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The Facts on Chevron’s Blockbuster Deal to Acquire Anadarko

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

Over the past few days I have posted up two separate pieces at Forbes.com analyzing the Chevron acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum. This largest takeover of an independent producer by one of the majors in this 21st century ended a half-year drought in the M&A space in America’s oil and gas industry, and moves Chevron up the ranks of the super majors, now ranking behind only ExxonMobil as the second-biggest privately-held major oil company.  Links to both pieces are below.  I hope you enjoy them.

The Competition For Permian Dominance Heats Up With Chevron’s Buyout Of Anadarko

7 More Things You Need To Know About Chevron’s Takeover Anadarko

 

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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The Evolution of American Natural Gas in the 21st Century

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

The Evolution of American Natural Gas in the 21st Century

[This is the cover story for the new issue of Shale Magazine, where I serve as editor, a story that I really enjoyed researching and writing, since I’ve lived through all of it.  If you want to know how and why our amazing natural gas resource has developed during this century, and the potential for its further development in the coming decades, please give it a read. Thanks!]

Read the Full Piece

In the summer of 2002, the National Petroleum Council (NPC) gathered together some of the smartest minds from the oil and gas industry, academia and in the environmental community to study the potential for natural gas in North America. The study lasted for the better part of a year, after which a report titled “Balancing Natural Gas Policy – Fueling the Demands of a Growing Economy” was released.

As we sit here 16 years later, reviewing the findings of this study in light of the current situation where natural gas in North America and globally is concerned is a fascinating exercise — one that demonstrates the challenges presented to even the most informed and intelligent people when it comes to making accurate projections about how the oil and gas industry will evolve in years to come.

oil and gas processing industry. rectification column and storage of finished productI personally chaired one of several subcommittees that were established to conduct various aspects of this study, led by ExxonMobil and Burlington Resources, which was my employer at the time. When the study was issued, those of us who had worked on it were quite proud of it and were firm in our belief that it would stand the test of time, providing an accurate roadmap for the public and policymakers to use as a guidepost for years to come.

Providing such guidance is, after all, the role of the NPC, a federal advisory committee that reports directly to the U.S. Secretary of Energy. The NPC’s own website describes its role, in part, as follows:

The National Petroleum Council (NPC), a federally chartered and privately funded advisory committee, was established by the Secretary of the Interior in 1946 at the request of President Harry S Truman. In 1977, the U.S. Department of Energy was established and the NPC’s functions were transferred to the new Department. The purpose of the NPC is solely to advise, inform, and make recommendations to the Secretary of Energy with respect to any matter relating to oil and natural gas or to the oil and gas industries submitted to it or approved by the Secretary. The NPC does not concern itself with trade practices, nor does it engage in any of the usual trade association activities.

Even though the NPC had conducted a natural gas-related study in 1999, incoming Bush Administration Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham felt that the situation had shifted significantly enough by 2002 to warrant another look. It is important to keep in mind that, when the request came down from Secretary Abraham, natural gas was a commodity in short supply and subject to huge price swings. Because a large percentage of our country’s production came out of the Gulf of Mexico, it was also subject to being significantly interrupted by major hurricane events.

Large liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier with 4 LNG tanks sails along the sea

In 2002, the Barnett Shale was the only major natural gas-bearing shale formation that had been discovered. The Barnett was in the early stages of its development, and the industry had little understanding of its ultimate potential. Nor did any of the experts assembled by the NPC for its new study have any inkling of the magnitude of domestic natural gas resource that would be discovered in massive reserves trapped inside formations with names like Marcellus, Haynesville, Bakken, Eagle Ford, Spraberry, Woodford and Wolfcamp.

One of the most popular bits of conventional wisdom said about any economic study is “garbage in, garbage out.” Our base of information for the 2002 NPC study wasn’t “garbage” — the information we had was high-quality, but it was also very limited. The study by its very nature had to be based on available data, and the data available at the time indicated that North American natural gas production through the year 2025 would be characterized by limited domestic output, rising imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) coming into the country on huge tanker ships, and high commodity prices as a result.

