Recent commentaries on the magic of the Permian miracle have had some dark musings about how the Permian is beginning to “stall.”
Given all the back and forth in the investment community about “capital discipline” and output growing supply to the detriment of pricing, I thought I’d take a brief look at Estimated Ultimate Recovery (EUR) growth in the Delaware Basin to read the tea leaves.
On a very gross level, median oil EUR across all reservoirs has improved year-over-year as shown below (EUR binned by year of first production, EUR data from Wellcast).
A look at all wells identified by landing zones, with enough months of production to support reasonable EUR calculations over time, looks like this:
The trend is pretty clear—by and large, well EURs have improved over time, although it looks as over the past 12-18 months the uptrend in improvements has moderated. This is probably due to downspacing and the potentially negative effects of parent-child well interference.
Note however, that starting in early 2016 the number of wells that significantly outperformed the median values increased (outlined in red above). This “breakout” of superior performance may be a harbinger of better returns to come—unless the cumulative production values are actually stacked well reporting.
The distribution of wells binned by EUR greater than 500,000 and 1 million Bbl shows year-over-year improvement, but with less acceleration year-over-year for 2017-2018.
If we look at a graph of EUR distributions by reservoir, we get what you see below:
This shows that for the landing zone assignments in Wellcast (Bone Spring Second Sand, etc.) there are relatively smooth distributions of EUR values for all mapped reservoirs, although some reservoirs have been preferentially targeted by operators. For example, the Wolfcamp A Lower has been the most preferred drilling target.
The story of improving EURs over time is generally true at the reservoir level.
Graphing sample size, number, and percentage of wells with greater than 500,000 BO EUR and greater than 1 million BO EUR, it’s clear that some reservoirs deserve the higher drilling densities they’ve seen. The percentage of wells with EURs greater than 500,000 Bbl or even 1 million Bbl is significant. The Wolfcamp Lower A saw 54% of wells with oil EURs of 500,000 Bbls or better, and 15% of well with oil EUR of 1 million Bbl or more.
We can focus on the Bone Spring Second Sand and the Wolfcamp A Lower for a bit of added insight.
Over time, Bone Spring Second Sand EURs have steadily improved, although moving into 2019 there’s a hint of a drop off.
As might be expected, early engineering practices improved over time to deliver growing EUR valuations. Starting around the end of 2016 into early 2017 we began to see wells with exceptional outlier EUR values (circled in pink).
We see the same behavior in the Wolfcamp A Lower.
I attempted to see if there was a generic explanation for the exceptional EUR outliers hidden within the engineering data—lateral length vs. total proppant vs. total fluid, etc.
Both the Bone Spring Second Sand and Wolfcamp A Lower show year-over-year increases in the lateral length drilled, the amount of proppant, and the amount of fluid deployed in completions.
Bone Spring Second Sand EUR as a function of lateral length shows that two lengths—5,500 to 7,000 feet and 8,500 to 9,500 feet, are likely to limit the number of wells with EUR values greater than 700,000 Bbl. However, there’s clear trend toward higher EUR with increased lateral length.
Wolfcamp A Lower EURs also show an increase of EUR with lateral length, but the trend is more subdued, with excellent “outlier” EUR values (2 MMBBL or higher) occurring over the range of 6,000 to 10,000 feet. Laterals longer than 13,000 feet generally yield EUR values that are closer to the median reservoir value.
There’s clearly a positive correlation for increased EUR with both total proppant and total fluid in the Bone Spring Second Sand.
However, there is less of a correlation between total proppant and EUR for the Wolfcamp A Lower.
This is probably best explained by stratigraphy—the Bone Spring Second Sand is encased between two carbonate benches that inhibit frac jobs from exiting the Bone Spring Second Sand. This concentrates all the frac job power within the target.
The Wolfcamp A Lower is more than 500 feet thick, is interbedded, and is not bounded by focusing carbonate benches above it and below it, meaning frac jobs are a bit more likely to disperse their energy away from the target being drilled.
Until the spacing “secret sauce” is better understood, accounting for offset interference and variables in engineering and completion practices (and hopefully, geology) to define variables with better than .6r correlation coefficients with EUR will be a challenge.
However, given the steady increase of EUR values—both basin-wide and by reservoir, as well as hints that exceptional outlier values may become the next EUR “norm,” it’s premature to claim that Permian output is declining.
Have a perspective on EUR values?
Please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: EUR data and landing zone play identification names were obtained from the Enverus Drillinginfo Wellcast product. Only wells with six months or more of production history were included in the analysis.)
The US has become the largest producer and exporter of propane. Despite this growth, some parts of the US are still importing the heating and cooking fuel. This dislocation is caused by the Jones Act, a federal law passed in 1920 requiring goods shipped between US ports to be transported on US-built ships and operated by US crews.
