The weekly EIA report came out today and one of the noteworthy data points was the Cushing, Oklahoma storage numbers. Already at a record, Cushing added another 1.8 million barrels to storage sending total Cushing stocks to 51.9 million barrels of oil in storage facilities at the energy hub.
There has been 6.3 million barrels of oil added to Cushing during the last 6 weeks. To put these build numbers into perspective, Cushing oil inventories stood at 28.3 million barrels for this time a year ago, which is a build of 23.6 million barrels in a year.
Seaway Pipeline Expansion
The Seaway pipeline was recently expanded to 400,000 barrels per day from 100,000 barrels per day, and many analysts have predicted that this would solve the Cushing oil glut. But it is looking more and more that what the Seaway pipeline offers is a cheaper mode of delivery out of Cushing, and the real benefit is one of logistical optionality for transportation.
Further Reading – Keystone XL Pipeline: Economics, Idealism and Politics
However, it is shaping up due to the sheer size of these build in inventories at Cushing that the Seaway pipeline is not a magic solution for the supply and demand fundamentals at play in the oil industry in the United States, there is just more US production, than there is US infrastructure in place to deal with the trending upturn in this production.
Oil is Fungible
In short, the US and global oil model isn`t set up for the United States to be producing more than 7 million barrels of oil per day. Even if the Seaway pipeline could send 4 million barrels of oil out of Cushing, it wouldn`t make a difference because Oil is fungible, so without major cuts somewhere else in the global supply chain, then you’re going to have supply andstorage builds somewhere in the supply chain.
Saudi Arabia can only cut back production so much
The Saudi`s have already cut back production to fifteen month lows, how long is that going to continue as they need oil revenue just like everyone else? So Cushing is just a reflection and end point for the delivery of increasing US production, which ultimately is building more than there is demand from refiners for producing products, even with an increase in exporting of gasoline and other petroleum products.
Cushing never was landlocked
This should have been apparent to analysts as rail has been delivering Oil to refiners during this domestic boom, and so are barges taking oil out of Cushing, so large amounts of oil are getting to refiners. Some of it before it even gets to Cushing, and some after with the Seaway pipeline, and barges out of Cushing; and with the spread in 2012 of as much as 25 dollars, there were major incentives to get US oil to refiners in a myriad of ways.
Cushing builds reflective of bigger problem
Yet we have almost doubled Cushing`s inventories in a year. This points to a much bigger problem with analysts missing entirely, thinking this was just a Cushing log jam problem. This is seeing the trees, and missing the overall forest, Cushing is just a reflection of the bigger problem, there is just too damn much oil sloshing around the world right now with nowhere to go.
Further Reading – Cushion 50 Million, Boom & Bust Cycles, U.S. Debt & Recession
You see this in stories about Nigerian crude for February delivery being unsold and stuck on cargo ships because there are no buyers with the increase in US domestic production. Iraq is producing more oil, and they need the revenue so expect more oil coming out of Iraq for the next decade with each year producing more than the previous.
The world is producing more oil than is consumed each day
The world global supply chain is producing more oil than the world needs every day, and this means storage has to build somewhere, and whether it is Cushing, or Nigeria, or China it has to be stored somewhere.
In the US, Cushing has expanded storage facilities the past couple of years, and has been a default place to send the extra oil. But even Cushing is rapidly reaching capacity limits, and even if on the margin the Seaway pipeline takes out more oil, refiners can only handle so much more before they become the bottleneck in the equation.
Further Reading – Oil and Gas Markets End 2012 With Swollen Inventory Levels
US Refineries not easy to build
Remember, refiners are not easy to build, and the US has only relatively recently ramped up domestic production, so even with substantial increases in fuel exports, there just are not enough US refineries to handle the increase in US oil production. In short, the oil model of the last decade was not set up with the US being a major producer. The US production increases is throwing the global supply models a major curve ball.
Therefore, the only way that Cushing inventories are going to go down substantially is if more US refineries are built, and that could take three to four years, if they are built at all given the regulatory and financial hurdles that have prevented progress in this area over the last decade.
The bottom line is that the Seaway pipeline is no cure for what ails Cushing inventory builds. For what ails Cushing is the fact that nobody thought about the unintended consequences of a boom in US oil production due to high prices for the past decade.
The global economy has slowed down from the peak in 2007, but prices have remained high, this resulted in increased production projects globally, and the rise in US production just sent the supply levels over the edge.
Furthermore, nobody ever planned or expected that the US would start producing with these numbers ever again. This has thrown the whole supply chain on its back, Cushing is just a reflection of this fact, there is more oil than the world needs right now, and the world definitely didn`t need an increase in US production.
Cushing builds still a problem
As a result you get Cushing, the manifestation of what happens when the unexpected happens before the oil models know what to do with the extra supply. You do not get the kind of builds at Cushing, with a new pipeline in existence for six months, a hefty spread, and rails transporting oil at unheard of levels, unless there is a much bigger problem than just increasing the Seaway pipeline by 300,000 barrels per day.
