Showing posts with label Black Gold. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black Gold. Show all posts

Saturday, June 01, 2013

OPEC & the downward bias in Black Gold’s value

The OPEC ministers have packed-up and left with no real surprises as the cartel maintained its daily output at 30 million barrels per day (bpd). But in the absence of any real surprises from OPEC, the downward bias in the direction of leading oil futures benchmarks is getting stronger, given the perceived oversupply and a flat, if not dicey, macroeconomic climate. The Brent forward month futures contract plummeted to nearly US$100, seeing a near 2.5% dip from last week (click on graph to enlarge). Given that the trading community had already factored in the outcome of the 163rd OPEC meeting even before it concluded, most appear to be waiting to see whether the US Federal Reserve continues with its monetary stimulus programme. Even if it does so, given the macroeconomic permutations, it is not worth holding your breath for a ‘crude’ bounceback.
 
Far from cutting production, there seem to be murmurs and concern in the hawkish camps of Iran and Venezuela about constantly improving production levels in Iraq. Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi, Iraq’s oil minister, confirmed at a media scrum in Vienna that the country plans to start production at two of its largest oilfields within “a matter of weeks.”
 
Production commencement at Majnoon (which is imminent) and Gharraf (due in July), followed by a third facility at West Qurna-2 (due by December if not earlier) would lift Iraqi capacity by 400,000 bpd according to al-Luaibi. The country’s current output is about 3.125 million bpd. The additional capacity would bolster its second position, behind Saudi Arabia, in the OPEC output league table.
 
The Iraqis have a monetary incentive to produce more of the crude stuff. Sadly for OPEC, it will come at a time the cartel does not need it. Instead of adherence, there will be further flouting of the recently agreed upon quota by some members. Iraq is not yet even included in the quota (and may not be until late into 2014).
 
Non-OPEC supply is seeing the ranks of the usual suspects Russia and Norway, joined ever more meaningfully by Brazil, Kazakhstan, Canada and not to mention (and how can you not mention) – the US, courtesy of its shale supplies and more efficient extraction techniques at Texan conventional plays. So a downward bias will prevail – for now.
 
In fact, Morgan Stanley did not even wait for the OPEC meeting to end before downgrading oil services firms, mostly European ones, based on the conjecture that IOCs as well as NOCs (several of whom hail from OPEC jurisdictions) would allocate relatively lower capex towards E&P.
 
Robert Pulleyn, analyst at Morgan Stanley, wrote and the Oilholic quotes: “With oil prices the key determinant of industry operating cash flow, and given our expectation for an increasingly range bound price environment, we expect industry-operating-cash-flow growth to fall from 14% compound annual growth rate (since 2003) to about 3% in the future. We expect capex growth to fall to around 5% a year to 2020, compared to 18% compound annual growth rate since 2003.”
 
Of the five it downgraded on Thursday – viz. Vallourec, SBM Offshore, CGG Veritas, TGS-NOPEC and Subsea 7 – only the latter avoided a dip in share price following the news. However, Morgan Stanley upgraded John Wood Group, saying it is better positioned to withstand a lower growth outlook for industry spending.
 
As for the price of the crude stuff itself, many analysts didn’t wait for OPEC either with Commerzbank, Société Générale and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML) all sounding bearish on Brent. BoAML cut its Brent crude price forecasts to $103 per barrel from $111 for the second half of 2013, citing lower global oil demand, rising supplies and higher inventories. The bank expects the general weakness to persist next year and reduced its 2014 average Brent price outlook from $112 to $105 per barrel. So there you have it and that’s all from Vienna folks!
 
Since it’s time to say Auf Wiedersehen, the Oilholic leaves you with a view of the city’s Irrgarten and Labyrinth at the Schönbrunn Palace grounds (see right). Once intended for the amusement of Austro-Hungarian royalty and their guests, this amazing maze is now for the public’s amusement.
 
While visitors to this wonderful place are getting lost in a maze for fun, OPEC ministers going round in circles over a key appointment to the post of Secretary General is hardly entertaining. At such a challenging time for it, the 12-member oil exporters’ club could do with a bit of unity. Yet it cannot even unite behind a single candidate for the post – something which has been dragging on for a year – as rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to hold out for their chosen candidate for the post. Furthermore, it’s taken an ugly sectarian tone along Shia and Sunni lines.
 
