Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cold Snap; NG Pipeline Explosion; Cracked Pipeline In The North Sea -- Perfect Storm In Europe -- Bloomberg --December 12, 2017

How's that renewable energy working out?

The other day Platts reported a "pre-alert" for natural gas withdrawals in Italy. Curious about what's going on, a google search led me to this from Bloomberg, posted today (full story is archived if link breaks):
Natural gas flows were set to recover in Europe after an explosion at an Austrian hub threatened supplies already pinched by a closed pipeline in the North Sea and a cold snap across the continent.
Oil company OMV AG, which controls the Baumgarten gas hub, managed to divert international transit pipelines so that flows to Italy, Germany and Hungary can resume before midnight local time, according to an emailed statement.
Natural gas and power prices earlier jumped in Europe after the explosion, and Brent crude oil futures rose above $65 a barrel for the first time since June 2015, extending their premium over the U.S. benchmark. Britain, which is struggling to absorb the impact of a crack that shut down a key North Sea pipeline network, saw some of the biggest increases.
A blast about 9 a.m. at the Baumgarten compressor station killed at least one person and injured at least 21 people, interrupting flows at one of the main points where Russian natural gas enters Europe.
That followed two days of snow in London and cooler-than-normal temperatures spread from the Alps to Scandinavia, which is raising demand for heating fuels.
“The European gas market seems to be going through a perfect storm,” Massimo Di-Odoardo, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in London.
Britain lacks the gas storage sites and web of interconnections that make most continental European markets better able to cope with disruption. Reduced pipeline gas flows may increase competition with Asia for liquefied natural gas cargoes this winter, according to WoodMac.
Front-month gas in Britain jumped as much as 23 percent to 73.7 pence a therm ($9.86 a million British thermal units) on ICE Futures Europe, the highest since December 2013
The comparable U.K. power contract rose as much as 15 percent, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg. Same-day gas soared as much as 46 percent.
Baumgarten, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Vienna, transports the equivalent of a 10th of Europe’s gas demand.
The article continues with an update on Italian supply:
Flows on the Trans Austria Gas pipeline, which carries Russian gas to Italy, are set to resume by midnight, Marco Alvera, the chief executive officer of gas transmission company Snam SpA, said in an emailed statement.
Italy, which relies on Russian flows for 30 percent of its demand, earlier declared a state of emergency for gas. OMV had initially said it would take “days” to fully restore the facility, roiling power and gas markets across the continent.
Meanwhile, a global warming conference is being held in Paris. It turns out the international community can't "exist" without global warming money from the US. I can't make this stuff up.

Save The Last Dance For Me

EIA's Short Term Energy Outlook -- December 12, 2017

Oil Markets:
  • Average Brent crude oil spot prices climbed by $5 per barrel last month, rising from October’s average of $58 to $63 per barrel in November. Our forecast, however, expects that average to retreat in 2018 to an annual average of $57 per barrel. [Bad, bad news for Saudi Arabia; re-balancing ain't working.]
  • U.S. crude oil production increased in November, up roughly 400,000 barrels per day from October’s production levels. EIA attributes a large share of that increase to production in the Gulf of Mexico, which has recovered from the effects of Hurricane Nate. An additional increase of 100,000 barrels per day in December is forecast to put production at 9.77 million barrels per day for the month.
  • For 2017, EIA estimates U.S. crude oil production to average 9.2 million barrels per day. The forecast going into 2018 expects to see production increase to 10.0 million barrels per day, which would become the highest average annual production rate of crude oil in U.S. history. [The end of the Peak Oil Theory as we know it.]
Gasoline/Refined Products:
  • EIA expects December’s U.S. regular gasoline retail price to average $2.59 per gallon, roughly 34 cents above the average in December 2016, with the increase mostly reflecting higher crude oil prices this year. [One can easily find regular unleaded gasoline for $2.09 in the DFW area.]
  • EIA’s last short-term forecast of 2017 projects that U.S. regular retail gasoline prices will average $2.51 per gallon in 2018.
Natural Gas:
  • EIA forecasts U.S. dry natural gas production to average 73.5 billion cubic feet per day in 2017, and EIA models suggest that dry natural gas production levels will approach 80 billion cubic feet per day in 2018. 
  • Growing production in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions is a large driver of this increase.
  • Natural gas and coal’s shares of utility-scale electricity generation are expected to remain relatively unchanged through 2018. Both natural gas and coal are forecast to hover near 32% and 31%, respectively, in 2018.
  • EIA forecasts that decreased exports and marginal growth in coal consumption will lower coal production to 771 million short tons in 2018, down about 20 million short tons from the expected 2017 production level of 791 million short tons.
  • Renewables, not including hydroelectric generation, should gain two percentage points in their share of utility-scale generation from about 8% in 2016 to 10% in 2018. A significant part of that projected increase is tied to the forecasted growth in wind generating capacity during 2018. [All else being equal, expect utility rates to rise.]

