Friday, December 09, 2011

Sunset in Doha: Off from WPC to OPEC!

The 20th WPC ended yesterday in Doha and it was an amazing experience. Following the opening ceremony on Dec 4th, it was another four days of intense debates, discussions, meeting and greeting and the Oilholic has been wiser for it.

Everything from peak oil to unconventional projects was under the microscope, a deal announced here and CEO speaking there, one minister throwing-up a policy initiative to another presenting a white paper and so it went. Every oil major – NOC or IOC – offered up some newsy or debatable material and the Oilholic put them across from his perspective without attempting to be everywhere at all times and being all things to all ‘crude’ men as it was near impossible.

This blogger was also truly delighted to have moderated a Baker & McKenzie event at 20th WPC which included a seminar on NOCs, where they should invest, what they should know and where the opportunities lie. Over the course of five days, several representatives from a list of companies and firms too long to list engaged in constructive discussions – some on and some off record. Furthermore, delegates from Milwaukee to the Faroe Islands got to hear about this blog and offer their insight and suggestions which are deeply appreciated.

The Qataris aside, officials from Angola, Algeria, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Kuwait, Nigeria, Netherlands, Norway, USA, Russia, Venezuela and last but not the least the UK spared their invaluable time to discuss crude matters with the Oilholic, however briefly in some cases. One oil minister even joked that if he had time – he’d be a blogger himself!

All good things come to an end and now its time to say goodbye to Doha and head back to London, albeit briefly before the 160th meeting of OPEC ministers at the cartel’s HQ in Vienna on December 14th. There were fireworks last time between the Saudis and Iranians at OPEC HQ; let’s see what happens this time.

Ahead of the OPEC meeting, Secretary General, Abdalla Salem El-Badri took a timely swipe here in Doha at speculators.

On the penultimate day of the congress he told delegates, “Speculative activities remain an issue in the current market. This can be viewed in the respective sizes of the paper and physical markets. Since 2005, there has been a sharp increase in the number of open interest futures and options contracts. At times it has surpassed three million contracts per day, equivalent to 3 billion barrels per day. This is 35 times the size of actual world oil demand.”

El-Badri also noted that between 2009 and 2011, data has shown an almost one-to-one correlation between WTI prices and the speculative activity of the net long positions of money managers. “This is in terms of both volume and value. Let me stress, excessive speculation is detrimental to both producers and consumers and can cause prices to detach from fundamentals. It is essential to avoid distorting the essential price discovery function of the market,” he added.

Meanwhile ahead of the OPEC meeting, ratings agency Moody's has raised its 2012 and 2013 price assumptions for both WTI and Brent benchmarks. It now assumes a price of US$90 per barrel WTI crude in 2012, and US$85 per barrel in 2013, dropping to US$80 per barrel in the medium term, which falls beyond 2013. The ratings agency had previously assumed a price of US$80 per barrel for WTI in 2012 and beyond.

On Brent crude, Moody's assumes a price of US$95 in 2012, US$90 in 2013 and US$80 in the medium term - higher than the previous assumption of US$90 in 2012 and US$80 thereafter. Moody's continues to use US$60 per barrel as a stress case price for both WTI and Brent.

The move reflects the rating agency's expectations that oil prices will remain robust over the next two years, while natural gas will remain significantly oversupplied. Price assumptions represent baseline approximations – not forecasts – that Moody's uses to evaluate risk when analysing credit conditions within the oil and gas industry. And on that note, its goodbye from Doha; keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Outside the QNCC at the 20th Petroleum Congress, Doha © Gaurav Sharma 2011.

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