Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crude Year 2011 Begins With a Bang

I must say the New Year has commenced with a flurry of crude news. Traders and oil men had barely resumed work for the first trading day of 2011 that the IEA declared rising oil prices to be a risk to economic recovery. In a publication on Jan 5th, the agency said oil import costs for OECD countries had risen 30% in the past year to US$790 billion which is equal to a loss of income of 0.5% of OECD gross domestic product (GDP).

Speaking to the BBC’s world service, IEA’s Fatih Birol said, "There is definitely a risk of major negative implications for the global economy." I agree and accept this, but truth be told we are some way away from a US$150-plus per barrel high. This morning though, the Brent forward month futures contract was flirting with the US$100 mark. The cold weather we have had either side of the pond does generally tend to support crude prices.

Analysts at SocGen believe the Alaska pipeline shutdown, following a leak, provided only limited support to WTI. Last weekend, a minor leak was discovered at Pump Station 1 on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) causing a shutdown on the pipeline and prompting Alaska North Slope (ANS) production to be cut from 630,000 bpd to just 37,000 bpd. The pipeline, which carries almost 12% of US crude output, should be restarted "soon", according to its operator Alyeska which is 47% owned by BP, while ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobile have 28% and 20% stakes respectively.

Continuing with forecasts, a new report from ratings agency Moody’s notes that oil prices should stay "moderately high" in 2011, boosting energy companies that produce crude and natural gas liquids, but weak natural gas prices will continue to dog the energy sector this year. More importantly, rather than the volatility of recent years, Moody's expects a continuation of many of the business conditions seen in 2010, despite the Macondo incident.

Steven Wood, managing director of Moody's Oil and Gas/Chemicals group believes that certain business conditions will tighten during the year, and pressures could emerge beyond the near term. Moody's price assumptions – which are not forecasts, but guidelines that the agency uses in its evaluations of credit conditions – call for moderately high crude prices of US$80 per barrel for 2011, along with natural gas prices of US$4.50 per million Btus.

Elsewhere, a US government commission opined in a report that 'bad management' led to BP disaster. Across the pond in London, a parliamentary committee of British MPs raised "serious doubts" about the UK's ability to combat offshore oil spills from deep sea rigs. However, they stopped short of a calling for a moratorium on deep sea drilling noting that it would undermine British energy security.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Veneco Oil Platform, California © Rich Reid / National Geographic

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