The battle to restore energy reliability in Europe has breathed new life into North American LNG export projects — and into the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana, the closest supply basin to many of the planned and proposed liquefaction facilities. Gas production in the region has climbed more than 4 Bcf/d — an impressive 39% — since 2019 and we expect it to grow nearly as much over the next three years. The big question on everyone’s mind, however, is whether there will be enough pipeline capacity to move that gas to where it’s needed on the coast. Pipeline capacity for southbound flows through the Bayou State is already showing signs of stress. Will recently completed and upcoming debottlenecking projects help stave off major supply and pricing disruptions? In today’s RBN blog, we provide our outlook on Haynesville production and the nature and timing of Gulf-bound pipeline projects.
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Lower 48 natural gas production this month hit a once-unthinkable milestone, topping the all-important psychological threshold of 100 Bcf/d for the first time. Volumes have remained at record highs through mid-September, with year-on-year gains expanding to a breathtaking 7-9 Bcf/d above last year at this time (when hurricane-related shut-ins were in effect). The record production levels coincided with a seasonal decline in weather-related demand, as well as the ongoing outage at the Freeport LNG export terminal. Remarkably, however, even with all-time high, ~100 Bcf/d natural gas production and Freeport LNG offline, the Lower 48 gas market balance averaged tighter year-on-year — a testament to just how strong consumption has been lately, and for much of this summer for that matter. In today’s blog, we look at how the supply-demand balance has shaped up this month and where it’s headed near-term.
The U.S. natural gas market is one of the most transparent, liquid and efficient commodity markets in the world. Physical trading is anchored by hundreds of thousands of miles of gathering, transmission and distribution pipelines, and well over 100 distinct trading locations across North America. The dynamic physical market is matched by the equally vigorous CME/NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures market. Then, there are the forward basis markets — futures contracts for regional physical gas hubs. These pricing mechanisms play related but distinct roles in the U.S. gas market, based on when and how they are traded, their respective settlement or delivery periods, and how they are used by market participants. In today’s RBN blog, we continue a series on natural gas pricing mechanisms, this time with a focus on the futures and forwards markets.
The 2022 hurricane season is off to a quiet start, but the tropics seem to have awakened in recent days and are likely to ramp up in September — the peak month for tropical storm activity. Forecasters are still predicting an above-average season, calling for as many as 10 hurricanes and up to five major ones. That would mean greater volatility for energy markets in any year, but the stakes are arguably higher this year than any time in recent memory — especially for natural gas. That’s because prices are already at the highest level in over a decade and flirting with the $10/MMBtu mark. The gas market is tight domestically and globally, particularly in Europe. Lower 48 storage remains near the five-year low. European gas storage, after lagging far behind, has caught up to the five-year average this month, but the continent is still dependent on a consistent stream of U.S. LNG cargoes, particularly as it works to wean itself off Russian gas supplies. What happens when you add to that the prospect of hurricane-related disruptions to Lower 48 production or LNG exports, or both? Much of that will come down to the timing, path and strength of any impending storms. That’s a lot of unknowns, and where there is that much uncertainty, volatility is sure to follow. With the National Hurricane Center (NHC) predicting high chances of potential cyclone development as early as later this week, today’s RBN blog considers the possible implications for the U.S. gas market balance.
Just downstream from the Appalachian supply basin — where daily spot natural gas prices are among the lowest in the country — cash and forward prices in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast have rocketed, becoming the highest gas prices in the land, and in some cases are at never-before-seen levels for this time of year. No doubt it’s been a sweltering summer so far, and low storage levels aren’t helping either. But there’s more to the price premiums than that. Limited access to supply and constraints on Williams’ Transco Pipeline — the primary system delivering gas to the region — have created a demand “island” there just as persistent heatwaves boosted cooling demand. Moreover, without additional pipeline capacity, the dynamics unfolding this summer could become a regular feature of the Southeast/Mid-Atlantic markets. In today’s RBN blog, we break down the factors driving regional prices to new heights.
Before the bullish winter of 2021-22, it appeared the Northeast natural gas market was headed for familiar territory: worsening seasonal takeaway constraints and deeper, constraint-driven price discounts starting as early as this spring. Instead, the market went in the other direction the past few months. Takeaway utilization out of Appalachia has been lower year-on-year and, for the most part, Appalachian supply basin prices have followed Henry Hub higher even as that benchmark rocketed to 14-year highs. That’s not to say that constraints out of the Northeast aren’t on the horizon. But the market is now poised to escape the worst of it this year, despite the completion of the last major takeaway pipeline project in the region, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), being pushed out another year or longer, if it crosses the finish line at all. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on regional fundamentals and what recent trends mean for gas production growth and pricing in the region.
Natural gas futures prices have rocketed to 14-year highs in the past couple of months — during the lower-demand spring months, no less — and they are now trading at 3x where they were at this time last year. The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub futures for June delivery shot up to a high of $9.40/MMBtu in intraday trading last Thursday, the highest level we’ve seen since summer 2008, before expiring at $8.908/MMBtu, nearly $6 (~200%) higher than the June 2021 expiration settlement at just under $3/MMBtu. The newly prompt July futures retreated ~17 cents Friday to about $8.73/MMBtu, but that’s still nearly triple where July futures traded last year. It’s safe to say the low fuel cost of gas-fired power generation that defined the Shale Era has evaporated. Historically, at today’s sky-high prices, gas would have given up market share to coal in the power sector. However, the coal market is battling its own supply shortage and Eastern U.S. coal prices are at record highs. What does that mean for generation fuel costs and fuel switching? In today’s RBN blog, we break down the math for comparing gas vs. coal fuel costs.
