Posts from Housley Carr

Thursday, 09/23/2021

A long, long time ago — or, more precisely, in the spring of 2014, when WTI was selling for more than $110/bbl — a handful of exploration and production companies were convinced they were onto something big in southwestern Mississippi and east-central Louisiana. There, they believed, the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS) was poised to become the next Bakken, the U.S.’s premier shale play at the time, but even better for producers seeking more robust crude prices because of TMS’s very low gas-to-oil ratio — an oil cut north of 92%! –– and proximity to Gulf Coast refineries. While there had been a host of failed efforts by producers to wring out large volumes of premium-priced Louisiana Light Sweet (LLS) oil from the marine shale’s sedimentary silts and clays, the E&Ps felt in their bones that they were finally “cracking the code.” Then, at just the wrong time, came an oil price crash that set the whole industry back on its heels and activity in the TMS quickly slowed to a crawl. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, an even smaller cadre of Tuscaloosa Marine Shale true believers is now banking on a production revival in the core of the play.

Sunday, 09/19/2021

In the recently fervent efforts of oil and gas companies to mitigate their environmental impact and improve their standing with investors and lenders, they are progressively striving to cut their own emissions of greenhouse gases and to offset the GHG emissions that are unavoidable through the use of carbon credits. Cutting emissions from well sites, pipeline operations, refineries, and the like won’t be easy or cheap, but at the least the results are measurable and provable — before, we emitted X, and now we emit X minus Y. The true value of voluntary carbon credits is more difficult to calculate. Sure, each credit is said to equal one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent, but how do you really measure with any certainty how many metric tons of CO2 will be absorbed by 1,000 acres of preserved forest in Oregon, or how much methane won’t be produced by changing the diet of 1,000 cows in Wisconsin? And how can you be sure that slice of Oregon wouldn’t have been left in place anyway, or that the dairy farmer has actually changed what he’s feeding his herd? In today’s RBN blog, we look at voluntary carbon credits, concerns about their validity, and ongoing efforts to ensure that they actually accomplish the goal of GHG reductions.

Thursday, 09/16/2021

There’s a lot to like about the unusual, waxy crude oil produced in the Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah. Low production costs, minimal sulfur content, next-to-no contaminants, and favorable medium-to-high API numbers. Oh, and there’s plenty of the stuff — huge reserves. The catch is that waxy crude has a shoe-polish-like consistency at room temperature, and has to be heated into a liquid state for storage and transportation. As you’d expect, refineries in nearby Salt Lake City are regular buyers; they receive waxy crude via insulated tanker trucks. They can only use so much though. Lately, a couple of Gulf Coast refineries have been railing in occasional shipments of waxy crude, but getting it onto heated rail cars involves a white-knuckle tanker-truck drive across a 9,100-foot-high mountain pass to a transloading facility. Now, finally, crude-by-rail access from the heart of the Uinta is poised to become a reality, offering the potential for much easier access to distant markets and, possibly, a big boost in Uinta production. In today’s blog, we provide an update on waxy crude and its prospects.

Sunday, 09/12/2021

When fully loaded, a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) sits so low in the water that it almost resembles an alligator swimming along the surface of a lagoon. Bearing the weight of 2 MMbbl of crude oil, plus ballast, fuel, crew, and provisions — not to mention the ship itself — two-thirds of an oil-laden VLCC is literally out of sight. You could say the same about the development of crude export terminal projects along the Gulf Coast: not much to see, maybe, especially during the disturbingly enduring COVID-19 era, but a lot is happening under the surface. In today’s blog, we discuss the status of onshore and offshore projects aimed at streamlining the shipment of U.S. crude oil to overseas buyers.

Tuesday, 09/07/2021

In the three years since Moda Midstream acquired Occidental Petroleum’s marine terminal in Ingleside, TX, the company has developed millions of barrels of additional storage capacity, connected the facility to a slew of Permian-to-Corpus Christi pipelines, and increased the terminal’s ability to quickly and efficiently load crude onto the super-size Suezmaxes and VLCCs that many international shippers favor. Moda’s fast-paced efforts have paid off big-time, first by making its Ingleside facility by far the #1 exporter of U.S. crude oil and now with a $3 billion agreement to sell the terminal and related pipeline and storage assets to Enbridge. The transaction, which is scheduled to close by the end of this year, will make Enbridge — already the co-owner of the Seaway Freeport and Seaway Texas City terminals up the coast — the top dog in Gulf Coast crude exports. Today, we discuss the Moda agreement and how it advances Enbridge’s broader Gulf Coast export strategy.

Monday, 09/06/2021

Many U.S. hydrocarbon production basins have experienced major ups and downs the past few years — the Haynesville, Eagle Ford, Bakken, and SCOOP/STACK, to name just a few. The Permian hasn’t been entirely immune from bad times either — crude oil and associated gas production there plummeted in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic last year and again during the Deep Freeze in February this year — but it would be fair to say that the play’s Midland Basin has been among the energy industry’s surest bets during the Shale Era, with strong, highly predictable gains in output that producers and midstreamers alike can pretty much bank on. As a result, a number of gas-and-NGL-focused midstream companies have been taking the long view in their planning for new gathering systems, gas processing plants, and connections to a multitude of takeaway pipelines. In today’s blog, we discuss one company’s development of a now-massive and flexible hub-and-spokes network in the heart of the Midland.

