The energy market dislocations of the COVID era have accelerated consolidation in the midstream sector as oil and gas gatherers — and gas processors — in the Permian and other basins seek greater scale, improved reliability, and the potential to direct more hydrocarbons through their takeaway pipelines. New evidence of this trend came just last week, when Enterprise Products Partners announced it has agreed to acquire privately held Navitas Midstream Partners, a fast-growing gas gatherer and processor in the Permian’s Midland Basin, for $3.25 billion. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, the acquisition will give Enterprise its first gas gathering and processing assets in the heart of the Midland and may boost volumes on its residue-gas and NGL pipelines there.
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It’s possible for a single new infrastructure project to be a game-changer — the Transcontinental Railroad comes to mind, and so do the New York City subway system and the Hoover Dam. In the energy industry’s midstream sector, things work a little differently. There, projects are incremental. They’re privately, rather than publicly backed and so they must be commercially justified, which means they need to serve a specific purpose. That’s not to say they can’t shift the landscape of the areas they serve. For example, when the Shale Revolution transformed and disrupted U.S. hydrocarbon markets, supply and demand dynamics were turned on their head and waves of projects had to be built to handle surging production in suddenly supercharged shale plays like the Bakken, Appalachia, and Permian and to serve new markets, most notably exports. Sometimes, it’s a more complicated combination of projects and events that, as a group, cause not-so-subtle shifts in how things are done. Lately, handfuls of pipeline projects and refinery closures — plus increasing regional crude oil production in both the U.S. and Canada — have spurred changes in traditional pipeline-flow patterns and may breathe new life into oil-export activity at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port and the Beaumont-Nederland area in Texas. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss these changes and their effects.
The international shipping industry’s push to significantly reduce its carbon footprint over the next three decades is raising an obvious question: Is there a zero- or low-carbon bunker fuel that meets all of the industry’s basic criteria — things like availability, safety, and relative economy, not to mention sufficient on-board energy to transport massive, city-block-sized vessels thousands of miles at a clip. There is no clear answer yet, but there is a lot of talk about ammonia, or more specifically ammonia produced in a way that either generates no carbon dioxide (CO2) or that captures and sequesters much of the CO2 that is generated during production. But several major challenges must be met before “green” and “blue” ammonia can lay claim to even a small slice of the bunkers market, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.
Mexico’s state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos, the second-largest exporter of crude oil to the U.S. after Canada, said in late December that it will slash its export volumes in 2022 and eliminate them completely in 2023. The plan is premised on Pemex’s expectation that, with increased utilization of the company’s six existing refineries and the impending start-up of a new one, it will need every barrel of the Maya, Isthmus, Olmeca, and other varieties of oil it produces. While at first glance it may seem that Mexico phasing out exports of crude would pose a major challenge to some U.S. refineries, there’s good reason to believe that in reality it won’t. In fact, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog, there may be less to Pemex’s planned export phase-out than meets the eye.
For the next few years, New Englanders will remain heavily dependent on natural-gas-fired generation — and keep their fingers crossed regarding the availability of piped-in gas for power during periods of frigid winter weather. But the power sector in the enviro-conscious six-state region has ambitious plans to gradually ratchet down its reliance on gas and other fossil fuels and increase the role of wind, solar, and battery storage. Over time, that could help to alleviate the gas-supply risk associated with New England’s seasonally insufficient gas pipeline capacity. However, front-and-center roles for highly variable renewable energy sources could pose reliability challenges of their own. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the evolution of the region’s electric grid and what it may mean for natural gas producers and midstreamers.
In early December, natural gas production in the Permian has been averaging a record 14.2 Bcf/d, a gain of 1 Bcf/d in only six months. That rapid pace of growth is putting pressure on every aspect of midstream infrastructure — gas gathering systems, processing plants, and takeaway pipelines — and resulting in a variety of efforts aimed at ensuring there will be sufficient capacity in place to support the increasing gas volumes being produced. New gas-gathering mileage is being added, some new processing plants are being built, and at least a couple of new large-diameter pipelines from the Permian to the Gulf Coast are being considered. However, reflecting the midstream sector’s financial discipline, there’s also a big push to make fuller use of existing assets, in some cases by relocating processing plants, compressors, and other assets to where they are needed most. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the latest gas-related infrastructure developments in the Permian’s Midland and Delaware basins.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about “green” and “blue” hydrogen becoming increasingly important players in the world’s lower-carbon energy future. Green and blue ammonia too, given that ammonia, with its high hydrogen content, is an efficient “carrier” of hydrogen when it needs to be delivered by ship, railcar, or truck. Also, ammonia itself — like hydrogen — can be used to power fuel cells and ammonia-combustion technology is being developed to use fuel ammonia at power plants. But for these low- or zero-carbon energy products to be adopted at a global scale, new infrastructure will need to be built, not only to enable their production and consumption but to transport them to where they’ll be consumed. Enter the just-finished ammonia terminal that Royal Vopak and Moda Midstream jointly developed at a prime site along the Houston Ship Channel. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the greenfield facility and its prospective role as a major import/export hub for ammonia.
