Posts from Jason Ferguson

Sunday, 01/17/2021

If you are looking for a way to focus on 2021 without reflecting on the last 12 months, we might have a deal for you. That’s because Permian natural gas and oil production is starting off this year at levels very close to where they finished 2019. That’s right: as far as the Permian is concerned, you can almost skip entirely over 2020 and pick up right where we left off the prior year. Well, for the most part. Oil prices are lower, rig counts have been reduced, and industry consolidation has removed some of the familiar Permian names from the stock ticker. In general, the atmosphere out in West Texas has calmed down dramatically from the headiest days of Permian growth and it’s safe to say it’s easier to grab lunch in Midland these days. Does that mean things in the basin aren’t still interesting out there? If you ask us, the answer is a resounding “No!” For starters, growth is back in the basin, even if it is at a slower pace than in 2019, and natural gas prices are stronger, with negative-price trades a thing of the past thanks to new pipelines. Even crude prices are better than some might think, with Permian barrels pricing over Cushing for many months now. The Permian in 2021 is certainly a half-empty or half-full type of market. We go for the latter in today’s blog, in which we outline our view of production growth in West Texas this year.

Thursday, 01/07/2021

If you are looking for a way to focus on 2021 without reflecting on the last 12 months, we might have a deal for you. That’s because Permian natural gas and oil production is starting off this year at levels very close to where they finished 2019. That’s right: as far as the Permian is concerned, you can almost skip entirely over 2020 and pick up right where we left off the prior year. Well, for the most part. Oil prices are lower, rig counts have been reduced, and industry consolidation has removed some of the familiar Permian names from the stock ticker. In general, the atmosphere out in West Texas has calmed down dramatically from the headiest days of Permian growth and it’s safe to say it’s easier to grab lunch in Midland these days. Does that mean things in the basin aren’t still interesting out there? If you ask us, the answer is a resounding “No!” For starters, growth is back in the basin, even if it is at a slower pace than in 2019, and natural gas prices are stronger, with negative-price trades a thing of the past thanks to new pipelines. Even crude prices are better than some might think, with Permian barrels pricing over Cushing for many months now. The Permian in 2021 is certainly a half-empty or half-full type of market. We go for the latter in today’s blog, in which we outline our view of production growth in West Texas this year.

Wednesday, 12/09/2020

Closing midstream deals has been a bit of a challenge in 2020, to say the least. In fact, this has been a year when many projects have been sidelined or cancelled outright, with most decisions on even the best prospects getting pushed to next year. But it hasn’t been all bad news. In a few cases, assets with advantages have made it across the finish line, even in the land of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects. Despite this summer’s collapse in U.S. LNG exports, driven by a compression of the spreads in global gas prices, Sempra Energy recently announced that it is going ahead with Phase 1 at its Costa Azul liquefaction project in Mexico’s Baja California. How did they pull this off in such a tumultuous year? Well, Costa Azul isn’t your everyday LNG export project. Today, we detail the most recent U.S. LNG export project to receive a final investment decision (FID) to proceed.

Thursday, 11/12/2020

Everywhere you look these days, someone is talking about hydrogen and, if you’re not well-versed in emerging technologies aimed at reducing carbon, you may not know what any of it means. A quick internet search isn’t much help either, as you will likely get lost quickly in discussions of fuel cell efficiency and electrolysis technology developments, not to mention the various “colors” of hydrogen and the myriad of ways it can be stored and transported. Don’t bother turning to your traditional green energy gurus either, as hydrogen is just one of many competing approaches to reducing the world’s carbon footprint, and electric vehicle folks like Elon Musk aren’t big fans. All the same, hydrogen news and investment plans seem to proliferate daily, and understanding this fuel — which, by the way, is not new to the energy space — seems prudent. At least that’s our view, which is why we today start a series to help us hydrocarbon experts unravel the mysteries behind the recent hydrogen ruckus.

