NGSA Winter Forecast: High Demand + High Production = Flat Prices

The Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) yesterday released its 2018-2019 Winter Outlook for Natural Gas report (summary below). NGSA says this winter will have warmer than normal temperatures for much of the country. They also predict natural gas demand will reach an all-time high. However, natural gas production will hit all-time highs too. So in the end, prices for natgas (a function of supply and demand) will stay fairly even.
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Price of PA Marcellus Gas Going Higher, Even with More Production

In an interesting coincidence, we spotted two different stories on the same day about the price of gas in the Marcellus Shale–detailing how prices this year are much higher than they were last year at this same time, and speculating that the perhaps we have finally turned a corner and our prices (compared with the benchmark Henry Hub price) will stay higher. Which is good news for both drillers and landowners who get royalty checks from those drillers. Why are northeast gas prices higher today and staying higher? In a word, pipelines. With Rover Pipeline now online and the final laterals that feed it going online soon, with NEXUS coming online by the end of this year (both of those projects carting gas to the Midwest and Canada), and with Atlantic Sunrise and other pipelines coming online to cart gas to the south, even as far as the Gulf Coast, Marcellus/Utica molecules are finding new homes in higher-paying markets. As Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing!”…
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Marcellus Prices Improve with New Pipelines

Natural gas produced in the Marcellus region historically has had a hard time fetching prices anywhere close to the benchmark Henry Hub price in southern Louisiana. Why? Because we have so darned much of it! Too much. Not enough ways to get our gas to other markets where it would fetch a higher price. That’s beginning to change. The “differential” (the difference between HH and our prices) is starting to narrow. Marcellus prices are coming much closer to the prices HH gas gets. That’s because of new pipelines coming online to cart our gas to other markets. Our favorite government agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wrote a post yesterday on their Today in Energy website pointing out the decreasing gap in prices between the Marcellus and HH…
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Record Demand + Record Production = Flat NatGas Price This Summer

The single biggest factor in whether or not gas drillers are willing to roll the dice and drill another well is….the price of natural gas. When prices are low, say below $3 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf), drillers are less willing to ramp up the rigs and drill new holes in the ground. When the price goes significantly above $3/Mcf, they’re much more likely to drill. Everyone keeps a close eye on the price. We’ve just come through a hard winter that drew down stocks of natural gas in reserve. Less supply with the same or increasing demand equals higher prices. However, if drillers produce more, a lot more, then supply will meet, or even exceed increased demand and the price will stay about the same, or even decrease. So what about the price for natural gas this summer? The Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) has just hauled out its crystal ball to predict what may happen with the price of natgas this summer. As our headline indicates, NGSA believes the price will remain about where it is now. From the report (full copy below): “Our expectation for flat price pressure is based on a forecast for tremendous growth in demand that is matched by even more impressive growth in production”…
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Is Private Equity About to Return to Oil/Gas Drilling in Big Way?

In our headline we pose a question asking if private equity (PE) money is about to be lavished on the oil and gas sector once again. The short answer, according to an analyst who writes about these things, is YES! Anthony Mirhaydari, a senior financial writer at PitchBook, says because of the current high price of oil, “After a drought of investment as management teams aggressively trimmed expenses to stay afloat, an aggressive ramp-up in spending is needed.” According to Deloitte, the oil and gas industry will need to spend on the order of $3 trillion in capital expenditures from now until 2020 (two short years away). Some of that money comes from profits or is already in hand from other sources. But, according to Deloitte, “there is a funding gap of $750 billion to $2 trillion that will need to be met with outside capital.” That trillion dollar delta is where private equity comes in–private investors once again opening up their wallets so more oil and gas drilling can happen. And that’s good news for the entire industry, including the Marcellus/Utica region. More money = more drilling…
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EnerVest & EV Energy Partners on the Rebound with $70+ Oil

Private equity firm EnerVest owns a lot of acreage and wells (most of them conventional) in the Marcellus/Utica region. In addition to investing in land and wells, EnerVest also has its own drilling subsidiary, EV Energy Partners (EVEP), with operations and assets in OH, PA and WV. EVEP is an MLP–a master limited partnership. While EVEP is joined at the hip with EnerVest, they are (on paper) two different companies. EnerVest has vast holdings and is in the top 25 oil & gas companies in the nation. Last July the Wall Street Journal ran a story that said EnerVest was worth nothing on paper. EnerVest pushed back on that story saying it wasn’t true–at least not completely true. EnerVest chief administrative officer, Ron Whitmire, said the company’s vast holdings are structured as more than a dozen companies. Although some of EnerVest’s companies are in trouble, the entire pie, according to Whitmire, is not in danger of bankruptcy. Conversely, Whitmire’s comment also meant that at least one or more of the EnerVest companies were/are in danger of bankruptcy. EVEP was one of them, filing in early April (see EV Energy Partners Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy). A new Bloomberg story takes a look at EnerVest and its 72 year-old CEO, John Walker. The article says Walker, “sees redemption ahead as oil prices rise and EnerVest gets its finances in order.” That’s certainly some good news for the company. We might summarize it this way: The current high price of oil has just pulled EV’s bacon out of the fire…
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Will Trump’s Iran Deal Pullout Affect M-U Drillers? Maybe