It should come as no surprise that the study’s findings, some of which we will review here as examples, reflected this general outlook.

Every study based on economic analyses will include multiple cases that produce differing outcomes. Typically, these are described as a “base case” which assumes a status quo of outside-influencing factors going forward, an aggressive case that assumes some set of positive changes, and possibly even a non-aggressive case that assumes a set of negative changes.

One of the big decisions the NPC study committee had to make revolved around how many cases to include and how to structure them. In the end, the decision was made to include:

• “Balanced Future” case in which U.S. energy policy would evolve in ways that would encourage the development of new natural gas resources and the building-out of adequate midstream infrastructure and LNG import facilities; and

• “Reactive Path” case in which energy policy evolves, but mainly in reaction to various negative events such as shortages of supply or crises caused by lack of adequate infrastructure.

Given that background and knowledge about how the study was structured, the fact that most of the findings produced in our report have turned out be quite inaccurate should come as no surprise. Here are a few of them taken from the study’s Executive Summary:

• From page 32-33: “Given the relatively low production rates from non-conventional wells, the analysis further suggests that even in a robust future price environment, industry will be challenged to maintain overall production at its current level. This conclusion is reached even though new discoveries in mature North American basins represent the largest contribution to future supplies of any component of this supply outlook.”

• From page 33: “The NPC estimates that production from the lower 48 states and non-Arctic Canada can meet 75 percent of U.S. demand through 2025. However, these indigenous supplies will be unable to meet the projected natural gas demand.”

• From page 52: Price Projections: The NPC “Balanced Future” case projected a 2019 average price of between $3.20 and $5.00 per mmbtu. Its “Reactive Path” case projected a price range of $5.00 to about $6.90.

• From page 63: “To meet future demand, the NPC is projecting LNG imports will grow to become 14-17 percent of the U.S. natural gas supply by 2025. This will require the construction of seven to nine new regasification terminals and expansions of three of the four existing terminals.”

Of course, with the benefit of 16 years of hindsight, we now know that none of these key projections have come to fruition. For example, where prices are concerned, today’s natural gas producers can only long for a price per mmbtu of even $3.20, much less long-forgotten levels of $5.00 or $6.90.

LNG TANKER - Ship at dawn moored to the gas terminal

Far from being challenged to maintain overall current production levels, today’s natural gas industry struggles with finding adequate areas of demand to which to move their product, even as the number of active drilling rigs exploring for natural gas resources has fallen from 1,600 as recently as 2012 to around 130 at the first of 2019. In a way, producers are victims of their own expertise, having become so adept at maximizing volumes from each new well, that they threaten to oversupply the market―even with a dramatically-reduced rig count.

The nature of the shale plays discovered since 2003 has also played a large role in creating this new reality for gas producers. It’s not just the massive resource contained in natural gas plays like the Haynesville and Marcellus keeping the gas rig count low — it’s also the amazing volumes of methane flowing out of what are classified as oil wells being drilled in the Bakken, Eagle Ford and the Permian Basin. A little-recognized fact of life in today’s U.S. oil patch is that the oil-heavy Permian Basin is now the second-largest producer of natural gas in North America, behind only the Marcellus/Utica Basin.

Simply put: Today’s biggest problem for natural gas producers is not a lack of supply, but lack of demand.

It’s important to recognize that this sea-change in the supply/demand equation for domestic natural gas has taken place during a period of time when demand for natural gas has increased significantly. In 2003, Americans and American businesses consumed about 22.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). By 2017, overall U.S. consumption had grown to 27.1 tcf, an increase of 20 percent.

More to the point, demand for natural gas over that period of time rose in all of its key demand sectors: It was up in power generation, up in home heating use, up in chemicals and plastics and all other key manufacturing uses. Indeed, the phenomenal new abundance of natural gas supply and the chronic low prices that abundance has produced has played a significant role in the ongoing renaissance of manufacturing in the U.S., making the country globally competitive in that space for the first time in several decades.

