The Northeast natural gas market was supposed to have turned a new leaf. After years of pipeline takeaway constraints and constraint-driven prices, the region as of late 2018 had ample, even excess, takeaway capacity on its hands. Regional prices strengthened on both an absolute basis and relative to downstream markets, and Marcellus/Utica producers had room to grow. But bearish fundamentals have rattled the Northeast — and U.S. — market in recent months. In-region demand has lagged, even as production has set new highs. Since August, capacity reductions on Texas Eastern Transmission, a key Northeast takeaway route, have limited outflows. And, to top it off, Dominion’s Cove Point LNG went offline last month for an annual three-week-long maintenance, taking another 700 MMcf/d of demand out of the market for a time — it has since come back online, as of this past Monday. But regional prices in late September and early October were pummeled in the process, raising the question: are the Northeast’s takeaway constraints back? Today, we analyze the impacts of shoulder-season dynamics on regional storage and takeaway capacity utilization.
Posts from Sheetal Nasta
Despite pipeline takeaway constraints being relieved this year, Northeast natural gas prices have averaged lower than last year through much of the injection season. They’ve been especially weak in recent weeks, with spot prices at Appalachia’s Dominion South hub averaging $1.27/MMBtu in October to date, which is about half of where they stood this time in 2018 and the lowest in two years. And earlier this month, on October 4, regional prices went into apocalyptic territory, plunging 30-50% to less than $1/MMBtu — reminiscent of the deep discounts of recent years when Marcellus/Utica producers were operating under severe pipeline constraints. Prices rebounded the very next trading day, but they remain depressed relative to last year. Today, we look at the fundamentals behind the recent price weakness. Starting today, you can also tune into an audio version of the current day’s blog. Click here to find out how to subscribe or start listening by clicking on the play button above.
The CME/NYMEX prompt Henry Hub natural gas price yesterday settled at about $2.28/MMBtu, down 40 cents from the summer peak of $2.68 in mid-September. That’s also a long way down from the $3-plus prices seen at this time last year. What’s more, daily prompt-month contract settlements this injection season, from April to present, have averaged the lowest in over 20 years. This, despite the Lower-48 gas storage inventory starting the 2019 storage injection season in April well below year-ago and five-year-average levels. How did we get here? Today, we begin a short series breaking down the supply-demand fundamentals that brought the gas market to its knees in recent months.
There’s a tough race underway among U.S. LNG developers jockeying for position in the global LNG market. U.S. supply growth has spurred the development of more than two dozen LNG export projects, the bulk of them along the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast. But regulatory bottlenecks and deepening oversupply conditions in international markets are creating strong headwinds and slowing the momentum for some of these massive projects, making it harder and harder for them to reach the regulatory and commercial milestones they need to pass before they can progress to the construction phase. That said, several projects have eked out big wins in recent weeks, including Tellurian’s $7.5 billion memorandum of understanding with India’s Petronet LNG Ltd for its Driftwood LNG project, signed just this past weekend, and LNG Ltd.’s 2-MMtpa sales and purchase agreement for its Magnolia LNG, inked early last week. Today, we provide highlights of recent regulatory and commercial developments that are pacing the proposed export capacity additions.
2019 was supposed to be a milestone year for U.S. LNG exports. And to a degree, it has been. Natural gas pipeline deliveries to liquefaction and export terminals have peaked above 6.5 Bcf/d in the past couple of weeks and averaged about 6 Bcf/d for that period, up nearly 2 Bcf/d from where they started this year and more than twice where they stood at this time a year ago. But the growth has come haltingly as under-construction projects have faced a number of setbacks and delays. Moreover, the longer-term, “second-wave” export projects still in the early stages of development and looking to pass “go” are facing challenges of their own, including global oversupply and collapsed margins. Today, we begin a short series providing an update on where U.S. LNG export demand and new projects stand.
TC Energy’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf natural gas transmission systems’ recent expansions out of the Northeast — the Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress projects, both completed in March — are responsible for a large portion of the uptick in Marcellus/Utica production in the last few months and they’ve added an incremental 860 MMcf/d of capacity for Appalachian gas supplies moving south to the Gulf Coast. The two projects join a number of other expansions in recent years that have inextricably tied Marcellus/Utica supply markets to attractive demand markets along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Where is that latest surge of southbound supply ending up? Today, we look at the downstream impacts of the completed projects, namely on Louisiana gas flows and LNG feedgas deliveries.
U.S. Northeast natural gas producers in recent months got a substantial boost in pipeline capacity to receive and move incremental gas production volumes to attractive Gulf Coast markets. TC Energy’s Columbia Gas and Columbia Gulf transmission systems in March completed the Mountaineer Xpress and Gulf Xpress pipeline expansions, respectively, increasing the combined system’s Marcellus/Utica receipt capacity by 2.7 Bcf/d in the producing region, while also bumping up the Marcellus/Utica’s takeaway capacity to the Gulf Coast by nearly 900 MMcf/d. The duo of expansions is among the biggest takeaway capacity additions to be completed out of the Northeast, volume-wise, and among the handful that inextricably connect Marcellus/Utica supply markets to well-sought-after LNG exports markets along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. One of the export terminals these projects are designed to serve is Sempra’s Cameron LNG, where Train 1 began commercial operations in recent weeks. Today, we provide an update on the upstream and downstream implications of the recently installed Northeast-to-Gulf Coast pipeline capacity.