Here’s a theme we have been writing about more and more–because it’s important. That theme is this: Oil drillers in Texas (and New Mexico), in the Permian Basin, are drilling so fast and so furious to get oil out of the ground, that they are creating an overabundance of natural gas that increasingly competes with Marcellus/Utica gas. How? Every time you drill for one hydrocarbon, like oil, other hydrocarbons often come of the ground with it. In this case, natural gas. The unintended but significant quantities of natgas coming out of the ground along with Permian oil is referred to in the biz as “associated gas.” As we wrote in March, natural gas prices in Texas did something that hasn’t happened in years–they became cheaper than the price of natural gas selling in the saturated Marcellus/Utica (see Natural Gas Prices in Texas Permian Drop Below Marcellus/Utica). Analysts have cautioned that in some cases the price of natural gas in Texas (in some locations) may actually go to zero! Giving it away!! So drillers can keep pumping oil. The natural gas produced by oil drillers is viewed as a “waste” product. Mind boggling. So how does that relate to Trump’s recent (very wise) action to pull out of the handshake Iran nuclear deal? Because we’re now out of that deal and sanctions are back on, Iran will have trouble selling its oil supplies. Meaning as the price of oil continues to rise due to lack of supplies coming from Iran, U.S. drillers will set up more rigs and drill more wells to produce more high-priced oil in the Permian. And as they do, more natural gas will come out of the ground, contributing to the existing “glut.” And drillers in the Permian will continue to aggressively look for new markets, like the Midwest and southeastern U.S., to try and sell (or give away) their extremely cheap gas. That Permian gas will increasingly compete with gas coming from the Marcellus/Utica. That’s how Trump pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal may impact M-U gas…
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Free Webinar on Price of Natural Gas in Marcellus/Utica – May 17

NGI’s Pat Rau

The price of natural gas is the magic key that unlocks whether, and how much, drilling takes place in the Marcellus/Utica. Drillers (i.e. producers) live and die by the price of natural gas. Traders live and die by it too. And because it’s important to drillers and traders and others in the industry, the price of gas at various trading points along pipelines is of keen interest for landowners too. What controls the price? Supply and demand, of course. But there are other factors too. This Thursday, May 17 at 1 pm Eastern, NGI’s (Natural Gas Intelligence) Director of Strategy and Research, Patrick Rau, will give an online webinar talk EVERYONE needs to attend: “Appalachian Natural Gas Prices — How They are Determined and Where Are They Headed?” Pat is guest presenter for this month’s free Penn State Extension Shale Education monthly webinar series. MDN editor Jim Willis knows and has worked with Pat–and we can assure you, Pat is one smart cookie. He makes the complex world of natural gas pricing understandable. Here’s the announcement of what Pat will discuss on this can’t-miss-it webinar…
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Permian NatGas Increasingly Competes with M-U in Midwest

The biggest oil play in the United States is the Permian, located in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. In March, MDN warned readers that natural gas in the Permian, which is a byproduct of the oil wells drilled there (i.e. “associated gas”), is increasingly competing with Marcellus/Utica gas (see “Free” NatGas in Texas Permian Changes Shale Gas Economics in M-U). A few weeks later we shared a Bloomberg article in which we learned the price of natgas in the Permian at major trading hubs is now lower than the price for hubs around the Marcellus/Utica (see Natural Gas Prices in Texas Permian Drop Below Marcellus/Utica). Our narrative continues with insights from the experts at RBN Energy. In a recent blog post, RBN looks at the three markets where Permian gas can flow out of the basin: “west to Arizona and California, south to Mexico and north to the Midcontinent and Midwest gas markets.” The route north to the Midwest is now being pursued by Permian gas, and that gas is competing with Marcellus/Utica gas molecules that travel to the Midwest via the Rockies Express and Rover pipelines…
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ME1 Pipeline Shutdown in M-U Causing Propane Prices in TX to Drop

