Posts from Housley Carr

Monday, 06/27/2022

Refinery closures. Shifting demand for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Yawning price differentials for refined products in neighboring regions. These and other factors have spurred an ongoing reworking of the extensive U.S. products pipeline network, which transports the fuels needed to power cars, SUVs, trucks, trains and airplanes — not to mention pumps in the oil patch, tractors and lawnmowers. New products pipelines are being built and existing pipelines are being repurposed, expanded or made bidirectional, typically to take advantage of opportunities that midstreamers, refiners and marketers see opening up. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a review of major pipelines that batch gasoline, diesel and jet fuel and look at the subtle and not-so-subtle changes being made to the U.S. refined products distribution network.

Tuesday, 06/21/2022

One of the biggest, most important steps in the U.S.’s ongoing energy transition will be the selection and build-out of at least four new clean hydrogen hubs –– development supported to a significant degree by an $8 billion commitment in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was signed into law by President Biden in November. Surely there will be a lot of angling among states and regions to land big chunks of that federal money, but it’s a safe bet that one of the new hydrogen hubs will be located along the Texas-Louisiana coast. After all, this stretch of low-lying land not only boasts the U.S.’s highest concentration of existing hydrogen production and consumption, it also offers an extensive network of hydrogen pipelines, easy access to vast amounts of natural gas and renewable power, scores of potential sites for underground hydrogen storage and carbon sequestration, and a slew of marine terminals for exporting hydrogen-packed ammonia to global markets. Best of all, perhaps, the region has the human capital to make a new energy hub happen — heck, look at the infrastructure and markets the folks and companies between Freeport and Lake Charles have already developed for crude oil, natural gas and NGLs. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a detailed look at the federal government’s push to advance clean hydrogen as a fuel of the future and the Houston-led effort to make the western Gulf Coast a buzzing center of hydrogen-related activity.

Monday, 06/20/2022

In the next few days, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will hold an emergency meeting with leading energy executives to discuss steps E&Ps and refiners could take to increase crude oil production, refinery capacity and the production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, all with the aim of reducing prices. The prelude to the get-together was less than ideal, though. In a June 14 letter to the top brass of four integrated oil and gas giants and three large refiners, President Biden criticized them for “historically high refinery profit margins” and for shutting down refining capacity before and then during the pandemic. In addition to rejoinders from the companies, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) defended their actions, discussed the complexity of refined products markets, and asserted that the Biden administration’s statements and policies have actually discouraged investment in refining and oil and gas production. Is there a middle ground here? In today’s RBN blog, we look at the high-level correspondence and discuss how at least some compromises might be possible.

Sunday, 06/19/2022

If you want to get the energy world’s full attention, give it a global pandemic, a rush to decarbonize, and a brutal land war in Europe — all in quick succession. Bam! Bam! Bam! The past two-plus years have shaken the global oil, natural gas and NGL markets to the core, and forced just about everyone involved to rethink the expectations and plans they had before everything seemed to unravel. So what happens next? How do we provide energy security, put a lid on inflation, and save the planet? To answer those questions, a good place to start is to gain a better understanding of the fundamentals — how energy markets develop, work and interact. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss highlights from RBN’s recent School of Energy, a like-you-were-there replay of which is now available.

Tuesday, 05/31/2022

Just like there’s room for Amazon and Etsy in the e-commerce world — one for mass marketers and the other for artisans — there’s room in the energy industry for both large- and small-scale LNG companies and plants. By focusing on the development of niche markets and scaling their production and distribution operations accordingly, a number of smaller (but growing) players in the LNG space have been making natural gas available to a surprising variety of customers: from industrial, oil-and-gas and mining companies to rocket launchers, Caribbean resorts and island utilities. ESG is a big driver — the LNG supplied often replaces diesel, fuel oil and propane, which can have bigger carbon impacts. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on small-scale LNG with a look at a cross-section of key players in this space and how they’ve been growing their businesses.

Wednesday, 05/25/2022

The pace of multibillion-dollar M&A activity among oil and gas producers may have slowed a bit from 2020 and 2021, but big deals are still happening. Just last week, publicly held Centennial Resources Development and privately held Colgate Energy Partners III announced plans for a $7 billion “merger of equals” that will combine two midsize E&Ps in the Permian’s Delaware Basin to form one of the area’s larger producers. Each of the companies brings similar and complementary production assets to the deal, as well as corporate leaders very much in sync about the significance of scale in today’s increasingly concentrated upstream sector — and the importance of returning a big chunk of free cash flow to investors. Speaking of investors, an extraordinary 12% stake in the combined Centennial and Colgate will be held by the pro forma company’s management — that’s about 12x the norm among its peers. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the Centennial/Colgate merger and what’s driving the ongoing consolidation in the U.S.’s most prolific hydrocarbon play.

Tuesday, 05/24/2022

In case you hadn’t noticed, many of the largest, most successful companies in the U.S. and Canada are placing big bets on the energy transition. Take “blue” hydrogen, which is produced by breaking down natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide and capturing and sequestering most of the CO2, and blue ammonia, which is made from blue hydrogen and nitrogen. Last fall, Air Products & Chemicals announced a multibillion-dollar project in Louisiana, and now it’s a joint venture of Enbridge and Humble Midstream, which is planning a large, $2.5 billion-plus blue hydrogen/ammonia project down the Texas coast, at Enbridge’s massive marine terminal in Ingleside. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss what we’ve learned about the companies’ plan.