This newly-found abundance may be a curse to natural gas producers and their bottom lines, but it has been a true blessing to the country.

Read the Full Piece Here

 

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Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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The Oil and Gas Situation: Reviewing 6 Predictions

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

As Q1 2019 comes to a close, it is time to review the status of some predictions I made here the day after Christmas for what we would see during the first half of 2019. Accurately gauging where the industry will be several months into the future is always a crap shoot, and as usual, I find myself feeling glad I didn’t go out and bet the farm on any of these.

First, let’s look at what I had to say about the domestic rig count as calculated by the folks at DrillingInfo:

…my first prediction is that we will see a gradual fall in the domestic U.S. rig count throughout the first half of 2019. Indeed, the DrillingInfo Daily Rig Count already fell by about 3% during December, from 1160 to 1120 on December 25. I’m betting that, by June 30, that measure will be below 1050…

This particular count finished the quarter at 1049, after falling slowly but steadily throughout the first three months of the year. This represents a 9% drop since Christmas day, and there is no real reason to expect this trend to change during the second quarter, with so many upstream companies prioritizing stock buybacks and other programs designed to return capital to investors and lenders over the mad rush to increase production we saw throughout 2017 and the first 8 months of 2018.

A reasonable updated guess would be that we will see the DrillingInfo count fall to right around 1000 by the time June 30 rolls around.

What about crude prices? Here’s what I predicted they would do in Q1:

…my second prediction is that the price for WTI will rise again, but will not exceed $60 during the first half of 2019.

As things turned out, I had the general direction of crude prices right, but underestimated how rapidly they would rise, as WTI closed at $60.14 in Friday’s trading. The basic market dynamics that advocated in December for what has been a 20% recovery in the WTI benchmark remain in place today. Global demand continues to rise more rapidly than all the experts thought it would at the first of the year, and the OPEC-plus nations still maintain pretty strong compliance with their export quotas.

 

Read the Rest Here

 

 

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Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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Technology Is A Huge Driver Of The U.S. Oil And Gas Boom

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

In the world of oil and natural gas, engineers, geologists, and drilling and production departments tend to get the lion’s share of the credit when good things happen, and most of the blame when they don’t. That’s fair, given the crucial roles these groups of employees play within the thousands of companies that make up the U.S. oil and gas industry.

But in recent years, as overall domestic production has risen at a pace no one could have foreseen even five years ago, the credit has begun to shift. These human resources remain indispensable to the success of any company, but the deployment of a raft of advancing technologies has played an ever-advancing role over time in enabling companies to maximize recoveries and profits.

Advanced-intelligence (AI), machine-learning applications constitute one area of technology that is obtaining widespread use throughout the industry. Unplanned equipment outages and the resulting loss of production cost companies billions of dollars every year. Any technology that can help avoid such outages can have a major, positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

Last December, I wrote about one machine-learning tool – PRT, a recent acquisition of DrillingInfo – that enables companies to significantly reduce their electricity costs by accurately predicting weather and wind patterns up to two weeks in advance. Given that electricity is the single largest element of lease operating expenses industry-wide, that’s a big deal.

Read the Rest Here

 

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Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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The Permian Strategic Partnership Is Now Fully Operational

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

Tracee Bentley has a big job on her hands. Fortunately, as she pointed out in my interview with her on Wednesday, she’s going to have a lot of help.

This past Monday, March 18, was Bentley’s first day on the job as CEO of the Permian Strategic Partnership, the non-profit organization formed last fall by 20 of the largest producers in the oil and natural gas-rich Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico. As I noted back in November, the formation of this new organization is both timely and much-needed:

The Permian Basin is just the latest example of how this industry’s operations can strain a region’s infrastructure and vital service systems. A heavy influx of new, mostly child-bearing age workers, thousands of heavy trucks rolling down county roads and over city streets, dust, noise and traffic jams, all taking place in a region of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico typified by smaller communities will inevitably lead to changes in the quality of life that are upsetting to many residents and community leaders.