Worryingly, this time around, neither the Saudis nor the Iraqis are in any mood for a compromise as the rest of the 10 members wander around in a maze feeling dazed about shale, internal rivalries, self interest and plain old fashioned market anxieties. The Oilholic maintains it’s premature to suggest that a rise in unconventional production is making OPEC irrelevant, but its members are unwittingly trying really hard to do just that! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
 
© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Graph: World crude oil futures benchmarks to May 25, 2013 © Société Générale. Photo: Irrgarten & Labyrinth, Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria © Gaurav Sharma 2013.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Scrutinising UK’s latest North Sea tax break

The British government announced fresh tax relief measures last week aimed at boosting output in the North Sea. The Oilholic’s first thought, after having scrutinised the small print, is that it’s a positive signal of intent from UK chancellor George Osborne following on from his 2012 union budget. In all fairness he is also looking to put the taxation measures of 2011 budget, which irked the industry, behind him.

From July 25th, new UKCS gas fields with 10-20 billion cubic metres (bcm) in reserves located at depths of less than 30 metres will be exempted from a 32% tax levy on the first £500 million (or US$776 million) of income. Shallow water offshore projects will still pay the 30% Ring Fence Corporation Tax on all income from the field.

UK Treasury figures suggest the measure is expected to cost £20 million per annum in reduced tax receipts, but the government reckons it would generate additional jobs and crucially bolster energy security.

Chancellor Osborne said, "Gas is the single biggest source of energy in the UK. Today the government is signalling its long-term commitment to the role it can play in delivering a stable, secure and lower-carbon energy mix."

A new UK gas strategy is expected this autumn and all indications are that the British will acknowledge the critical role of the gas market in meeting emissions targets alongside a mix of subsidy supported renewable projects. Another passive acknowledgement then that gas, not renewable energy platforms, would be the immediate beneficiary of a post-Fukushima turn-off?

In fact the Oilholic and quite a few others are convinced that gas-fired plants would play a more than complementary role in a future British energy mix. The latest tax relief, aimed at shallow water gas prospection is proof of this.

Derek Henderson, senior partner in the Aberdeen office of Deloitte, also believes the move builds on UK March’s Budget when a number of other reliefs were announced. “This announcement should further support investment, unlock potential gas reserves and increase long term production leading to additional employment and an increase in overall tax revenue,” he said.

“This encouraging action by the Chancellor also provides more evidence of the constructive dialogue that is taking place between industry and the Government. The politicians are demonstrating their commitment to gas, it is now up to the industry to respond with increased activity levels,” Henderson concludes.

Centrica pledged to invest £1.4 billion towards developing its Cygnus gas field with partner GDF Suez barely hours after the announcement of the tax relief. Six days later Prime Minister David Cameron came ‘up North’ to pledge his support to the sector.

“If everything goes well in the oil sector and the renewables sector, is really important, high-quality manufacturing. I think that's something to celebrate and something to stand up for," he said speaking at Burntisland Fabrications in Fife.

The company has just won a contract from Premier Oil to create structures for their platform destined for the Solan oilfield development, west of Shetland. Burntisland Fabrications said the contract will create an additional 350 jobs.

UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) greenlighted Premier Oil’s plans for the Solan oilfield in April. The field could produce up to 40 million barrels of oil, with a projected production commencement rate of 24,000 barrels per day from Q4 2014. Given the amount of activity in the area, looks like a lot work might be coming from developments west of Shetland and it’s great to see the Prime Minister flag it up.

Meanwhile oil giant BP posted a sharp fall in Q2 2012 profits after it had to cut the value of a number of its key assets. The company made a replacement cost profit, outstripping the effect of crude oil price fluctuation, of US$238 million over Q2; versus a profit of US$5.4 billion in the corresponding quarter last year. The cut in valuation was in a number of its refineries and shale play assets.

With the TNK-BP saga continuing, BP’s underlying replacement cost profit for Q2 2012, leaving out asset value reductions, dipped to US$3.7 billion versus US$5.7 billion noted in Q2 2011.

On the crude pricing data front, both benchmarks have not moved much week on week and price sentiment is still bearish ahead of FOMC and ECB meetings. Given that on the macroeconomic front, the global indicators are fairly mixed, Sucden Financial Research analyst Myrto Sokou believes crude oil prices will continue to consolidate within the recent range.

“We saw this today; trading volume remains fairly low as investors would like to remain cautious ahead of the ECB and Fed decisions,” she concluded.

Andrey Dirgin, Head of Research at Forex Club said, “On Tuesday’s trading session, September’s energy futures performed indifferently. Oil contracts didn’t manage to fix on their levels and moved slightly down. The nearest Brent Crude futures contract fell 0.21% to US$104.7.”

Away from pricing and on a closing note, the Oilholic notes another move in the African crude rush. This one’s in Sierra Leone. A fortnight ago, the Sierra Leone government provisionally awarded two offshore exploration blocks – SL 8A-10 and SL 8B-10 – to Barbados registered ODYE Ltd.