Propane is one of the NGLs (natural gas liquids) that come out of the ground along with natural gas and oil–especially in “wet gas” areas like southwestern PA, eastern OH, and the northern panhandle area of WV. Ethane and propane have been flowing through the converted Mariner East 1 (ME1) pipeline for more than year–hauling propane (and ethane) from southwest PA all the way to the Marcus Hook refinery near Philadelphia. At Marcus Hook, the propane is loaded onto ships and sent around the world. The world is an important market for our propane. However, ME1 was suddenly switched off on March 3 by order of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) after a sinkhole opened up under the pipeline, exposing some of the bare steel to the open air (see PA PUC Shuts Down Mariner 1 Pipeline Due to Mariner 2 Sinkhole). Sunoco Logistics Partners, the owner of ME1, is building a new set of pipelines called Mariner East 2 (ME2) close to the existing ME1. ME2 will also haul ethane and propane to Marcus Hook, greatly expanding capacity. As part of their construction work in Chester County, several sinkholes developed leading to the shutdown of ME1. You might think if the supply of propane suddenly stops, prices would go up. But that’s not what happened. Because the propane ME1 was hauling to Marcus Hook was exported, that supply is now staying here at home. The effect has been to drive DOWN the cost of propane–in Texas!…
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Natural Gas Prices in Texas Permian Drop Below Marcellus/Utica

The biggest oil play in the United States is the Permian, located in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Two weeks ago MDN warned readers that natural gas in the Permian, which is a byproduct of the oil wells drilled there, is increasingly competing with Marcellus/Utica gas (see “Free” NatGas in Texas Permian Changes Shale Gas Economics in M-U). The coming clash continues to grow. In a Bloomberg article published yesterday, we learn that the price of natgas in the Permian at major trading hubs is now lower than the price for hubs around the Marcellus/Utica, which is truly a first! We also get an ominous prediction from an analyst who watches these things, who said in the next three to four weeks, “natural gas prices in the Permian can go to zero because it’s literally a byproduct.” Free gas! As we pointed out in our previous post on Permian and gas prices, oil drillers can actually pay up to $2.36 per thousand cubic feet to dispose of the natgas coming out of Permian oil wells. That is, they can pay people to take the gas–as a cost of extracting the oil. Roughly one-third of the hydrocarbons coming from Permian wells is natgas. The biggest problem in the Permian for natgas is also the biggest problem in the M-U: lack of pipelines…
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Clash of the Titans: PA Marcellus Gas Competes with TX Permian

Last week MDN editor Jim Willis attended Hart Energy’s Marcellus-Utica Midstream conference in Pittsburgh (a series of stories are coming this week from that event). One of the stray comments Jim heard at the event was this: The chief rival or competitor to the Marcellus with respect to natural gas production is not, as you might assume (we sure did) the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana. No. The chief competitor, producing more and more volumes of natgas, is…the Permian! That’s right, an oil play! Why? When you drill for oil, you get other hydrocarbons out of the ground along with the oil. Primarily methane, or natural gas. It’s called “associated gas.” Even though most of what comes out of a Permian well is oil and not gas, because there are so darned many oil wells in the Permian (with more being drilled all the time), the total volume of gas coming from the Permian is going up, dramatically. The problem is, some Marcellus/Utica gas heads to the Gulf Coast to be used by petrochemical companies or to be exported. However, gas produced right there in the region is less expensive to get to market (shorter distance), so that Permian-sourced gas is competing, and increasingly crowding out, Marcellus/Utica gas. Investors have noticed and have, in a sense, “punished” some of the biggest of the big Marcellus/Utica producers by selling their shares, leading to a loss in share value. Among the hardest hit have been Southwestern Energy, Gulfport Energy, and Range Resources. The stock price for those three companies is down, since Jan. 1st, 33%, 30% and 25% respectively. A Bloomberg article says the stocks for those companies have been “mauled.” Indeed. Here’s some insight into how the Marcellus/Utica is increasingly going up against the oil giant Permian Basin, sometimes getting mauled…
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Gov. Cuomo Triples Upstate NY Electric Bills by Blocking Natgas