These are exactly the kinds of regional issues the Permian Strategic Partnership (PSP) was created to help the area’s communities address. The organization’s website lists its key priority areas of focus this way: “By partnering with local leaders, we will work hard to make roads safer, improve schools, upgrade healthcare, increase affordable housing, and train the next generation of workers.” The member companies are dedicating a lot of scratch to this effort, with an initial commitment of more than $100 million to be directed towards specific projects in the region.

When asked about how the PSP will go about directing these funds and its efforts, Bentley is quick to emphasize the word “partnership”: “We don’t want people to think that we’re just going to come in and take over. That’s not good for anybody, and the oil and gas business is not in the construction business, so to speak, when it comes to things like schools and roads.  But what we are really good at is partnering with communities. We do it every day across the basin on so many different things.”

Read the Rest Here

 

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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The Oil And Gas Situation: A Transition In Fundamentals For 2019

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

A couple of interesting studies have come across my desk in recent days that merit noting. Taken together, they paint a picture of a domestic shale oil and gas industry that is relatively healthy and will only grow healthier throughout 2019 as it benefits from stronger commodity prices.

Will oil inventories hit a record deficit later this year? – That’s what the partners at the Goehring and Rozencwajg investment firm think. In their March 15 analysis, they estimate that stronger-than-projected global demand for crude, combined with the full implementation of promised export cuts by the OPEC-plus countries will result in a significant drop in global crude inventories over the course of this year.

The report correctly notes the habit of the International Energy Agency (IEA) of underestimating global crude demand growth in its initial annual projections. The IEA has had to revise its initial estimates upwards in seven of the last eight years by an average of about half a million barrels of oil per day (bopd) . The firm assumes this trend will continue for 2019, and that IEA’s estimate of demand growth for 2019 is understated by 500,000 bopd.

The report also criticizes the IEA for its rosy projection that production growth for the non-OPEC countries outside of the U.S and Russia will grow by 120,000 bopd during 2019, a projection Goehring and Rozencwajg believe is “simply not possible. Instead, given the severe recent weakness in this group, we believe this number may actually decline by 300,000 b/d” during 2019. Taken together, the firm believes the IEA is overly-pessimistic in its estimates by a total of 920,000 bopd.

Read the Rest Here

 

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Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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The Next Permian Bottleneck: Crude Oil Exports

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

There are many ways to tell the story of any oil boom, one of which is to view them through the spectrum of the various bottlenecks they create. By any measure, the ongoing boom in the Permian Basin has created more than its share of such traffic jams already, and at least one more is likely on the way.

The reasons for this are many: The unprecedented magnitude of this particular oil boom in modern times has much to do with it. The fact that the play area is in a sparsely-populated, mainly-rural part of the world also plays a role. The nature of the oil being produced – the light, sweet variety – and the play area’s immense geographic sprawl also have also been major factors in the creation of a variety of bottlenecks.

Some of the bottlenecks the Permian has experienced come about in any significant oil or gas boom: The ongoing challenges of training and hiring qualified workers is a classic. The shortage of natural-gas-gathering infrastructure that resulted in a high volume of flaring is another that was also a feature of booms in places like the Eagle Ford and Bakken and Marcellus shale plays. Roads and other limitations in preexisting regional infrastructure inevitably resulted in bottlenecks in traffic as the counties and states struggle with  funding major new improvement projects.

Over the last two years, the big bottleneck talk related to the Permian has centered on the need for a major expansion of pipeline takeaway capacity to move oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs) out of the basin to major market and refining centers along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast. But that particular bottleneck is about to start resolving itself during course of this year. Midstream projects will add up to 6 million barrels of oil equivalent of new takeaway capacity out of the Permian by the end of 2021 , and that just from the projects currently underway.

This new capacity is desperately needed, as the U.S. Energy Information Agency projects that Permian crude production will double over the next four years, from the current 4 million bopd to as much as 8 million bopd. Given that virtually all Permian Basin natural gas is associated production from wells classified as oil wells, we can expect similar increases in natural gas and NGL production during that time frame.

