Recently in Gas market Category

November 3, 2010

Arthur Berman Does It Again

Arthur Berman, a geological consultant, has once again blasted the economics of gas shale plays -- this time the Marcellus.  At the annual conference sponsored by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas - USA, held on October 7-9 in Washington, D.C., Mr. Berman made a presentation: "Shale Gas--Abundance or Mirage? Why the Marcellus Shale Will Disappoint Expectations."  His power-point from that presentation may be found here:  Arthur Berman on Marcellus.pdf  Mr. Berman argues that only a small percentage of the areas now being touted as productive in shale plays -- the "core areas" are economic at any price; that even within the core areas, performance is not uniform and the geology is complex; that the wells are very expensive and the break-even gas price is as high as $8-$12/mcf; that reserves have been overstated by the companies in the plays; that the industry is not properly estimating estimated ultimate recoveries from the wells; that changes in reporting rules recently adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission allow companies to "book" estimated reserves prematurely; and that the economies of the plays will ultimately be reflected in lower share prices of the companies participating in the plays. 

For the Marcellus in particular, Mr. Berman asserts that infrastructure limitations -- lack of pipeline and gas processing capacity -- will slow development, that environmental issues -- fears about groundwater contamination, proximity to urban areas, and regulatory restraints -- will not go away, and that economics for drilling in the Marcellus Shale are no better than in the Barnett Shale. Mr. Berman says that shale gas is the nation's next speculative bubble likely to burst.

Mr. Berman created a stir just a year ago when he published a similar gloomy analysis of the Barnett Shale, at the ASPO conference in October 2009.  At that time he was a contributor to a trade publication called World Oil, which is sent free to top oil & gas E&P executives. In early November 2009, World Oil was about to publish another article by Mr. Berman critical of shale plays, but the president of the publication ordered that it not be published. Mr. Berman resigned, and his editor Perry Fischer, who insisted that the article be published, was fired. All of this created a stir in the blogosphere. Fischer contended that World Oil executives were pressured by CEOs of two public E&P companies not to publish any more of Mr. Berman's critiques. Tudor Holt & Pickering, who analyze the oil and gas industry, published a critique of Mr. Berman's analysis, and two oil executives from Devon and Chesapeake wrote newspaper op ed pieces critical of his work. Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon said at the time that he expected gas prices to continue to rise, which would lead to an increase in drilling and production in the shale plays. "We think all of the elements are in place for gas prices to be higher in 2010 than they are today," McClendon said.

McClendon's predictions have not held true. Gas prices have continued to slide, although drilling in the shale plays has continued. Particularly in the Haynesville, wells are being drilled that are surely not economic at current prices. The only explanation I know of for this continued drilling is that the companies who paid $10,000 to $25,000 per acre for leases in the play must drill the wells to prevent the leases from expiring. The result is that gas production and drilling remains high despite lower prices, resulting in a continued glut in supply, further reducing prices.  In the meantime Mr. McClendon, always quick on his feet, has moved to the Eagle Ford Shale play, a "liquids-rich" play, because oil prices, unlike gas, have not declined. Chesapeake acquired a large position in the "oil window" of the Eagle Ford and quickly made a deal with China's national oil company to sell them one-third of its acreage for $10,000 an acre. If indeed, as Mr. Berman believes, the shale plays are the next speculative bubble, maybe it will be national oil companies like China's who are left holding the bag.

April 5, 2010

EIA to Change Methodology for Estimating U.S. Gas Supply

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the Energy Information Administration will revise the way it estimates U.S. natural gas supplies, after concluding that its current method significantly over-estimates supply. An analysis has concluded that there are discrepancies of as much as 12% between the total gas supply (gas produced or imported) and gas demand (gas consumed or stored). In December, the EIA reported gas supply at 87.8 bcf/day and total demand of 80 bcf/day. The high estimates for supply may have unnecessarily depressed prices.

The EIA requires the nation's largest producers to file a monthly report, Form 914, to report production; based on that report and its models, EIA estimates production by smaller producers. EIA has been less able to account for smaller companies' production, and it is believed that this is in part a result of shale development and other advances in technology.

January 15, 2010

Interesting Comparison of Wellhead and Residential Gas Prices Across States

The information below is from the Energy Information Administration.  Note the wide variation in City Gate and Wellhead Prices among different states:

Gas Prices table.jpg  

Below is the same information in graph form.  Why would average residential gas prices in Texas be $12.88 per mcf, while residential prices in California and Minnesota -- far from natural gas production -- be less than $10 per mcf? Why such variations in Residential prices?

