Posts from Housley Carr

The Uinta Basin is no Permian when it comes to drilling activity and production volumes, but the folks behind what may be the biggest M&A deal in Uinta history say the oil-production economics in parts of the quirky-as-heck play in northeastern Utah compare very favorably with the best of the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins. And where else will an astounding 85%-plus of the produced hydrocarbons come out of the ground as high-quality waxy crude? In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the recently announced plan by SM Energy and non-op specialist Northern Oil & Gas (NOG) to acquire XCL Resources in a pair of deals valued at $2.55 billion. 

Three phenomena — the European Union’s laser focus on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the EU’s now-significant reliance on LNG from the U.S., and the impending startup of new LNG export terminals along the Gulf Coast — are converging, with potentially significant implications for gas producers and LNG exporters alike. Starting next year, U.S. and other suppliers that ship LNG to EU member countries will need to begin complying with the EU’s methane emissions reporting requirements — full compliance is mandatory by 2027, and in 2030 and beyond the gas exported to the EU will be expected to meet a to-be-determined methane intensity (MI) target. As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, the EU methane regulations are still a work in progress, but they provide another reason why U.S. gas producers have been increasing their monitoring of methane emissions and their efforts to reduce them. 

The U.S. Gulf Coast is poised to experience another big wave of new LNG export capacity, and this time it will be joined by new capacity coming online in both Mexico and Canada. The more than 13 Bcf/d of incremental natural gas demand from North American LNG projects starting up over the next five years will have significant effects on U.S. and Canadian gas producers, gas flows and (quite likely) gas prices, which have been deeply depressed for more than a year now. In today’s RBN blog, we provide updates on the 10 LNG export projects in very advanced stages of development in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, detail the expected ramp-up in LNG-related gas demand and discuss the potential impact of rising LNG exports on gas prices. 

No doubt about it, most of the headline-grabbing oil and gas M&A activity lately has involved large, publicly owned producers gobbling up other good-sized E&Ps, lock, stock and barrel. But there are other ways to increase scale and improve operational efficiency, as evidenced by privately held WildFire Energy’s bolt-on acquisition frenzy in the relatively sleepy northeastern Eagle Ford, aka the East Eagle Ford. In less than three years, with one bolt-on acquisition after another, WildFire — named in anticipation of the company’s aggressive expansion strategy — has morphed from a small player in the often-overlooked area into one of the largest producers there, with a laser focus on maximizing returns to its management and private-equity owners. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll look at the E&P and its rapid rise. 

Some of the most prolific, crude-oil-saturated rock in the Permian’s Delaware Basin and Central Platform comes with a nasty complication — namely, associated gas with very high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and carbon dioxide (CO2). But rather than walking away from all those potential barrels, one midstream company saw the treatment of high-H2S, high-CO2 gas as a market niche worth pursuing. Backed by commitments from Black Bay Energy Capital and an area E&P, Piñon Midstream has been expanding a system in southeastern New Mexico that not only gathers the super-corrosive gas and removes almost all the H2S and CO2, it also permanently sequesters the stuff deep underground through a pair of 18,000-foot-deep, Class II injection wells. In today’s RBN blog, we will provide an update on Piñon’s Dark Horse Treating Facility and the company’s plan for a further build-out of its sour gas system. 

Permian-focused M&A activity may grab all the headlines, but don’t forget about the Eagle Ford. Over the past couple of years, a steady stream of big-dollar deals have been announced in the South Texas shale play, most of them tied to efforts by growth-oriented E&Ps to increase their scale, improve their operational efficiency and expand their inventory of top-tier drilling sites. As we’ll discuss in today’s RBN blog, the dealmaking has continued this spring, most recently with Crescent Energy’s announcement that it will be acquiring SilverBow Resources. 

Another day, another mega-deal between top-tier oil and gas producers — or so it seems. Now, it’s ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil’s turn, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more logical pairing among the ever-shrinking list of big E&Ps that hadn’t already found a partner during the ongoing frenzy to consolidate. In today’s RBN blog, we examine ConocoPhillips’s newly announced, $22.5 billion agreement to acquire Marathon Oil with a look at their similar histories, their complementary assets, and what will now be their joint effort to boost shareholder returns. 

On the surface, the Bakken story in the mid-2020s may seem as boring as dirt. The boom times of 2009-14 and 2017-19 are ancient history. Crude oil production has been rangebound near 1.2 MMb/d — well below its peak five years ago. And that output has been getting gassier over time, creating natural gas and NGL takeaway constraints that have put a lid on oil production growth. But don’t buy into the view that the Bakken is yesterday’s news. Beneath the surface (sometimes literally), the U.S.’s second-largest crude oil production area is undergoing a major transformation that includes E&P consolidation, production (and producers) going private, the drilling of 3- and (soon) 4-mile laterals, novel efforts to eliminate flaring, and even a producer-led push for CO2-based enhanced oil recovery (EOR). As we’ll discuss in today’s RBN blog, these changes and others may well breathe new life into the Bakken and significantly improve the environmental profile of the hydrocarbons produced there. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were the large, wellhead-to-market natural gas and NGL networks that Phillips 66 and a handful of other midstream empires have assembled — many of them targeting the all-important Permian. Now, P66 has reached an agreement to acquire Pinnacle Midstream, whose associated gas gathering system and gas processing complex in the heart of the Midland Basin nicely complement a host of other gathering and processing assets P66 controls through its majority stake in DCP Midstream. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll discuss P66’s planned purchase of Pinnacle Midstream and what it means for the Permian piece of the acquiring company’s broader natgas/NGL system. 

Permian production may have plateaued over the past few months — the shale play’s crude oil output has bounced between 6 MMb/d and 6.3 MMb/d for almost a year now, and natural gas production has hovered around 18 Bcf/d for about as long. But producer-backed plans to continue adding gas processing capacity in the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins strongly suggest that E&Ps in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico see a lot more production growth “up around the bend.” As we discuss in today’s RBN blog, midstream companies haven’t tapped the brakes on their plans for new gas processing capacity in the Permian — in fact, they’ve been keeping the pedal to the metal. 

Rising global interest in clean ammonia — plus the potential for earning generous federal tax credits — spurred a host of project announcements over the past couple of years, with the first new production capacity slated to start up as soon as 2025. But reality is setting in regarding the pace of clean-ammonia demand growth and the financial, regulatory and other challenges of developing complicated, big-dollar projects, particularly those involving carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on the major clean ammonia proposals we’ve been tracking. 

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?