U.S. LNG exports in recent months have gone from providing a consistent and growing source of demand to balance the U.S. natural gas market to now being a drag on demand growth and the gas market balance. Rising storage surpluses and record low prices in Europe and Asia, along with relative strength in the U.S. national benchmark prices at Henry Hub, have turned the economics upside down for U.S. exports and led to widespread cancellations of contracted cargoes. Feedgas deliveries and cargo liftings at Lower-48 terminals both have plummeted to the lowest levels since early 2019, despite domestic liquefaction capacity climbing by more than 4 Bcf/d since then. Moreover, the dynamics that led to the current predicament are likely to persist at least through injection season and potentially even beyond that to a certain extent. Today, we provide an update on how cargo cancellations have affected U.S. gas demand for exports, overall and at individual terminals.
Posts from Sheetal Nasta
The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub prompt contract settled at $1.482/MMBtu yesterday, down 11.5 cents (7%) from the previous day and the lowest settle that the market has ever seen during June trading. That’s also a 33-cent (18%) drop from just two weeks ago when prompt futures were around $1.80/MMBtu. The immediate rationale is the larger-than-expected and larger-than-normal storage build reported by the Energy Information Administration yesterday. But current price levels are also indicative of bigger problems looming for the gas market, namely that while gas production is down, total demand, including exports, has been exceptionally weak too. As a result, by mid-July, the storage inventory appears likely to reach record highs for that time of year — record highs that may well persist through the end of injection season in early November unless there is a substantial correction in the gas supply-demand balance. Moreover, it’s looking less and less likely that relief will come from the demand side. Today, we look at the drivers behind the latest gas market meltdown and implications for the balance of injection season.
Tallgrass Energy and DCP Midstream’s Cheyenne Connector pipeline and the REX Cheyenne Hub Enhancement projects are set to begin operations tomorrow, June 26, after receiving FERC approval yesterday. The natural gas projects will add takeaway capacity out of the Denver-Julesburg and Powder River production basins. For Tallgrass, the incremental capacity has the potential to increase utilization of its Rockies Express Pipeline (REX), which has struggled to fully recontract its mainline capacity after a slew of long-term contracts expired last year. For gas producers, the new capacity and hub upgrades mean an alternative route out of the core DJ with farther-reaching destination options for gas flows, including access to REX and its growing direct-connect load and numerous third-party interconnects in the Midcontinent/Midwest. About 600 MMcf/d in firm contracts will kick in for each project with the start of service, but given that Niobrara gas production is down and there’s likely no new production waiting behind the capacity, gas flows on the two projects may come down to economics. In today’s blog, we provide an update on the projects in the context of today’s uncertain market.
U.S. Northeast natural gas production has tumbled nearly 900 MMcf/d in the past month alone since EQT Corp., Cabot Oil & Gas, and others began curtailments in response to low gas prices, and is averaging nearly 2 Bcf/d below last November’s peak of 32.9 Bcf/d. But regional gas demand has lagged this year, storage inventories have surpassed five-year highs and outbound flows to the Gulf Coast are being challenged by reduced takeaway capacity and drastically lower demand from LNG export facilities. Today, we examine the net impact of these competing fundamental factors on the region’s supply-demand balance and the resulting implications for Appalachian supply prices.
U.S. Northeast natural gas producers may be on the other side of a years-long battle with perpetual pipeline constraints and oversupply conditions. But they’re now facing new challenges to supply growth, at least in the near-term, from low crude oil and gas prices and the decline of a major downstream consumer of Appalachian gas supplies: LNG exports along the Gulf Coast. Most of the U.S. well shut-ins since the recent oil price collapse are concentrated in oil-focused shale plays, and gas volumes associated with those wells will be the hardest hit. However, a number of gas-focused Marcellus/Utica producers also have announced or escalated supply curtailments in recent weeks, as they wait for associated gas declines to buoy prices enough to support drilling. The pullback has had immediate effects on the region’s production volumes and supply-demand balance. Today, we provide an update on the latest Appalachia gas supply trends using daily gas pipeline flow data.