Six New Permits; Five DUCs Reported As Completed -- December 12, 2017

Active rigs:

Active Rigs514165181191

Six new permits:
  • Operators: EOG (3); BR (3)
  • Fields: Antelope (McKenzie); Ross (Mountrail); Blue Buttes (McKenzie)
  • Comments: BR has permits for a 3-well Veeder pad; EOG has permits for two more Clarks Creek wells
Five producing wells (DUCs) reported as completed:
  • 33151, 148, BR, Croff 7-1-2 MBH, Croff, t11/17; cum --
  • 33150, 655, BR, Mathistad 3NC-MTFH, Croff, t11/17; cum --
  • 33167, 1,827, Statoil, Russell 10-3 4H, Painted Woods, t11/17; cum --
  • 33166, 2,024, Statoil, Russell 10-3 3H, Painted Woods, t11/17; cum --
  • 33165, 1,720, Statoil, Russell 10-3 2H, Painted Woods, t11/17; cum --

The Energy And Market Page, Part 2, T+325 -- December 12, 2017

This burr must have really gotten under Richard Zeits' saddle -- see below.

Richard Zeits: EIA bashers should check their own numbers. Archived here if link breaks. Summary --
  • empirical data does not support multiple recent allegations that the EIA's reporting or forecasts are "wrong"
  • the wave of frivolous accusations against the EIA in the blogosphere preys on the least protected category of investors
  • a competent, independent, bias-free EIA must be safeguarded
Drawdown of US crude oil inventories: API data -- huge drawdown --
Spot electricity elsewhere:
  • Australia:
    • South Australia: is projected to spike to $600/MWh later today
    • Victoria: is projected to spike to $600/MWh later today 
  • New England: spiked to $150/MWh earlier today

Oasis This Past Year (2017) -- December 12, 2017

From my "Bakken Operators" page, it is interesting to run through what Oasis has done this past year. It may be instructive. In retrospect two things stand out: a) deal-making; and, b) an interest in raising cash:
For more on Oasis current events, this post and this post

Not Ready For Prime Time -- December 12, 2017


May 202, 2021: full circle. Oasis sells its entire Permian position. Oasis sold its position for about half what it paid for it originally.

December 27, 2017: why Oasis paid "big" for the Permian -- Mike Filloon.

December 24, 2017: for the record, today Yahoo!Finance reports that OAS has 269.31 million shares outstanding. 

December 22, 2017: Reuters has an article today -- "Oasis looks to expand oil ambitions beyond North Dakota's Bakken."

Oasis Petroleum Inc, the last major oil producer operating exclusively in North Dakota's Bakken shale formation, is heading south to the nation's largest oilfield, pursuing a pricey expansion as investors worry about maturing shale fields.
Oasis shares have tumbled 21 percent following last week's disclosure, pointing to growing tension between oil producers looking to invest in their future and investors demanding better returns.
Oasis said the $946 million cash-and-stock investment secures a premier foothold in the Delaware basin area of the Permian, the nation's fastest-growing oil field, while spreading its costs over a wider drilling footprint.
The Bakken, one of the first U.S. shale fields to be tapped, is maturing, oil analysts say, noting that by some measures it has just five or six years of sweet-spot drilling sites left in its core.
December 13, 2017: earnings analysis, dated December 13, 2017.

