Posts from Jason Ferguson

The Permian natural gas pipeline build-out is entering a new era. With numerous LNG terminals set to expand exports along the U.S. Gulf Coast through the end of this decade, the need to link Permian gas supply to those facilities has never been greater. While there have been three greenfield pipelines built out of the Permian in the last five years, with a fourth on the way in 2024, each has ended in the same general area west of Houston or farther south near Corpus Christi. However, market needs are shifting, with most of the next wave of LNG export capacity to be added east of Houston, closer to Beaumont and in southeastern Louisiana, and those facilities want access to Permian gas. As a result, we weren’t surprised this month when two new proposals to directly link gas from West Texas markets to those export terminals were announced. If built, Targa Resources’ Apex and WhiteWater Midstream’s Blackfin projects could significantly alter Texas gas markets and how Permian supplies move to their final destination. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the latest developments in Texas gas pipeline infrastructure.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that we believe the Permian Basin is set for another year of crude oil and natural gas production growth. Everyone’s come to expect that from the Permian. What is new, though, is that the vast production area in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico has taken on some serious global significance over the past year — especially as an increasingly important energy supplier to Europe. That emerging role is likely not only to support continued production growth in the Permian but also to shape how the basin’s infrastructure is built out through the rest of the 2020s. And we also know that infrastructure development is critical to the Permian’s ongoing success — in 2023, new gas pipeline takeaway capacity is needed pronto and it may not be long before new oil-pipeline capacity from the Permian to Corpus Christi is required too. In today's RBN blog, we provide this year’s outlook for Permian natural gas and oil markets.

Permian crude oil markets are getting interesting again, with triple-digit prices making daily headlines and boosting producers’ cash flows. But there have been few parties in the Permian oil midstream space. There, excess long-haul capacity has been the story for some time, a situation that became more pronounced when Wink-to-Webster (W2W) — the last of the new greenfield pipelines to the Texas Gulf Coast — started up earlier this year. There’s so much capacity in place that price spreads have remained tight and competition for barrels has been fierce. That said, there’s a positive story flying under the radar in the Permian oil markets. One of the new pipelines that started up out of the Permian in 2019 is now full. That may surprise some folks, kind of like when the Texas A&M Aggies pulled in the #1 football recruiting class in the country earlier this year. While Alabama’s coach is apparently still trying to swallow that news, you’re not likely to find yourself doubting the ability of a newbuild to get full in today’s competitive environment. At least you won’t after we tell you the story of the EPIC Crude Pipeline, which we do in today’s RBN blog.

The first Saturday in May is only a couple of days away, so brush off your seersucker jacket or find that Kentucky Derby hat, as it’s the only time of year most Americans watch an actual horse race. That’s kind of how it goes with the Permian natural gas market as well, with only intermittent interest from general gas market participants, usually when there’s a pipeline capacity issue leading to a noticeable impact on prices. Now is one of those times. Permian gas production is racing higher and the pipelines to get gas to market are quickly getting jammed up. Daily prices in the Permian are trading about 10% lower than those in Louisiana and the forward basis markets suggest they will deteriorate further in the months ahead. Naturally, midstream companies are quickly trotting out new pipeline projects, but sorting out the contenders is much like picking the winner on Saturday. You need data and at least a little luck, and we’re here to help out with the former. In today’s RBN blog, we lay out what we know and how we view the Permian gas pipeline derby.

You can count on certain things this time of year. Alabama is in the hunt for a college football national championship, there’s fresh powder somewhere in the Rockies, it’s mostly still shorts weather in Houston, and there’s a catchy new country song ripe for blog titles. January also brings some unknowns, with pundits throwing out various scenarios for stock and commodity markets, as well as the more recent trend in postulating the outcomes of the latest COVID variant. When it comes to the U.S. onshore oil and natural gas markets, the Permian continues to be old reliable, especially with crude north of $70/bbl and natural gas prices flirting with $4/MMBtu. There’s a lot we can’t predict about the year ahead (like the NCAA football championship, though this writer, at least, is pulling for Georgia next week), but our view of Permian production growth hasn’t changed. In today’s blog, we provide this year’s outlook for Permian crude oil and natural gas markets.

A few things have changed since we wrote our first hydrogen blog a year ago. First, there’s heightened awareness of the many ways hydrogen can be used to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Second, the number of proposed hydrogen production projects has proliferated, and our project list continues to grow each week. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the federal government has thrown its support — and billions in taxpayer dollars — behind low-carbon hydrogen. However, despite those positive developments, hurdles clearly remain in the hydrogen sector, with economics a major sticking point, though a few projects are set to get off the ground next year. In today’s RBN blog, we provide a year-end update on domestic hydrogen projects.

Some things you can pretty much count on this time of year, like the end of 100-degree days in Houston, Aggies rooting against Longhorns, and the Astros in the World Series. Permian natural gas production has also been consistently higher the last few years. It’s usually on its way to new highs as we approach the holidays and 2021 is another fine example. After a bang-up 2020, this year has been one of continuously solid gas production growth in the Permian, with gas volumes currently sitting near 14 Bcf/d, up around 1.5 Bcf/d versus this time last year. What’s more, at today’s crude oil prices, which encourage increasing production of oil and associated gas, there is no end in sight for Permian gas growth. Which means, as many gas traders already know, that the Permian’s primary gas market, the Waha Hub, may soon be headed back into the familiar territory of deep basis discounts. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the latest developments in Permian gas markets.