Progress for the second wave of U.S. LNG export projects, which already had begun slowing in the latter half of 2019, has come to a near standstill this year, with several developers delaying final investment decisions (FIDs). The economics for U.S. LNG exports have evaporated in recent weeks, and for the first time in the four years or so since the Lower 48 began exporting LNG, cargo cancellations have become a regular part of the U.S. gas market’s vernacular. International prices are signaling that oversupply conditions will linger for a while, likely well after COVID’s impacts on demand ease. Nevertheless, projects that are already under construction are pushing forward, including the last of the first-wave expansions and two facilities from the second wave of proposed projects. There’s also one more second-wave development that could take FID this year. Today, we provide highlights from RBN’s latest LNG Voyager Quarterly report.
Cancellations of U.S. LNG cargoes are starting to take a toll on Lower-48 natural gas demand. Feedgas flows to U.S. terminals last week fell to as low as 5.76 Bcf/d, down from the daily peaks above 9 Bcf/d seen as recently as April and the lowest since October 2019. While some of the slowdown may be attributable to domestic outages or maintenance on feeder pipes — or short-lived marine channel weather conditions — the bulk of it is a precursor to the first big round of cancellations by offtakers for June delivery. This, as COVID-related demand destruction and the resulting supply glut in the past month have collapsed what already were weak economics for exporting U.S. LNG to Europe and Asia, wiping out offtakers’ margins for delivery into those markets. Nevertheless, many cargoes will continue to move. What drives offtakers’ decision of whether to lift or cancel cargoes? Today, we wrap up a short series looking at the market and logistical dynamics forcing cancellations, as well as some of the mitigating factors that could prop up cargo liftings more than you’d expect in the current environment.
Global natural gas demand disruptions and high storage levels resulting from the COVID crisis have turned international LNG markets upside down. Price spreads for U.S. LNG exports, which were well above $1/MMBtu two months ago, have disappeared and even flipped to negative, with the UK NBP and Dutch TTF price benchmarks — and briefly also Asia’s JKM index — trading below the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub for the first time since the U.S. began exporting LNG in early 2016. Despite the uneconomic price spreads, U.S. cargo liftings have slowed only modestly so far. That’s likely to change in the coming months as both Cheniere Energy and Sempra have confirmed cancellations or modifications to lifting schedules by some offtakers, and other terminal operators are likely facing the same pressure. However, many U.S. cargoes will still move, regardless of prices. What are the economics of cancelling versus lifting a seemingly out-of-the-money cargo? Today, we begin a short series examining the factors affecting U.S. LNG cargo liftings.
The initial start-up of Cheniere Energy’s Midship Pipeline two weeks ago occurred in a radically different market environment than when the project was conceived. As the first greenfield, large-diameter natural gas pipeline project out of the SCOOP/STACK in years, it was meant to provide relief for the once takeaway-constrained producers in the Central Oklahoma production region and connect what was until the past year a rapidly growing supply region to emerging LNG export demand along the Gulf Coast, including at Cheniere’s own Corpus Christi, TX, terminal. Instead, SCOOP/STACK production hit the skids last fall, and rig counts since then have plunged to the lowest levels in well over a decade. On the delivery end of the pipe, U.S. LNG export demand is being challenged by a global gas glut and disappearing margins to international markets. Still, the Midship project’s initial capacity of 1.1 Bcf/d is more than 80% subscribed by firm shippers, and the new pipeline is slated to provide some of the most economic routes out of the SCOOP/STACK. Today, we provide an update on the project’s start-up and the changed market environment it’s facing.
Despite the pandemic-driven economic slowdown wreaking havoc on the global LNG market, U.S. LNG export volumes from operating terminals have proven resilient, so far. Total feedgas deliveries to the liquefaction and export facilities peaked at 9.44 Bcf/d less than a month ago and are averaging about 8.3 Bcf/d in April to date. But for many of the already-struggling second wave of U.S. liquefaction projects still under development, the one-two punch of the crude oil price crash and COVID-related lockdowns has further stymied — or in some cases even reversed — their progress toward securing long-term capacity commitments and reaching final investment decisions anytime soon. Today, we provide an update on the status of the next round of prospective LNG export projects.