Later, 6:01 p.m. Central Time, from SeekingAlpha on the Oasis-Permian deal:
  • OAS agreed to buy 20.3K acres in the Delaware Basin for $946M, consisting of $483M in cash and 46M common shares of common stock, meaning the company is issuing 78M new shares - substantial dilution to existing investors considering it had ~233M shares outstanding as of the end of Q3
  • the deal also is viewed as a departure from its Bakken-focused strategy, and its per acre price of $46,660 looks like a hefty premium; Motley Fool's Matthew DiLallo notes two deals in the same region by Marathon Oil in March, one in which MRO paid $1.1B for 70K net acres (~$15K/acre) and the second  in which it spent $700M for 21K net acres (~$33,333/acre).
  • SunTrust Robinson Humphrey downgrades shares to Hold from Buy with an $11 price target, cut from $14, citing the "hefty price" OAS paid to enter the Delaware Basin.
As a reminder, this is the first paragraph of the Oasis press release (link here, which is likely to be temporary):
Oasis Petroleum Inc.announced today that it has commenced an underwritten public offering of 32,000,000 shares of common stock. Oasis expects to grant the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to 4,800,000 additional shares of common stock.
The Company intends to use the net proceeds from this offering to fund a portion of the previously announced acquisition of assets in the Permian Basin from Forge Energy, LLC.
The offering is not conditioned on the consummation of the Acquisition, and if the Acquisition does not occur, the net proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes, which may include funding a portion of the Company's 2018 capital budget.


Disclaimer: in a long note like this, there will be typographical and factual errors. I already found a huge error after posting; that error has been corrected. There are probably several others. I will correct them when I find them. 

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment, financial, job, travel, or relationship decisions based on anything you read here or think you may have read here.

Disclaimer: I own no shares in Oasis or any company directly related to Oasis. I never have (as far as I can recall, but it's possible in the early days of the boom I did, but I don't think so). I have no plans to invest in Oasis in the next several weeks and/or perhaps never.

Disclaimer: these are simply some random thoughts in line with the original "purpose" of the blog.

1. When I first saw the news that Oasis had bought any acreage in the Permian I was disappointed.

2. When I saw the price they paid I was not only disappointed but also incredulous. Almost a billion dollars for 20,000 net acres.

3. I just went through their slide presentation, previously posted

4. After looking at the slides, it made me re-think my position (thoughts) on Oasis. There are a lot of things that one can take away from that slide presentation.

5. Missing from the slide presentation: which Bakken acreage will be sold. Oasis shows a map of their core, their extended core, and their fairway. I don't think Oasis provided it in this presentation, but it looks like, visual approximation:
  • core: 25% of total Bakken holdings
  • extended core: 25% extended core holdings
  • fairway: 50% of their core holdings
  • one could argue: 30 - 30 - 40

6. Selling scenarios: total holdings in the Bakken: 520,000 net acres (rounded)
By definition, it is clear that the "fairway" will be sold. The question is whether any of the "extended core" will be sold. Oasis hopes to sell "non-core assets" for $500 million.
  • Let's run some scenarios:
    • A: sell only the fairway, 50% of total holdings:
      • 260,000 net acres; $500 million / 260K acres = $1,900/acre
    • B: sell only the fairway, 40% of total holdings: 
      • 200,000 net acres: $500 million / 200K acres = $2,500/acre
    • C: sell the fairway (50%) and half of the extended core (15% of total holdings):
      • 260,000 + 80,000 acres: $500 million  / 340K acres = $1,500/acre
    • D: sell the fairway (40%) and half of the extended core (15% of total holdings):
      • 200,000 +80,000 acres: $500 million / 280K acres = $1,800/acre
6. Not a lot of difference between $1,500/acre and $2,500/acre. It will be interesting to see how many Bakken acres Oasis sells. I'm looking at scenario D.

7. Positive: Oasis has learned about very deep drilling in the Bakken. Their newly acquired acreage is in the deepest part of the Permian.

8. Positive: Their newly acquired acreage in the Permian is predominantly oil. One of the criticisms I have had of the Permian is that a lot of it is "gassy." The Permian acreage Oasis bought is nowhere near the gas condensate portion of the basin.

9. Positive: surface location outstanding: I know nothing about the Permian but when I do hear about the Permian, there are three or four counties that keep coming up in conversation: Reeves, Loving, Winkler, and one or two others. Their newly acquired acreage in the Permian is smack dab in the middle of the aforementioned Texas counties. This would be like buying into the Bakken acreage right around Watford City, ND. During the boom.

10. Positive: their acreage is contiguous and compact; a lot of the infrastructure is already there. They are surrounded by the "big boys": ExxonMobil; Shell; Anadarko; Devon.

11. Positive. Very little of their own cash is being used to buy this property in the Permian.

12. Wow, this is so cool. I don't recall the original press release from Oasis stating who the seller was. I may have missed it. But looking at the map, it appears it might be Forge Energy. Doing a google search this popped up: it was Forge Energy. Whoo-hoo.

