Sunday, July 19, 2020

Hosting ADIPEC Energy Dialogues

Over the last few months, yours truly has been participating in the recording of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) Energy Dialogues series. Some of the recordings are now up. Here is a selection of them, also available via ADIPEC's YouTube channel and the event's website.

Recent conversations have included informative discussions with Morag Watson, SVP Digital Science & Engineering at BP, Jeff Zindel, Vice President and General Manager at Honeywell Connected Enterprise, Cybersecurity and Thomas Gangl, Chief Downstream Operations Officer, OMV.

Morag Watson, SVP Digital Science & Engineering at BP



Jeff Zindel, Vice President and General Manager at Honeywell Connected Enterprise, Cybersecurity



Thomas Gangl, Chief Downstream Operations Officer, OMV


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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Video © ADIPEC / DMGEvents, UAE

Monday, June 15, 2020

End of 'voluntary' Saudi cuts, no Covid-19 end in sight

In the lead up to the OPEC+ summit on June 6, oil benchmarks continued to rise toward $40 per barrel and subsequently went beyond. Brent even capped $42 levels briefly as OPEC+ decided to predictably rollover ongoing crude production cuts of 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) - scheduled to end on July 1 - by another month. 

All of it was accompanied by the common din of crude oil demand returning, underpinned by hopes of China reverting to its average importation rate of around 14 million bpd by end-2020. Such an assumption is fanciful in the Oilholic’s humble opinion, as a semblance of normalcy, especially in the aviation sector, is unlikely before Q1 2021. But even that assumption was further punctured by Saudi Arabia withdrawing its additional 'voluntary' cuts of 1 million bpd in June, atop what they were already cutting as part of the OPEC+ agreement. 

To quote Saudi Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman: "The voluntary cut has served its purpose and we are moving on. A good chunk of what we will increase in July will go into domestic consumption."

Be that as it may be, that's bearish joy for those with short positions who can now also count on rising sentiment in favour of a second wave of the Coronavirus or Covid-19 hammering crude oil demand, with rising cases in the U.S. and as well as a fresh outbreak in China. So, oil futures have duly retreated from $40 levels.

However, here's what this blogger doesn't get – how can it be all about a possible second wave, when the initial pandemic is far from over! Just look at the official and anecdotal data coming out of India and Brazil. 

And while European pandemic hotspots might be cooling down, the initial threat is far from over. A crude market recovery remains a long, long way off. The Oilholic reckons it will be Q1 2021 before we get into a proper recovery mode and can think of a nuanced reversal in market fortunes. By that argument near-term volatility is likely be in $30-40 range, unless Covid-19 situation escalates. To assume the only way is up from $40 is pretty daft. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it crude!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Image by Omni Matryx from Pixabay

Saturday, June 06, 2020

'e-OPEC' agrees 9.7mbpd cut extension by a month

We here again, albeit via webcam! As widely anticipated, oil producers' group OPEC has agreed to recommend a roll over its existing 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) production cut at its latest meeting. 
Here's a glimpse of the new e-OPEC (click to enlarge). 

Two sources said all members were onboard, with one respondent emphatically declaring there "will be a 9.7 million bpd not ifs or buts." However, the was precious little word on the so-called cheaters. Within OPEC that would be Iraq and Nigeria, and beyond it Kazakhstan. There's plenty of doubt over what to do with Mexico's insistence that it cannot reduce its production level. 

However, Russia and Saudi Arabia, who want non-OPEC and OPEC cheaters brought to heel are so far said to be in agreement with a move to extend the cuts - instituted in April in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic - by a month. Non-OPEC countries are only just joining the meeting, so the market will have further word on that at time of stunted demand and expectations of a dire 2020

Monitoring is expected to be stepped up with OPEC's monitoring committee or the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) opting to meet every month from June 18 onwards. The next OPEC meeting has been scheduled for Nov 30, followed by an OPEC+ meeting on Dec 1. Ultimately, an exit strategy remains missing and that problem will resurface soon rather than later

Ahead of the weekend's OPEC+ meeting, oil futures jumped significantly, with the Brent August contract rising well above $40 per barrel, and WTI July contract coming within tantalizing distance of the said level. There's something incredibly premature about this and the said levels - at least in this blogger's opinion - have arrived at least a month early as one noted in recent opinion column

Away from the goings-on at OPEC, here are few of the Oilholic's recent Forbes missives on the world of oil and gas equities:

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Big Oil quarterly earnings in the Covid-19 age

