Thursday, August 28, 2014

Brent’s flat feeling likely to linger

It’s been that sort of a month where the Brent futures contract seems to set record low after low in terms of recent trading prices. Earlier this week, we saw the price plummet to a 26-month low and lurk above US$102 per barrel level remaining largely flat. In the Oilholic’s opinion there is room for further connection yet.

The only reason the price has stayed in three figures is down to demand from refineries in India and China, met largely by West African crude. The jury is still out on whether a $100 price floor is forming, something which is not guaranteed. Macroeconomic climate remains a shade dicey and much might depend on how China’s fares.

With the Brent prices falling 5.6% in month over month terms, last week Bloomberg reported that Chinese refiners bought 40 cargoes of West African crude to load in September, equating to about 1.27 million barrels a day. As the Indians bought another 27 cargoes over the biggest monthly drop in prices since April 2013, the total volume purchased lent support to the price or the $100 floor would have almost certainly been breached. Geopolitics is not providing that much of a risk driven bearish impetus, even hedge funds have finally realised that by reducing bullish bets on Brent by 12.5% to just 63,079 contacts in the week beginning August 19, as wiser heads appear to be prevailing of late.

From price of the crude stuff to those trying to make money on it – as some in the UK oil & gas sector have suggested that London-listed exploration and production (E&P) firms might be down the dumps. Investec analyst Brian Gallagher clearly isn’t one of them. In a note to clients, he said the sector should not be feeling sorry for itself. 

“Brent has been above $100 per barrel all year and broadly above $100 per barrel for three years now. Performance of E&P companies generally has just not been up to the mark from an operational and exploration perspective. Unique events have also disrupted narratives. Valuations are however becoming tempting again and we maintain bullish views on Amerisur and Cairn.”

Aside from these two, market valuations are still pricing in exploration barrels, which Investec analysts don’t necessarily disagree with. “Nevertheless, if you want to trade discovered barrels, you’ll have to wait for lower levels in Amerisur, Genel, Ophir and Tullow, in our view,” Gallagher added.

Sticking with corporates, here’s the Oilholic’s latest interview for Forbes with Barbara Spurrier, Finance Director of London’s AIM-listed Frontier Resources on the subject of potential barrels in Oman’s Block 38. Yours truly also recently interviewed Alexis Bédeneau, Head of IT at Primagaz France, a company owned by international conglomerate SHV Group on the crucial subject of cybersecurity and IT process streamlining within the oil & gas sector.

Finally, a Fitch Ratings report titled “European Union has Little Chance of Cutting Reliance on Russian Gas” rather gives away the concluding argument. The agency opines that Europe is unlikely to be able to reduce its reliance on Russian natural gas for at least the next decade and potentially much longer. 

“At best the EU may be able to avoid significantly increasing its gas purchases from Russia. Any attempt to improve energy security by reducing European reliance on Russia would require either a significant reduction in overall gas demand or a big increase in alternative sources of supply, but neither of these appears likely,” Fitch said.

European shale gas remains in its infancy and Fitch believes it will take “at least a decade” for production to reach meaningful volumes. By that point, of course it would probably only offset the decline in production from Europe's conventional gas wells and won’t be a US-style bonanza some are imagining. 

Piped gas imports to Europe from markets other than Russia are also likely to remain limited. Fitch opined that the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline is the only viable non-Russian pipeline under consideration. This could provide 31 billion cubic metres of gas per annum by 2026, but that’s not enough to cover the incremental increase in gas demand the agency expects over the period, let alone replace any supplies from Russia!

Additionally LNG supplies will rise, but the market is unlikely to be large enough to gain market share against Russian gas. A candid and brutal assessment, just the sort this blogger likes, but maybe not the policymakers with camera facing soundbites in Brussels. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: Oil tanker in Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey © Gaurav Sharma, March 2014.

No comments:

Contact:

For comments or for professional queries, please email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here