The battle between Bakken and Western Canadian natural gas supplies for the Chicago market seems to be advancing toward a final showdown of sorts. Associated gas production from the crude-focused Bakken has been rising sharply, but capacity on the Bakken’s two gas takeaway pipelines — Northern Border and Alliance, also utilized by Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) supplies — has been maxed out for a few years now. The result is that Bakken gas is increasingly encroaching on — and pushing back — imports from the WCSB. Bakken gas flows already overtook Canadian gas receipts on Northern Border a year ago. Since then, the gas-on-gas competition and the resulting pipeline constraints have escalated, and things are likely to get worse. Today, we break down the forces at play in the competition for market access.
After sustaining a record pace since March, natural gas storage injections have been slowing dramatically and are projected to fall below the 5-year-average rate over the next few weeks. While weather has factored heavily into the swing in storage activity, increased baseload demand for gas in the power sector has amplified the effects of weather anomalies and electricity demand seasonality on overall gas demand. As a result, gas demand volumes have diverged from historical levels on a temperature-adjusted basis. Today, we examine the changing historical relationships of power burn and storage injections to weather and electricity demand.
Natural gas storage activity this spring suggested extremely bearish fundamentals. The market injected gas into storage at a record pace, well above year-ago and 5-year-average levels. The high injection rate was in part a result of demand loss as weather abruptly moderated in April and May. However, a look at injections on a weather-adjusted basis suggests there’s another dynamic at play — namely, that increased baseload demand for gas in the power sector amplified the effects of the mild weather this spring, lowering demand even more than temperatures alone would indicate. Moreover, that same dynamic could have an opposite, equally extreme effect during the hotter months when power generation is the primary driver of gas demand. Today, we look at the latest gas storage and demand trends, and what they can tell us about the balance of injection season.
A raft of natural gas pipeline projects completed in the past couple of years has — for the first time — left room to spare on most takeaway routes out of the Northeast and provided Marcellus/Utica producers a reprieve from the all-too-familiar dynamic of capacity constraints and heavily discounted supply prices, even as regional production continues achieving new record highs. There’s on average close to 4 Bcf/d of unused exit capacity currently available — more in the winter when higher in-region demand means more of the production is consumed locally and less than that (but still more than in past years) in the spring, summer and fall seasons, when greater outbound flows are needed to help offset the relatively lower Northeast demand. But we’re expecting Northeast production to grow by another 8 Bcf/d or so over the next five years. And the list of projects designed to add more exit capacity has dwindled to just a few troubled ones that, even if built, wouldn’t be enough to absorb that much incremental supply. When can we expect constraints to re-emerge? Today, we conclude this series with a look at RBN’s natural gas production forecast for the Marcellus/Utica and how that correlates to the region’s pipeline takeaway capacity over the next five years.
Just two years ago, severe transportation constraints and steep price discounts were part and parcel of the Northeast natural gas market. Midstreamers were racing to add much-needed pipeline capacity out of the region, but not fast enough for producers. It was an inevitability that any pipeline expansions would instantaneously fill up. Gas production records were an almost monthly or weekly occurrence, and just as unrelenting were the takeaway constraints and pressure on the region’s supply prices. Not so today. Northeast gas production in June posted a record high, with the monthly average exceeding 31 Bcf/d for the first time. Yet, June spot prices at Dominion South, Appalachia’s representative supply hub, were the strongest they’ve been in six years relative to national benchmark Henry Hub. Why? The spate of pipeline expansions and additions in the past two years have not only caught up to production but capacity now far outpaces it, and consequently, producers now have something they haven’t had in a long time — optionality. Today, we break down how much spare capacity is available and its effect on regional pricing.
The Northeast gas market has come a long way since 2013, when it first began net exporting gas supply to the rest of the U.S. The past several years were marked by dozens of pipeline expansions to relieve takeaway constraints and to balance oversupply conditions in the region; as a result, takeaway capacity is finally outpacing production growth. How much spare capacity is there now, and how long will it be before production growth hits the capacity wall again? Today, we continue our series on Northeast gas takeaway capacity vs. production, this time examining the utilization of pipes in the Northeast-to-Gulf Coast corridor.
Natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity additions out of the Northeast over the past year or two, along with suppressed gas production growth in recent months, have relieved years-long and severe constraints for moving Marcellus/Utica gas out of the region and even left some takeaway pipelines less than full. That, in turn, has supported Appalachian supply prices. Basis at the Dominion South hub in the first five months of 2019 averaged just $0.26/MMBtu below Henry Hub, compared with $0.46 below in the same period last year and nearly $1.00 below back in 2015, when constraints were the norm. Today, we continue our series providing an update on pipeline utilization out of the region, and how much spare capacity is left before constraints reemerge.
Three months ago, the Pacific Northwest natural gas market recorded the highest trade in U.S. spot gas price history. The region at the time was dealing with extreme winter heating demand, a pipeline outage that limited access to gas supply and storage deliverability issues –– all of which were compounding constraints in the power markets. The result was a feeding frenzy that led gas prices to skyrocket to as much as $200/MMBtu at the Sumas, WA, hub on March 1. Fast forward to today — prices there have crumbled, falling to as low as $0.80/MMBtu in trading last week. Winter demand has dissipated, pipeline and storage constraints have eased, and the region is now dealing with an entirely different — even opposite — set of problems. Today, we take a closer look at the factors behind these latest price moves.