Showing posts with label Christophe de Margerie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christophe de Margerie. Show all posts

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Crude year that was & oil price forecasts for 2015

As 2014 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at what the Oilholic was up to and how the oil and gas sector performed in general. The only place to start would be the oil price where those in the business of charting it had a year of two halves.

First six months of the year saw Brent, considered a global proxy benchmark, comfortably over $100 per barrel only to see a dramatic decline over the second half of the year that accelerated rapidly in the face of a global supply glut.

The US went in general retreat from the global oil markets in meaningful volumes, not needing to import as much given rising domestic shale and tight oil production. Global demand didn’t stack-up like it did in 2013, but producers were unrelenting with output rising from Canada to Russia and OPEC’s production quota staying where it was at 30 million barrels per day (bpd).

In fact, make it 30.7 million bpd if you believe in market consensus. End result was (and still is) a buyers’ market with China leading the way, but not importing as much as it used owing to stunted economic activity. From $115 per barrel in the summer, Brent is barely managing to resist a $60 price floor having already breached it once in December. WTI is also plummeted in tandem and is currently trading below $60.

Both OPEC Ministers’ meets for 2014 couldn’t have been held in more divergent circumstances. In June, the quota was held where it was because most in the cartel were happy with a $100-plus Brent price. In November, the quota stayed where it was because the Saudis refused to budge from their position of not wanting a production cut fearing a loss of market share. While Iran and Venezuela did not share their view, the Saudis prevailed as usual for a cut without their backing would have been meaningless.

Quite frankly, by not calling an extraordinary meeting when oil hit $85, OPEC missed a trick. Nonetheless, given the existing glut one doubts whether an OPEC cut in November would have had any tangible medium term impact anyway. Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi probably thought the same. But where does the price go from here? One has to admit that for the first time since this blog appeared on cyberspace in 2009; price averages for both Brent and WTI fell below the Oilholic’s median 2014 forecast.

Being a supply-side analyst one has long bemoaned the high oil price right from the days it became manifestly apparent that the US was no longer importing like it used to. And yet net long bets persisted well into the summer of this year courtesy hedge funds and other speculators, until physical traders of the crude stuff refused to buy in to a false spike injected by Iraqi disturbances.

Instead of contango, backwardation set in and price hasn’t recovered since with good reason. However, it wasn’t until October that the decline really took hold with OPEC’s decision not to cut production really accelerating the drop over the fourth quarter. The Oilholic would say the market is undergoing profound change of the sort that only comes around once in 20 years or so.

Given there so much oil out there and importers aren’t importing as much, risk premium has turned to risk fatigue, while a sellers’ market in the most lukewarm of times has become a buyers’ market in uncertain times. Nonetheless, supply correction is inevitable as unprofitable, especially unconventional exploration, takes a hit and non-OECD demand picks up. The Oilholic is fairly certain that come December 2015, we would once again be around the $80 level for Brent.

For the moment, barring a financial tsunami knocking non-OECD economic activity, the Oilholic's prediction is for a Brent price in the range of $75 to $85 and WTI price range of $65 to $75 for 2015. Weight on Brent should be to the upside, while weight on WTI should be to the downside of the aforementioned range. This blogger also does not believe legislative impediments over the US exporting oil are going away anytime soon as the 2016 presidential election draws ever closer.

Moving away from pricing, 2014 also saw the oil and gas world mourn the sad death of Total CEO and Chairman Christophe de Margerie in a plane crash in Moscow. Here is the Oilholic's tribute to one of the industry’s most colourful characters. Wider human tragedies overlapping the crude world including Russia’s bid to influence events in Ukraine and the spectre of ISIS over Iraq loomed large.

The oil price began hurting Russia by the end of the year with the rouble taking a plastering. Meanwhile in Iraq, given that ISIS controlled areas were far removed from the port of Basra and major Iraqi oil production facilities, risk premium from the unfolding events did not have a lasting impact on oil price barring a momentary spike in June.

Nigeria and Libya's troubles continued. In case of the latter, the country now has two oil ministers, two prime ministers but thankfully only one National Oil Company. Yet, geopolitical flare-ups aren't likely to have much of an impact over the first half of 2015 given the amount of oil there is in the market.