The first Big Oil quarterly earnings season in the age of the coronavirus or Covid-19 global pandemic has gone revealing profit slumps, capex and opex cuts, job losses and much upheaval. Selected reports on the financials by the Oilholic are listed below, with links:
  • Profits Slump 67% At BP But Oil Major Maintains Dividend Despite Coronavirus Downturn, Apr 28
  • ExxonMobil Follows BP In Maintaining Dividend But Shell Cuts As Oil Crash Bites, Apr 30
  • Shell Cuts Dividend By 65% On ‘Prolonged’ Oil Market Uncertainty, Apr 30 
  • Oil Giant Total Maintains Dividend Despite ‘Exceptional’ 35% Plunge In Profits, May 5
  • Oil Major Equinor Suspends 2020 Guidance Following 51% Slump In Earnings, May 7
  • Saudi Aramco Keeps Record $18.75 Billion Dividend Payment Intact Despite Profits Slump, May 12
Some key themes to emerge were: 

(1) Universal profit slumps, excepting Chevron which bucked wider quarterly trends, 
(2) Around $60 billion in cost cuts instituted by the biggest 20 IOCs, and 
(3) Shell's first dividend cut since the Second World War. 

A more detailed summary for Forbes on what we can learn from Q1 2020 figures for is here. But that's all for the moment folks. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Last contango in Harris (County)

The crude trading week that was gave the market a day that will live in infamy. For on Monday, April 20, 2020, the soon-to-expire WTI May contract – lost all its value, slid to zero and then went into negative prices for the first time in trading history eventually settling at -$37.63 per barrel down over 300%. 

Blame a supply glut that Harris County, Texas, US – home to America's oil and gas capital of Houston – is only too aware of, or blame the dire demand declines caused by the coronavirus/Covid-19 lockdowns around the world, or blame money managers holding paper barrel or e-barrels desperately looking to dump their holdings at the last minute with very few takers – whatever the reason might be, outrageously sensational the development most certainly was! 

Expiring crude futures contracts often have a run on them in a climate of depressed demand that we happen to be in but April 20 was something the Oilholic never imagined he would ever blog about. Yet here we are! The very next day – April 21 – the contract did return to positive turf after all the headlines had been written. So is it a 'switch the lights out' moment for the industry? Not quite. Is it an unmitigated disaster for Harris County and wider industry sentiment in North America – most certainly so. 

That's because near-term demand is not looking pretty, and the Oilholic sees no prospect of a return to normalcy at least until the end of July. That too might be contingent upon the global community getting some sort of a handle on the global pandemic. Implications in barrel terms could likely be a Q2 2020 demand slump of at least 20 million barrels per day (bpd) and might well be as much as 30-35 million bpd.

For upcoming and established US exploration and production plays gradually discovering lucrative East Asian markets of light, sweet crude and national headline production levels of 12.75 million bpd – the current situation is a crushing but inevitable blow. 

Chats with Wall Street and City of London forecasters – virtual ones of course (via Skype, WhatsApp, did anyone mention Zoom) – and with several industry contacts from Harris County, Texas to Denver, Colorado suggest come 2021 US production is likely to fall to ~11 million bpd. But a long-term market has been established for competitively priced light, sweet barrels currently available at a rather cheap price provided you can find a place to stack or store the barrels. 

In fact, the lowest spot price the Oilholic has encountered is just south of $2 per barrel as shutdowns and idle rigs become the order of the day. Only problem is storage – which contrary to popular belief, and as verified by satellite imagery – hasn't quite run out US onshore but is on the verge of being leased and spoken for. 

And it is costing dear on a floating basis too, something that is unlikely to change as traders gear up for contango plays! Simple formula - get your hands on crude cargo from anywhere between $2 to $18, ride out the coronavirus downturn, pin hopes on a Q4 2020 to Q1 2021 recovery and make a tidy profit!

Hypothetically, if December is the cut-off point for such bets right now, then WTI December contract is around $29 per barrel while WTI June is trading around $17. That gives one of the widest contango structure of $12 and a 70.6% discount to six-month forward contracts for anyone with hands on US light sweet crude; means to hold on to it; and flog it off six months later on margins not seen since 2009

It is doubtful the returns are likely to be of the magnitude raked in by Gunvor in the immediate recovery that followed the 2008-09 financial crisis but they could be substantial. Many on Wall Street are calling it the 'super-contango' but the Oilholic prefers something else. Opportunities and differentials like this do not come along often – so yours truly thinks calling it the 'Last contago in Harris' is way more colourful. That's all for the moment folks! Stay safe! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo: View of Downtown Houston, Texas, US © Gaurav Sharma, May 2018.

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