The Permian Basin has attracted more than its share of midstream start-up companies over the past few years, and for good reason. The region has experienced big gains in crude oil, natural gas and NGL production, and that’s put stress on the Permian’s already significant pipeline infrastructure and spurred the development of many new projects. One new midstreamer that’s made a big splash is Lotus Midstream, which, since it was formed in early 2018, has partnered with some of the Permian’s biggest players — including ExxonMobil and Plains All American — to advance the now-sanctioned 1.5-MMb/d Wink-to-Webster crude pipeline. It’s also acquired Occidental Petroleum’s (Oxy) Centurion pipeline system, which includes a lot of crude gathering pipe and is one of the two main takeaway links between the Permian and the Cushing, OK, hub. What’s Lotus up to, and how is it shaping Permian crude transportation? Today, we examine what has quickly become one of the largest midstreamers in the U.S.’s hottest shale play.
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The “wet,” liquids-rich parts of the Marcellus/Utica region enable producers there to benefit from the sale of both natural gas and NGLs. The catch is that, unlike major production areas in other parts of the U.S., the Northeast has no pipelines to transport unfractionated, mixed NGLs — also known as y-grade — long distances to fractionation centers in Mont Belvieu, TX, or Conway, KS. As a result, midstream companies serving the region have developed a number of interconnected gas processing, NGL pipeline and fractionation networks within the wet Marcellus/Utica to efficiently and reliably deal with the increasing flows of NGLs coming their way. No one has done this on a larger or more impressive scale than MPLX, Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s midstream-focused master limited partnership. Today, we continue our series on recently completed and planned gas processing and fractionation projects in the Northeast with a look at MPLX, the regional leader in this space.
Finally, after what seemed like a long period of crude oil pipeline takeaway constraints out of the Permian, significant new takeaway capacity is coming online this month. Just last week, Plains All American’s Cactus II pipeline from the Permian’s Midland Basin to the Corpus Christi area entered service. And on Monday, EPIC Midstream announced that it has begun interim crude service on its EPIC NGL Pipeline, which will move crude from the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins — also to Corpus — until the company’s EPIC Crude Pipeline starts up in January 2020. With takeaway constraints alleviated, the focus on the crude-oil front now shifts to gathering system capacity, and it’s being added in spades. So much so that we’re writing two full Drill Down Reports (one on the Midland and one on the Delaware) to cover them in detail. Today, we discuss highlights from the first of our new Drill Down Reports, which focuses on crude oil gathering systems in the fast-growing Midland Basin.
Natural gas production in the U.S. Northeast has been increasing steadily through the 2010s and now averages about 32 Bcf/d — 12% higher than last August and nearly double where it stood five years ago — despite the lowest regional spot gas prices since early 2016. This run-up in production volumes wouldn’t have been possible without the new gas-processing and fractionation capacity that MPLX and other midstream companies have been bringing online at a steady pace in the “wet” or NGLs-rich parts of the Marcellus and Utica shales. Today, we begin a short blog series on recently completed and planned gas-processing and fractionation projects in the nation’s largest gas-producing region, and the gas production growth they will help enable.
Well, it’s finally going to happen! Without major fanfare, Plains All American and Marathon Petroleum announced earlier this month that they have sanctioned the reversal of the 40-inch-diameter Capline crude oil pipeline, a move that will enable light crude to flow south on that pipe from the Memphis area to St. James, LA, starting late next year and light and heavy crude to do the same from Patoka, IL, by early 2022. Also, Plains said it has committed to expanding the existing Diamond Pipeline between Cushing, OK, and Memphis, and extending that eastbound crude pipe from Memphis to a new interconnection with Capline. Light-crude service on the expanded, extended Diamond will commence in late 2020. Today, we review the newly sanctioned projects and their significance to U.S. and Canadian producers, Louisiana refiners and Gulf Coast exporters.
Of the many midstream companies with Permian crude oil gathering systems, a few also own bigger-diameter pipelines that shuttle crude to regional hubs as well as even larger takeaway pipelines to the Gulf Coast. Noble Midstream Partners is one of those that employs this “well-to-water” strategy, which enables midstreamers to participate in multiple links of the value chain; it can also give them better control over oil quality as crude makes its way from wells in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico to coastal refineries and export docks hundreds of miles away. Today, we conclude our series on Permian crude gathering with a look at the master limited partnership’s (MLP) mix of gathering, shuttle and long-haul pipelines.
Rising U.S. production of NGLs and so-called “purity products” like ethane and propane, as well as growth in steam cracker capacity and NGL and ethylene exports, are giving added importance to NGL and ethylene storage capacity in underground salt caverns along the Gulf Coast. Mont Belvieu, TX, has long been the epicenter of both fractionation and salt-cavern NGL storage — and it will remain so — but there are other areas along the Texas coast with frac capacity and NGL storage, as well as steam crackers and export docks. The questions now are, is there enough in the right locations, and can what’s stored there be received and quickly sent out? Today, we begin a look at existing and planned NGL storage facilities along the Texas coast that are not in Mont Belvieu.