Monday, 05/23/2022

U.S. diesel inventories are at their lowest level for May since 2000 and East Coast stocks recently hit their lowest mark for any week or month since the EIA started tracking them in 1990. Crack spreads for diesel — and, more recently, for gasoline — have gone parabolic, giving refiners the strongest financial signal ever to produce more diesel and gasoline as we enter the summer travel season. More jet fuel too. The problem is, U.S. refineries already are running flat-out. And Europe? It’s facing big cuts in crude oil and refined-products imports from Russia as well as much higher prices for — and possible shortages of — oil and natural gas, the latter being the primary fuel for operating refinery hydrocrackers, which upgrade low-quality heavy gas-oils into high-quality diesel, gasoline and jet. It’s a mess, and not easily fixable, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.

Monday, 05/16/2022

It took a while, but domestic air travel is finally returning to pre-pandemic levels and international travel to and from the U.S. is showing signs of recovering too. As a result, U.S. production of jet fuel has been rising steadily in recent months and, since most jet fuel needs to be transported long distances from refineries to airports, so have flows of jet fuel on U.S. refined products pipelines. All of that is good news, but as pipeline flows rise, so may the stresses on some elements of the U.S. refined products/jet fuel distribution network, including pipelines, storage facilities and “last mile” jet fuel delivery trucks. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at jet fuel, this time with a look at the extensive web of U.S. refined products pipelines.

Wednesday, 05/11/2022

Just over two years ago, the jet fuel market experienced an almost existential shock. In the space of only six or seven weeks, demand for the refined product plummeted by more than 70% as COVID-related lockdowns and air-travel restrictions were implemented. Fortunately, life in the U.S. has been returning to normal — albeit with some bumps along the way — and demand for jet fuel (a.k.a. “jet”) has been rebounding to near pre-pandemic levels. That re-emphasizes a nagging challenge, though, namely transporting large volumes of jet from refineries and import docks to hundreds of major and minor airports. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our look at jet fuel, this time with an examination of where it's produced and consumed, and how it gets from refineries to airports.

Tuesday, 05/10/2022

Brace yourself for it. Over the next few weeks, there’s a good chance that a tsunami of crude oil will be released from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and it’s likely that much (if not most) of that oil will be piped to Gulf Coast export docks and loaded onto supertankers. If that happens, the export capacity of crude-handling terminals from Corpus Christi to coastal Louisiana will be stress-tested on their ability to send out much larger volumes than they’re used to dealing with. And that’s only the beginning. Over the next year or two, while U.S. E&Ps ratchet up production in response to higher prices as Europeans and others scramble to replace Russian crude oil, Gulf Coast export terminals may well be called upon to load and ship out even more oil (in addition to refined products) on a regular basis. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the impending SPR releases and the ability of Gulf Coast ports and individual terminals to handle increasing volumes.

Friday, 05/06/2022

Over the past few weeks, many U.S. refiners reported even-stronger-than-expected first-quarter results, and it’s likely their good fortune will continue. Why? Despite the skyrocketing price of crude oil — refiners’ primary feedstock — the prices of the gasoline and diesel they produce have risen even more. And it’s that now-yawning gap between crude oil and refined-products prices that’s been driving refining margins — and refiners’ profits — to near-historic levels. Refining margins, like the character and capabilities of thoroughbreds like “Rich Strike” in Saturday’s amazing Kentucky Derby, are unique to each refinery because of their different sizes, equipment and crude slates (among other things), but there’s a tried-and-true way to estimate the refining sector’s general profitability, as we discuss in today’s blog on U.S. refiners’ sky-high crack spreads.

Sunday, 05/01/2022

The jet fuel market has been on a wild ride the past two-plus years. First, demand for the refined product took an unprecedented, COVID-induced nosedive in February and March 2020. By May 2020, Gulf Coast prices for jet fuel had plummeted to less than 50 cents/gal (from just under $2 at the start of that year) and refiners had slashed production to 505 Mb/d (from just under 1.9 MMb/d). It was a tough few months — the recovery from the market’s bottom was neither quick nor consistent. Domestic air travel is finally back, but with international travel slower to rebound, total jet fuel supply and demand are still off of their pre-pandemic levels. Jet fuel prices are taking off, though, last week hitting their highest mark since July 2008. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the jet fuel market: how it’s rebounding, how it works and how it’s changing.

Monday, 04/18/2022

Vladimir Putin’s fateful decision to invade Ukraine and the ongoing brutality have made Russia a pariah state to many leading hydrocarbon-consuming nations, which in turn has caused cuts in Russian crude oil production and exports. That raises a few important questions, chief among them the degree to which other producers — including the U.S. and the non-Russian members of OPEC+ –– can ramp up their production and displace Russian oil. U.S. output has been increasing recently, albeit only gradually, and production could rise much more quickly under the right circumstances. But if it does, would there be enough crude export capacity available along the Gulf Coast to handle, say, another 500 Mb/d or 1 MMb/d? In today’s RBN blog, we examine the ability of key U.S. export facilities to stage, load and ship out increasing volumes of oil.

Sunday, 04/17/2022

Massive LNG export terminals and shipments to Europe get all the attention these days, and for good reason. But there’s a lot more going on with U.S. LNG below the radar, and on a much smaller scale. Peak-shaving liquefaction plants to help gas-distribution utilities up north keep the lights on during high winter demand periods. Plants that make LNG for a wide variety of industrial, mining and oil-and-gas-production customers, and for LNG-powered trucks and ships — often to help reduce emissions and meet ESG goals. And there are a number of small liquefaction plants in the U.S. that export LNG to power-generation and industrial customers in the Caribbean and Mexico. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a short series on an often-overlooked but important market for U.S. natural gas.