To say that Permian crude oil quality varies is an understatement at best. In fact, there’s as much variety in the crude coming out of West Texas as there is in the arsenal of a major league pitching ace. Handling those varied crude qualities is the challenge of midstream operators, who, like batters facing down a Randy Johnson or Pedro Martinez in their prime, need to do the best they can with what they’re given. With the start of spring training only a month away, we begin a series detailing the current mix of Permian crude oil qualities, how pipelines are handling them, and what it means for exports, the end destination for much of today’s incremental Permian oil production. Today, we discuss Permian crude quality variations and the steps new pipelines are taking to deal with it.
Posts from Jason Ferguson
With 2020 already in full swing, some things in the Permian Basin’s oil and natural gas markets have changed dramatically since this time last year, others not so much. When it comes to crude oil, new pipelines that came online during 2019 had a huge impact on differentials: Permian barrels are now pricing very close to other regional hubs, versus massive discounts a year ago. That has enabled Permian producers to fully benefit from the recent run-up in global oil prices. On the gas side of things, the start of the new decade won’t look much different than the end of the last one. There is still way too much supply and not enough takeaway capacity. That means that regardless of what happens at Henry Hub, the U.S. benchmark for natural gas prices, Permian producers should expect dismal values for their natural gas in 2020. Today, we take a look at the year ahead for Permian producers.
It’s safe to say that Permian producers had a good Christmas. Sure, their stock prices may be off a bit and their rig counts are down. But the absolute prices they are paid for their crude oil are up by almost $20/bbl versus this time in December 2018, and the price spreads between the Permian and neighboring markets have significantly narrowed as a result. What’s driving this change? There are a variety of factors at play, but chief among them is the new pipeline infrastructure that has helped lift Permian producers’ oil price realizations. Today, we check in on the status of one of the major new pipelines that have contributed to the seismic shift in the Permian oil market this year.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another in the Permian natural gas market. Just as it appeared that prices in the West Texas basin were finally turning a corner and strengthening with the full start-up of Kinder Morgan’s Gulf Coast Express Pipeline (GCX) late last month, various issues have again conspired to send daily Permian cash prices back down to near zero yet again. And it’s not just the daily spot markets that have come under pressure; forward prices were also severely discounted a few days ago when Kinder Morgan announced that the in-service date of its next long-haul pipeline from the region — the Permian Highway Pipeline project — would be delayed from late 2020 to early 2021. Keeping track of the roller-coaster ride of Permian gas prices and the drivers behind the highs and lows continues to keep heads spinning. Today, we explain the latest wild moves in the Permian natural gas market.
For some time now, natural gas producers in the Permian and the Eagle Ford have been counting on rising pipeline exports to Mexico to help absorb a lot of the incremental production in their plays. Their hopes have been bolstered in the past couple of years by the build-out of a number of new pipelines from the Waha and Agua Dulce gas hubs to the U.S.-Mexico border. Gas pipeline development south of the border hasn’t kept pace, though, mostly due to regulatory and construction delays. Also, a recent dispute over tariffs on a newly completed large-diameter pipeline, extending from the southern tip of Texas to key points along Mexico’s Gulf Coast, had left the pipe sitting empty this summer. That tiff has since been resolved and gas is flowing on the new pipeline, allowing those piped southbound exports to hit a daily record high near 5.9 Bcf/d earlier this month and average above 5.5 Bcf/d this month to date. Plus, progress is being made on other planned Mexican pipes too. This all leads us to ask, is the long-promised surge in U.S. gas exports to Mexico just around the corner? Today, we look at the latest developments regarding Mexico’s natural gas pipeline infrastructure additions.
After months of severe natural gas pipeline constraints, Permian producers and shippers are reveling in the relief of new takeaway capacity. Kinder Morgan’s Gulf Coast Express (GCX) Pipeline, which began flowing initial volumes in mid-August, last week began full commercial service on its 2-Bcf/d greenfield route from the Permian to South Texas. Actual volumes on GCX are hard to come by, but all indications are that flows are ramping to near capacity. That surge in Permian outflows in recent weeks has propelled natural gas prices at the regional benchmark Waha Hub — which traded as low as $5.00/MMBtu below zero earlier this year and fell into negative territory as recently as August 8 — to nearly $2/MMBtu, levels not seen at the hub since last winter. However, with the sting from negative prices only now just fading, many in the market are wondering if this rally is here to stay or just a temporary reprieve. Today, we look at the latest developments in the Permian natural gas market.
Despite last month’s much-publicized start-up of two new crude oil pipelines from the Permian Basin to the Gulf Coast — Plains All American’s Cactus II and EPIC Crude Holding’s EPIC Pipeline — tangible evidence of how much crude is actually moving on those pipelines has been hard to come by. That’s because crude oil pipelines don’t post daily flow data, like some natural gas pipelines do, and shipper volumes are a closely held secret that often only becomes available long after the fact. However, Cactus II and EPIC both deliver into the Corpus Christi, TX, market area, where a number of export facilities have been waiting to move Permian barrels out into the global market. We’ve been keeping a close eye on Corpus-area docks and have noticed a significant increase in export volumes over the last few days — a clear indication that Permian crude on Cactus II and EPIC has broken through to the global market. Today, we detail a recent rise in Corpus Christi oil export volumes driven by new supply from the Permian Basin.