The Seaway Pipeline just steals business from Railroads & Barges
So Seaway doesn`t solve the Cushing problem as many have hoped. All Seaway does is maybe take some business from barges and railroads in the transportation of the product.
But the problem was much bigger than these people ever realized, because Cushing never represented a landlocked, logistics equation.
Cushing builds represents the fact that right now there is just too damn much oil that is being produced versus consumption needs for that oil. So it has to be stored somewhere, and Cushing is one of the places.
Too many chefs in the kitchen
The real problem is that nobody ever planned for the US to be producing 7 million barrels of oil every day and rising, there is just not enough demand in the world for this extra oil, so it has to be stored because everyone needs the money these days. And until prices drop substantially, no one is going to cut back producing this black gold.
EIA issued its Annual Energy Outlook 2013 (AEO2013) Reference case, which highlights a growth in total U.S. energy production that exceeds growth in total U.S. energy consumption through 2040.
“EIA’s updated Reference case shows how evolving consumer preferences, improved technology, and economic changes are pushing the nation toward more domestic energy production, greater vehicle efficiency, greater use of clean energy, and reduced energy imports,” said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski.
“This combination has markedly reduced projected energy-related carbon dioxide emissions,” said Mr. Sieminski.
AEO2013 offers a number of key findings, including:
Crude oil production, especially from tight oil plays, rises sharply over the next decade. Domestic oil production will rise to 7.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019, up from less than 6 million bpd in 2011.
Motor gasoline consumption will be less than previously estimated. Compared with the last AEO, the AEO2013 shows lower gasoline use, reflecting the introduction of more stringent corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Growth in diesel fuel consumption will be moderated by the increased use of natural gas in heavy-duty vehicles.
The United States becomes a net exporter of natural gas earlier than estimated a year ago. Because quickly rising natural gas production outpaces domestic consumption, the United States will become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2016 and a net exporter of total natural gas (including via pipelines) in 2020.
Renewable fuel use grows at a much faster rate than fossil fuel use. The share of electricity generation from renewables grows to 16 percent in 2040 from 13 percent in 2011.
Net imports of energy decline. The decline reflects increased domestic production of both petroleum and natural gas, increased use of biofuels, and lower demand resulting from the adoption of new vehicle fuel efficiency standards and rising energy prices. The net import share of total U.S. energy consumption falls to 9 percent in 2040 from 19 percent in 2011.
The AEO2013 Reference case focuses on the drivers that shape U.S. energy markets under the assumption that current laws and regulations remain generally unchanged throughout the projection period. The complete AEO2013, to be released in early 2013, will include many alternative cases in recognition of the uncertainty inherent in making projections about energy markets, which in part arises from assumptions about policies and other market drivers such as trends in prices and economic growth.
- Key updates made for the AEO2013 Reference case include the following:
- Extension of the projection period through 2040, an additional 5 years beyond AEO2012.
- A revised outlook for industrial production to reflect the impacts of increased shale gas production and lower natural gas prices, which result in faster growth for industrial production and energy consumption. The industries affected include, in particular, bulk chemicals and primary metals.
- Adoption of final model year 2017 to 2025 greenhouse gas emissions and CAFE standards for light-duty vehicles (LDVs), which increases the projected combined fuel economy of new LDVs to 47.3 mpg in 2025.
- Updated modeling of LNG export potential.
- Updated power generation unit costs that capture recent cost declines for some renewable technologies, which tend to lead to greater use of renewable generation, particularly solar technologies.
- The Future Of US Energy In 4 Charts (businessinsider.com)
- EIA: Here’s What Oil Prices Will Do For The Next 30 Years (businessinsider.com)
- US Energy Mix to 2040 per EIA (simplerna.com)
In response to Hurricane Isaac, EIA invoked its emergency-activation survey Form EIA-757B to collect daily data on the status of natural gas processing plant operations.
The survey, completed Friday, September 7, showed that Hurricane Isaac caused considerable disruption to processing infrastructure, although it had a negligible effect on natural gas prices because of ample onshore production and surplus storage.
The last time EIA invoked Form EIA-757B was for Hurricane Ike in September and October 2008. Hurricane Isaac made landfall on the evening of August 28, 2012, and ultimately disrupted natural gas processing operations for more than 10 of the 13.5 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day of total processing capacity in the affected area. The survey captured plants with capacities greater than 100 million cubic feet per day.
The bar chart shows five items:
- Operational capacity (green): Sum of capacity of natural gas processing plants in the path of Isaac that was operating at normal levels
- Reduced capacity (yellow): Capacity that was processing gas at a reduced rate relative to pre-Isaac levels
- Ready to resume capacity (orange): Capacity that was able to process natural gas but was not currently receiving adequate volumes of gas from upstream to justify starting up the plant, or did not have a downstream delivery point able to accept its products
- Shut-in capacity (red): Capacity that was unable to process gas because of damaged plant infrastructure or power outages
- Maintenance capacity (brown): Capacity that was shut down for maintenance because of reasons unrelated to Isaac
Data collected on this survey are compiled with other data and used to provide critical information on the status of energy infrastructure to policy makers, emergency response teams, media, individuals, and businesses in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Situation Report.
