Short-Term Energy Outlook
December 12, 2017 Release
Global liquid fuels
North Sea Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $63 per barrel (b) in November, an increase of $5/b from the average in October. EIA forecasts Brent spot prices to average $57/b in 2018, up from an average of $54/b in 2017.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices are forecast to average $4/b lower than Brent prices in 2018. After averaging $2/b lower than Brent prices through the first eight months of 2017, WTI prices averaged $6/b lower than Brent prices from September through November.
NYMEX WTI contract values for March 2018 delivery traded during the five-day period ending December 7, 2017, suggest that a range of $48/b to $68/b encompasses the market expectation for March WTI prices at the 95% confidence level.
· EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil production averaged 9.7 million barrels per day (b/d) in November, up 360,000 b/d from the October level. Most of the increase was in the Gulf of Mexico, where production was 290,000 b/d higher than in October. Higher production in November reflected oil production platforms returning to operation after being shut in response to Hurricane Nate. EIA forecasts total U.S. crude oil production to average 9.2 million b/d for all of 2017 and 10.0 million b/d in 2018, which would mark the highest annual average production, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970.
· U.S. regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.56 per gallon (gal) in November, an increase of nearly 6 cents/gal from the average in October. The increase in November primarily reflected increasing crude oil prices. EIA forecasts the U.S. regular gasoline retail price will average $2.59/gal in December, 34 cents/gal higher than at the same time last year. EIA forecasts that U.S. regular gasoline retail prices will average $2.51/gal in 2018.
· U.S. dry natural gas production is forecast to average 73.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017, a 0.7 Bcf/d increase from the 2016 level. EIA forecasts that natural gas production in 2018 will be 6.1 Bcf/d higher than the 2017 level.
· In November, the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $3.01 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), up nearly 14 cents/MMBtu from October. Expected growth in natural gas exports and domestic natural gas consumption in 2018 contribute to an increase in EIA’s forecast Henry Hub natural gas spot price from an annual average of $3.01/MMBtu in 2017 to $3.12/MMBtu in 2018. NYMEX contract values for March 2018 delivery that traded during the five-day period ending December 7, 2017, suggest that a range of $1.98/MMBtu to $4.27/MMBtu encompasses the market expectation for March Henry Hub natural gas prices at the 95% confidence level.
Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
· EIA expects the share of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas will average about 32% in 2017, down from 34% in 2016 as a result of higher natural gas fuel costs and increased generation from renewable energy sources. EIA projects the 2017 share of generation from coal will average 30%, about the same as last year. The forecast 2018 generation shares for natural gas and coal remain relatively unchanged from 2017, averaging 32% and 31%, respectively. Generation from renewable energy sources other than hydropower grows from about 8% in 2016 to a forecast share of nearly 10% in 2018. Nuclear power’s forecast share of total electricity generation averages about 20% in both 2017 and 2018, similar to its 2016 level.
· Estimated U.S. coal production for the first 11 months of 2017 is 719 million short tons (MMst), 54 MMst (8%) higher than production for the same period in 2016. Annual production is expected to be 791 MMst in 2017, falling to 771 MMst in 2018 because of lower exports and no growth in coal consumption.
· U.S. coal exports for the first three quarters of 2017 were 69 MMst, 68% (28 MMst) higher than exports for the same period in 2016. This total for the first three quarters of 2017 is already 14% (8 MMst) higher than total annual coal exports in 2016. EIA expects that exports will total 89 MMst in 2017 and 74 MMst in 2018.
· U.S. wind electricity generating capacity at the end of 2016 totaled 81 gigawatts (GW). EIA expects wind capacity additions in the forecast to raise total wind capacity to 88 GW by the end of 2017 and to 96 GW by the end of 2018.
· Total U.S. utility-scale solar electricity generating capacity at the end of 2016 was 22 GW. EIA expects solar capacity additions will bring total utility-scale solar capacity to 27 GW by the end of 2017 and to 30 GW by the end of 2018.
