Intercontinental Exchange Inc. (ICE) and Magellan Midstream Partners LP are adding dock capacity auctions for ICE Permian WTI crude oil futures contracts to facilitate exports out of the Houston area, the companies announced Wednesday.
The monthly auction process would allow quantities purchased through ICE Permian WTI futures contracts, reflecting physically settled Permian West Texas Intermediate crude oil deliverable to Magellan’s East Houston terminal, to be loaded directly onto a vessel at the Galena Park and Seabrook dock facilities.
The dock capacity rights would be auctioned through the WebICE platform, with the first auction scheduled Sept. 10 for November delivery. The capacity on offer would be enough to fill Panamax and Aframax size vessels with plans to support Suezmax vessels in the future.
“This is an important step in the development of the Permian WTI futures contract,” said ICE’s Jeff Barbuto, head of global oil business development for the global exchange provider. “Allowing customers to acquire Magellan terminal-quality WTI via the ICE Permian WTI crude contract, access storage through the storage futures contract and now access dock space through this new auction, should offer significant efficiencies to our customers.”
Magellan’s Robb Barnes, senior vice president in charge of commercial crude oil for the midstreamer, said the program should allow customers to “seamlessly enhance their crude oil export capacities at Houston area facilities...Participants in the ICE program will continue to benefit from the high-quality crude oil at Magellan’s facilities and access to a diverse group of refiners, and storage and export facilities through the Magellan network at a competitive rate.”
Congress first turned on the spigot for U.S. crude oil exports when it lifted a decades-old ban in 2015. During May, the last month for which data is available, the United States exported nearly 90 million bbl of crude, according to the Energy Information Administration.
As analysts have highlighted on numerous occasions, growth in domestic crude production, particularly out of the prodigious Permian Basin, has significant read-through for natural gas markets. A glut of associated gas output from the Permian has helped sink gas prices in West Texas, at times forcing producers to pay out of pocket to find a home for their molecules.
Oversupply, exacerbated by the associated gas output, has pressured natural gas futures to multi-year lows just as Kinder Morgan Inc.’s 2 Bcf/d Gulf Coast Express pipeline is poised to uncork more of the constrained Permian volumes.
Meanwhile, crude markets have whipsawed this week amid broader economic volatility, including ongoing concerns over trade conflicts and warning signs of a possible recession. September WTI futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were off nearly $3 day/day to around $54/bbl as of lunchtime on the East Coast Wednesday. ICE Permian WTI futures were down more than 3%.
Crude oil markets remain “very much focused on the demand-side of the equation,” analysts with Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. (TPH) said early Wednesday, noting that prices rallied this week following President Trump’s announcement that U.S. tariffs on some Chinese goods would be pushed back to December.
“With 145 characters and the subsequent White House detailed filings, concerns that the trade war would only worsen were assuaged, for now at least, though concerns remain that the global economy has already come too far,” TPH analysts said. They noted that “even in a normalized trade-war-free demand outlook, we still see a challenging setup for 2020 balances, with the market still needing to price out a hefty chunk of U.S. supply growth to find zen.”