Posts from Housley Carr

Permian-focused M&A activity may grab all the headlines, but don’t forget about the Eagle Ford. Over the past couple of years, a steady stream of big-dollar deals have been announced in the South Texas shale play, most of them tied to efforts by growth-oriented E&Ps to increase their scale, improve their operational efficiency and expand their inventory of top-tier drilling sites. As we’ll discuss in today’s RBN blog, the dealmaking has continued this spring, most recently with Crescent Energy’s announcement that it will be acquiring SilverBow Resources. 

Another day, another mega-deal between top-tier oil and gas producers — or so it seems. Now, it’s ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil’s turn, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more logical pairing among the ever-shrinking list of big E&Ps that hadn’t already found a partner during the ongoing frenzy to consolidate. In today’s RBN blog, we examine ConocoPhillips’s newly announced, $22.5 billion agreement to acquire Marathon Oil with a look at their similar histories, their complementary assets, and what will now be their joint effort to boost shareholder returns. 

On the surface, the Bakken story in the mid-2020s may seem as boring as dirt. The boom times of 2009-14 and 2017-19 are ancient history. Crude oil production has been rangebound near 1.2 MMb/d — well below its peak five years ago. And that output has been getting gassier over time, creating natural gas and NGL takeaway constraints that have put a lid on oil production growth. But don’t buy into the view that the Bakken is yesterday’s news. Beneath the surface (sometimes literally), the U.S.’s second-largest crude oil production area is undergoing a major transformation that includes E&P consolidation, production (and producers) going private, the drilling of 3- and (soon) 4-mile laterals, novel efforts to eliminate flaring, and even a producer-led push for CO2-based enhanced oil recovery (EOR). As we’ll discuss in today’s RBN blog, these changes and others may well breathe new life into the Bakken and significantly improve the environmental profile of the hydrocarbons produced there. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were the large, wellhead-to-market natural gas and NGL networks that Phillips 66 and a handful of other midstream empires have assembled — many of them targeting the all-important Permian. Now, P66 has reached an agreement to acquire Pinnacle Midstream, whose associated gas gathering system and gas processing complex in the heart of the Midland Basin nicely complement a host of other gathering and processing assets P66 controls through its majority stake in DCP Midstream. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll discuss P66’s planned purchase of Pinnacle Midstream and what it means for the Permian piece of the acquiring company’s broader natgas/NGL system. 

Permian production may have plateaued over the past few months — the shale play’s crude oil output has bounced between 6 MMb/d and 6.3 MMb/d for almost a year now, and natural gas production has hovered around 18 Bcf/d for about as long. But producer-backed plans to continue adding gas processing capacity in the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins strongly suggest that E&Ps in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico see a lot more production growth “up around the bend.” As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, midstream companies haven’t tapped the brakes on their plans for new gas processing capacity in the Permian — in fact, they’ve been keeping the pedal to the metal. 

Rising global interest in clean ammonia — plus the potential for earning generous federal tax credits — spurred a host of project announcements over the past couple of years, with the first new production capacity slated to start up as soon as 2025. But reality is setting in regarding the pace of clean-ammonia demand growth and the financial, regulatory and other challenges of developing complicated, big-dollar projects, particularly those involving carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on the major clean ammonia proposals we’ve been tracking. 

The U.S. may be in a monthslong pause in approving new LNG exports but that doesn’t change the fact that U.S. LNG export capacity will nearly double over the next four years, that most of the new liquefaction plants are being built along the Texas coast, and that their primary source of natural gas will be the Permian Basin. That helps to explain why three big midstream players — WhiteWater/I Squared, MPLX and Enbridge — recently formed a joint venture (JV) to develop, build, own and operate gas pipeline and storage assets that link the Permian to existing and planned LNG export terminals. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the new JV and discuss the ongoing development of midstream networks for crude oil, natural gas and NGLs. 

The Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah, which may be the quirkiest production area in the Lower 48, is firing on all cylinders. Production of the basin’s unique waxy crude is at an all-time high, the natural gas takeaway constraints that had threatened to limit growth are being resolved, and demand for waxy crude is on the rise. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll provide an update on the Uinta, where the crude looks and feels like shoe polish and is trucked and railed — not piped — to market. 