 

EIA Natural Gas Prices graph.jpg

September 18, 2009

Record Gas In Storage Depresses Gas Prices

Gas prices in Texas recently dipped below $2/mmbtu. Companies are shutting in wells to avoid selling at such low prices. Nevertheless, record volumes of gas are going into storage.

natural-gas-in-storage.gif

 

The chart shows the five-year monthly average of gas in storage for the last five years, and the red line shows gas in storage this year. Gas in storage for August is already well above the last five-years' highest volume, and is sure to climb higher. We are likely to find out the true limit of how much capacity there is for gas storage in the U.S. Unless we have a very cold winter, this excess gas may continue to suppress gas prices for months to come.

August 19, 2009

Energy News

Items from this week:

Prices:  Natural gas prices continue to decline. Below is a comparison of gas NYMEX futures prices with S&P 500 for the last year:

Gas Price Chart.JPG

 

On August 14, futures for September delivery settled at $3.24/MMBtu, a 52-week low.  Futures prices have declined about 65% from this time a year ago. The Energy Information Administration reports that gas in storage increased by 63 Bcf to 3.152 Tcf for the week ended August 7, compared to 2.65 Tcf a year ago, and well above the five-year average of 2.635 Bcf. Absent severe supply disruptions or a very cold winter, gas prices are likely to remain low for some time.

 

The price decline has resulted in a corresponding decline in lease and drilling activity. The chart below shows the number of oil and gas leases filed of record in Tarrant County, the center of Barnett Shale activity:

Barnett Shale Leases.JPG

This shows a decline in leasing from 18,000 leases in May, 2008, the height of the leasing frenzy, to 2,000 in July 2009.

 

Earthquakes:  Scientists from Southern Methodist University have tentatively concluded that recent earthquakes in the vicinity of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport may have been caused by a salt water disposal well located at the southern end of the airport, operated by Chesapeake.

 

Continue reading "Energy News" »

April 24, 2009

Sources and Users of Energy in the U.S.

Below is an interesting chart published by the U.S. Energy and Informaton Administration, showing how the U.S. used energy in the U.S. in 2007:

U.S. Primary Energy consumption by source and sector 2007.jpg

The sources of energy are on the left, the sectors of the economy that consume energy are on the right. The lines connecting supply sources and demand sectors show which sectors use which sources of energy. For example, petroleum represents 39.8% of the total supply of energy in the U.S. Seventy percent of that petroleum is used for transportation. Petroleum is the source of 96% of all sources of energy for the transportation sector. The transportation sector consumes 29% of all energy consumed in the U.S.

The chart reveals how natural gas is used in the U.S.: 34% in the industrial sector, 34% in the residential and commercial sector (as fuel to heat and cool homes and buildings), 30% to generate electricity. Most electricity is used by residential and commercial buildings, so in reality electricity is an intermediate demand sector. If it is eliminated as a demand sector, 61% of total demand would show as consumed by residential and commercial buildings. Natural gas would supply 14.8% of total energy used in residential and commercial buildings, either directly for heating and cooling or indirectly through its use to generate electricity. 

Unlike coal and petroleum, demand for natural gas is spread among three demand sectors -- industrial, residential and commercial, and electric power. Today demand for natural gas is depressed, principally because of increased supply and low demand in the industrial and electric power sectors. If natural gas' share of the transportation sector could be increased by conversion of vehicles to burn it, domestic supplies of natural gas could supplant imported petroleum as a source of supply for the transportation sector. For an excellent article on the use of natural gas as an alternative fuel for transportation, see Seeking Alpha's article.

April 17, 2009

Natural Gas Market News

The Energy Information Administration has revised its forecast for 2009 U.S. industrial natural gas demand, to decline by 7.4% this year. It predicts total natural gas consumption to fall 1.8% in 2009. U.S. natural gas production is expected to decline 0.3% in 2009, and to slip 1% in 2010. EIA predicts natural gas Henry Hub prices to average $4.24/mcf in 2009 and $5.83/mcf in 2010, compared with $9.13/mcf in 2008.

Chesapeake Energy has elected to further curtail its gas production, by a total of 400 mmcf in 2009, representing approximately 13% of Chesapeake's production capacity.

One petroleum geologist and industry consultant, Arthur Berman, believes that the Haynesville Shale in Lousiana, touted as the hottest onshore gas play in North America, is overrated. His analysis of early discoveries shows that the wells decline rapidly, cost about $7.5 million per well to drill and complete, and would require a price of $8/mcf to break even.  http://petroleumtruthreport.blogspot.com