Friday, September 28, 2012

Non-OPEC supply, volatility & other matters

One of the big beasts of the non-OPEC supply jungle – Russia – held its latest high level meeting with OPEC earlier this week. Along with the customary niceties came the expected soundbites when Alexander Novak, Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation and Abdalla Salem El-Badri, OPEC Secretary General, met in Vienna on Tuesday.
 
Both men accompanied by “high-level” delegations exchanged views on the current oil market situation and “underscored the importance of stable and predictable markets for the long term health of the industry and investments, and above all, the wellbeing of the global economy.”
 
OPEC is also eyeing Russia’s Presidency of the G-20 in 2013 where the cartel has only one representative on the table in the shape of Saudi Arabia, which quite frankly represents itself rather than the block. However, non-OPEC suppliers are aplenty – Canada, Brazil, Mexico and USA to name the major ones alongside the Russians. The Brits and Aussies have a fair few hydrocarbons to share too.
 
Perhaps in light of that, OPEC and Russia have proposed to broaden their cooperation and discuss the possible establishment of a joint working group focused on information exchange and analysis of the petroleum industry. The two parties will next meet in the second quarter of 2013 by which time, unless there is a geopolitical flare-up or a massive turnaround in the global economy, most believe healthy non-OPEC supply growth would have actually been offset by OPEC cuts.
 
So the Oilholic thinks there’s quite possibly more to the meeting on September 25 than meets the eye…er…press communiqué. Besides, whom are we kidding regarding non-OPEC participants? Market conjecture is that non-OPEC supply growth itself is likely to be moderate at best given the wider macroeconomic climate.
 
Mike Wittner, global head of oil research at Société Générale, notes that non-OPEC supply growth is led by rapid gains in North America: tight oil from shale in the US and oil sands and bitumen in Canada. North American supply is forecast to grow by 1.04 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2012 and 0.75 million bpd in 2013. The reason for the overall higher level of non-OPEC growth next year, compared to 2012, is that this year’s contraction in Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan has  already taken place and will not be repeated.
 
“We are projecting output in Syria and Yemen flat through 2013, with disruptions continuing; we are forecasting only small increases in South Sudan beginning well into next year, as the recent pipeline agreement with Sudan appears quite tenuous at this point. With non-OPEC supply growth roughly the same as global demand growth next year, OPEC will have to cut crude production to balance the market,” he added.
 
With more than anecdotal evidence of the Saudis already trimming production, Société Générale reckons total non-OPEC supply plus OPEC NGLs production may increase by 0.93 million bpd in 2013, compared to 0.75 million bpd in 2012. Compared to their previous forecast, non-OPEC supply plus OPEC NGLs growth has been revised up by 50,000 bpd in 2012 and down by 60,000 bpd in 2013. That’s moderate alright!
 
The key point, according to Wittner, is that the Saudis did not replace the last increment of Iranian flow reductions, where output fell by 300 kb/d from May to July, due to EU and US sanctions. “The intentional lack of Saudi replacement volumes was – in effect – a Saudi cut; or, if one prefers, it was the Saudis allowing Iran to unintentionally and unwillingly help out the rest of OPEC by cutting production and exports,” he concluded.
 
Let’s see what emerges in Vienna at the December meeting of ministers, but OPEC crude production is unlikely to average above 31.5 million bpd in the third quarter of 2012 and is likely to be cut further as market fundamentals remain decidedly bearish. In fact, were it not for the geopolitical premium provided by Iran’s shenanigans and talk of a Chinese stimulus, the heavy losses on Wednesday would have been heavier still and Brent would not have finished the day remaining above the US$110 per barrel mark.
 
On a related note, at one point Brent's premium to WTI increased to US$20.06 per barrel based on November settlements; the first move above the US$20-mark since August 16. As a footnote on the subject of premiums, Bloomberg reports that Bakken crude weakened to the smallest premium over WTI oil in three weeks as Enbridge apportioned deliveries on pipelines in the region in Tuesday’s trading.
 
The Western Canadian Select, Canada’s most common benchmark, also usually sells at a discount to the WTI. But rather than the “double-discount” (factoring in WTI’s discount to Brent) being something to worry about, National Post columnist Jameson Berkow writes how it can be turned into an advantage!
 
But back to Europe where Myrto Sokou, analyst at Sucden Financial Research, feels that very volatile and nervous trading sessions are set to continue as Eurozone‘s concerns weigh on market sentiment. “The rebound on Thursday morning followed growing discussions of a further stimulus package from China that improved market sentiment and increased risk appetite,” she said.
 
However, Sokou sees the market remaining focussed on Spain as news of its first draft budget for 2013 is factored in. “It is quite a crucial time for the markets, especially following the recent refusal from Germany, Holland and Finland to allow ESM funds to cover legacy assets, so that leaves the Spanish Government to fund their Banks,” she added.
 
On the corporate front, Canadians find themselves grappling with the Nexen question as public sentiment is turning against CNOOC’s offer for the company just as its shareholders approved the deal. Many Members of Parliament have also voiced their concerns against a deal with the Chinese NOC. For its part, if a Dow Jones report is to be believed, CNOOC is raising US$6 billion via a one-year term loan to help fund the possible purchase of Nexen. The Harper administration is yet to give its regulatory approval.
 
Meanwhile, the Indian Government has confirmed that one of its NOCs – ONGC Videsh – has made a bid to acquire stakes in Canadian oil sands assets owned by ConocoPhillips with a total projected market valuation of US$5 billion. ConocoPhillips aims to sell about 50% of its stake in emerging oil sands assets, according to news reports in Canada. Looks like one non-OPEC destination just won’t stop grabbing the headlines!
 
Moving away from Canada, Thailand’s state oil company PTTEP has finalised arrangements for its US$3.1 billion share offer for Mozambique’s Cove Energy. Earlier this year, PTTEP won a protracted takeover battle for Cove over Shell. Concluding on a lighter note, the Oilholic has learned that the Scottish distillery of Tullibardine is to become the first whisky distillery in the world to have its by-products converted into advanced biofuel, capable of powering vehicles fuelled by petrol or diesel.
 
The independent malt whisky producer in Blackford, Perthshire has signed a memorandum of understanding with Celtic Renewables Ltd, an Edinburgh-based company which has developed the technology to produce biobutanol from the by-products of whisky production. Now that’s worth drinking to, but it’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Oil Drilling site, North Dakota, USA © Phil Schermeister / National Geographic.

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