The said exploration blocks SL 8A-10 and SL 8B-10 contain 2584 sq.km and 3020 sq.km of prospection area respectively. According to the Petroleum Directorate of Sierra Leone, the exploration blocks consist of early to late Cretaceous oil prone marine source rocks, primarily shale, sand and shale basin floor fans, channelised sand sequences and potentially high porosity sands.

ODYE says it is looking forward to “working with the other participants in these provisionally awarded blocks, Chevron Sahara and Noble Energy” to develop the assets. So the West African gold rush continues. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Andrew Rig, North Sea © BP Plc.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Is "assetization" of Black Gold out of control?

Crude oil price should reflect a simple supply-demand equation, but it rarely does in the world of oil index funds, ETFs and loose foresight. Add to the mix an uncertain geopolitical climate and what you get is extreme market volatility. Especially since 2005, there have been record highs, followed by record lows and then yet another spike. Even at times of ample surpluses at Cushing (Oklahoma) - the US hub of criss-crossing pipelines - sometimes the WTI ticker is still seen trading at a premium defying conventional trading wisdom. The cause, according to Dan Dicker, author of the book Oil’s Endless Bid, is the rampant "assetization" of oil.

The author, a man with more than 20 years of experience on the NYMEX floor, attributes this to an influx of "dumb money" in to the oil markets. Apart from introducing and taking oil price volatility straight to the consumers' wallets, this influx has triggered a global endless bid for energy security. Via a book of just under 340 pages split by three parts containing 11 chapters, their epilogue and two useful appendices, Dicker offers his take on the state of crude affairs.

While largely authored from an American standpoint, Dicker throws up some unassailable truths of global relevance. Principal among them is the fact that visible changes that have taken place in the oil markets over the past 20 years. Go back a few decades, and everyone can recollect the connection between price volatility and its association with a major economic or geopolitical crisis (economic woes, Gulf War I, OPEC embargo, etc.)

Presently, there is near perennial volatility as the trading climate and instruments of trade available place an incessant upward pressure on black gold. Reading Dicker's thoughts one is inclined to believe that at no point in history was the phrase "black gold" more appropriate to describe the crude stuff than it is now; particularly in the last six years, as investment banks, energy hedge funds and managed futures funds have come to dominate energy trading and wreak havoc on prices.

In his introduction to the book, Dicker makes a bold claim - that we've lost control of our oil markets and it has become the biggest financial story of the decade. When the Oilholic began reading it, he was sceptical of the author's claim, but by the time he reached the ninth chapter the overriding sentiment was that Dicker has a point - a huge one, articulated well and discussed in the right spirit.

Ask anyone, even a lay man, a non-technical question about why the price of oil is so high - the answer is bound be China and India's hunger for oil. A more technical person might attribute it to the US Dollar's weakening and perhaps investors playing with the commodities market as the equities markets take a hit.

But are these reasons enough to explain what caused prices to soar 600% from 2003 to 2008, only to take a massive dip and soar again over the next couple of years? Something is fundamentally wrong here according to the author and the latter half of his book is dedicated to discussing what it might mean and where are we heading.

Whether you agree or disagree is a matter of personal opinion, but the author's take on what broke the oil markets, and how can they be fixed before they drag us all down into an economic black hole, strikes a chord. He also uses part of the narrative to reflect on his life as a trader before and after passage of the US Commodities Futures Modernization Act opened up the oil markets to a flood of "dumb money."

Sadly, as Dicker notes, the biggest victim of oil markets frenzy is the average consumer, who pays the price at the pump, and in the inflated costs of everything - from food and clothing to electric power and even lifesaving medications. The Oilholic is happy to recommend this book to those interested in crude oil markets, the energy business, US crude trading dynamic, petroleum economics or are just plainly intrigued about why getting a full tank of petrol has suddenly lost the element of predictability in the last half decade or so.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Cover of ‘Oil’s Endless Bid’ © Wiley Publishers, USA 2011.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Greece isn’t hitting crude on a standalone basis

Now how many times have we been here in recent times when yet another week begins with market chatter about Eurozone contagion and Greece weighing on the price of Black Gold? Quite frankly it is now getting excruciatingly painful – the chatter that is! The linkage between the abysmal state of affairs in Greece and lower crude prices is neither simple nor linear and a tad overblown from a global standpoint.

Bearish trends are being noted owing to an accumulation of macro factors. Worries about state of the US economy, should lead and actually led the bearish way not Greece. Nonetheless, since Greece’s economic woes have become the poster children of wider problems in the Eurozone for a while now, concerns about its economy never fail to dampen intraday trade on a Monday.

