Posts from Jason Ferguson

Thursday, 09/02/2021

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.

Thursday, 07/08/2021

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.

Wednesday, 06/09/2021

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.

Sunday, 05/30/2021

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.

Wednesday, 05/26/2021

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.

Wednesday, 05/19/2021

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.

Thursday, 05/13/2021

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.

Wednesday, 05/05/2021

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.

Wednesday, 04/28/2021

Permian natural gas markets have never been more interesting, if you ask us. Sure, there are no negative prices at the Waha hub these days, and the triple-digit prices produced by Winter Storm Uri are starting to fade in the rear view. But there’s plenty of action ahead for Permian gas this year and next. For starters, sometime in the next few weeks the 2.0-Bcf/d Whistler Pipeline is scheduled to begin moving natural gas from the Permian to South Texas, further enhancing takeaway options for the basin’s continually growing supply of gas. That’s good news, considering Permian gas production is at record highs and set to grow to over 14 Bcf/d by the end of 2022. Speaking of records, gas exports from the Waha Hub to Mexico have never been higher and should increase further this summer, as power demand increases and a new pipeline across the border is expected to come online. Topping all that off is the recent news that the Permian will soon see a major gas storage facility start up right in the middle of the Waha hub. The latter is the focus of today’s blog, in which we detail the latest addition to the Permian gas infrastructure puzzle.

Wednesday, 04/21/2021

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 today’s blog, we take a look at the possible intersection of natural gas, particularly RNG, and hydrogen.

Wednesday, 04/07/2021

When it comes to blogs on the developing hydrogen sector, many subjects can seem quite foreign to the traditional hydrocarbons expert. We have found ourselves spending a considerable amount of time over the last few months slowly peeling back the layers on this sector in an effort to be prepared should hydrogen enter a new phase of importance in the energy industry. Today’s blog is likely a much more straightforward one for the typical hydrocarbon-focused reader. That’s because, in our view, Monolith Materials’ unique process for transforming natural gas into “turquoise” hydrogen while sequestering the carbon, is easier to wrap your head around. This is not just because of the company’s clear goals and process, but also because what it does is proving to be economically viable. That’s not always the case when we discuss hydrogen, so covering Monolith’s operations is a welcome break. Today, we detail a truly one-of-a-kind method of low-carbon hydrogen production.

Thursday, 04/01/2021

When it comes to energy markets analysis, there’s nothing quite like spending the better part of an afternoon piecing together a long chain of unit conversions only to find the next day you’ve misplaced the sticky notes on which you wrote them. We’ve all been there, though for most of us it’s become commonplace to memorize the few hydrocarbon conversions needed to get through a lunch or happy hour. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to hydrogen, which brings its own set of unique units of measure, many of them not usually bantered around your typical business development discussion. Crunching through them is tough, in our experience, and we find ourselves writing them down over and over again. Which gave us an idea: why not write a blog on the topic? Fortunately, we are in that business, and today we continue our series on hydrogen with a look a green hydrogen production projects and the math needed to make sense of them.

Wednesday, 03/24/2021

When it comes to energy markets analysis, there’s nothing quite like spending the better part of an afternoon piecing together a long chain of unit conversions only to find the next day you’ve misplaced the sticky notes on which you wrote them. We’ve all been there, though for most of us it’s become commonplace to memorize the few hydrocarbon conversions needed to get through a lunch or happy hour. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to hydrogen, which brings its own set of unique units of measure, many of them not usually bantered around your typical business development discussion. Crunching through them is tough, in our experience, and we find ourselves writing them down over and over again. Which gave us an idea: why not write a blog on the topic? Fortunately, we are in that business, and today we continue our series on hydrogen with a look a green hydrogen production projects and the math needed to make sense of them.

Wednesday, 03/10/2021

In the world of public equities, nothing speaks relevance like a PowerPoint slide in the earnings call and conference decks that companies put together for analysts and investors. If a topic’s not important, then it probably didn’t “make the deck” — or even the appendix, for that matter. As consultants, we at RBN are familiar with this concept and we’ve been watching for some time to see just how long it would take hydrogen, one of our favorite recent subjects, to make its way into the slide-deck line-ups at some of the largest energy companies. Well, that time has arrived, with two energy stalwarts prominently featuring 2021’s darling subject over the last few days. However, with a new topic comes a need to put things in context. No problem, we are here to help on that. Today, we continue our series on H2 with a look at some recent hydrogen-focused slides from ExxonMobil and Enterprise Products Partners.

Wednesday, 02/24/2021

In many ways, the natural gas shortages and price spikes that came with last week’s Deep Freeze had nothing at all to do with hydrogen. There were no “green” hydrogen plants that froze up in the cold, no withdrawals of stored hydrogen into distributed local fuel cells backing the power grid, no shortages of fuel for hydrogen vehicles. None of that occurred because hardly any of that infrastructure exists just yet. But that doesn’t mean there was no link between last week’s natural gas market and existing forms of hydrogen production, namely “gray” hydrogen used to produce ammonia, most of which is used in the manufacture of fertilizers, and which makes up about a quarter of the hydrogen market. In fact, there was a strong connection, one that highlights the flexibility of industrial natural gas use during price spikes and possibly exposes a vulnerability in gray hydrogen production. Today, we continue our series on hydrogen with a look at how the ammonia industry responded to the recent spike in natural gas prices.