The race is heating up for building natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian. Associated gas production from the crude-focused basin is at record highs this month and gaining momentum, which means that without additional pipeline capacity, the Permian is headed for serious pipeline constraints — and potentially negative pricing — by late this year or early next, which would, in turn, limit crude oil production growth there. Midstreamers are jockeying for the pole position to move surplus gas from the increasingly constrained basin to LNG export markets along the Gulf Coast. One of the contenders, Matterhorn Express Pipeline (MXP), a joint venture (JV) between WhiteWater, EnLink Midstream Partners, Devon Energy and MPLX, announced its final investment decision (FID) late yesterday. In today’s RBN blog, we provide new details on the greenfield project.
Production bottlenecks and global energy security concerns stemming from the Ukraine war have flipped the script on various aspects of the U.S. energy markets. One of them is the softening of Wall Street and regulatory resistance to investment in new hydrocarbon infrastructure. That’s been particularly good news for the swarm of LNG export projects looking to move forward. It’s also improved somewhat the prospects for the embattled Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the last major greenfield project for moving natural gas out of the Northeast from the Appalachian Basin. A court vacated three of the project’s key federal authorizations earlier this year, but the project recently got a greenlight when the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) approved MVP’s amendment certificate application. Equitrans Midstream said last week that it would pursue new permits and target in-service in the second half of 2023. But the prospect of more legal challenges looms, and the question is, will it get across the finish line before severe constraints arise? In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on the Appalachian gas market.
A tight coal market and record-high coal prices in the Eastern U.S. have suppressed gas-to-coal switching in recent months, despite the gas market also contending with a supply squeeze and gas prices trading at Shale Era highs. The coal-market constraints have contributed to record, or near-record, gas demand in the power sector, with gas gaining market share of total generation fuel demand — in spite of wind and solar increasing their share of the pie. Generation fuel dynamics were a driving factor in the tighter gas market balances this past winter and also play a role in how power grids balance cost and reliability during times of extreme customer demand, such as the record-breaking heat wave expected to hit Texas in the coming days. In today’s RBN blog, we take a look at power generation fuel economics, particularly the fuel-switching phenomenon and its underlying drivers.
Extreme blizzard conditions wreaked havoc on North Dakota energy infrastructure last weekend, taking offline as much as 60% of the state’s crude oil production and more than 80% of natural gas output, and leaving utility poles and power lines strewn across the landscape. On the gas side, the unprecedented supply loss is having a never-before-seen impact on regional and upstream flows and storage activity. It is also compounding maintenance-related production declines in other basins, leaving Lower 48 natural gas output at its lowest since early February. Moreover, the extent of the storm-related damage to local infrastructure could prolong the supply recovery. In today’s RBN blog, we break down the aftereffects of the offseason winter storm on regional gas market fundamentals.
Despite the highest natural gas futures prices in over a decade, its use for power generation in the Lower 48 has set records in recent months. This is in part by design: economics and environmental regulation have broadly favored gas-fired plants and pushed into retirement hundreds of coal-fired plants in the last decade or so, reducing price-driven fuel-switching capabilities between the two fuels. However, there’s more to it than that: a tight coal market, marked by low stockpiles, high export demand and record high prices, is limiting gas-to-coal switching even further, making gas burn for power much more inelastic to price. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at this key intersection of the gas and coal markets.
Prompt CME/NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures prices averaged $4.54/MMBtu this winter, up 67% from $2.73/MMBtu in the winter of 2020-21 and the highest since the winter of 2009-10. Prices have barreled even higher in recent days, despite the onset of the lower-demand shoulder season, with the May contract hitting $6.643/MMBtu on Monday, the highest since November 2008 and up more than $1 from where the April futures contract expired a couple of weeks ago. Europe’s push to reduce reliance on Russian natural gas has turned the spotlight on U.S. LNG exports and their role in driving up domestic natural gas prices. However, a closer look at the Lower 48 supply-demand balance this winter vs. last suggests that near-record domestic demand, along with tepid production growth, also played a significant role in drawing down the storage inventory and tightening the balance. Today’s RBN blog breaks down the gas supply-demand factors that shaped the withdrawal season and contributed to the current price environment.
The Biden administration said last Friday it would help ensure deliveries of an additional 15 billion cubic meters (Bcm) of LNG to the European Union (EU) market in 2022. A frenzy of media articles followed and the targeted increase was widely cited. The April CME/NYMEX Henry Hub futures contract rallied nearly 3% to $5.55/MMBtu on Friday, and the stock price for Cheniere Energy, the largest LNG producer in the U.S., jumped 5.5% the same day. But U.S. liquefaction facilities have already been running full tilt and sending record volumes to Europe. So, what does the news really mean for U.S. LNG exports and the domestic gas market? In today’s RBN blog, we put that 15 Bcm in perspective and distill the key takeaways for U.S. LNG production.
The U.S. natural gas market is one of the most transparent, liquid and efficient commodity markets in the world. Physical trading is anchored by hundreds of thousands of miles of gathering, transmission and distribution pipelines, and well over 100 distinct trading locations across North America. The dynamic physical market is matched by the equally vigorous CME/NYMEX Henry Hub natural gas futures market. Then, there are the forward basis markets — futures contracts for regional physical gas hubs. These primary pricing mechanisms play related but distinct roles in the U.S. gas market, based on when and how they are traded, their respective settlement or delivery periods, and how they are used by market participants. In today’s RBN blog, we take a closer look at the primary pricing mechanisms driving the U.S. gas market.