The U.S. West Coast natural gas market is at the forefront of the energy transition, but regional natural gas prices are instead signaling the need for construction of newbuild gas pipeline capacity to the region. Without it, markets west of the Permian Basin have been hard-pressed to take advantage of the supply growth in West Texas and have struggled to consistently maintain adequate natural gas supplies for some time now. To make matters worse, last month, a segment of El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline (EPNG), a primary artery for moving Permian gas west, experienced a rupture, further tightening supplies. Today, we highlight the major market impacts and longer-term implications of the pipeline blast and subsequent flow restrictions.

Usually when we write about natural gas markets in the Western third of the U.S., we spotlight the Permian Basin and its Waha gas hub. The focus on Waha has been for good reason, as the last three years have been nothing if not exciting in the Permian’s primary gas market. The basin’s huge volume of associated gas production and Waha’s volatility and deeply negative basis — even negative absolute prices — have made the West Texas market eminently watchable. Though a flurry of new pipelines out of the Permian have helped tame the market somewhat recently and driven Waha to the point of positive basis on its best days, the markets west of the Permian are a different story. They have seen very little in the way of new gas infrastructure, and the constrained inbound pipeline capacity has recently driven prices in the Desert Southwest to some incredible premiums. In today’s blog, we take a look at the gas markets there.

We get the sense that many hydrogen-market observers are looking for a silver bullet — the absolute best way to produce H2 cheaply and in a way that has an extremely low carbon intensity. If anything has become clear to us over the last few months, however, there isn’t likely to be an “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moment anytime soon. Rather, what we have seen so far in regard to hydrogen production has been a veritable smorgasbord of production pathways, with varying degrees of carbon intensity. While costs vary by project, it is also fair to say that a front-runner has yet to emerge when it comes to producing inexpensive hydrogen at scale. There is a silver lining though, if not a bullet, and that is the realization that there are many options when it comes to procuring environmentally friendly hydrogen. Today, we provide an update of currently proposed hydrogen projects.

We’ve been writing on hydrogen for a few months now, covering everything from its physical properties to production methods and economics. Given the newness of the subject to most folks, who have spent their careers following traditional hydrocarbon markets, we have attempted to move methodically when it comes to hydrogen. However, we think that things may get more complicated in the months ahead. Why, you may ask. Well, the development of a hydrogen market — or “economy”, if you will — is going to be far from straightforward, we believe. Not only will hydrogen need some serious policy and regulatory help to gain a footing, the new fuel will have to become well-integrated into not only existing hydrocarbon markets, but also some established “green” markets, such as renewable natural gas, or RNG. So understanding how renewable natural gas is produced and valued is probably relevant for hydrogen market observers. In the encore edition of today’s blog, we take a look at the possible intersection of natural gas, particularly RNG, and hydrogen.

It’s not often these days that you read about gas markets in the San Juan Basin. In fact, the subject was probably never much of a hot topic because the San Juan has been something of an afterthought when it comes to Western gas markets, just a stop on the road between the Permian and markets along the West Coast and in the Rockies. However, those Western gas markets are setting up to be quite interesting this summer, as is the Waha gas market in the Permian, and understanding the mechanics of the San Juan is just one piece of the overall Western puzzle. In today’s blog, we take a look at the far-flung but increasingly interesting markets west of the Permian Basin.

When it comes to hydrogen regulation, there are two buckets. The first includes safety and environmental regulations related to building and operating facilities that produce, transport, store, and consume hydrogen. There’s not much mystery here, just a multitude of rules from various organizations in place to cover the physical side of the hydrogen industry. That said, as hydrogen use is expected to grow over time, this bucket of regulation is likely to expand and maybe morph. The second bucket includes rules that are designed to provide market structure and incentives for hydrogen. This bucket is mostly empty, though, and for hydrogen markets to succeed, it will need to be filled up. Put another way, hydrogen needs rules and incentives that make it clear the powers-that-be want hydrogen to be around and thriving. In today’s blog, we look at existing hydrogen regulations and highlights the gas’s need for further regulatory incentives and clarity.

A lot of people know that Permian natural gas prices have spent many days in negative territory over the last few years, only to skyrocket over $100/MMBtu during the Deep Freeze in February. Those events were mostly viewed as transitory, driven by a chronic lack of pipeline capacity in the former case and a crazy round of arctic weather in the latter. It may come as a surprise to hear that forward basis prices for natural gas in the Permian are trading at a premium to Henry Hub for at least some months over the next year or so. How could it be that gas from a supply basin way out in West Texas, where gas is considered a byproduct, trades at a premium? The answer lies in the key infrastructure changes expected in the weeks ahead and a premium in forward basis for the Houston Ship Channel gas market. How long the Texas premiums will last depends on Permian gas production, which is starting to take off again. Today, we aim to explain the latest developments in Permian and Texas natural gas markets.

It’s been two weeks since our last blog on hydrogen, so we’re back again with the latest installment of what has become something of a “Hydrogen 101” course. As with any college course, the time comes to review some material, in preparation for what will be our “final” on the subject, a one-day virtual conference in late June. No, today’s blog won’t be a repeat of what we discussed before, but we thought it would be helpful to look over the various hydrogen production pathways we have discussed so far this year, this time focusing on the drivers, advantages and disadvantages, and how they relate to each other. Finally, we will also review the general carbon intensity of each approach to producing H2, a method that we think will eventually replace the somewhat flawed hydrogen “color” scheme. In today’s blog, we draw upon our recent coverage of hydrogen production technologies and put them in perspective.