The news has been out for a few days now: Enterprise Products Partners announced last Tuesday, July 30, that, thanks to new agreements with Chevron, the midstream company has made a final investment decision to proceed with its Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) about 30 miles off the coast of Freeport, TX, pending regulatory approvals. Being out front on this is critically important; even with significant growth in crude oil export volumes through the early 2020s, only one or two new export terminals capable of fully loading Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) are likely to be needed. What was it that enabled Enterprise to move first among a wave of proposed projects? And what does that tell us about the VLCC-ready export terminal projects being advanced by others? Today, we look at the SPOT project and the important roles that existing pipeline and storage infrastructure play in export terminal development.
It’s been an exciting and productive few years for Permian producers, but it’s also been a period fraught with challenges. Dealing with a mid-decade crash in crude oil prices. Struggling to improve yields from the Wolfcamp, Bone Spring and other hydrocarbon-rich formations to lower breakeven costs. Coping with major pipeline takeaway constraints — for crude and natural gas — and the resulting price discounts. Now, the challenge of produced water has come to the fore. Horizontal wells in some parts of the Permian generate six, eight, even 10 barrels of produced water per barrel of crude, and all of it needs to be either disposed of or treated. The volumes are enormous, the permitting and logistics mind-boggling, and the costs — well, you can imagine. Today, we consider the Permian’s produced-water conundrum as crude and gas production volumes ramp up. Warning!: Today’s blog is a blatant advertorial for new reports by B3 Insight on Permian produced water.
Crude oil gathering systems in the Permian and elsewhere are, by their very nature, evolving things. They increase in mileage and crude-carrying capacity as new wells are drilled and completed, and it’s not uncommon for smaller systems to be consolidated into larger ones. It’s also become typical for the ownership of these systems to change — sometimes year to year — as early investors cash in on what they’ve developed, and buyers see opportunities to rake in increasing revenue and take their newly acquired systems to the next level. Also, owners of neighboring systems sometimes form joint ventures that combine their assets, all to make their operations work better for their producer customers. Today, we continue our series on Permian gathering with a look at Brazos Midstream’s crude gathering system in the Delaware Basin, which has experienced considerable evolution.
Crude oil production in Western Canada and the Bakken is ratcheting up — in the Niobrara too — but pipeline takeaway capacity to key markets south of there is an issue. For a couple of years now, egress out of Alberta has been problematic, due in large part to delays in the development of the Enbridge Line 3 replacement, the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) and Keystone XL. Things got so bad last winter that Alberta’s provincial government ordered production cutbacks, though they are now easing. Rising Bakken production is quickly filling any remaining space on the Dakota Access Pipeline, and pipes out of the Niobrara’s Powder River and Denver-Julesburg (D-J) basins are approaching their capacities as well. In response, midstream companies have proposed a number of fixes, some very incremental in nature and others big and impactful. As typically happens, though, too much capacity may be on the drawing board. Today, we consider the ongoing competition to build new capacity down the eastern side of the Rockies.
Acquire, expand, and acquire again. That’s proven to be a successful strategy for a number of midstream companies providing crude oil and natural gas gathering services in the Permian Basin. In the past couple of years, the hydrocarbons-packed shale play in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico has been experiencing major gathering-system buildouts and Pac-Man-like acquisitions that aggregate small and midsize systems into regional behemoths. A case in point is EagleClaw Midstream, which has used the acquire-and-expand approach to great effect, most recently with the concurrent acquisition of Caprock Midstream Holdings and Pinnacle Midstream — two deals that, by the way, gave previously gas-focused EagleClaw a strong foothold in Permian crude gathering. Today, we discuss EagleClaw and its holdings in the Permian’s Delaware Basin.
With Permian crude oil production now topping 4 MMb/d — and likely to surpass 5 MMb/d in short order — producers in the play are working closely with midstream companies to help ensure there is sufficient capacity in place to efficiently transport their crude from the lease to larger shuttle systems, regional hubs and takeaway pipelines. Sometimes, gathering systems need to be built from scratch, but in most cases, it is more cost-effective to expand existing systems that are already connected to key infrastructure downstream. Today, we continue our series with a look at a big pipeline network that NuStar Energy acquired two-plus years ago and has been expanding and improving ever since.
Persistent natural gas takeaway constraints out of the associated gas-rich Permian have pushed Waha Hub prices to between $1 and $9/MMBtu below the Henry Hub benchmark for most of 2019. Concerns about gas flaring have flared. Tanker trucks transporting diesel fuel to drilling and completion operations in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico are clogging the region’s roads. And diesel’s not cheap, especially if you’re using thousands of gallons of it a day. With Permian wells producing far more natural gas than takeaway pipelines can handle, and with gas essentially free for the taking, is this the year when electric fracs — hydraulic fracturing powered by very locally sourced gas — gain a foothold in the U.S.’s hottest shale play? Today, we look at the economic and other forces at play in the e-frac debate.
The competition to develop the one or possibly two new offshore crude oil export terminals that the U.S. will likely need by the mid-2020s has been under way for more than a year now, and the field of contestants continues to expand. Within the past few weeks, both Phillips 66 and Sentinel Midstream filed applications with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) — Phillips 66’s project would be located off the coast of Corpus Christi and Sentinel’s in the waters off Freeport. And who knows, maybe another deepwater project or two capable of fully loading Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) might still be in the offing. Today, we update our series on prospective offshore crude export terminals with a look at the P66 and Sentinel project details revealed by their applications to MARAD.