Away from it all and on a more personal footing, yours truly started writing for Forbes as well as commentating on Tip TV on a regular basis over 2014, alongside various other ‘crude’ engagements. Going on the road (or air) in pursuit of ‘crude’ intel, saw the Oilholic visit Rotterdam, Istanbul, San Francisco, Zagreb, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

The 21st World Petroleum Congress meant a return to the host city of Moscow after a gap of 10 years. Invariably, the Ukrainian stand-off cast a shadow over an event dubbed the Olympics of the oil and gas business.

One also got a chance to interview ex-Enron whistleblower turned academic Dr Vincent Kaminski in Houston and IEA Chief Economist Dr Fatih Birol more closer to home. Among several senior executives one got a chance to interact with were C-suite executives from EDF, Tethys Petroleum, Frontier Resources, Primagaz and Rompetrol to name but a few.

Many fellow analysts, commentators, traders, academics, legal and financial experts shared their insight and valuable time on on-record while others preferred an off-record chat. Both sets have the Oilholic’s heartfelt thanks. Rather unusually, this blogger found political satirist and comedian Jon Stewart’s take on the farce that’s become of the Keystone XL project bang on the money. Finally, the Oilholic also reviewed some ‘crude’ books to help you decide whether they are for you or not.

It's been a jolly crude year and one that wouldn't have been half as spiffing without the support of you all - the dear readers of this blog. Here goes the look back at Crude Year 2014. As the Oilholic Synonymous Report embarks upon its sixth year on the Worldwide Web and the eighth year of its virtual existence – here's wishing you a very Happy New Year! That’s all for 2014 folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: Oil pipeline, India © Cairn India

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The inimitable Mr de Margerie (1951 – 2014)

The Oilholic woke up to the sad news that Total CEO and Chairman Christophe de Margerie had been killed in a plane crash at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport. This tragedy has robbed the wider oil & gas fraternity of arguably its most colourful stalwart.

Held in high regard by the industry, de Margerie had been the CEO of Total since 2007, later assuming both Chairman and CEO roles in 2010. Instantly recognisable by his trademark thick moustache, de Margerie increased the focus of Europe’s third-largest oil and gas company on its proven reserves ratio like never before.

He joined Total in 1974 straight after graduating from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce in Paris and spent his entire professional life at the company. Rising through the ranks to the top of the corporate ladder, de Margerie was instrumental in taking Total into markets the company hadn’t tested and to technologies it hadn’t adopted before. Wider efforts to improve Total’s access to the global hydrocarbon pool often saw de Margerie take actions frowned upon by some if not all. 

For instance, Total went prospecting in Burma and Iran in the face of US sanctions. France has a moratorium on shale oil & gas drilling, but de Margerie recently saw it fit to get Total involved in UK's shale gas exploration. Over the last decade, as this blogger witnessed Total ink deals which could be subjectively described by many as good, bad or ugly, one found many who disagreed with de Margerie, but few who disliked him.

Even in the face of controversy, the man nicknamed “Big Moustache” always kept his cool and more importantly a sense of humour. Each new deal or the conquering of a corporate frontier saw de Margerie raise a spot of Scotch to celebrate. That’s some tipple of choice when it came to a celebration given he was the grandson of Pierre Taittinger, the founder of Taittinger champagne.

The Oilholic’s only direct interaction with the man himself, in December 2011 at the 20th World Petroleum Congress (20th WPC) in Doha, was indeed a memorable one. Jostling for position while the Total CEO was coming down from a podium, this blogger inquired if there was time for one question. To which the man himself said one could ask three provided they could all be squeezed into the time he had between the auditorium and VIP elevator!

In a brief exchange that followed, de Margerie expressed the opinion that exploration and production (E&P) companies would find it imperative to venture into "geologically challenging and geopolitically difficult" hydrocarbon prospects.

“All the easy to extract oil & gas is largely already onstream. We’re at a stage where the next round of E&P would be much more costly,” he added. One could have gone on for hours, but alas a few minutes is all what Qatari security would permit. Earlier at the auditorium he was leaving from, de Margerie had participated in deliberations on Peak Oil, a subject of interest on which he often “updated” his viewpoint (photo above left).

“There will be sufficient oil & gas and energy as a whole to cover global demand…Even using pessimistic assumptions, I cannot see how energy demand will grow less than 25% in twenty years time. Today we have roughly the oil equivalent of 260 million barrels per day (bpd) in total energy production, and our expectation for 2030 is 325 million bpd,” he said.

