Global gas and LNG prices are currently at record high levels. If we sound like a broken record, it’s because this epic bull run that started in the spring, has been roaring in recent weeks and showing little sign of slowing down. European prices have hit new post-2008 or all-time highs more than 25 times since late June, and prices in Asia, which had been at seasonal all-time highs for most of the spring and summer, finally last week also topped its previous all-time record from last January. A confluence of bullish factors, including high global demand, low storage inventories, weather events, and supply outages, have all contributed to the surge in gas prices. While many of these are near-term drivers and will eventually flip in the other direction, there is one bullish driver of global gas demand — European carbon prices — that will remain a constant in the years to come. That is by design because the carbon market is meant to serve as an incentive for the industry to seek greener solutions over fossil fuels. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the European Union’s Emission Trading System (EU ETS) and how it interacts with the global gas market.
Posts from Lindsay Schneider
It has been a chaotic 18 months for North American LNG and the global gas market. In a short time, international gas markets went from oppressively oversupplied balances, high storage inventories, and historically low prices for much of 2020, to reckoning with panic-inducing supply shortage, low inventories, multi-year or all-time high prices in the biggest LNG-consuming regions. The resulting whiplash has transformed key aspects of the LNG market, including making a profound impact on the way existing LNG terminals operate, how projects secure funding and capacity commitments, and what offtakers expect for the next generation of LNG capacity buildout. The tight market appears to have settled the question of whether more export capacity is needed, at least for now, but the market’s sharp U-turn has also put potential offtakers on edge and underscored the need for contractual flexibility. Additionally, pressure to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is higher than ever, and LNG offtakers are increasingly demanding greener solutions to address government regulations and public concerns. This convergence of factors has put the LNG market at a crossroads. Taking all of the lessons learned from the past 18 months and before, the industry must now forge a new path forward. Today, we discuss highlights from our new Drill Down report, looking at the major trends that will define the North American LNG market in the coming years.
Global natural gas and LNG prices have spent the summer going from high to higher to the highest on record. The major European indices hit post-2008, and then all-time highs multiple times throughout the summer — even surpassing Asian prices on a handful of days. At the same time, Asian prices have set all-time seasonal records and are now sitting just below the previous single-day high settle from this past January. Usually, as the weather cools heading into fall, so do prices, but that’s unlikely this year as the European gas storage inventory is at the lowest level for this time of year than we’ve seen in recent history, and the time to replenish stocks for the winter is rapidly running out. The incredible bull run for global gas prices has been underpinned by high demand for LNG and the cascading effect of a supply squeeze in Europe, brought on by the triple threat of low domestic production, decreased imports from Russia, and a scarcity of incremental LNG cargoes. Not only is this driving record-high gas prices and increased volatility now, but the low inventory means sustained high prices for the heating season ahead. In today’s blog, we take a look at recent global gas price trends and the precarious European storage situation ahead of what is shaping up to be an incredibly bullish winter.
U.S. LNG is in the midst of a record-breaking year. Total LNG feedgas has averaged nearly 10 Bcf/d so far in 2021 and the country is on track to export somewhere around 1,000 cargoes this year, 40% more than last year. Although pipeline maintenance and flow constraints have knocked feedgas off the all-time highs seen earlier this year, feedgas and exports are likely to hit new record levels to close out the year as Sabine Pass Train 6 and Calcasieu Pass prepare to start service in early 2022. The strength in U.S. LNG export demand this year is underpinned by an incredibly bullish global gas market, which has led prices in both Europe and Asia to hit all-time highs. This has not only benefited the existing fleet of terminals, but the prolonged bullish global gas market has accelerated commercial activity for future LNG projects. Since May, more than 12 MMtpa of capacity from LNG terminals or liquefaction trains under development has been sold, pushing several prospective LNG projects closer to a final investment decision (FID). RBN covers all of the latest in our LNG Voyager Quarterly report, but in today’s blog, we take a look at some of the highlights from the report, focusing on the biggest changes in LNG development this summer.