The whirlwind of events that has transpired in the past couple of months — namely the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of the OPEC+ coalition — has not only shaken up the energy markets, but quite literally sent it reeling in the opposite direction than where it was headed just a few months ago. The oil price decline has reverberated through the energy complex, and key indicators that drive industry decisions are veering far off from their recent course, and in many cases, also from historical norms. The world is continuing to change at a rapid pace as the industry navigates the uncertainty. Just yesterday, in an emergency meeting, OPEC announced it had reached a 23-nation agreement to cut a combined 9.7 MMb/d of crude oil production starting May 1, 2020. Today, we highlight some of the biggest moves happening in prices and price relationships in recent days and weeks as the realities of crude oil demand constraints, supply glut and low prices set in.
The U.S. natural gas market has been on edge as it awaits more clarity on the extent of the demand destruction that could transpire, both from COVID-related commercial and industrial closures and potential disruptions to U.S. LNG export activity from demand losses downstream, particularly in Europe and Asia. The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub prompt contract last week set at all-time lows for April trading — twice — before gaining ground again this week as forecasts turned decidedly more bullish for April. But the market remains under pressure, as it heads into the storage injection season with an inventory that’s well above the year-ago and five-year average levels. With the economic slowdown likely persisting, in the U.S. and globally, in the coming weeks and months, the question is, could potential demand loss send the inventory barreling toward record-high, or even capacity-testing, levels by this fall? How much demand loss would it take for that to happen? Today, we assess the potential impacts of domestic demand loss and possible LNG cargo cancellations on the U.S. gas market.
While the crude oil market meltdown has taken center stage in recent weeks, and for good reason, the natural gas market is bracing for its own fallout. The CME/NYMEX Henry Hub April futures price, which was already at a multi-year low, buckled last week, falling to as low as $1.602/MMBtu on March 23, and expired Friday at $1.634/MMBtu, the lowest April expiration settle since 1995. On its first day in prompt position, the May futures contract yesterday eked out a late-day, 1.9-cent gain that brought it back up near $1.70/MMBtu as traders continued weighing competing market factors. Gas futures earlier in March were initially buoyed by the assumption that the low oil-price environment would slow associated gas production — and it will, eventually. But that initial bullish sentiment was quickly usurped by the more immediate effects of demand losses resulting from the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19, as well as from mild weather. Today, we look at how these developments are shaping gas supply-demand fundamentals heading into the gas storage injection season.
The natural gas market dynamics that were expected to turn gas flow patterns and price relationships in the Eastern U.S. on their heads and, in turn, transform supply-demand dynamics in Louisiana — including around the U.S. price benchmark Henry Hub — have come to fruition. LNG exports have surged as new liquefaction and export terminals have come online, injecting a new demand source along the Louisiana coastline. Producers have lined up to serve that demand. And midstreamers have worked to get the gas there, reversing and expanding existing northbound pipelines to move gas south into and through the Bayou State. Now, Louisiana’s gas market is nearing a critical juncture: the pipelines that connect the supply gateways in northern Louisiana to the demand centers along the Gulf Coast are nearing saturation. Today, we begin a series providing an update on Louisiana’s gas pipeline constraints and the projects lining up to alleviate them.
After a major decontracting and partial recontracting last fall, Tallgrass Energy’s Rockies Express Pipeline headed into 2020 with 839 MMcf/d in firm, long-haul commitments for natural gas moving east out of the Rockies for delivery into the Midwest. That volume is down from 1.3-1.8 MMcf/d in firm commitments previously. The contracted volume is also much lower than the peak — and even the average — historical gas flows on the route to the Midwest markets in recent years. At the same time, Tallgrass’s Cheyenne Connector pipeline and Cheyenne Hub Enhancement projects are expected to bring as much as 800 MMcf/d of new firm gas supply from the Denver-Julesburg (D-J) Basin to the REX mainline at Cheyenne Hub. What will these changes mean for Rockies’ eastbound flows and prices? Today, we wrap up our series on REX’s recontracting with an assessment of how the recent contract changes could affect REX gas flows.