De Margerie forecast that fossil fuels will continue to make up 76% of the energy supply by 2050.

“We have plenty of resources, the problem is how to extract the resources in an acceptable manner, being accepted by people, because today a lot of things are not acceptable,” the late Total CEO quipped.

He concluded by saying that if unconventional sources of oil, including heavy oil and oil shale, were to be exploited, there will be sufficient oil to meet current consumption for up to 100 years, and for gas up to 135 years. What he astutely observed at the 20th WPC does broadly stack-up today.

In wake of sanctions on Russia following the Ukrainian standoff, de Margerie called for channels of dialogue to remain open between the wider world and country’s energy sector. Total is a major shareholder in Russian gas producer Novatek, something which De Margerie was always comfortable with. He ignored calls for a boycott of industry events in Russia, turning up at both the St Petersburg forum in May and the 21st World Petroleum Congress in Moscow in June this year.

However, the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July prompted him to suspend buying more shares in Novatek. That cast a shadow over Total’s participation in Yamal LNG along with Novatek and CNPC. Nonetheless, de Margerie was bullish about boosting production in Russia. 

According to Vedomosti newspaper, he was in town on Monday to meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and discuss the climate for foreign direct investment in the energy sector. As events conspired, it turned out to be the last of his many audiences with dignitaries and heads of capital, state and industry.

Later that foggy Monday evening, the private jet carrying de Margerie from Vnukovo airport collided with a snow plough and crashed, killing all on-board including him and three members of the crew. Confirming the news, a shocked Total was left scrambling to name a successor or at least an interim head to replace de Margerie.

In a statement, the company said: “Total’s employees are deeply appreciative of the support and sympathy received, both in France and in the many countries where Christophe de Margerie was admired and respected.

“Mr de Margerie devoted his life to building and promoting Total in France and internationally. He was equally devoted to Total’s 100,000 employees. As he would have wished, the company must continue to move forward. Total is organised to ensure the continuity of both its governance and its business, allowing it to manage the consequences of this tragic loss.”

According to newswire AFP, Total’s third quarter results would be released as scheduled on October 29. Paying tribute, French President Francois Hollande said the country had lost “a patriot” while OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri said the industry had lost “an extraordinary and charming professional, who will be sorely and sadly missed by all who had the honour of knowing and working with him.” 

In a corporate sense, Total will move on but French commerce and the oil & gas business would be intellectually poorer in wake of de Margerie’s death. His forthright views sparked debates, his stewardship of France’s largest company inspired confidence, his commanding presence at market briefings made them more sought after and his sense of humour lit up forums. But above all, in the Oilholic’s 17 years as a scribe, one has never met a more down-to-earth industry head. Rest in peace sir, you will be sorely missed.

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: The late Christophe de Margerie, former CEO and Chairman of Total, addresses the 20th World Petroleum Congress, Doha, Qatar, December 2011 © Gaurav Sharma.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We’re nowhere near “Peak oil” er...perhaps!

The 20th World Petroleum Congress could not have possibly gone without a discussion on the Peak Oil hypothesis. In fact, every single day of the Congress saw the topic being discussed in some way, shape or form. So the Oilholic decided to summarise it after the event had ended and before the latest OPEC meeting begins.

Discussing the supply side, starting with the hosts Qatar, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa said his country was rising to challenge to secure supplies of oil and gas alongside co-operating with members of the energy organisations to which they were aparty, in order to realise this goal. Close on the Qatari Emir’s heels, Kuwaiti oil minister Mohammed Al-Busairi said his country’s crude production capacity is only expected increase between now and 2015 from the current level of 3 million barrels per day (bpd) to 3.5 million bpd, before rising further to 4 million bpd.

Then came the daddy of all statements from Saudi Aramco chief executive Khalid al-Falih. The top man at the world’s largest oil company by proven reserves of barrel of oil equivalent noted that, “rather than the supply scarcity which many predicted, we have adequate oil and gas supplies, due in large part to the contributions of unconventional resources.”

Rising supplies in al-Falih’s opinion will result in deflating the Peak Oil hypothesis. “In fact, we are on the cusp of what I believe will be a new renaissance for petroleum. This belief emanates from new sweeping realities that are reshaping the world of energy, especially petroleum,” he told WPC delegates.