Over the past 10 years, US production of propane and other natural gas liquids (NGLs), such as ethane and butane, has surged, making the US the world’s largest producer of NGLs. Without a concurrent increase in domestic demand, the US has seen a marked increase in exports, becoming the world’s largest exporter of propane. Propane, along with butane, is referred to as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and these hydrocarbons are transported on LPG tankers.
Despite the growth in US exports, some parts of the US are still importing propane. Without any Jones Act-compliant tankers to carry LPG (or LNG for that matter), the only option for Hawaii and Puerto Rico and others is to look abroad. This is also the case for areas without pipeline or rail capacity to deliver the fuel to local markets, such as in New Hampshire. Hawaii and Puerto Rico receive propane cargoes throughout the year to fulfill demand for cooking fuel and other applications, while New Hampshire’s demand is more seasonal, as the fuel has replaced oil for heating purposes.
The observed imports of propane were sourced from a variety of locations. New Hampshire’s Blackline Midstream terminal in Newington sourced propane from Norway and West Africa for its recent imports. Puerto Rico has recently imported propane from Trinidad as well as Equatorial Guinea.
Many customs manifests list their origin point as the Dominican Republic, including the most recent cargoes arriving to Hawaii aboard the LPG tanker Pertusola. The Dominican Republic does not produce a significant amount of hydrocarbons, and those manifests are explicit in that the origin of their cargo is Equatorial Guinea. That cargo was transferred to the Pertusola by the LPG tanker BW Empress, floating offshore of the DR in Ocoa Bay. AIS data from VesselTracker, analyzed by Enverus, suggests that the transfer occurred around June 16, after the Pertusola discharged a cargo from Sunoco Logistics’ Marcus Hook terminal near Philadelphia at the San Pedro De Macoris terminal east of San Juan. The BW Empress is still positioned in Ocoa Bay and is involved in the transshipment of propane from larger tankers arriving from the US and other locations such as Equatorial Guinea onto smaller tankers capable of delivering to ports around the Caribbean. The Pertusola traveled through the Panama Canal and proceeded to Hawaii, where it has since discharged at various islands in the state.
Hawaii’s propane imports are probably the best example of the dislocations caused by the Jones Act in the propane market. Much of the state’s supply in 2018 originated from Trinidad, but production is on the decline in that country. Since the end of 2018, Hawaii has received propane from Argentina as well as cargoes originated in areas such as Equatorial Guinea that were transferred to tankers offshore of the Dominican Republic, similar to the tanker Pertusola mentioned above.
While Hawaii sources propane from offshore West Africa, millions of barrels of US propane are passing by the state every month as they head to Asian markets. The map to the right shows the tracks of tankers loaded with US propane and butane from Enterprise’s Houston and Targa’s Galena Park terminals as they head through the Pacific to destinations in South Korea, Japan, and China.
With no LPG tankers under construction in the US, these dislocations are likely to continue, limiting the ability of US citizens in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, and even New England, to benefit from the shale boom in the same way as citizens of other countries.
Natural gas storage inventories increased 60 Bcf for the week ending August 23, according to the EIA’s weekly report. This is spot on with the market expectation, which was an injection of 60 Bcf.
Working gas storage inventories now sit at 2.857 Tcf, which is 363 Bcf above inventories from the same time last year and 100 Bcf below the five-year average.
At the time of writing, the October 2019 contract was trading at $2.275/MMBtu, roughly $0.053 higher than yesterday’s close. The September 2019 contract expired yesterday, rallying to close at $2.251/MMBtu, up $0.049 from the prior day’s close.
Hurricane Dorian is headed toward the lower 48, but recent forecasts for the storm show that it is expected to hit the eastern part of Florida and stay away from the Gulf. With this current path, production isn’t expected to be impacted. However, should the forecasted path take a turn toward the Gulf, crews will be evacuated, and production will decrease for a short period of time. This path change must happen soon for production to be impacted, as Dorian is expected to hit the eastern coast of Florida this weekend. Additionally, should the hurricane path stay true, production will stay near current levels and demand will decrease, pressuring prices lower.
See the chart below for the projections of the end-of-season storage inventories as of November 1, the end of the injection season.
This Week in Fundamentals
The summary below is based on Bloomberg’s flow data and DI analysis for the week ending August 29, 2019.
- Dry production decreased 0.30 Bcf/d on the week. Most of the decrease came from the South Central (-0.44 Bcf/d), where Texas production dropped 0.23 Bcf/d and GoM production fell 0.11 Bcf/d. To slightly offset the decrease, the East region gained 0.12 Bcf/d.
