Today, the Intercontinental Exchange Inc. (ICE), an operator of global exchanges and clearing houses for the financial and commodity markets in the US, announced plans to launch a new Permian West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures contract with physical delivery in Houston. The exchange, which is due to launch in the third quarter of this year, subject to regulatory review, will provide traders with direct access to Houston prices.
John Coleman, Wood Mackenzie’s senior analyst North American crude oil markets, said: "A coastal pricing point for US light sweet crude will be much more relevant in coming years as the US crude export story continues to unfold with export markets and coastal pricing becoming more of a focus for US crude producers."
As tight-oil production continues to grow, the US is fast becoming a major player in the global crude market.
Wood Mackenzie estimates onshore Lower 48 production will exceed 11 million barrels per day (b/d) by 2023, positioning the US to become the world’s largest oil producer. US exports are forecast to rise approaching 4.5 million b/d by the early 2030s. The Permian basin will produce more than 60% the US' total forecast output over the next decade, and thus provide the bulk of US crude exports.
With this US production growth and increased exports, alongside demand growth in Asia for light sweet crude oil, Houston has become the central delivery point for US crude. As US producers and midstream operators assess their portfolios, questions about specific crude streams will arise as they assess which are most attractive to international buyers, and which export hub is best positioned to not only reach the right markets, but to handle the highest volumes.
"This new contract will allow producers to hedge production relative to coastal prices which are much more relevant for producers looking to export their crude," Mr Coleman added. "With export volumes expected to surpass 1.5 million b/d by 2025, substantial pipeline inter-connectivity with major crude producing regions like the Permian and the Eagle Ford, and direct connections with the current benchmark pricing hub in Cushing Oklahoma, Houston is a natural point for a coastal pricing hub."