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Nothing Compares 2 U

Aug 20, 2023

Wednesday, 08/02/2023Published by: Housley Carr

Enterprise Products Partners doesn’t just extract mixed NGLs from associated gas at processing plants, transport that Y-grade to the NGL hub at Mont Belvieu, and fractionate NGLs into “purity products” like ethane, propane and butanes. The midstream giant also distributes purity products to Gulf Coast steam crackers and refineries, converts propane to propylene at its two propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plants, distributes ethylene and propylene, transports propane and butane to wholesale markets across much of the eastern half of the U.S., and exports a wide range of products — ethane, LPG, ethylene and propylene among them — from two Enterprise marine terminals on the Houston Ship Channel. (Another export terminal in Beaumont, TX, is in the works.) Talk about a value chain! In today’s RBN blog, we continue our series on NGL networks with a look at Enterprise’s NGL and petrochemical production, distribution and export assets.

This blog series is about the select group of U.S. midstreamers that own and operate entire, soup-to-nuts NGL networks that take NGLs from the wellhead to either their ultimate domestic consumer — petchem plants, refineries, wholesale markets, etc. — or to waterside terminals that load purity products (and, in Enterprise’s case, ethylene and propylene too) onto ships for transport overseas. In Part 1, we looked at Energy Transfer’s NGL-related assets in Texas and in Part 2 we shifted our focus to the company’s network in the Northeast. Next up was Targa Resources — in Part 3 we looked at the company’s gas gathering and processing assets, Grand Prix NGL pipeline system, fractionators in Mont Belvieu, and the Galena Part LPG export terminal.

Last time, in Part 4, we started our examination of Enterprise’s NGL network, which includes:

[RBN’s NGL Voyager offers subscribers a comprehensive market analysis of natural gas liquids exports which are driven by fundamentals and combined with the latest industry buzz. The report examines U.S. export trends for propane, butane and ethane, and includes port of origin, destination and volume. Click here for more information and a sample report.]

Enterprise’s fractionators and salt-cavern storage — plus its incomparable collection of purity-product, ethylene and propylene pipelines — are key to the balance of the company’s NGL- and petchem-related assets, which are the focus of today’s blog. Before we dig into the details, we should explain that this part of Enterprise’s broader network is primarily involved in: (1) piping ethane, propane and other purity products to steam crackers, refineries and other industrial facilities along the Gulf Coast and to Enterprise-owned marine terminals in the area; (2) making isobutane from normal butane at three isomerization units — and converting propane to propylene at two company-owned PDH plants — in Mont Belvieu and piping the resulting products to market; (3) producing octane-enhancing isobutylene from isobutane and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) from isobutylene at company-owned plants and moving the isobutylene to refineries and the MTBE to export docks; and (4) transporting ethylene produced by area steam crackers to other petchem plants and a company-owned export terminal. Put simply, Enterprise’s NGL value chain extends beyond purity products to petrochemical and fuel commodities (isobutylene, MTBE, ethylene and propylene) derived from purity products.

We’ll begin with the pipelines that move ethane, propane and butanes out of Mont Belvieu (red star in Figure 1) to steam crackers, refineries and Enterprise marine terminals — and the marine terminals themselves. Perhaps the most important of these pipelines is the company’s Houston Ship Channel Pipeline System (green line), which includes a number of product-specific pipelines that transport purity products from Enterprise’s storage caverns at Mont Belvieu to various points in the Houston/Texas City/Beaumont region, including the company’s own Enterprise Hydrocarbons Terminal (EHT; yellow tank icon) and Morgan’s Point Export Terminal (orange tank icon) as well as points farther afield.

Figure 1. Enterprise’s Mont Belvieu-area Purity-Product Pipelines and Export Terminals. Source: RBN

EHT is a multi-commodity facility — it handles crude oil, refined products and propylene (as we’ll get to soon), as well as refrigerated cargoes of LPG. The terminal’s current LPG loading capacity is an extraordinary 835 Mb/d (763 Mb/d for LPG only and 72 Mb/d of “flex” capacity for loading either LPG or polymer-grade propylene, or PGP). EHT can load up to six Very Large Gas Carriers (VLGCs) simultaneously, and can load a single VLGC in less than 24 hours. By the first half of 2025, Enterprise plans to expand the terminal’s butane loading rate and allow for fully refrigerated PGP.

Morgan’s Point, located near La Porte, at the inlet to the Houston Ship Channel on Trinity Bay, exports both ethane and ethylene. As shown by the bars to the left in Figure 2, the existing refrigeration assets at the terminal give it the capacity to load up to 240 Mb/d of ethane (green bar segment in stacked bar to far left) and 60 Mb/d of ethylene (gold bar segment). By the second half of 2024 (second bar from left), Enterprise plans to convert one of the two 120-Mb/d ethane refrigeration trains at the terminal to a flex unit capable of handling either ethane or ethylene (green-and-gold-striped bar segment), thereby enabling Morgan’s Point to load up to 240 Mb/d of ethane (120 + 120) and 60 Mb/d of ethylene; 120 Mb/d of ethane and up to 180 Mb/d of ethylene (120 + 60); or any combination in between. That change will give the terminal more, well, flexibility regarding the volumes of ethane and ethylene it handles.