Battered by a flood of new supply and limited pipeline takeaway capacity, prices for Permian natural gas and crude oil have spent a lot of time in the valley over the past 18 months. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices at the Permian’s Midland Hub traded as much as $20/bbl less than similar quality crude in Houston last year. That’s a big oil-price haircut that producers have had to absorb while ramping up production. However, the collapse in the Permian crude oil differential was tame compared to what happened with Permian natural gas prices. Prices at the Waha Hub in West Texas traded as low as negative $5/MMBtu, a gaping $8/MMBtu discount to benchmark Henry Hub in Louisiana. As bad as that all was, new pipeline takeaway capacity has arrived, and Permian prices are beginning to claw their way out of the depths. Today, we look at how new pipelines are impacting the prices received for Permian natural gas and oil.
It’s no secret by now that Permian oil markets have struggled over the last two years as nagging takeaway-pipeline constraints put a damper on production growth and, at times, hammered pricing in the basin. Like the Houston Astros’ opponents in the AL West, though, the days are numbered now for Permian oil market constraints, as two new large-diameter pipelines from West Texas to Corpus Christi will be in-service by the end of the month. One of those pipes, Plains All American’s Cactus II, is set to enter service this week. Today, we assess the potential implications of the latest Permian long-haul pipeline expansion, and introduce RBN’s new weekly publication, Crude Oil Permian!
It’s been nine months since Plains All American’s Sunrise II crude oil pipeline started service out of the Permian to the Wichita Falls, TX, crude hub. In that time, it has transformed the balance of supply versus downstream takeaway capacity at Wichita Falls and become a critical conduit of Permian crude to the Cushing and Gulf Coast markets. What’s more, Plains is planning to build the Red Oak Pipeline from Cushing through Wichita Falls to the Gulf Coast in 2021, which will further solidify Sunrise II as an important outlet for Permian oil for some time. With two other new long-haul Permian crude pipelines — EPIC and Cactus II — days away from starting interim service to the Gulf Coast, an analysis of Sunrise II’s impacts thus far provides some clues as to how future expansions will reshape the region. Today, we discuss how Plains’ Sunrise II project has affected crude oil flows from the Permian to Wichita Falls, and from there to Cushing and the Gulf Coast, as well as what its role will be when Red Oak comes online.
Permian midstream development activity has been happening at a rapid pace over the past few years, and we’ve featured many of those projects in the RBN blogosphere. One of the most aggressive players has been Salt Creek Midstream, which is in the midst of a big Permian buildout focusing on natural gas, crude oil, natural gas liquids and even produced water. Salt Creek isn’t only developing local midstream infrastructure; it’s also at work on long-haul solutions that will enable Permian producers to access markets along the Texas Gulf Coast — a wellhead-to-water strategy, you might call it. Helping Permian producers meet their needs to take away all three hydrocarbons plus produced water with integrated transport and pricing options is the key to Salt Creek’s effort. Today, we dive into the details of the company’s expansive Permian infrastructure development plan.
Permian gas marketers were likely breathing a sigh of relief earlier this month when news came that the developers behind the Whistler Pipeline had made a final investment decision (FID) to proceed with the new 2.0-Bcf/d link between the Permian and South Texas. The project provides a crucial link in the gas takeaway picture for the Permian and makes it less likely that gas pipeline capacity constraints in the future will result in the negative prices that are plaguing the present-day gas markets in West Texas. Combined with the two other Permian greenfield gas pipelines that have taken FID — Kinder Morgan’s Gulf Coast Express (GCX) and Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) — there is now ~6 Bcf/d of incremental Permian supply pointed at the Texas Gulf Coast over the next two years. That’s great news for Permian producers, as well as demand centers along the coast, where tremendous growth in LNG exports is under way. Today, we detail the third natural gas pipeline being built from the Permian to the Texas Gulf Coast.
This much seems clear: natural gas demand along Texas’s Gulf Coast will be rising sharply, as will gas supply from the Permian and other inland plays to the coast. The catch is that, like clumsy dance partners, the increases in demand — mostly from new liquefaction/LNG export terminals and Mexico-bound gas pipelines — and the incremental supply to the coast via new, large-diameter pipes from the Permian are likely to be out of sync. That shifting imbalance, in turn, may well cause volatility in Houston Ship Channel gas prices as they relate to Henry Hub. In fact, we’re already seeing signs of what’s to come. Today, we continue our look at upcoming gas infrastructure expansions and their potential impact on the greater Texas Gulf Coast gas supply-demand balance.
When it comes to Texas natural gas markets, the Permian has been getting much of the attention lately, with its rapid supply growth, limited pipeline takeaway capacity and sometimes negative prices. However, a wave of gas infrastructure development just starting to come online along the Texas Gulf Coast is set to steal some of the Permian’s spotlight over the next few months. Two large liquefaction/LNG export facilities are ramping up on the coast, as are the pipeline reversal projects designed to supply them. Also, three announced Permian-to-Gulf-Coast gas pipelines slated for completion over the next 24 months will move supply cross-state to destinations spanning the area from the Houston Ship Channel to the Agua Dulce Hub near Corpus Christi. That’s a lot of change ahead for these key Texas gas markets. Today, we turn our attention downstream of the Permian to the Houston Ship Channel market, including upcoming gas infrastructure expansions and their potential impact on the greater Texas Gulf Coast gas supply and demand balance.
There’s never a dull moment in the Permian gas market these days, as prices at the major trading hubs remain extremely volatile, fueled by insufficient natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity. After prices tumbled to fresh lows in late April, with the Waha hub trading as much as $9/MMBtu below zero, the market appeared to regain its footing somewhat in early May as production curtailments lifted prices above zero. However, that reprieve was short-lived; prices last week again fell into negative territory heading into Memorial Day weekend. That said, the possibility of new takeaway capacity materializing in the weeks ahead, earlier than expected, has renewed hope among some market participants that the Permian gas price woes will soon be a thing of the past. How likely is that really, and will it be enough to equalize the beleaguered market? Today, we look at potential near-term developments that could support Permian gas prices.