· After declining by 1.7% in 2016, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to decrease by 0.8% in 2017 and then to increase by 1.8% in 2018. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, and energy prices.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 10 December 2018 – Brent: US$62/b; WTI: US$52/b
Headlines of the week
The Permian is in desperate need of pipelines. That much is true. There is so much shale liquids sloshing underneath the Permian formation in Texas and New Mexico, that even though it has already upended global crude market and turned the USA into the world’s largest crude producer, there is still so much of it trapped inland, unable to make the 800km journey to the Gulf Coast that would take them to the big wider world.
The stakes are high. Even though the US is poised to reach some 12 mmb/d of crude oil production next year – more than half of that coming from shale oil formations – it could be producing a lot more. This has already caused the Brent-WTI spread to widen to a constant US$10/b since mid-2018 – when the Permian’s pipeline bottlenecks first became critical – from an average of US$4/b prior to that. It is even more dramatic in the Permian itself, where crude is selling at a US$10-16/b discount to Houston WTI, with trends pointing to the spread going as wide as US$20/b soon. Estimates suggest that a record 3,722 wells were drilled in the Permian this year but never opened because the oil could not be brought to market. This is part of the reason why the US active rig count hasn’t increased as much as would have been expected when crude prices were trending towards US$80/b – there’s no point in drilling if you can’t sell.
Assistance is on the way. Between now and 2020, estimates suggest that some 2.6 mmb/d of pipeline capacity across several projects will come onstream, with an additional 1 mmb/d in the planning stages. Add this to the existing 3.1 mmb/d of takeaway capacity (and 300,000 b/d of local refining) and Permian shale oil output currently dammed away by a wall of fixed capacity could double in size when freed to make it to market.
And more pipelines keep getting announced. In the last two weeks, Jupiter Energy Group announced a 90-day open season seeking binding commitments for a planned 1 mmb/d, 1050km long Jupiter Pipeline – which could connect the Permian to all three of Texas’ deepwater ports, Houston, Corpus Christi and Brownsville. Plains All American is launching its 500,000 b/d Sunrise Pipeline, connecting the Permian to Cushing, Oklahoma. Wolf Midstream has also launched an open season, seeking interest for its 120,000 b/d Red Wolf Crude Connector branch, connecting to its existing terminal and infrastructure in Colorado City.
Current estimates suggest that Permian output numbered around 3.5 mmb/d in October. At maximum capacity, that’s still about 100,000 b/d of shale oil trapped inland. As planned pipelines come online over the next two years, that trickle could turn into a flood. Consider this. Even at the current maxing out of Permian infrastructure, the US is already on the cusp on 12 mmb/d crude production. By 2021, it could go as high as 15 mmb/d – crude prices, permitting, of course.
As recently reported in the WSJ; “For years, the companies behind the U.S. oil-and-gas boom, including Noble Energy Inc. and Whiting Petroleum Corp. have promised shareholders they have thousands of prospective wells they can drill profitably even at $40 a barrel. Some have even said they can generate returns on investment of 30%. But most shale drillers haven’t made much, if any, money at those prices. From 2012 to 2017, the 30 biggest shale producers lost more than $50 billion. Last year, when oil prices averaged about $50 a barrel, the group as a whole was barely in the black, with profits of about $1.7 billion, or roughly 1.3% of revenue, according to FactSet.”
The immense growth experienced in the Permian has consequences for the entire oil supply chain, from refining balances – shale oil is more suitable for lighter ends like gasoline, but the world is heading for a gasoline glut and is more interested in cracking gasoil for the IMO’s strict marine fuels sulphur levels coming up in 2020 – to geopolitics, by diminishing OPEC’s power and particularly Saudi Arabia’s role as a swing producer. For now, the walls keeping a Permian flood in are still standing. In two years, they won’t, with new pipeline infrastructure in place. And so the oil world has two years to prepare for the coming tsunami, but only if crude prices stay on course.
Recent Announced Permian Pipeline Projects
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 3 December 2018 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b
Headlines of the week