Just prior to Isaac making landfall, there were 25 natural gas processing plants in the affected area that were not undergoing maintenance, accounting for 12.6 billion cubic feet per day of available processing capacity. However, widespread power outages (affecting nearly 890,000 customers in Louisiana), reduced gas flows, and the potential for flooding reduced or curtailed operations at many of these plants. Plants most commonly attributed closures to a lack of upstream supply, although a few also cited damage to downstream infrastructure that would receive their dry gas or their natural gas liquids products.
Processing facilities play a key role in the overall natural gas supply chain because they purify and “dry out” raw natural gas from producing wells. This process results in pipeline-quality natural gas for delivery to end-users and a mix of natural gas liquids products to be separated by fractionators.
The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s final update on the effects of Isaac on offshore oil and natural gas operations, released on September 11, 2012, indicated that less than 5% of Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas production remained shut in.
The Federal Gulf of Mexico has accounted for a progressively smaller share of U.S. natural gas production in recent years. This is because of steadily declining offshore production volumes in the Gulf, combined with growth of shale gas production in various onshore basins and improved pipeline infrastructure to deliver that gas to market.
In 2000, Federal GOM gross natural gas production accounted for more than 20% of total U.S. gross natural gas production; in 2011, Federal GOM represented only 6% of total U.S. gross natural gas production. As a result of these historically low levels of offshore production, increases in onshore production, and strong natural gas storage stocks, Isaac-related shut ins have had little effect on natural gas prices or on gas supply for areas outside the path of the hurricane.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report that the U.S. dry natural gas production has increased since late 2005 due mainly to rapid growth in production from shale gas resources. However, there have been two notable instances (see red ovals in the chart) in the last seven years when natural gas production leveled off during a period of falling spot natural gas prices.
The first was during the recent economic recession and the latest began in the fourth quarter of 2011 and continued through the first quarter of 2012.
Weather events (see green ovals) have also affected U.S. natural gas production.
The major events over the past seven years that have caused dry gas output to level off or even decline include:
- Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (Sep-Oct 2005) – Disrupted up to 12.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in offshore natural gas production.
- Hurricanes Gustav and Ike (Sep 2008) – Disrupted up to 9.5 Bcf/d in offshore natural gas production.
- Economic recession and falling prices (Oct 2008- Sep 2009) – Reduced industrial and manufacturing activity, and lower electricity use eased demand for natural gas as a feedstock and a power generation fuel. Natural gas prices fell sharply as a result.
- Winter well freeze-offs (Feb 2011) – Disrupted up to 7.5 Bcf/d in natural gas production from Texas to Arizona, when water froze inside wellheads during extremely cold weather and blocked gas flows.
- Supply overhang and falling natural gas prices (Oct 2011-Mar 2012) – A warm winter that reduced heating fuel demand and record high gas inventories resulted in a nearly 50% drop in gas prices, causing some energy companies to postpone new drilling and cut back on some existing operations.
Natural gas production was relatively flat between October 2011 and March 2012, when Henry Hub spot gas prices declined from just above $3.50 to around $2.00 per million British thermal units in March. Preliminary EIA data indicate a slight drop in production during March, according to the Natural Gas Monthly report released on May 31.
Of the five large gas-producing states tracked monthly by EIA—Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—New Mexico had the highest percentage decline in its March gross natural gas production, down 2.2 percent from the previous month, while Texas had the largest volumetric drop, down 150 million cubic feet per day. States that EIA does not presently track on a monthly basis, such as Pennsylvania, may have seen their gas output increase during March.
- EIA: U.S. Surpassed Russia in Dry Gas Production in 2009 and 2010 (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Natural gas boosted by short covering (business.financialpost.com)
- Natural gas: What are the bulls thinking? (business.financialpost.com)
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report that between 2009 and 2011, Pennsylvania’s natural gas production more than quadrupled due to expanded horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing.
Historically, natural gas exploration and development activity in Pennsylvania was relatively steady, with operators drilling a few thousand conventional (vertical) wells annually. Prior to 2009, these wells produced about 400 to 500 million cubic feet per day of natural gas. With the shift to and increase in horizontal wells, however, Pennsylvania’s natural gas production more than quadrupled since 2009, averaging nearly 3.5 billion cubic feet per day in 2011. Natural gas wells accounted for virtually all (99%) of the horizontal wells started over this period.
Drilling programs in Pennsylvania’s shale formations, like those in other, more established plays such as the Barnett and Eagle Ford in Texas, are migrating to more liquids-rich areas due to the price premium of crude oil and natural gas liquids. The effect of low natural gas prices is apparent in Pennsylvania’s 2012 well count for the first third of the year. From January through April, drilling began on 618 new natural gas wells; over 700 new natural gas wells were started over the same period in 2011. In contrast, 263 new oil and “combination” (oil and natural gas) wells were started in Pennsylvania from January through April 2012, well above the 164 new wells that began drilling during the corresponding period in 2011.
- Ohio considers rules that opponents say favor frackers (fuelfix.com)
- AP: Pa. gas drilling brought $3.5 billion in 2011 (news.yahoo.com)