Read the Rest Here

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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ExxonMobil, Chevron: Turning The Permian Into A Manufacturing Operation

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

The exploration for oil and natural gas has always been among the most risky propositions in the business world. The major risk today, in the new age of shale, revolves around raising capital and satisfying investors, but throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the bigger risk centered on finding the pockets of oil and gas contained within conventional sand and limestone formations.

This was often a very tricky proposition, and the drilling of dry holes outnumbered the successful wells in many major play areas. The tales are legion of the independent producers who went flat dead broke before ever managing to drill a producing well. “Dad” Joiner, the promoter and ultimate driller of the Daisy Bradford No. 3 – the first successful well completed in the mammoth East Texas Field on October 3, 1930 – famously went broke half a dozen times and required an influx of capital from H.L. Hunt before finally bringing in his gushing discovery well.

That dynamic all began to change in the late 1980s with the discovery and development of unconventional formations like the Fruitland Coal in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico. Operators like Burlington Resources, Amoco and Devon Energy (DVN) soon realized that, once the geographic extents of the formation had been fully delineated, the risk of drilling dry holes soon diminished to near-zero. Once that determination had been made, you drilled a vertical well, conducted a smallish hydraulic frac job and de-watered the surrounding rock to cause the methane gas to be released from the coal.

At that point, the main considerations became how to re-use, dispose of or sell the largely-potable water that came up out of the wells, and building out the necessary transportation and processing infrastructure needed to get it to market. Once those concerns had been addressed, these companies and many others found themselves in what was essentially a true manufacturing environment

A true manufacturing environment is one that is highly-predictable, consistently repeatable, requires known raw materials (i.e., sand, pumps and frac water), deploys specific infrastructure, and involves the disposition of waste materials. The Fruitland Coal fit every aspect of that definition: Many other unconventional plays soon followed.

Shale plays, once fully delineated, all end up incorporating the same features of true manufacturing operations. Thus, when both ExxonMobil (XOM) and Chevron (CHV) issued this week’s announcements that their companies would deploy a high percentage of their respective capital budgets in the coming years in efforts to dramatically increase their production from their Permian Basin operations, it did not represent a new concept for the U.S. oil industry. It’s just that these two major, fully-integrated companies have the ability to conduct such operations on a far grander scale.

For those who may have missed those announcements, Chevron said it plans to produce 600,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) from its Permian operations by 2020, ramping that up to 900,000 boe by 2023. ExxonMobil anticipates being able to increase production from its 1.6 Permian position from roughly 200,000 boe today to 1 million boe by 2024. Both numbers are truly astonishing.

Read the Rest Here

 

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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The Real Existential Threat To America’s Oil Industry Isn’t What You Think

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

Mark P. Mills published an excellent piece on Feb. 28 detailing why the “Green New Deal” proposed by New York Cong. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other Democrats does not represent any sort of existential threat to the oil and gas industry, now or in the future. If you haven’t read this highly-informative piece, you should.

But the reality that “green energy” tech is too limited by the laws of physics to ever hope to displace the internal combustion engine or fossil-fuel-powered baseload electricity generation does not mean that the U.S. industry is free from existential threats. Such threats originate mainly from failures by the industry to universally and effectively address issues that chronically impact and irritate a variety of stakeholders over time.

One of the characteristics that makes the domestic industry so great is the fact that it is not a nationalized, single entity like Mexico’s Pemex or PDVSA in Venezuela. But its status as a business made up of thousands of highly-competitive, private and corporate entities also makes it less able to develop and adopt truly effective, universal solutions to ongoing, chronic issues.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “Fracking”, is a great example. Fracking is literally a technological miracle that has transformed the United States from a country that seemed hopelessly reliant on foreign imports at the turn of the century into one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of both oil and natural gas today. But the industry’s inability to find and adopt ways to make the process less impactful on individual stakeholders and local communities has also led several states – including New York, New Jersey and Vermont – to enact either outright or de facto bans on fracking within their borders.

Read the Rest Here

 

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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