Global gas prices have had a record-breaking year so far, with JKM in Asia hitting all-time seasonal highs in spring, and TTF in Europe last week reaching the highest level since 2008. Prices have been spurred on by a global LNG market that is undersupplied and hunting for additional cargoes. If you were just looking at U.S. feedgas levels over the past several weeks, though, you would never know that we are in the middle of an incredible bull run. U.S. LNG feedgas deliveries have trailed below full-utilization levels for more than a month due to a combination of spring pipeline maintenance, LNG terminal maintenance, and operational issues. The reduced availability of pipeline and liquefaction capacity led feedgas deliveries in June to average 9.35 Bcf/d, or about 85% of full capacity. However, this was just a small and short-lived setback before what is likely to be a breakthrough summer for U.S. LNG. Feedgas demand is already back above 95% utilization and is poised to head even higher over the next few months both from new liquefaction capacity coming online and potentially from spot market cargo production. In today’s blog, we take a look at the impact of spring maintenance on U.S. LNG production and potential feedgas demand growth in the months ahead.
Appetite for new North American LNG export capacity had been waning already when COVID-19 brought it to a screeching halt. The global gas market was expected to be well-oversupplied through the mid-2020s as U.S. liquefaction capacity additions, combined with supply growth from Australian LNG projects, were far outpacing any increase in demand. However, the past year or so has proven how quickly things can swing from oversupplied to undersupplied. The extended run of high global gas prices is bringing renewed interest in expanding North American LNG export capacity. Although COVID dashed the prospects of many LNG projects, a handful have emerged from the morass of the past year stronger and with a clearer path to FID than ever before. Those that remain will be better positioned if they can navigate four emerging trends that are key for offtaker agreements in the post-COVID era: shorter contract terms, increased pricing or deal-structure diversity, reduced environmental impact, and a prioritization of brownfield expansions or phased greenfield projects. Today, we conclude the series on the status of the second wave of LNG projects.
Global gas prices are in the midst of the longest and strongest bull run since 2018 and fundamentals appear supportive of sustaining the rally through at least the upcoming winter. The higher international prices relative to Henry Hub have buoyed demand for U.S. LNG exports. Existing terminals are operating at or near full capacity, and their combined feedgas demand has been steady, averaging more than 6 Bcf/d higher than this time last year when economic cargo cancellations from COVID-19 were heading towards their summer peak. The improved economics for delivering U.S. LNG to international destinations have also renewed interest in offtake agreements for a handful of the second wave of North American LNG projects that had been sidelined because of the pandemic (many others still are). These projects are taking advantage of the less crowded market, which gives them a realistic path forward to reach a final investment decision (FID). In today’s blog, we continue the series on the status of the second wave of LNG projects.
Over the past year, we have witnessed a sort of slow-motion meltdown among the second wave of North American LNG export projects. Appetite for new LNG expansions was already waning due to oversupply even before the pandemic affected demand, but COVID-19 brought project developments to a standstill. Offtake agreements have expired, final investment decisions (FIDs) delayed, and projects have lost funding or been officially put on hold or even cancelled. Just one project, Sempra’s ECA LNG in Mexico, was able to reach an FID last year, and with the pandemic still raging, for a while it looked as if that would be the last project in North America to take FID in the foreseeable future. It’s abundantly clear that many more of the remaining proposed projects will be postponed indefinitely, and probably never be built at all. However, the news isn’t all bad. With the worst of COVID-19’s impacts on international gas demand appearing to be over and the ongoing extended run of high global gas prices, all eyes are back on the second-wave projects that are in various stages of pre-FID development. The pandemic may have forced a culling of the proposed projects, but those near the top now have a clearer path ahead. In fact, several projects could realistically achieve FID in the next few years. Today, we begin a short series providing an update on the second-wave projects.
