta Crude Connector, a planned 100-mile-plus pipeline network in the heart of the Permian’s Midland Basin that was unveiled on Monday (April 15) by a joint venture of Concho Resources and gathering specialist Frontier Energy Services. Today, we kick off a new blog series on crude-gathering projects in the Permian with a look at the Concho/Frontier plan.
Enbridge is taking a serious look at converting its Southern Lights pipeline, which currently transports diluent northwest from Illinois to Alberta, to a 150-Mb/d crude oil pipe that would flow southeast. The potential reversal of Southern Lights is made possible by the facts that Western Canadian production of natural gasoline and condensate — two leading diluents — has been rising fast, and that demand for piped-in diluent from the Lower 48 is on the wane. Alberta producers could sure use more crude pipeline capacity out of the region — and getting crude down to the U.S. Midwest would give them good access to a variety of markets. With Western Canadian diluent production increasing fast, maybe Kinder Morgan’s Cochin Pipeline, another diluent carrier, could also be flipped to crude service later on. Today, we consider how Southern Lights’ conversion/reversal might help.
Producers in the Bakken and the rest of North Dakota flared record volumes of natural gas in the fourth quarter of 2018 — an average of more than 520 MMcf/d, or about 20% of total production — far exceeding the state’s current 12% flaring target. What happened? For one, crude oil production in the play took off; for another, the gas-to-oil ratio at the lease continued to increase. And while some new gas processing capacity came online last year to reduce the need for flaring, the pace of the additions was too slow to keep up with the Bakken’s rising gas output. The good news is that 2019 will bring more incremental processing capacity to North Dakota than any year to date. Today, we discuss recent setbacks on the flaring-control front and the prospects for things getting better later this year.
Fractionators at the Mont Belvieu hub operated at or near full capacity through the second half of 2018 as they struggled to deal with a deluge of mixed NGLs from the Permian and other key production areas. This situation — barely enough capacity to keep pace with rising demand for fractionation services — is likely to continue through 2019, even as a number of new fractionators come online. But NGL producers and the midstream sector are on the case: a slew of additional frac capacity has been announced since last fall, all of it slated to begin operation in 2020 or early 2021, and all of it backed by long-term contracts. Today, we discuss ongoing efforts to make the most of existing frac trains and to add new capacity pronto.
By mid-year, Enbridge plans to initiate an open season for long-term, firm capacity on its existing 2.8-MMb/d Mainline crude system from Western Canada to the U.S. Midwest starting in mid-2021. Securing a sure way for Western Canadian heavy-crude producers to export crude from the Alberta oil-sands region — combined with additional southbound pipeline capacity from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, would give Texas and Louisiana refineries an alternative to using overseas imports and would boost crude volumes being shipped from existing and planned export terminals. Today, we conclude our series on the pipeline’s contracting plans with a look at the impact of a straight-shot, joint-tariff pipe as well as joint pipe-barge transportation solutions from the oil sands to the Gulf Coast.
The forward curve for natural gas supports 2019 production growth that is likely to far outpace expected gains in gas demand. This impending supply/demand imbalance suggests that gas prices will be pressured lower. Lower gas prices will boost demand, but there are real limits to how much demand can rise in the short term. What will really be needed to balance the market is for producers in at least a few plays — the Marcellus and Utica among them — to rethink and rework their 2019 production plans. Which raises the questions, how much will production growth need to be cut, and where will the bulk of the pruning occur? Today, we continue our review of key themes and findings in East Daley Capital’s newly updated “Dirty Little Secrets” report on the midstream sector.
The U.S. midstream sector has been on a development binge the past few years, mostly in an effort to catch up — and then keep up — with production growth in the Shale Era’s two premier plays: the Marcellus/Utica in the Northeast and the Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. What’s sometimes overlooked, however, is that significant numbers of new pipelines, processing plants and other key assets are being built in smaller, lower-profile production areas. The Niobrara’s Denver-Julesburg and Powder River basins are cases in point. Exploration and production activity in the D-J in particular has been soaring, and the resulting gains in crude oil, natural gas and NGL output has been stressing the region’s hydrocarbon-related infrastructure, thus spurring the development of new processing plants and pipelines. Also, interest in the Powder has been renewed — production there has been rebounding after crude-production ups and downs and gas-production declines through the 2010s. Today, we discuss highlights from RBN’s new Drill Down Report on the Niobrara production region.
Enbridge’s 2.8-MMb/d Mainline system from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest has been running close to full, as have the other crude oil pipelines out of Western Canada. The Mainline is a unicorn among these pipes, however, in that none of its capacity — zilch — is under long-term contract. Instead, under Enbridge’s almost nine-year-old Competitive Tolling Settlement (CTS), shippers each month submit nominations stating the volumes of crude they would like to transport the following month on various elements of the Mainline system, then hope they get what they need when the available capacity is divvied up. In an effort to give producers and refiners the pipeline-capacity certainty they say they want — and to optimize the efficiency of the Mainline’s operation — Enbridge has been working with shippers on a CTS-replacement plan that would commit as much as 90% of the capacity on the pipeline system to shippers who enter into long-term contracts. Today, we continue this blog series with a look at how the prospective “priority access” capacity-allocation system is shaping up, how it might affect planned pipeline projects, and how it may facilitate the transport of a lot more crude from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Energy Transfer’s Mariner East pipeline system was supposed to help resolve a growing problem for producers in the “wet” Marcellus and Utica plays — namely, the need to transport increasing volumes of LPG out of the Northeast, especially during the warmer months, when in-region demand for LPG is low. The pipeline system also was meant to spur LPG and ethane exports out of Energy Transfer’s Marcus Hook marine terminal near Philadelphia. So how are things going? Well, the now five-year-old, 70-Mb/d Mariner East 1 pipeline, designed to transport ethane and propane, has been offline ever since a sinkhole exposed a part of the pipe late last month. The 275-Mb/d Mariner East 2 pipe is finally in operation and enabling a lot more LPG to move to Marcus Hook, but for now it can only run at about 60% of its capacity. And last Friday, a key Pennsylvania regulator suspended its review of outstanding water permit applications for the remaining piece of ME-2 and the parallel 250-Mb/d ME-2 Expansion project, and threw into doubt how long it might take to finish the Mariner East system and ramp it up to full capacity. Today, we begin a series on recent Mariner East developments and explain how, despite the mixed bag of Mariner East news in recent weeks, the situation is not as bad as it may seem.