Figure 2. Loading Capacity by Type at Morgan’s Point and Beaumont Over Time.Sources: Enterprise, RBN

By the second half of 2025, Enterprise plans to complete a 120-Mb/d ethane-only refrigeration train at its planned Beaumont NGL Export Terminal (striped black-and-white tank icon in Figure 1 map), thereby allowing the export of up to 120 Mb/d of that commodity (green bar in third bar from left in Figure 2 above). The company announced during its August 1 earnings call that by the first half of 2026 it will add a flex train at the terminal that will be capable of refrigerating and loading up to 180 Mb/d of ethane — or up to 360 Mb/d of propane — at Beaumont. That will boost the terminal’s potential export capacity to as much as 300 Mb/d of ethane (120 + 180; green-and-white-striped bar segment) or 120 Mb/d of ethane and 360 Mb/d of propane. Enterprise said the increasing and more flexible capacity is in response to growing international interest in U.S.-sourced ethane and propane.

As we just described, Enterprise’s EHT handles LPG and propylene (among other commodities), Morgan’s Point handles ethane and ethylene, and the planned Beaumont terminal will handle ethane and propane. Using propane as the feedstock, the company produces polymer-grade propylene (again, PGP) at two 1.65-billion-lb/year PDH plants that it built near its salt-cavern storage complex at Mont Belvieu (red star in Figure 3): the first plant came online in 2017 and the second started up a few weeks ago. (Each of the PDH plants consumes 35 Mb/d of propane.) The PGP produced at the plants is distributed to Gulf Coast petchem plants — and EHT — via Enterprise’s propylene storage and distribution system, which includes more than nine storage caverns (combined capacity of more than 3 billion lb) and 1,000 miles of pipeline (magenta lines) that extend from Mont Belvieu to Baton Rouge, Texas City and Corpus Christi.

Figure 3. Enterprise’s Propylene and Ethylene Pipeline Systems and Export Terminals. Source: RBN

Enterprise does not own or operate steam crackers and has indicated that it has no plans to do so. But the company stores, transports and exports ethylene produced by others. The solid dark-blue lines in Figure 3 show its 150 miles of existing ethylene pipelines between Mont Belvieu and Markham, and the dashed dark-blue lines show a planned extension of that system that will reach east from Mont Belvieu to Beaumont, Port Arthur (TX), Lake Charles (LA) and Baton Rouge. To help manage ethylene flows to petchem plants and its Morgan’s Point export facility, Enterprise operates four storage caverns with a combined ethylene capacity of more than 1 billion lb.

There’s a common theme across everything that Enterprise is working on regarding ethane, LPG, propylene and ethylene — higher volumes, faster loading times and increased flexibility — all of which makes perfect sense, given the near-certainty that U.S. production of mixed NGLs and purity products will continue rising, and that virtually all that incremental production will need to find its way to export docks and into VLGCs and VLECs.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” was written by Prince and appears as the sixth song on Sinead O’Connor’s second studio album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Released as a single in January 1990, it went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and has been certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song was originally written by Prince for his side project, The Family, and appeared on their 1985 album, The Family. The lyrics examine feelings of loneliness from the point of view of an abandoned lover. “Nothing Compares 2 U” earned O’Connor a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance in 1991. Personnel on the record were: Sinead O’Connor (vocals, keyboards), Kieran Kiely (piano, keyboards), and Nellee Hooper, Chris Birkett, Fachina O’Ceallaigh and Sinead O’Connor (programming, production, mixing).

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got was recorded in 1988-89 at S.T.S. Studios in Dublin with Nellee Hooper and Sinead O’Connor producing. Released in March 1990, the album went to #19 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and has been certified 2X Platinum by the RIAA. Four singles were released from the LP.

Sinead O’Connor was an Irish singer, musician and songwriter. She was an outspoken advocate for human rights and spoke often about issues such as child abuse, women’s rights, racism, and organized religion. She released 10 studio albums, one live album, five compilation albums, one EP and 54 singles. In July 2023 O’Connor was found dead at her flat in South London at the age of 56. We at RBN offer our sympathies to her family, friends, and fans.

[RBN’s NGL Voyager offers subscribers a comprehensive market analysis of natural gas liquids exports which are driven by fundamentals and combined with the latest industry buzz. The report examines U.S. export trends for propane, butane and ethane, and includes port of origin, destination and volume. Click here for more information and a sample report.]Enterprise Hydrocarbons TerminalEHTMorgan’s PointBeaumont NGL Export Terminal