- Canadian imports decreased 0.64 Bcf/d, largely due to decreased imports in the Midwest.
- Domestic natural gas demand fell 5.24 Bcf/d week over week. Power demand saw the largest decrease, falling 5.03 Bcf/d, which accounts for nearly the entire decrease in domestic demand. Res/Com demand fell 0.41 Bcf/d, while Industrial demand gained 0.21 Bcf/d on the week.
- LNG exports gained 1.39 Bcf/d, mainly due to Sabine and Corpus ramping back up to full export capacity. Mexican exports remained relatively flat on the week, gaining only 0.01 Bcf/d.
Total supply decreased 0.93 Bcf/d, while total demand decreased 4.01 Bcf/d week over week. With the drop in demand outpacing the drop in supply, expect the EIA to report a stronger injection next week. The ICE Financial Weekly Index report is currently expecting an injection of 80 Bcf. Last year, the same week saw an injection of 62 Bcf; the five-year average is an injection of 63 Bcf.
US crude oil stocks posted a very large decrease of 10.0 MMBbl from last week. Gasoline and distillate inventories both decreased by 2.1 MMBbl. Yesterday afternoon, API reported a very large crude oil draw of 11.1 MMBbl, while reporting gasoline and distillate draws of 0.35 MMBbl and 2.5 MMBbl, respectively. Analysts were expecting a much smaller crude oil draw of 2.1 MMBbl. The most important number to keep an eye on, total petroleum inventories, posted a significantly large decrease of 11.2 MMBbl. For a summary of the crude oil and petroleum product stock movements, see the table below.
US crude oil production increased 200 MBbl/d last week, per the EIA. Crude oil imports were down 1.3 MMBbl/d last week, to an average of 5.9 MMBbl/d. Refinery inputs averaged 17.4 MMBbl/d (0.3 MMBbl/d less than last week’s average), leading to a utilization rate of 95.2%. The report is bullish due to significantly large crude oil and total petroleum stocks withdrawals. The increase in prices yesterday due to API’s report continued today, following the bullish EIA report. Prompt-month WTI was trading up $1.06/Bbl, at $55.99/Bbl, at the time of writing.
Prices saw a sharp increase on Tuesday due to a significantly large crude oil draw reported by API and the expectation of a similar drop from today’s report by EIA. The sharp increase in prices came despite the news from the G7 summit where France’s president lifted hopes for a deal between the US and Iran, which could mean Iran ramping up production, and despite the concerns about a recession and uncertainty around the lingering US–China trade wars
The developments around the US–China trade war continue to drive price movements in both directions, and the sentiment on the issue is changing rather fast, although no resolution and no deal between the world’s two largest economies seem to be possible anytime soon. Prices in the last two weeks have swung in both directions on this issue. Prices got some support the previous week from US President Donald Trump’s statement that he would be talking with his Chinese counterpart to discuss trade issues. Prices were further bolstered by the US stating it would extend a reprieve that permits China’s Huawei Technologies to buy components from US companies. The bullish sentiment from this news was short-lived as China last Friday announced it would impose retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of imports from the US, which include crude oil. This announcement was followed by President Trump’s twitter posts in which he said he said he would be imposing higher tariff rates on some Chinese imports.
Monday brought more volatility to prices due to uncertainty and confusion about the US–China trade dispute. Prices first moved higher as both the US and China made statements and appeared to be willing to ease the rising tensions – first, with Trump stating that China was seeking a trade deal and that US officials had received calls from Chinese negotiators to return to discussions, and second, comments by China’s trade negotiator, Vice President Liu He, saying that Beijing hopes to resolve the trade war through “calm” negotiations without escalating the tensions any further. The hopes for a possible round of discussions perhaps a trade deal increased the bullish sentiment; however, news that Beijing did not confirm the phone call mentioned by Trump between Chinese and US officials reversed the sentiment and once again increased the doubts and concerns over whether any progress will be made regarding the US–China trade disputes.
Prices have had trouble consistently trading above the $56/Bbl level in the last couple of weeks and market remains in the range of $50 to $58 as bearish sentiment is slowly taking over the market while tensions in Middle East prevents any significant decline in prices. At this point the only catalyst that could break the resistance and take prices close to the $60/Bbl range would be tensions in the Middle East drastically intensifying or a large reduction in output by OPEC. Prices can be further pressured in the near term if the US and Iran make any progress toward a deal and if US–China trade tensions worsen and further deteriorate global economic and demand growth. There also remains the possibility of China ignoring the bans on buying Iranian crude (in place of US crude) as a retaliatory posture, likely pressuring prices below $50. This event could flood the global crude market going into an already over-supplied 2020.
Petroleum Stocks Chart