Sucden Financial Research’s Myrto Sokou notes that crude oil prices have started the week on a negative side, as weaker global equity markets and persistent concerns about Greek debt crisis weighed heavily on market sentiment and prompted investors to lock in recent profits. WTI crude oil slid lower 1% toward US$87 per barrel, while Brent oil contract retreated to retest the US$111 per barrel area.

Simply put, European leaders’ decision to delay the Greek tranche payment and EFSF expansion decisions until October, has hit futures trading this side of the Atlantic. Additionally, in the absence of major economic indicators this week, Sokou notes that investors will now be watching for currency movements that could give some direction to the energy market. In any case, investors are being cautious ahead of the two-day US FOMC meeting which concludes on Wednesday.

This week comes on the back of Société Générale’s research published last week which suggested a meaningful slide in oil prices should begin in the next 30-45 days. It is worth rewinding to last Christmas when a stunted recovery was taking hold and people were forecasting oil prices in the circa of US$120 per barrel for 2012. Here’s an example of a JP Morgan research note to clients from December 2010. This not to say that a US$120 price is not achievable – but the last six weeks of ‘over’ listening (or not) to the Greeks’ problems, economic stagnation in the US and even declining consumption forecasts for Asian markets has seen most analysts revise their 2012 forecasts down by almost US$10 per barrel on average.

OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem el-Badri certainly thinks there isn’t one economic woe without the other – not just Greece! Speaking at a forum, el-Badri noted that global demand for oil was seen rising at a level which was below expectations. He attributed this to fiscal woes in Europe (sigh!), high unemployment in the US and possible Chinese government action to prevent overheating of their economy.

El-Badri, a Libyan himself, also expressed hope that Libyan production would rise by 500,000 to 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) sometime in the near future. Club all bearish sentiments together, and even the OPEC secretary general is surprised that there has not been an even greater price correction in the crude markets.

Moving away from pricing, two noteworthy corporate stories these past few days have come from the US and Falkland Islands. On September 12, French engineering firm Technip announced its intention to acquire 100% of shares of US-based subsea company Global Industries Ltd. for a total transaction value of US$1.073 billion in cash, including approximately US$136 million of net debt.

The deal is slated for completion over Q1 2012. Elsewhere, British company Rockhopper Exploration, which is searching for crude stuff off the coast of Falkland Islands said on September 15 that it has made further significant finds.

It now expects to start pumping oil by 2016 and would need US$2.1 billion to develop its Sea Lion prospect. Company estimates are for 350 million barrels of recoverable reserves and production peak of 120,000 bpd is expected in 2018. Given the figure, smart money is on Rockhopper either partnering with another company or being taken over by a major. While Rockhopper continues to surprise, that the Argentines are moaning is hardly a surprise.

The Falkland Islands have always be a bone of contention between Argentina and UK who went to war over the Islands in 1982 after the former invaded. UK forces wrested back control of the islands, held by it since 1833, after a week long war that killed 649 Argentine and 255 British service personnel according to UK archives.

The prospect of oil in the region has renewed diplomatic spats with the Argentines complaining to the UN and launching fresh claims of sovereignty. Since, most Falkland islanders want to retain British sovereignty – UK PM David Cameron has declared the issue “non-negotiable”, while Argentina has declared him “arrogant”. It is at present, as the Oilholic noted last year, nothing more than a bit of diplomatic argy-bargy with an oily dimension and is highly likely to stay there.

Finally, concluding on a much lighter note, the London Stock Exchange (LSE), a preferred destination for oilholics, energy majors and miners for their listings, has quite literally become a hive of activity. One is reliably informed via its press office that the LSE has introduced 60,000 bees to their new home in hives situated on the roof of its City HQ at Paternoster Square (see photo on the left).

The introduction of the busy bees is aimed at encouraging growth of the urban bee population in the UK. The initiative is in a partnership with award-winning UK social enterprise - The Golden Company - which works with young people to develop viable businesses that produce, market and sell honey and honey-based natural cosmetics.

Xavier Rolet, CEO of LSE Group describes the move as the perfect example of community and business working together. Ilka Weissbrod, Director of The Golden Company says bees on the roof will be looked after by their ‘Bee Guardians’ together with members of LSE staff and everyone was looking forward to seeing the bees settle in their new home. Sounds like fun!

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo 1: Pump Jacks Perryton, Texas, USA © Joel Sartore / National Geographic. Photo 2: Bees atop the London Stock Exchange © LSE Press Office, September 2011.

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