Sunday, 08/29/2021

In the past four years, natural gas production in the Permian Basin has doubled — from 6.6 Bcf/d in August 2017 to 13.4 Bcf/d now. To keep pace, the midstream sector has spent many billions of dollars on new gas gathering systems, processing plants, and takeaway pipelines, with virtually all of that investment backed by long-term commitments from producers and other market players. Thanks to that build-out, the Permian now has sufficient takeaway capacity — at least for another couple of years. But despite the 50-plus processing plants that have come online in the play’s Delaware and Midland basins in recent years, still more processing capacity is needed, as evidenced by the expansion projects and new plants that we discuss in today’s blog.

Sunday, 08/22/2021

The volume of natural gas in storage and the flow of gas into and out of it are among the most closely watched indicators in the U.S. gas market. That makes sense, given that these numbers provide important weekly insights into the supply-demand balance, gas price trends, the impact of LNG exports, and any number of other market drivers. However, what’s often ignored by those not involved in the day-to-day physical gas market are the mechanics and economics of storage itself. Who uses gas storage, and for what purposes? What are the value drivers for a storage facility? Why are there different types of gas storage contracts? How much does storage cost, and what do storage rates reflect? Today, we explore these and other questions.

Thursday, 08/19/2021

The high-tech space programs of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Sir Richard Branson may seem far removed from the down-to-earth business of producing and processing hydrocarbons. In fact, however, the multibillion-dollar efforts by SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic to normalize space travel — and maybe even put the first men and women on Mars! — depend at least in part on some pretty basic oil and gas products, including regular jet fuel, highly refined kerosene, and LNG. Oh, and hydrogen too — or, more specifically, the liquid form of the fuel that has recently caught the attention of a number of old-school energy companies. In today’s blog, we look at what’s propelling the latest generation of space vehicles.

Monday, 08/16/2021

It’s often said that the offshore Gulf of Mexico is a different animal than its onshore counterparts, especially shale and tight-oil plays like the Permian and the Bakken. Decisions to invest in new production in the GOM aren’t based on crude oil demand and price forecast for the next two or three years; they’re based on expectations for the next two or three decades. Well, 30 years from now will be 2051, a year after Shell and a number of other energy companies have pledged to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions. What does decarbonization mean for future development in the offshore Gulf, where the upfront capital costs are enormous and wells can be prolific producers for many, many years. In today’s blog, we discuss the final investment decision (FID) on Shell’s Whale project in the western Gulf of Mexico and the prospects for further development in the GOM.

Sunday, 08/15/2021

Every day, midstream companies in North America transport massive volumes of crude oil, natural gas, NGLs, and refined products to market. Without their pipelines, economic activity would rapidly grind to a halt. Still, environmental critics and ESG-conscious investors and lenders are quick to point out that the commodities that midstreamers pipe are among the leading sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and that, at the very least, pipeline companies should be reducing or even offsetting the carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs associated with operating their networks. That’s now happening in a big way — and in a variety of ways — as we discuss in today’s blog.

Wednesday, 08/11/2021

The EIA report on propane inventories that came out yesterday was a shocker. This time of year, stocks are supposed to be building toward the levels needed to get U.S. propane markets through the winter season. But the numbers released on Wednesday showed an inventory decline, resulting in inventory balances now below the five-year minimum. The culprit, of course, is exports, with 1.4 MMb/d of them reported last week, a 17% gain over the year-to-date average. And these cargoes to overseas markets are happening even with propane prices in the stratosphere: more than double where they stood this time last year. Propane marketers were hoping that higher prices would slow down exports, but so far that is not happening. In today’s blog, we examine U.S. exports of LPG — propane plus butane — and discuss what may be ahead for these markets.

Sunday, 08/08/2021

Carbon-neutral hydrocarbons may sound like an oxymoron, but an increasing number of international shippers have been assembling and sending out cargoes of LNG whose expected lifecycle carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions have been fully offset by carbon credits. What’s next? No-calorie cherry pie? No-loss gambling on DraftKings? A winning season for the Houston Texans? (Probably not.) As you’d expect, carbon-neutral cargoes of LNG — and crude oil and LPG — are designed to help hydrocarbon sellers and buyers alike meet their goals for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). The concept is still relatively new, though, and many of the participants in these deals are still in learning mode, seeking to gain experience with something they expect to see a lot more of soon. In today’s blog, we discuss the relatively short history of this type of shipment and the first signs that carbon-neutral hydrocarbons are about to go mainstream.

Tuesday, 08/03/2021

For some time now, a handful of refineries in southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have been able to receive steeply discounted, heavy sour crude from Western Canada by rail or barge — or, in rare cases, by pipeline from Cushing to Nederland, TX, to the St. James, LA, hub. Starting in a few months, though, this same crude also will be able to flow by pipe directly from Patoka, IL, to St. James on the soon-to-be-reversed Capline pipeline. Initially, the southbound volumes on Capline will be modest, but over time they could increase to several hundred thousand barrels a day. Will those barrels be loaded onto supertankers and shipped overseas, or will they be headed for refineries in Louisiana and its eastern neighbors? In today’s blog, we try to answer those questions.

Sunday, 08/01/2021

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a big push by the government, industry, and the broader public to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to offset those that do occur. Given its carbon-intensive nature, the oil and gas sector is at the heart of this activity, with almost daily announcements about carbon-neutral LNG shipments, carbon-dioxide capture and sequestration projects, and other efforts. The problem is, it can be difficult sometimes to figure out what’s real and what’s not — that is, which efforts have an actual, measurable impact and which are sort of vague or fuzzy and need to be sussed out. Today, we discuss the latest round of announcements by producers, midstreamers, refiners, and others to “green up” their operations and products.