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Page added on February 5, 2019

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Exxon Goes All-In On The Permian


ExxonMobil and Plains All American gave the greenlight to another major pipeline in the Permian basin, which would move 1 million barrels per day (mb/d) from West Texas to the Gulf Coast.

The project, in partnership with Lotus Midstream, is another indication of the rising upstream production from the Permian. But the pipeline also came after Exxon gave a separate final investment decision on another project.

On Tuesday, the oil major said it was moving forward on a near-doubling of its Beaumont, Texas refinery, adding a 250,000-bpd crude unit that would process light sweet oil from the Permian. The facility already has the capacity to refine 365,644 bpd, and the expansion could make Exxon’s Beaumont facility the largest refinery in the country. Saudi Aramco’s Motiva Enterprises refinery in Port Arthur currently ranks in the top spot with a capacity of 603,000 bpd. Once Exxon is finished with its expansion – slated for 2022 – the Beaumont facility will have a capacity of 615,644 bpd.

Even that is only part of Exxon’s plans for the region. Last year, Exxon unveiled its “Growing the Gulf” campaign, which consisted of massive refinery expansions on the Gulf Coast, including in Baytown, Beaumont and Baton Rouge. The entire initiative included $20 billion in planned spending across 11 refining, chemical and petrochemical projects along the Gulf Coast over a 10-year period.

The refinery expansions should be viewed in the context of Exxon’s plunge into the Permian. After arriving late to the scene, ExxonMobil has quickly become one of the largest shale drillers in West Texas and New Mexico. In early 2017, Exxon spent nearly $6 billion to acquire huge tracts in the Permian, which doubled the company’s holdings in the basin.

A year later, Exxon announced a long-term vision, laying out an aggressive spending and drilling plan that would help the company increase production over the next decade. The plan was intended to shake the company out of its current malaise, reversing several years of stagnant output and waning faith from Wall Street.

There were a few key pillars to the long-term vision: Offshore Guyana (where Exxon, along with Hess, have made a string of major discoveries), LNG projects in Papua New Guinea and Mozambique, shale drilling in the Permian, and downstream chemical and petrochemical projects on the Gulf Coast. Obviously, the last two of those pillars – the Permian and projects on the Gulf Coast – are linked.

When Exxon announced these long-term growth plans last year, shareholders were not happy. Exxon’s shares sold off, a sign that heavy spending – even if that translates into production growth – had fallen out of favor with Wall Street. The reaction was notable because the share prices of some of Exxon’s peers were on the upswing, and the difference was they were focused on keeping costs in check and boosting shareholder payouts, not stepping up spending.

Nevertheless, Exxon is ploughing forward. The latest FID on the Beaumont refinery and the Permian pipeline are critical the oil major’s growth plans. Exxon is aiming to triple its Permian production by 2025, raising output to 600,000 bpd.

The latest slide in oil prices won’t impact this outlook much. Even though the U.S. shale industry has shown signs of a slowdown, lower prices will hit small- and medium-sized drillers much harder than the oil majors. Large integrated companies can not only take a long view, but they also have their hands in midstream and downstream assets that can still perform well during a pricing downturn.

Another interesting wrinkle in the refinery buildout is the unfolding global mismatch between light and heavy oil. Surging U.S. shale production is occurring alongside production curtailments from medium and heavy oil producers – Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, etc. The result is a glut of light oil and a tighter market for heavier blends. Refiners cannot easily swap in one type of oil for another.

As those disparities work their way through the system, the market is now seeing a ballooning glut of gasoline. Lighter oils tend to produce relatively more gasoline than diesel, while heavier blends are better suited for diesel and other distillates.

The downstream investments by Exxon along the Gulf Coast will relieve bottlenecks in the U.S. – it will provide a market for surging U.S. shale production, which is being held back by pipeline constraints as well as limits on Gulf Coast refining and export terminals. But the refineries will still add to the gasoline conundrum. But that’s a problem for another day, and it may be resolved by the time Exxon’s new facilities come online.

Exxon’s recent FIDs on both a major refinery expansion, and another enormous pipeline that will carry Permian oil to that refinery, highlight how important U.S. shale is to the company’s global growth plans. ExxonMobil’s fortunes are now very much tied to the explosion of drilling and downstream processing in Texas.