Normal butane is an important gasoline blendstock, with a great combination of high octane and relatively low cost. It also has a high Reid vapor pressure, or RVP, which is a good news/bad news kind of thing because while regulators allow higher-RVP gasoline — that is, gasoline with higher levels of butane — to be sold during the colder months of the year, they forbid its sale during the warmer months, thereby forcing butane levels in gasoline to be kept to a minimum. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, air-quality regulations and seasonal shifts in butane blending may add complexity to gasoline production and marketing, but they also create opportunities to increase gasoline supply and earn substantially larger profits through much of the year. 

It’s been a devastating few weeks for the natural gas market. Sure, Shale Era abundance was supposed to keep gas prices from skyrocketing — and it generally has. But seriously? Henry Hub gas sinking below $2/MMBtu — and staying there, in the depths of the winter heating season? Prices have stabilized a little as a few E&Ps announced cutbacks in capex and gas-focused drilling, but gas-storage levels are abnormally high, coal-plant retirements have trimmed opportunities for coal-to-gas switching, and any significant gains in LNG exports aren’t going to happen until this time next year. With all that, you’ve gotta ask — as we do in today’s RBN blog — how low could natural gas prices go? 

There’s always a risk when you take a new approach to doing or making something that your expectations won’t pan out — that something you hadn’t figured on happens and messes things up. But oh, the satisfaction that comes when the stars align exactly as you foresaw. The folks who developed Project Traveler, a recently completed Houston-area plant that produces high-value, octane-boosting alkylate from ethylene, isobutane and other widely available and low-cost feedstocks, know that good feeling, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog on the project’s economics. 

There’s already so much involved in developing new LNG export capacity: lining up offtakers, securing federal approvals, sourcing natural gas, developing pipelines ... the list goes on. Now, with the increased emphasis on minimizing emissions of methane, the folks involved in LNG exports are also wary of the methane intensity (MI) of their feedgas, which depends not only on the steps that gas producers, pipeline companies and LNG exporters themselves take to mitigate methane emissions but also on where the gas comes from. But with so many new export terminals coming online, gas flows are sure to change, right? So how can you possibly assess what those flow changes will mean for the MI of gas over time? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the role that MI may play in sourcing natural gas for LNG. 

It’s that time of year, folks! March Madness is upon us — time to reboot the office pool and fill out your brackets. And not just for the NCAA Tournament field announced Sunday night, but for the natural gas pipeline projects out of the Permian you think will make it to the Elite Eight or even the Final Four. Matterhorn Express is like the UConn of the bunch as the reigning men’s champ with a chance of repeating — it’s already under construction and slated to come online later this year — and the odds for a Gulf Coast Express expansion look mighty good too, just like record scorer Caitlin Clark and her Iowa Hawkeyes are hoping to build on last year’s run to the women’s championship game. And don’t forget Energy Transfer’s Warrior and Targa’s Apex! Their names alone suggest a fightin’ spirit and a desire to make it to the top. But as we all know from our past bets on the Big Dance, there’s no such thing as a sure thing, especially in the topsy-turvy world of midstream project development, and it’s entirely possible an unknown — the pipeline equivalent of a 16th seed — will be among those cutting down the nets. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the need for new gas pipeline egress from the Permian and assess the pros and cons of the projects that have a bid. 

Mexico’s state-owned Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) and private-sector developers of LNG export terminals have been aggressively advancing new natural gas-consuming projects in Northwest Mexico. But while plans for a number of new pipelines to help bring in gas from the Permian are on the drawing board, it remains to be seen if they can be built as quickly as they would need to be to avert a potentially ugly competition for gas supplies. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the gas-demand and gas-delivery projects now under development in Northwest Mexico. 

The drivers behind most upstream M&A the past couple of years have been consistent — namely, to gain scale (mostly in the Permian) and the economies that come with it, boost free cash flow (and share more with shareholders), and replenish reserves to keep the good times rollin' into the 2030s. There are hints of all that in California Resources’ recently announced $2.1 billion agreement to acquire Aera Energy, creating what would be California’s largest crude oil producer. But in other ways the deal is as different as, well, California and Texas themselves. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the planned acquisition, what it reveals about the companies, and the pros and cons of operating in the nation’s most populous, least-friendly-to-hydrocarbons state.