13. Negative? Financials: I can't do the financials. I can only assume very smart people know what they are doing. But $50,000 / acre is ... well, a bit more money than I have. LOL.

14. One-half of E&P is "E." Everyone pretty much knows what Oasis will produce in the Bakken. Oasis is in the manufacturing stage in the Bakken. If Oasis doesn't doesn't look at the other half of the equation, exploration, the company will stagnate. It may make a lot of money in the Bakken but from an oilman's (or oilwoman's) perspective, that gets boring awful fast. Oilmen and oilwomen are always looking for a deal, always looking for that next big gusher. I have to think that is part of what is going on here. One can argue that the Permian is simply in the production phase now and that this really doesn't qualify as exploration. Be that as it may. But if nothing else, Oasis is in a new tier among US oil companies.

15. Faith. There have been a number of stories recently that investors and bankers (bankrolling the US shale industry) are losing their patience. Investors and bankers want to see some return on their investments. My first thought, along with a reader who has skin in the game with regard to Oasis, felt that Oasis was finally "getting their ship righted (financially)" and now they go and do this. We already know that Oasis' banker is willing to go along with this. I doubt the 30 million stock offering will fail (investor trust).

16. Investors? Buying opportunity. OAS is down almost 14% today, down from $10 to almost $8.50/share.

17. Insiders: it would be interesting to know what insiders thought would happen to the share price once this deal was announced. Here is what did happen.

18. What else? I'm sure there are some more things that will come to mind later, but this is a start.

19. Bottom line: my initial reaction to this announcement was disappointment and incredible surprise. After going through the presentation, I am really, really excited for Oasis. I think they did the right thing for the company. For investors? I don't know. Maybe another buying opportunity?

The Market And Energy Page, T+325 -- December 12, 2017 -- This Market Is Unstoppable

Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment, financial, job, travel, or relationship decisions based on anything you read here or think you may have read here.

Market: this market is simply unstoppable. The Dow and S&P 500 each hit a new record yesterday. I keep looking for a pullback. Last night, Dow futures were up 30 points. I had not looked at the market until a few minutes ago and now I see that the Dow is up 135 points and I can't explain it. The market just hit another milestone -- it just hit a new, all-time intra-day high (24,538). I quickly turned on CNBC, to a reader I wrote:
Santelli was just talking about bonds, and telling us that one of the curves will invert tomorrow when the Fed raises rates. [The 10-year is now 2.415%.]

Then the anchor says the "market is having a pretty good day." Wow, what an understatement ... these guys simply can't excited about the Trump rally.

I have no idea why the market jumped 130 points today; perhaps investors are happy to see a bit of wholesale price inflation ... finally.
US economy. The WSJ on jobs last week -- December 8, 2017 -- 607 comments to date. The lede:
The U.S. economy is hitting milestones not seen in more than a decade, marked by robust hiring that has led to low unemployment and a sustained pickup in output.
Labor Department data Friday showed nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 228,000 in November—the record 86th straight month of expansion—after a 244,000 gain in October. Steady hiring has in turn driven the unemployment rate down to 4.1% for two straight months, holding at a 17-year low.
That would put economic output on track for a third straight quarter of near 3% growth, a breakout, for now at least, from a long period of 2% growth. The economy hasn’t delivered three straight quarters of growth at or above 3% since a period from mid-2004 to early 2005.
GDP Now. I don't know if I posted this earlier, but the latest forecast has dropped below 3%:
The GDPNow model forecast for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the fourth quarter of 2017 is 2.9 percent on December 8, down from 3.2 percent on December 5.
The forecasts of real consumer spending growth and real private fixed-investment growth declined from 2.8 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively, to 2.5 percent and 7.0 percent, respectively, after this morning's employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The model's estimate of the dynamic factor for November—normalized to have mean 0 and standard deviation 1 and used to forecast the yet-to-be released monthly GDP source data—declined from 1.13 to 0.47 after the report.
Surge: in the ten minutes it has taken me to write this much, the Dow has jumped from 135 points to 167 points. I have some hunches but won't say anything. I don't want to remove all doubt about my  insanity.

Brent crude oil prices soar -- TheStreet. Highest price since mid-2015, ... 
... topping $65 a barrel as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. analysts increased their price forecasts for next year and identified some spread trades for investors might consider in the oil market. 
Prices for the global benchmark Brent crude oil for February 2018 delivery were up more than 1% to $65.45 at around 8:30 a.m. EST. Future contracts for West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery rose about 0.8% to settle at $58.45 on Tuesday.

