Posts from Taylor Noland

Energy Transfer, which is championing its Blue Marlin Offshore Platform (BMOP), may have been the last developer to pursue its critical deepwater export license, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the hunt. Of the four offshore crude oil export projects, BMOP stands out as the sole brownfield initiative, which should hold down costs and expedite its construction timeline. Further, a recent non-binding agreement with TotalEnergies underscores the industry’s interest in this unusual but compelling facility. In today’s RBN blog, we explore Energy Transfer’s unconventional approach. 

The U.S. has become an oil-exporting powerhouse in recent years, propelled by booming shale production, notably from the Permian Basin. U.S. crude oil now flows more freely than ever to help meet global demand, including to Europe, which increasingly turned to the U.S. following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two-plus years ago, but exports have slowed recently. In today’s RBN blog, we examine a half-dozen reasons why the export surge has tapered off and why it may not change much in the weeks ahead. 

The prospect of decreased crude oil supplies from Mexico, the top international supplier to the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC), is creating uncertainty among heavy crude-focused refineries. Mexico’s state-owned energy company, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), instructed its trading unit to cancel up to 436 Mb/d of crude exports for April to supposedly focus on processing domestic oil at its new 340-Mb/d Dos Bocas refinery and/or its existing plants. While the refinery’s startup is likely not nearly as imminent as Pemex says, the cancellation of Mexican crude imports could be problematic for U.S. refiners with plants built to run heavy crude, a necessary ingredient to optimize operations and yields. Adding to the complexity of the situation is the upcoming startup of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX) and the recent reinstatement of U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan crude. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine the potential fallout resulting from Pemex’s decision at a time when heavy crudes elsewhere are also becoming less available. 

The largest crude oil pipeline exiting the Permian Basin by volume — Wink to Webster (W2W) — is planned to be offline for maintenance for the first 10 days of June. This is inclusive of Enterprise’s Midland-to-ECHO III (ME III), which reflects the company’s 29% undivided joint interest in W2W. Although the outage has not been publicly confirmed, it’s our understanding that 1.5 MMb/d of capacity will be offline to reroute a small section of pipeline. In today’s RBN blog, we’ll examine how the planned maintenance will impact Permian Basin oil takeaway capacity and what it may mean for Midland WTI pricing. 

In the race to build the next deepwater crude oil export terminal in the Gulf of Mexico, Sentinel Midstream’s proposed Texas GulfLink (TGL) is currently in second place in the regulatory race, behind only Enterprise’s Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) — and seems to be emerging as a serious contender. The plan offers some compelling attributes, including Sentinel’s status as an independent midstream player and plenty of pipeline access to crude oil volumes in the Permian and elsewhere. In today’s RBN blog, we turn our attention to TGL and what it brings to the table. 

In the race to build the next deepwater crude oil export terminal along the U.S. Gulf Coast, there’s a lot of competition but one project now has a clear advantage: Enterprise Product Partners’ planned Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT), which has made the most progress in moving through the regulatory morass and announced that it had received its deepwater port license on April 9. In today’s RBN blog, we provide an update on SPOT’s progress and look at some of its inherent advantages, including a potentially shorter time to market and extensive pipeline connectivity. 

CME’s NYMEX light sweet crude oil contract in Cushing, OK, is not West Texas Intermediate — WTI. Instead, it is Domestic Sweet — commonly referred to as DSW — with quality specifications that are broader and generally inferior to Midland-sourced WTI. In fact, pristine Midland WTI delivered to Cushing sells at a reasonably healthy premium to DSW. That difference in specs, and the fact that the quality of DSW is considerably more variable than straight-as-an-arrow Midland WTI, makes most purchasers of exported U.S. crude (and many domestic refiners too) strongly prefer the more quality-consistent Midland WTI grade. For that reason, when Platts set out to allow U.S. light crude to be delivered as Brent, it said that only Midland WTI will qualify. Consequently, a marketer cannot take delivery of a NYMEX-quality barrel at Cushing, pipe it down to the Gulf Coast, and deliver it to a dock for export if the ultimate destination of that barrel is to be reflected in the Brent price assessment. The implication? There are now effectively two U.S. crude oil benchmark grades, each of which is valued differently, priced differently and used by different markets. Is this a big deal for the valuation mechanisms for U.S. crude oils, or just a minor quirk in oil-market nomenclature? We’ll explore that question in today’s RBN blog.

For years, oil and gas companies struggled to win over investors, largely because of the energy sector’s notoriously volatile history — marked by boom-and-bust cycles and sometimes scary levels of indebtedness. You might think the pandemic and the subsequent upheaval in energy markets would only make matters worse, but the chaos actually forced energy companies to get their finances in better order and, in many cases, to either acquire other companies or be acquired themselves. Financial discipline and consolidation provided another benefit: sharply improved credit ratings, which have the knock-on effect of making companies even more attractive. In today’s RBN blog, we discuss the forces behind, and the importance of, the improved credit ratings that resulted from this massive wave of consolidation.

When the calendar flipped from June to July, it did more than just close the book on the first half of 2023, it also allowed some oil pipelines regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to increase their rates by more than 13%. Yes, you read that correctly. This is the largest increase in the index rate since FERC initiated its current methodology in 1992 and follows last year’s increase of almost 9%. In today’s RBN blog, we look at what’s going on with index rates at FERC and what it means for producers and shippers alike.

With ever-increasing volumes of Permian crude oil being exported and the recent inclusion of WTI Midland in the assessment of Dated Brent prices, the issue of iron content — especially in some Permian-sourced crude — is coming to the fore. This has become such a point of emphasis for exported light sweet crude because many less complex foreign refineries do not have the ability to manage high iron content adequately. Iron content that exceeds desirable levels could have far-reaching repercussions, from sellers facing financial penalties for not meeting the quality specifications to marine terminals being excluded from the Brent assessment if they miss the mark. It’s a complicated issue, with split views on what causes the iron content in a relatively small subset of Permian oil to be concerningly high — and how best to address the matter. In today’s RBN blog, we look at iron content in crude oil, why it matters to refiners, how it affects prices, and what steps the industry is taking to deal with it.