Sunday, 10/18/2020

The Permian is set to send increasing volumes of natural gas to the Texas Gulf Coast next year, but it is unlikely to be the flood that was once expected. This year’s decline in oil prices has slashed budgets for West Texas producers and rig counts show no sign of a big rebound anytime soon. As a result, growth of oil and associated gas from the Permian will be tepid at best over the next few years, which is a major change from when oil prices hovered north of $50/bbl. Despite the moderation in gas volumes out of the basin, infrastructure changes in 2021 are likely to roil Permian gas markets and have important knock-on impacts for adjacent regions and end-users that depend on West Texas supply. With much less incremental gas from the Permian, there are likely to be significant shifts in gas flows, particularly across the Texas-Louisiana border, to help meet the big increases anticipated for LNG exports. Today, we continue a series that highlights findings from RBN’s new, Special Edition Multi-Client Market Study.

Sunday, 10/11/2020

Permian natural gas production is now expected to grow at a subdued pace over the next five years, as lower oil prices and a focus on capital discipline have slashed rig counts. Few observers see the Permian situation changing anytime soon, especially as crude oil prices continue to hover around $40/bbl. That said, the Permian gas market will be anything but dull over the months and years ahead. More than 4 Bcf/d of new outbound pipeline capacity from the Permian to the Gulf Coast will be coming online next year, throwing natural gas flows from West Texas into flux and deeply impacting neighboring markets. While natural gas basis at the Permian’s primary Waha hub should improve dramatically, outflow to the Midcontinent will likely fall sharply and potentially reverse, and the Texas Gulf Coast will see an influx of supply on the new pipelines. Today, we continue a series that highlights findings from RBN’s new, Special Edition Multi-Client Market Study.

Monday, 10/05/2020

Expectations for Permian natural gas are far from what they were when this year started. Lower crude oil prices and a focus on capital discipline have slashed rig counts by about two-thirds since January and there are few signs of a recovery on the horizon. As a result, just about everyone’s forecast for Permian gas growth is much lower than just a few months ago, with tepid gains through the early 2020s now the industry’s consensus view. However, if you think all this means that Permian gas markets have lost their relevance, think again. Despite the modest production growth anticipated, the basin’s gas flow patterns will soon be thrown into shock as 4 Bcf/d of new outflow capacity to Gulf Coast markets starts up next year, when the Permian Highway and Whistler pipelines begin operation. And that shock will reverberate through regional basis relationships, including at the Waha Hub, which we expect to end 2021 much stronger than it is currently. Today, we begin a series that looks at Permian, as well as Gulf Coast, gas markets over the months and years ahead, highlighting findings from RBN’s new, Special Edition Multi-Client Market Study.

Sunday, 08/09/2020

It’s only August, but the folks involved in Permian markets must feel like they’ve already packed in a full year’s worth of action. The events are well known by now, but they’re still remarkable. A crash in refining utilization, followed by massive field shut-ins, all precipitated by a novel virus and exacerbated by some unusual moves by global oil producers. The year’s not over, and the coronavirus hasn’t gone away like a miracle, but a calm has emerged in oil prices that has helped producers get their sea legs. While $40/bbl West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is a far cry from where we started 2020, it’s been just enough to get most of the shut-in crude production back online in West Texas. Today, we provide an update on the status of curtailments in the Permian Basin.

Tuesday, 07/28/2020

The fundamental drivers of global energy markets are shifting as the world begins to recover from the crisis induced by COVID-19. North American natural gas markets have been upended this year by a multitude of events, chief among them the plunge in crude oil prices and a dramatic drop in LNG exports. Other smaller, yet relevant, factors have been gyrating as well, including natural gas exports to Mexico by pipeline. After climbing to new highs last fall, piped gas exports to our southern neighbor suffered significantly during the worst of this spring’s series of calamities, but things are looking up. Total exports across the border have reached new highs this month, with just-completed infrastructure in Mexico assisting in the jump. Perhaps things are getting back to normal, at least in this small corner of the energy markets. Today, we provide an update on exports of natural gas from the U.S. to Mexico.