U.S. LNG export terminals are running at their operationally available and contracted levels and will continue to do so, with no economically driven cargo cancellations anywhere on the horizon. Global gas prices are well supported by low storage levels in Europe, and it will take time to refill inventories, which means these high prices are not going away anytime soon. The upshot: U.S. LNG will have a very different kind of summer than it did last year, when global prices were at historic lows and many U.S. terminals saw more cargo cancellations than exports. Feedgas in April this year averaged 10.77 Bcf/d, nearly 3 Bcf/d higher than last year, and as we progress into summer, the year-on-year delta will become even more pronounced. Barring any major operational issues, feedgas demand will stay around 11 Bcf/d, which is the level needed for the terminals to produce at full capacity. That’s in stark contrast to last summer, when feedgas demand cratered and averaged as low as 3.34 Bcf/d in July as cargo cancellations peaked. Today, we look at what’s supporting global gas prices, how that impacts export economics for U.S. LNG, and what that means for feedgas demand in the months ahead.
After a roller coaster over the past year, U.S. LNG feedgas demand has been holding steady at record levels of around 11 Bcf/d for nearly a month now, with the exception of a few days due to pipeline maintenance. With Train 3 at Cheniere Energy’s Corpus Christi Liquefaction facility online and price spreads to global markets favorable for U.S. exports, that’s where it’s likely to stay, except for maintenance periods — at least until new liquefaction trains start commissioning later this year. Two Louisiana projects, Venture Global’s new Calcasieu Pass facility and the sixth train at Cheniere’s existing Sabine Pass terminal, have both indicated that they will begin exporting commissioning cargoes by year’s end — ahead of their originally proposed construction schedules — a prospect that could boost Gulf Coast feedgas demand to even greater heights by the fourth quarter of 2021. In today’s blog, we wrap up this short series with a detailed look at the two projects and implications for LNG feedgas demand this year.
If there’s one word that sums up the U.S. LNG export market over the past year, it’s resilience. After taking a pummeling last year, feedgas demand and exports have roared back, reaching new heights in recent weeks, and are headed still higher in the coming months as new liquefaction capacity is commissioned at a faster pace than expected. Train 3 at Cheniere Energy’s Corpus Christi LNG facility came online on March 26, increasing U.S. LNG export capacity to 75 MMtpa (~9.9 Bcf/d), which equates to a total feedgas demand of nearly 11 Bcf/d. Two more export projects — 18 modular trains at Venture Global’s new Calcasieu Pass facility and the sixth train at Cheniere’s existing Sabine Pass — are on track to ship their first commissioning cargoes later this year, ahead of their originally proposed construction schedules, and will be fully operational in 2022. This is quite a different picture from last year, when nothing but uncertainty loomed on the horizon in a COVID-hit world and progress for just about every project was in jeopardy. Today, we start a short series providing an update on the status of operational and under-construction export capacity and where LNG feedgas demand is headed this year.
It’s been an incredibly wild year for U.S. LNG exports. In the past year, global gas prices have seen both historic lows and highs, as markets swung from extreme demand destruction from COVID-19 for much of last year, to supply shortages by late 2020 and into early 2021 due to maintenance outages, weather events, Panama Canal delays, and vessel shortages. The U.S. natural gas market has also dealt with its share of anomalies, from a historic hurricane season in 2020 to the extreme cold weather event last month that briefly triggered a severe gas shortage in the U.S. Midcontinent and Texas and left millions of people without power for more than a week. Given these events, U.S. LNG feedgas demand and export trends have run the gamut, from experiencing massive cargo cancellations and low utilization rates to recording new highs. Throughout this incredibly tumultuous year, U.S. LNG operators have had to adjust, managing the good times and bad and proving operational flexibility in ways that will serve them for years to come. Here at RBN we track and report on all things LNG in our LNG Voyager report, and we’ve been hard at work enhancing and expanding our coverage to capture the rapidly evolving global and domestic factors affecting the U.S. LNG export market, including terminal operations, marginal costs and export economics, and international supply-demand fundamentals. Today, we highlight how U.S. LNG has changed in the past year and trends to watch this spring. Warning! Today’s blog is a blatant advertorial for our revamped LNG Voyager Report.
