One way or the other, all of 2018’s Top 10 blogs had something to do with infrastructure. There’s not enough. Or it’s taking too long to come online. Or there is too much being built too soon. Even the financial underpinning of U.S. energy infrastructure development — the MLP model — ran into tough sledding in 2018. Then, toward the end of the year, all of the best-laid infrastructure planning got whacked by the crude-market wild card: prices crashing below $50/bbl. We scrupulously monitor the website “hit rate” of the RBN blogs that go out to about 26,000 people each day and, at the end of each year, we look back to see what generated the most interest from you, our readers. That hit rate reveals a lot about major market trends. So, once again, we look into the rearview mirror to check out the top blogs of the year based on the number of rbnenergy.com website hits.
For most of the year, 2018 was awesome for oil and gas producers. Crude prices back to mid-$70s/bbl. Production hitting all-time records. Companies living within cash flow. Financial reports reasonably healthy. About the only dark side was related to infrastructure. Both crude oil and natural gas pipeline takeaway capacity out of the Permian hit the wall we’ve been predicting for the past couple of years (see With a Permian Well, They Cried More, More, More and All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go). Then, in the fourth quarter, things got decidedly weird. Ethane prices went to the moon (defined as 62 c/gal), then crashed back to Earth. Natural gas prices “went lunar” too (defined as $4.84/MMBtu in mid-November), then succumbed to milder weather, but remain above $3.00/MMBtu. During the same timeframe, crude oil prices crashed 40%, from $75/bbl in early October to $45.33/bbl on Friday. If you like volatility, you really enjoyed the past few weeks in energy markets. And there’s a pretty good chance more volatility is on the way. Let’s see what the top blogs of 2018 can tell us about how these developments impacted the market, and what we might expect in the coming year.
Here are the top 10 blogs of 2018 (in reverse order, by number of hits):
#10 – 7/28/2018 – Natural Gas/LNG: Coming Up – The Next Round of U.S. LNG Export Terminals
Feedgas receipts at the three operational U.S. LNG terminals were up to 4.5 Bcf/d by the end of December, and with three more LNG facilities coming online, U.S. export capacity will soon exceed 11.5 Bcf/d (85 MMtpa). That is a lot of natural gas, but there is a lot more where that came from. RBN’s latest mid-curve forecast of Lower-48 U.S. natural gas production predicts more than 4.0 Bcf/d growth each year for the next five years. So, we are going to need still more LNG export facilities. Fortunately, a lot are in the works, including Tellurian’s Driftwood, Venture Global’s Calcasieu Pass and Plaquemines Parish, and NextDecade’s Rio Grande. That’s not all. There’s also Golden Pass (Qatar Petroleum, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips), and Sempra’s recently announced Cameron Phase 2 and Port Arthur plants. Most likely a few of these will fall by the wayside, but there is little doubt that this second wave of U.S. LNG export capacity is coming to the global gas market. We hope it’s ready in time for the onslaught of new supply.