Update On "Port Of North Dakota" -- December 12, 2017

The last time I blogged about ND Port Services it was about the port being in default in lease payments. A short update from The Minot Daily News in this story:
  • the city has been seeking lease payments from NDPS that it states are overdue. In court documents, NDPS alleges the city breached the lease by failing to maintain the property. First Western Bank filed foreclosure against NDPS in May for delinquent loan payments. That legal debate continues in North Central District Court. 
Bur now there appears to be new interest in the port:
  • NDPS currently operates with three tracks of about 4,500 feet. Limitations with those tracks preclude handling more than a few cars at a time. NDPS would like to construct four rails of 9,500 feet to enable the port to serve more cars and create a more viable operation.
Because of the way the story is written, it's a bit hard to follow but this is what it sounds like to me:
  • the Port had a projected $130 million investment fall through in 2013; focused on Bakken energy; investor got "cold feet" -- worried how long the boom would last
  • the Port was unable to maintain lease payments to the city of Minot
  • the Port now has an investor group interested in investing $80 million the project
  • but to do that, the Port needs to add rail on land that the city of Minot owns
  • the Port focused on Bakken oil back in 2013; now it pivots to agriculture, wants to become a distribution and logistics center for a core hub between Chicago and Seattle
  • development of the Port began in 2005
  • NDPS was established in 2007 (still commonly called the Port of North Dakota)
  • transloading activity began in 2010
To put this in perspective, compare with Red River Oilfield Service, on the east side of Williston, ND -- built privately by a single individual. When I was last there, the rail yard had around eleven rail spurs; I don't know the exact length of each spur, but at least one had been completed as part of the "Unit Train Project" -- unit trains are colloquially said to be a "mile long."

Comments: this is incredibly good news for the Port, the city of Minot, and, the entire region. It certainly suggests the "Bakken economy" continues to hum along.

Reality Of Renewables -- December 12, 2017

Chart of the day:

It may be hard to read, but of the 97.5 quads of energy consumption in the graph above:
  • solar: 0.532 (and the heyday of solar may be over)
  • wind:1.82 (wind is still exciting, but best public are starting to say "NIMBY"; off-shore inconsequential)
  • nuclear: 8.34 (this is the big story. Nuclear plants are being shut down; it's hard to think that wind could even begin to make up what is going to be lost as the nuclear power plants are decommissioned)
  • hydro: 2.39 (static)
  • biomass: 4.72 (static)
One individual at this article noted:
Over the last four years solar and wind have increased energy production in the US by 0.8 quads. Natural gas over the same time has increased by 2.3 quads - almost 3 times as much.
And that gap in production between wind/solar and natural gas will continue to increase. Every time I see a utility announce that the company is adding more wind/solar, there is also an accompanying announcement that more natural gas will be also added -- and many times more than wind/solar. The wind/solar is added for two reasons:
  • public relations; help get the project through the regulation/approval process
  • for the tax credits

Huge Fracks -- Random Note -- December 12, 2017

Note the large amount of proppant and/or the large number of stages on several wells that came off confidential the last three days. This page will not be updated.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017: 49 for the month; 159 for the quarter
31629, 2,208, Oasis, Lawlar N 5199 41-23 2B, North Tobacco Garden, 70 stages; 10.2 million lbs; t7/17; cum 182K 10/17;

Monday, December 11, 2017: 47 for the month; 157 for the quarter
32316, 674, EOG, Van Hook 71-1411H, Parshall, 35 stages; 13.1 million lbs, t6/17; cum 105K 10/17;
31630, 1,497, Oasis, Lawlar N 5199 41-23 3T, North Tobacco Garden, Three Forks, 70 stages, 10 million lbs, t7/17; cum 110K 10/17;

Sunday, December 10, 2017: 43 for the month; 153 for the quarter
32315, 615, EOG, Van Hook 70-1411HX, Parshall, 28 stages; 10.6 million lbs; t6/17; cum 106K 10/17;

Saturday, December 9, 2017: 40 for the month; 150 for the quarter
33050, 1,703, EOG, Clarks Creek 75-0719HX, Clarks Creek, 4 sections, 57 stages, 15.1 million lbs; t6/17; cum 230K 10/17;
32794, 2,382, Clarks Creek 74-0719H, Clarks Creek, 4 sections, 59 stages, 17 million lbs, t6/17; cum 230K 10/17;
31836, 1,827, Whiting, Evitt 34-12H, Truax, 4 sections 43 stages; 11 million lbs, t6/17; cum 148K 10/17;

WTI Up On Brent Pipeline News -- December 12, 2017

Drawdown of US crude oil inventories: API data -- huge drawdown --
  • forecast: a drawdown of 4 million bbls
  • actual: a drawdown of 7.382 million bbls

Fracking our way to Mideast peace: a nice article in the WSJ

What a doofus?