By Nick Cunningham of

7 Comments on "Exxon Goes All-In On The Permian"

  1. Anonymous on Tue, 5th Feb 2019 4:57 pm 

    Anyone remember Rockman talking a few years ago about how shale must not be all that since the majors weren’t involved?

    Personally, I didn’t buy it even than as he cited a few random divestitures and ignored the massive Exxon XTO purchase as well as Statoil (now Equinor) and COP’s shale purchases and ongoing development. Along with some level of Shell/BP activity.

    But any way you cut it, there is some pretty strong action by majors now. Chevron is much more active than before, for instance (has huge legacy Texaco acreage in the Permian, but is actually running rigs and such now.) And Exxon and Chevron have been very strong about Permian development, even within their huge existing portfolios.

    In addition there is massive pipeline, refinery, petrochem, and export development going on in Texas that is at the coast but associated with handling Permian production.

    Oh…and remember “pipeliners are the most conservative”? Well check out how many pipe projects are in progress to support the Permian.

    You know the joke… “A million barrels of oil per day here, and a million there, and pretty soon we’re talking real growth!”

  2. Cooking Oil on Wed, 6th Feb 2019 8:51 am 

    I think this has more to do with basic consolidation as the big boys come in and buy up smaller unprofitable operators. Outfits like Exxon can work shale oil at cost or probably even a slight loss since they have other more profitable ventures. In this way they can maintain a higher overall production which helps keep prices stable.

  3. Free Speech Message Board on Wed, 6th Feb 2019 12:51 pm 

    The USA is now a bankrupt warmongering police state. The elites control the government, media, and the corporations.

    Americans either are ignoring the decay of the US or think that nothing can be done to stop the collapse.

    We sit at our keyboards and scream at our computers, but feel powerless to do anything about the decline. The struggle is immense and too much damage has been done to save the US.

    Even if we spent a year to fight to repeal mandatory helmet laws, new nanny state laws banning vaping, smoking, and hoverboards would be enacted.

    What can you do?

    We could protest and be arrested or killed.

    We could use our guns and be killed.

    We have the goddamn NSA wiretapping our phones, listening to our words, reading our emails, and recording our web history. The NSA has our pictures, knows our address, Social Security numbers, phone numbers, purchases, current location, plans, doctors, lawyers, and what we had for dinner yesterday.

    There really is no hope.

    The best we can do now is to just prepare, dropout, don’t comply, don’t consent, don’t participate, don’t vote, don’t buy licenses, don’t pay taxes, don’t call the police, don’t deal with the government, stop supporting this rigged system, and spread the word.

  4. Melonhead on Thu, 7th Feb 2019 8:38 pm 

    Well, it’s kinda dumb not to wear a helmet. Jus say’n.

  5. wildbourgman on Fri, 8th Feb 2019 4:42 pm 

    As one of the above post basically said the majors have other ways to make money as long as they can access the product. The small players only have the wellhead price, no refining, no retail fuel, no other retail lubricants, ETC.

    So maybe the majors saw the opportunity to buy in while the other players are struggling financially, or maybe they were afraid the production from the small players would slow down once their investors flee. Either way they have to have the product even if they produce it at cost so they can make something off of the end user.

  6. JuanP on Fri, 8th Feb 2019 5:19 pm 

    “Even if we spent a year to fight to repeal mandatory helmet laws …”

    Mandatory helmet laws are smart and fair. I will agree to repeal them the day we are allowed to refuse medical treatment to retards that ride motorcycles and suffer head injuries for not wearing a helmet. Why should I be forced to pay for other people’s stupidity? Do you have any idea how much it costs to support a brain damaged individual for decades? I will agree to repeal those laws the day society agrees to execute those retards at the accident site. I will never support subsidized ambulance rides to the hospital or any medical treatment at my expense for fools like that.

  7. Davy on Fri, 8th Feb 2019 5:27 pm 

    “Mandatory helmet laws are smart and fair.”

    Who cares stupid. Can’t you talk energy or something or get off here.

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