Wednesday, 07/01/2020

Solar photovoltaic projects accounted for an impressive 40% of all the new electric generating capacity installed in the U.S. in 2019 — the third time since 2015 that solar additions outpaced installations of natural-gas capacity. And the early 2020s are shaping up as another good period for solar, especially in states that offer both intense sun and the broad expanses of land required for large-scale solar projects. Texas is a case in point; some 8,000 megawatts (MW) of new solar capacity is expected to be added there in the 2020-22 period. Solar power, like wind power before it, has come to be so prolific in the Lone Star State that you’d think it would be having a significant impact on how much gas-fired generation is needed day to day, right? Today, we discuss the increasing role of solar generation in the second-largest state and its impact on the demand for traditional power plant fuels.

Sunday, 06/14/2020

Crude oil supply news comes in from all angles these days, bombarding the market daily with fresh information on producers’ efforts to ramp their volumes back up now that the global economic recovery is cautiously under way. Crude demand is rising, storage hasn’t burst at the seams yet, and prices have come a long, long way in just a few weeks. Permian exploration and production companies, having avoided a fleeting, longshot chance that the state of Texas might regulate West Texas oil production, are responding to higher crude oil prices as free-market participants should. The taps are quickly being turned back on, unleashing pent-up crude and associated gas volumes that, you could say, were under a sort of quarantine of their own for a while. Today, we provide an update on the status of curtailments in the Permian Basin.

Tuesday, 06/02/2020

Natural gas prices in the U.S. were under pressure for many years, long before the COVID crisis gripped the world and threw energy markets into flux. Shale gas production, from both crude- and gas-focused basins, has driven U.S. output to incredible levels over the last 10 years. That growth has led to persistently low U.S. gas prices across the Lower 48, with the benchmark Henry Hub being no exception. The upshot of low gas prices has been steadily increasing demand, both in the domestic market and for exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to various markets around the globe. Until recently, those international markets had often been viewed as an insatiable demand sink, but reality has set in over the past year. Prices in Europe, one of the most popular destinations for U.S. LNG, have crashed below Henry Hub, and are threatening the once-steady flow of LNG. Market participants in the U.S. and Europe now find themselves poring over the fundamental details of both markets to determine how long the price weakness will last, or if it will only get worse from here. Today, we look at the increasingly interconnected gas markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

Monday, 05/25/2020

Crude oil markets have been anything but dull lately. After imploding to unimaginable, negative values last month, prices have been on a tear since and are now sitting in the low $30s/bbl range. That’s not great for producers, but kind of like social distancing flattens the curve, the current price level should keep production volumes in check and stave off the worst of the potential financial distress for most Permian producers, for now. So, what has been driving the price rise? Similar to the pauses in economic and social activity that many cities have taken lately, many Permian producers have recently decided to take a wait-and-see approach on crude prices and throttle back output. Today, we provide an update on the always-dynamic Permian Basin crude oil market and how producer curtailments have materialized in May.

Monday, 05/04/2020

Well, it’s happened. The first signs of crude oil and gas production curtailments in the Permian Basin materialized over the weekend. That has followed weeks of extreme oversupply conditions, growing storage constraints and distressed pricing, all to deal with the abrupt and unprecedented loss of refinery demand for crude oil due to COVID, not just along the Gulf Coast, where the lion’s share of the U.S. refineries sit, but also more locally in West Texas. The rapidly shifting supply-demand balance, first from reduced local refining demand and now also the emerging production cuts, is adding volatility to the spreads and flows between the West Texas basin’s regional hub at Midland, and downstream hubs at Cushing and Houston. Today, we look at how the Midland market has responded to the downturn in local refining demand, and how production losses will factor into the balancing act.

Monday, 04/27/2020

The market’s spotlight in recent days has been on negative prices for both Permian crude oil and natural gas, but in the shadows a powerful rally has taken place in the forward market for Permian gas at the Waha hub.  Much of this month’s price weakness for gas in West Texas has been driven by pipeline maintenance. But the Waha forward curve indicates market expectations for higher prices in May, and the possibility of a summer in which Permian gas prices could be some of the strongest on a consistent basis since negative pricing first appeared in the basin back in 2018. Today, we dive into the drivers behind the rise in forward Permian gas prices.