Nodding Donkeys Nodding Off

From Bloomberg via Rigzone, data points:
  • nodding donkeys, failing
  • effective on vertical wells; less effective on horizontal wells
  • pumpjacks can last five or six years without any problems; on new wells in the Eagle Ford, they may not last two years
  • currently about 50,000 horizontal wells that have nodding donkeys; total number of horizontal wells in North America: over 1.2 million producing wells
  • costs about $250,000 to install a pumpjack; $100,000 to repair or replace it
  • this has been discussed before, not sure if I've ever blogged about it
From the article:
“If you’re failing your pump all the time, you’re not getting low lifting costs,” said Saponja, who had first-hand experience when he worked at a small exploration and production company in the Bakken shale region of North Dakota. Over a two-year period, Saponja said he replaced its pump more than half a dozen times.
“There is no one favorable solution for the problem,” .... trying to develop alternatives with funding from companies including Exxon and BP.
One workaround engineers have used is to shove natural gas into the hole to lighten the oil and make it easier to pump to the surface. Another is placing an electric-submersible pump, or ESP, down in the well. While both techniques work during the early stages in the life of a well, they often aren’t as effective after output falls.
This explains all the sundry forms in the NDIC files documenting that ESPs have been installed. One wonders to what extent this is associated with the "dreaded Bakken decline." If it is a significant reason for the "dreaded Bakken decline" and if the problem is solved, it will be yet another incredible story coming out of the Bakken.

Other Market And Energy Notes

Lay Flat Hose: MBI Energy Services laid 35 miles of Lay Flat Hose to transport fracking water to its service areas. From myNDnow. I'm not sure what's particularly new about this; I saw this five or six years ago in the hills on the north side of Lake Sakakawea.

Gray Oak Pipeline, Texas: Phillips 66 and Enbridge launch open season. Data points:
  • west Texas (Reeves, Loving, Winkler, and Crane counties) to Corpus Christi, Freeport, and Houston
  • initial capacity: 385,000 bpd
  • will consider increasing that capacity
  • will link to more than 3 billion bbls per day of refining capacity and multiple export facilities
Disclaimer: this is not an investment site. Do not make any investment, financial, travel, job, or relationship decisions based on anything you read here or think you may have read here.

SRE: opening price, pending. FERC approves SRE takeover of Oncor. Other agencies still need to approve. As expected, investors are not happy. SRE shares are down almost 2%, or about $2/share. 

Active rigs:

Active Rigs524165181191

RBN Energy: condensate production decline hits splitters and neat conde exports.
The sharp decline in U.S. condensate production since early 2015 and the end to the ban on U.S. crude oil exports a few months later were a one-two punch for the companies that made throughput commitments to condensate splitters and made other conde-related infrastructure investments.
In what seemed like a flash, conde supply plummeted and the steep price discount to WTI and other light crude that made conde so attractive for splitting and exporting was gone. Holders of splitter capacity were paying top-dollar for what conde they could corral, and operators were forced to run their brand-new facilities at far less than capacity. And, when the general ban on crude exports was lifted in December 2015, the special status that conde had enjoyed since exports of lightly processed conde were permitted in June 2014 was a thing of the past.
Today, we continue our review of a conde world in upheaval, this time with a focus on splitters and exports.
Superlight crude and conde sit side-by-side at the far end of the crude-oil spectrum. They’re both sweet (low-sulfur) and very pourable — superlight (using EIA’s API gravity breakdown, 50.1 to 55.0 degrees) is like iced tea, and conde (API gravity of 55.1 or more — also EIA’s breakdown) is like cream soda — and they can either be refined, exported, blended with heavier crudes, or (for conde) run through a splitter. A splitter uses atmospheric distillation to separate high-API-gravity conde into its component fractions to produce intermediate, semi-finished blend stocks like naphthas and distillates that are processed further at refineries.