Posts from Housley Carr

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. 

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 in recent days 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? 

Way back in 2018-19, U.S. NGL production was rising fast, new ethane-only steam crackers were coming online along the Gulf Coast, and new fractionation capacity wasn’t being added quickly enough — the capacity shortfall sent the NGL market into near-panic. Fast forward to now: NGL production is still rising but domestic demand is flat, resulting in an NGL-exports surge and a race to develop new export capacity. And fractionation capacity in Mont Belvieu and elsewhere? The market learned its lesson five years ago and, to avert another capacity crunch, midstream companies have been adding new fractionators at an almost frenetic pace. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the ongoing fractionation-capacity buildout — and the need to quickly expand NGL export terminals. 

Big changes are coming to the new epicenter of the global LNG market: Texas and Louisiana. On top of the existing 12.5 Bcf/d of LNG export capacity in the two states, another 11+ Bcf/d of additional capacity is planned by 2028. The good news is that the two major supply basins that will feed this LNG demand — the Permian and the Haynesville — will be growing, but unfortunately not quite as fast as LNG exports beyond 2024. And there’s another complication, namely that the two basins are hundreds of miles from the coastal LNG terminals, meaning that we’ll need to see lots of incremental pipeline capacity developed to move gas to the water. 

Since the mid-2010s, Mexico’s Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) has developed a massive fleet of natural-gas-fired combined-cycle plants and helped to underwrite the buildout of a far-reaching network of gas pipelines from South Texas and West Texas into and through much of Mexico. Now, there’s a big push to extend that network southeast through the Yucatán Peninsula to serve new power plants and industrial facilities there. The question is, with the vast majority of the pipeline capacity down Mexico’s East Coast already locked up, where will the Yucatán’s incremental gas come from? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss this potential disconnect between Mexico’s gas-related aspirations and reality. 

Natural gas storage — especially well-sited storage with lightning-fast deliverability rates — is taking on a new significance (and value) as LNG export facilities and power generators seek to manage their often-volatile gas demand. But developing new gas storage capacity is costly and, with only a few exceptions, it’s hard to make an economic case for greenfield projects. That reality has spurred a lot of interest among midstream companies in acquiring existing storage assets and, where feasible, expanding that storage. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss one of the biggest storage-acquisition deals to date: Williams Companies’ recent purchase of six facilities with a combined working gas capacity of 115 Bcf in Louisiana and Mississippi. (It’s not all that Williams has been up to on the gas-storage front.) 

Big changes are coming to the new epicenter of the global LNG market: Texas and Louisiana. On top of the existing 12.5 Bcf/d of LNG export capacity in the two states, another 11+ Bcf/d of additional capacity is planned by 2028. The good news is that the two major supply basins that will feed this LNG demand — the Permian and the Haynesville — will be growing, but unfortunately not quite as fast as LNG exports beyond 2024. And there’s another complication, namely that the two basins are hundreds of miles from the coastal LNG terminals, meaning that we’ll need to see lots of incremental pipeline capacity developed to move gas to the water.