This is a somewhat personal story that perfectly illustrates the point we’ve been making for years. MDN editor Jim Willis lives with his wife and family in the Binghamton, NY area. Jim likes to say he “lives behind enemy lines”–meaning New York State under Andrew Cuomo and his radical left base are hostile to the fossil fuel industry. The cost of Cuomo’s actions for every New Yorker (at least those of us living in Upstate) is now on full display for all to see. A few weeks ago Jim got his monthly electric bill from New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG, owned by the Spanish company Iberdrola). Jim’s eyes about fell out of their sockets. Jim largely uses electricity for heating (with a fuel oil furnace as backup). No natural gas lines where Jim lives, unfortunately. Even in the dead of winter Jim’s electric bill is rarely over $200 in any given month–typically around $150. This time? Nearly $700!!!! At first, Jim chalked it up to the cold snap and the constant running of his electric heat source. Then he spotted an article (below, sent to us by Vic Furman), that shows Jim is not the only one. Across the entire region folks received bills that are double and triple the usual amount. Why the spike in price? It seems the lack of natural gas via pipelines is not only hurting New England, it’s now hurting Upstate NY. Due to a lack of natgas supplies and the huge regional demand for natgas–for home heating as well as for electric generators–the spot price for gas went through the roof and along with it NYSEG’s cost for both natgas and electricity generated by natgas also went through the roof. Consequently, Cuomo’s frack ban and (now) pipeline ban on importing natgas from PA are having very real, tangible consequences–in our electric bills. All of Cuomo’s precious renewable sources of energy will not, indeed cannot, make up for a lack of natgas. Cuomo’s stupidity is costing ME real money…
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EIA Predicts Natural Gas Prices in 2018 & 2019 Will be “Flat”

The price of natural gas is a complicated subject. First, “the price” is never just “the price.” Many people look to the NYMEX or Henry Hub spot price as “the price.” Indeed, most of the financial contracts for natural gas are based on the Henry Hub price. However, as we’ve written many times over the years, gas is bought and sold at hundreds of points along major interstate natural gas pipelines. The price at one place on a pipeline, like the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Zone 4 in northeastern Pennsylvania, is vastly different from the Henry Hub. Price is dependent on many factors–supply and demand to be sure. But also weather. Weather is probably the biggest influencer of natgas prices. Why? The warmer (or colder) it is, the more natural gas is used to cool or heat homes and businesses. The more demand, the higher the price. Conversely, the less demand, the lower the price. Henry Hub is a useful yardstick and the most-watched natural gas price in the world. Our favorite government agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, recently published their Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO). In the STEO, EIA predicts the price of natural gas at Henry Hub will remain relatively flat both this year and next year. This year (2018), EIA says the average price of gas at Henry Hub will be $2.88 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf). Next year? EIA says the price will average $2.92/Mcf. The average price of gas at Henry Hub for all of 2017 was $2.99/Mcf. Bottom line: The price of gas is a bit depressing for gas drillers for the foreseeable future. Here’s EIA’s reasoning…
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Get Tomorrow’s Marcellus/Utica NatGas Prices Today!

Anyone with even a passing interest in the natural gas market–either the Marcellus/Utica or elsewhere–knows there is one dominant factor that drives exploration and production: PRICE. The price of natural gas is the tail that wags the entire natgas dog. Low price? Less (or no) drilling, shut-in wells, less leasing–everything is less. High price? Pop the cork on the champagne bottle! When the price goes up and stays up, drillers begin seismic surveys, then leasing, then permits, then drilling. After drilling comes pipelines–both to the well and to market. And businesses tend to gather around points where there is access to natgas (and its byproducts). It’s a virtuous cycle, from upstream (drilling) to midstream (pipelines) to downstream (end users of the gas)–that all starts with price. Who should have an interest in price? Everybody! However, there are some whose jobs and livelihoods depend on price–gas traders, industrial buyers, drillers who need to sell their gas, etc. Those people need a daily update on the price. Who do they turn to? There are several price reporting authorities that monitor trade information for natural gas trading. There is no single price for natural gas–there are hundreds of prices. Gas is traded at trading hubs or points along major pipelines across the country. Each time a trade is done (price requested, price offered or “ask” and “bid”), that valuable information gets recorded and sent to a price recording authority. Each day around 1:30 PM Central Time, NGI gathers up trade information for THAT DAY, trades that have occurred so far at trading points all over the US and Canada, and posts/emails the information to subscribers. It is like getting tomorrow’s prices–the prices everyone else will base their trades on–today! How can you get tomorrow’s prices today? Glad you asked. Request a trial to NGI’s MidDay Price Alert here. Below we have a section of a recent edition showing prices in Appalachia (the Marcellus/Utica), and for the entire northeast…
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Another 3 Bcf/d of Pipeline Takeaway Coming to M-U by March 31

In the fourth quarter of 2017 (Oct-Dec), 2.3 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of new/extra pipeline capacity was added in the Marcellus/Utica region, to carry our gas to markets outside the region. Even though production in the Marcellus/Utica has continued to climb every single month, that 2.3 Bcf/d of extra “takeaway” capacity had an immediate effect–prices for our gas began to rise. Here’s a bit of exciting news: By the end of the first quarter this year (that is, by Mar. 31st), another 3 Bcf/d of pipeline takeaway capacity will be online. We expect this new takeaway, combined with last quarter’s increase in takeaway, will continue to drive prices for our gas higher…
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