The natural-gas market disruptions hitting the Texas-Louisiana coast so far in 2020 — a pandemic, the collapse of the LNG export market, a rare hiccup in Permian gas production, and multiple hurricanes —threw a big wrench into market expectations. Everything had been moving along pretty smoothly since mid-2016, when the first of a series of new liquefaction trains came online at Sabine Pass LNG. As new LNG export capacity started up at Sabine Pass, Corpus Christi, Cameron, and Freeport, so did relatively steady, predictable growth in feedgas demand. Then came this crazy, unforgettable year. Still more liquefaction capacity started up, but LNG export volumes plummeted, mostly due to very weak export economics. Recently, LNG exports have been picking up and, whenever hurricanes stop pounding the Gulf Coast, the U.S. will likely finally experience the full impact of all 9.15 Bcf/d of export capacity operating at full strength, requiring nearly 10 Bcf/d of feedgas across the U.S, almost 9 Bcf/d of which is located in Texas and Louisiana. Gas flow patterns across Louisiana’s dense network of pipelines already are shifting in response to the incremental demand and are signaling increased supply competition along the Gulf Coast this winter. Today, we continue our series discussing the changing flow patterns along the U.S. Gulf Coast, this time providing an overview of the main drivers of those shifts to date, including LNG feedgas demand and Northeast inflows.
With the rise of U.S. LNG exports in recent years, southern Louisiana has become a focal point for natural gas demand, pulling in gas supply from near and far and all directions. That market was severely disrupted this summer as COVID-19 decimated global LNG demand and hammered the economics of U.S. LNG exports. Pipeline flows into southern Louisiana during those months went from record-breaking highs that pushed the limits of the area’s infrastructure capacity to levels consistent with 2018, when the Bayou State’s LNG export capacity was just 2.65 Bcf/d, compared with 4.9 Bcf/d now. More recently, an active hurricane season has also curtailed exports. But demand for U.S. LNG is rebounding, and as LNG feedgas heads back to its previous highs and beyond, a new flow dynamic is emerging along the Gulf Coast, driven by the 1.35 Bcf/d of new export capacity in Texas that came online this year. Flows between Louisiana and Texas are reversing as an increasing amount of gas is needed on the western side of the Sabine River to feed the Corpus Christi and Freeport LNG facilities. The incremental gas demand and flow reversal will create new challenges and constraints for the region’s pipeline infrastructure as steady exports resume. Flows into Louisiana will be higher than ever, but so will flows out of Louisiana heading west to serve additional LNG demand. Today, we begin a series discussing how LNG demand is changing gas flows along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Not long ago, the economics for U.S. LNG exports were practically a no-brainer. Despite the longer voyage times and the resulting higher shipping costs from Gulf Coast and East Coast ports to Europe and Asia — by far the biggest LNG consuming regions — LNG priced at the U.S.’s Henry Hub gas benchmark presented a competitive alternative to other global LNG supply, much of which is indexed to oil prices, which were higher then. But earlier this year, as oil prices collapsed, COVID-19 lockdowns decimated worldwide gas demand, and international gas prices plummeted, the decision to lift U.S. cargoes has become much more nuanced, and the commercial agreements to support the development of new liquefaction capacity are much harder — if not impossible — to come by. Today, we discuss highlights from RBN’s latest Drill Down Report on the impact of recent market events on U.S. export demand, capacity utilization, and new project development.
In observance of today’s holiday, we’ve given our writers a break and are revisiting a recently published blog on the U.S.’s shifting role in the global LNG market. If you didn’t read it then, this is your opportunity to see what you missed! Happy Labor Day!