International shipowners need to significantly reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions by 2030 and will come under pressure to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Given that the industry currently depends almost entirely on fossil fuels for ship propulsion — and that every zero- or near-zero-carbon alternative faces serious headwinds — it won’t be an easy or low-cost transition. One pathway would be expanding the use of LNG as a bunker fuel in the near term and then shifting to alternatives like bio-LNG and synthetic LNG as they become more commercially available and economic. Another would be to use “green” or “blue” hydrogen, ammonia, or methanol. But there are challenges to each, not the least of which are the small volumes of non-traditional fuels being produced — and their high cost — and the need for new infrastructure both to produce and distribute them, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.
There’s been a slew of high-profile shipments of “carbon-neutral LNG” the past few months, typically involving the use of carbon credits to offset, ton-for-ton, the carbon dioxide equivalent of greenhouse gases released during the production, piping, and liquefaction of natural gas, the shipping of LNG, and often the regasification and ultimate consumption of the gas too. The problem is, there is no widely agreed-to definition for carbon neutral, nor is there a consensus on how to quantify and validate the GHG “footprint” of a specific LNG cargo. Now, an international group representing the world’s LNG importers has established a framework for “GHG-neutral LNG” that it hopes will gain widespread acceptance. Elements of the proposal are sure to be controversial, however, as we discuss in today’s RBN blog.
The Permian has been a leader in domestic oil and gas production for decades but the Shale Revolution made it a global superstar. In the past few years, thousands of miles of new crude oil, associated gas, and produced-water gathering systems have been installed in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, as have dozens of new gas processing plants and a number of new takeaway pipelines for oil, gas, and NGLs. Lately, there has also been a lot of consolidation among Permian midstream companies, mostly with the aims of increasing scale, improving reliability, and directing more hydrocarbons through the combined companies’ gathering, processing, and takeaway assets. In today’s RBN blog, we continue our review of recent, major pipeline-company combinations in the Permian and the benefits participants expect to realize from them.
If there was ever a year that proves NGLs march to the beat of a different drummer, 2021 was it. Compared to pre-pandemic volumes, production is up, not down. It’s the same story for exports. Price behavior has been even more extraordinary. We’ve seen startling counter-seasonal price swings in propane and butane markets. Ethane has been dancing to the tune of volatile natural gas prices. The wackiness has even extended to natural gasoline, which this summer enjoyed seven weeks as the preferred feedstock for U.S. flexible steam crackers. Heck, it’s not even winter yet. And 2022 is likely to be every bit as chaotic. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a blog series discussing recent developments in NGL markets and take a look at what lies ahead.
Determining whether to approve plans for interstate natural gas pipeline projects has never been an easy task for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. There are so many things to consider, chief among them the need for the pipeline, impacts on the environment and landowners along the route, and what it all means for gas customers. But as complicated as the decision-making process may be, at least pipeline developers, gas producers, and customers knew that once a new pipeline was approved by FERC, permitted, built, and put into service that the matter was closed — that is, the pipeline was here to stay. Now, in the wake of a groundbreaking court ruling on a new gas pipeline near St. Louis, things are not so certain. As it turns out, we’re intimately familiar with the matter, having just made the case that the 65-mile Spire STL Pipeline is an important addition to the regional pipeline network that provides supply diversity, improved reliability, and access to lower-cost gas. In today’s RBN blog, we consider the evolution of FERC regulation of gas pipelines and the new uncertainty that all affected parties face.
With the market dislocations brought on in 2020-21, many if not most E&Ps have been reexamining their strategies and making changes. A common result has been a deemphasis on capex and expansion and a renewed focus on increasing free cash flow — and with that excess cash reducing or eliminating debt and rewarding shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks. A prime example of a producer taking this approach is Oasis Petroleum, a Bakken-focused E&P that a year ago this week emerged from COVID-induced bankruptcy filing and has since taken a number of additional steps to position itself as a reliable money-maker, even if crude oil prices were to slide to significantly lower levels. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the ongoing trend among producers to rethink and rework their strategies as energy markets recover.
Leading international shipping associations and many of the large shipowners they represent are pressing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to take a much more aggressive approach to decarbonizing their industry, and calling for a $100/metric ton fee on carbon dioxide emissions from ships to spur investment in no-carbon propulsion systems. In effect, shipowners—themselves under pressure from their large, ESG-minded customers, are telling the IMO that its goals of reducing global shipping’s carbon intensity by 40% by 2030 and total greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 are far too timid. They are insisting that the IMO set the industry on a course to quickly ramp down its carbon dioxide emissions in the 2020s and achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by mid-century. If the shipowners prevail, it could result in the phase-out of hydrocarbon-based bunker fuel in favor of low-carbon alternatives like ammonia, hydrogen, and electric batteries. In today’s RBN blog, we begin a review of the big changes ahead for global bunker fuel and what they mean for oil and gas producers and refiners.