Posts from Sheela Tobben

The March appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden to fund the federal government mandated the emptying of the federal gasoline reserve in fiscal year 2024, which concludes September 30, followed by its eventual closure. That means about 1 MMbbl — 42 MM gallons — of gasoline will find its way to the market in the next few months, or in as little as a few weeks. The Department of Energy (DOE) is planning to distribute those barrels by the end of June to help keep a lid on gasoline prices ahead of the July 4 holiday and into the heart of the summer driving season. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the decision to close the reserve and the potential impact of those barrels hitting the market. 

If you asked someone where U.S. crude oil shipments would go when the Obama administration ended the ban on most crude exports in December 2015, it’s not likely that Nigeria would have come to mind. Yet this year marked the second time since the restrictions ended that U.S. oil has been sent to the OPEC member, this time to feed its long-awaited Dangote refinery. In today’s RBN blog, we will examine this development and the prospects for more U.S. exports to the West African nation. 

The Houston crude oil hub has become busier over the last few months, and if one or more proposals to build a deepwater export terminal nearby capable of fully loading a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) cross the finish line, it could become the hub supplying them. That could push Permian Basin oil flows on Houston-bound pipelines higher at the expense of flows to Nederland and Corpus Christi. In today’s RBN blog, the third in a series, we will examine the latest Permian oil flows to Houston and how that could change if and when a deepwater project comes online. 

The Corpus Christi crude oil market is pulling as much volume as it can from the Permian Basin via pipelines that are running nearly at capacity. That explains why two midstream companies are responding with plans to boost the capacities of their respective pipelines from the Permian to refineries and export terminals in the Corpus area. But the situation is complicated by the very real possibility that one or more deepwater export facilities capable of fully loading a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) may be built off the Texas coast. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine current and proposed pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian and the potential for proposed offshore export facilities to impact pipeline flows from West Texas to the coast. 

Mexico’s efforts to start up the newest addition to its refining system — the Olmeca refinery — are causing headaches for global buyers of its crudes. Few are convinced that the plant near the country’s key Dos Bocas oil port is ready for service. Yet its operator, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), surprised many with cuts to its crude exports in April, which were reportedly made to ensure the complex will have enough feedstock and could continue through 2024. In today’s RBN blog, we will discuss what led to the export cuts, the implications for importers, and potential replacement options. 

Enbridge’s recent $200 million deal to buy two marine docks and land in Ingleside, TX, from Flint Hills Resources (FHR) may not be much of a surprise, as expanding its role in U.S. crude exports has been part of Enbridge’s strategy since it bought Moda Midstream’s big marine terminal next door nearly three years ago. The former Moda terminal, now known as the Enbridge Ingleside Energy Center (EIEC), can receive and partially load Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) — a key reason why the facility is #1 in crude exports in the nation. In today’s RBN blog, we will take a closer look at Enbridge’s deal with FHR and how it might help grow its crude export volumes. 

Crude oil output in the Permian Basin is now averaging 6.3 MMb/d, up about 400 Mb/d from year-ago levels and 800 Mb/d from April 2022. The gains — and related increases in associated gas — have spurred a new round of concerns about pipeline exit capacity, complicating drillers’ hopes to boost crude production. In today’s RBN blog, we will discuss the takeaway capacity issue and what it means for producers and pipeline operators, including those planning offshore crude export terminals. 

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently raised a few eyebrows across the energy industry with a report that producers in three key shale states — including Texas, the nation’s #1 oil producer — seem to be extracting larger amounts of “heavier” crude oil. Of course, the oil is only heavier relative to the light and superlight grades that have been produced in copious amounts since the dawn of the Shale Revolution. But these denser, lower-API volumes have recently helped drive growth in total crude output. In today’s RBN blog, we unpack what the EIA discussed in its writeup, explore some of the possible drivers behind the apparently heavier oil production, and discuss what it might mean for the domestic market. 

As U.S. crude oil expands its foothold across the world, the markets that trade it have undergone some fundamental changes. Since the onset of the pandemic almost four years ago, these changes have included the shortening of the loading-date range for crude oil cargoes marketed along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Price reporting agencies (PRAs) like Argus have responded, launching crude oil assessments that reflect a narrower loading window. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the changes and the new assessments Argus has rolled out to help crude oil traders manage their market exposure. 

Two maritime passages long regarded as essential shortcuts in the complex world of commodity shipping have become a lot more challenging to navigate. Transiting the Red Sea has turned potentially deadly because of geopolitical tensions, while severe drought has critically reduced operations at the Panama Canal. Combined, these issues are being felt across the energy industry, impacting U.S. and foreign producers and shippers, redrawing trade flows, extending voyage times and, ultimately, raising transportation costs. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine and quantify the extra time and costs that shippers of U.S. crude and refined products must bear when using alternative routes. 

The Raceland crude oil hub is far from Louisiana’s largest but might be positioned to earn a little more of the spotlight after Sentinel Midstream and ExxonMobil Pipeline formed a joint venture in December to enhance business for a few crude oil pipelines connecting Louisiana hubs, including Raceland. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the infrastructure and connectivity that makes up the Raceland hub southwest of New Orleans, see how it stacks up against some of its larger cousins in the state — namely, Clovelly and St. James — and discuss why activity at the hub could be poised to pick up steam. 

A handful of U.S. midstreamers are striving to build an offshore export buoy in the Gulf of Mexico that would be able to fully load a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC). If successful, they could facilitate a new wave of crude oil export flows and dynamics. With domestic production back to record highs and global supply and demand dynamics in a constant state of flux, the market developments along the Gulf Coast are something the oil industry is eying intently. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the latest on two export projects — Phillips 66 and Trafigura's Bluewater Texas Terminal and Sentinel Midstream’s Texas GulfLink.

Fresh on the heels of expanding its Beaumont, TX, refinery into the largest in the country, ExxonMobil announced in January that it had finished yet another project at its century-old Baton Rouge complex in Louisiana. The Baton Rouge Refinery Integrated Competitiveness (BRRIC) project took roughly three years to complete and did not add crude refining capacity, unlike the Beaumont project. Instead, the goal of the $240 million investment was to modernize the crude oil processing plant — the state’s largest — increasing access to competitive crudes and growing markets for its fuels as well as curbing the refinery’s environmental impact. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the BRRIC project and what it means for the Baton Rouge refinery. 

As we step into the new year with record-high U.S. crude oil production and export volumes as strong as ever, there’s a race underway among four offshore export projects that aim to tap into those rising supplies and — with their ability to fully load Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) without any reverse lightering — push export volumes to new heights. While Enterprise Products Partners’ Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) might be leading the development race so far, Energy Transfer’s (ET) Blue Marlin Offshore Port has momentum also. In today’s RBN blog, we update Blue Marlin’s progress, look at the critical role anchor shippers play in project development, and show how growing offshore exports could impact existing onshore terminals. 

The impending startup of Canada’s government-owned Trans Mountain Expansion Project, better known as TMX, will add exit capacity for Western Canadian crude oil production and is expected to redirect at least some of Alberta’s output toward California and Asia and away from its traditional North American markets, including complex refiners in Eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast. Among them, Gulf Coast refiners, who have become the “price-setting” consumers of heavy Western Canadian crude, are expected to be the hardest hit. In today’s RBN blog, we examine the Gulf of Mexico production and imported grades that might become stand-ins for the “lost” Canadian barrels.