Meanwhile, in context of the wider debate, Petrobras chief executive Jose Sergio Gabrielli, who knows a thing or two about unconventional told delegates that the speed with which the new sources of oil are entering into production has taken many people by surprise, adding to some of the short-term volatility.

“The productivity of our pre-salt offshore drilling moves is exceeding expectations,” he added. Petrobras now hopes to double its oil production by 2020 to over 6.42 billion barrels of oil equivalent. It seems a veritable who’s-who of the oil and gas business lined up in Doha to implicitly or explicitly suggest that Marion King Hubbert – the patron saint of the Peak Oil hypothesis believers – had always failed to take into account technological advancement in terms of crude prospection and recent developments have proven that to be the case.

But for all that was said and done, there is one inimitable chap who cannot possibly be outdone –Total CEO Christophe de Margerie. When asked if Peak Oil was imminent, de Margerie declared, “There will be sufficient oil and gas and energy as a whole to cover the demand. That’s all! Even using pessimistic assumptions, I cannot see how energy demand will grow less than 25% in twenty years time. Today we have roughly the oil equivalent of 260 million bpd (in total energy production), and our expectation for 2030 is 325 million bpd.”

He forecasts that fossil fuels will continue to make up 76% of the energy supply by 2050. “We have plenty of resources, the problem is how to extract the resources in an acceptable manner, being accepted by people, because today a lot of things are not acceptable,” the Total CEO quipped almost to the point of getting all worked up.

He concluded by saying that if unconventional sources of oil, including heavy oil and oil shale, are exploited, there will be sufficient oil to meet today’s consumption for up to 100 years, and for gas the rough estimate is 135 years. Or enough to make Hubbert stir in his grave.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Total's CEO De Margerie discusses Peak Oil at the 20th World Petroleum Congress © Gaurav Sharma 2011.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Oilholic’s photo clicks @ the 20th WPC venue

The Oilholic is by no means a photojournalist, but there is no harm in pretending to be one armed with a fully automatic Olympus FE-4020 digital camera at such an impressive venue as the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) which was opened to the public for the first time for the 20th World Petroleum Congress when things began here on December 4th.

According to a QNCC spokesperson, the “sheer size (of the building pictured above left), sensational spaces spread over three levels and high-tech solutions have set new standards when it comes to hosting an event as prestigious as the Petroleum Congress.

One supposes that you can brag a little when your venue has 40,000 sq. metres of exhibition space, a conference hall facility for 4,000 delegates, 2,300-seat lyric style theatre, three additional smaller-tiered auditoriums all complete with theatre-style seating, banquet space for up to 10,000 in exhibition halls, 52 meeting rooms, ample space for pre-function logistics, exhibition foyers, lounges, hospitality suites, business centers and more importantly for fellow scribes - impressive media rooms! Phew!

Hope you enjoy the virtual views, as the Oilholic is enjoying them here on the ground.
QNCC entrance lobby
QNCC Interior: lobby level I
QNCC Exhibition floor
QNCC Exhibition floor
Total CEO Christophe de Margerie at QNCC Theatre Hall
© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photos from the 20th World Petroleum Congress being held at the Qatar National Convention Centre, Doha, Qatar © Gaurav Sharma, Dec 2011.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Crude Dips but Total Warns of Year-end Price Spike

Crude prices dipped yet again last week, especially towards the end of the week, as bearish trends witnessed in the wider financial markets clobbered commodities. Additionally, the US Department of Energy reported a 1.9 million barrel peak-to-trough decline of crude oil inventories (gasoline and distillate inventories both rose).

The drawdown was above expectations and NYMEX WTI August contract fell 30 cents to US$75.64 a barrel in New York following publication of the report. In fact, crude prices, instead of being the exception, were following the norm as commodities in general suffered their first negative quarter since 2008, if the past three months are anything to go by.

Problem these days is that higher institutional investor participation in commodities markets has without a shadow of doubt, at least in my mind, increased the connection between forex carry trade and stock market fluctuations with commodity assets. Still, most oil market commentators I have spoken to forecast crude prices as well as commodities prices to reverse last week’s losses as the supply and demand scenario has not been fundamentally altered. In fact, it remains strong.

However, Christophe de Margerie, CEO of oil major Total believes crude prices could spike on account of an entirely different reason – the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, he said that while it remained necessary to drill in deep waters to meet global demand for fuel, tougher safety rules could result in higher crude price.

"Total’s policy is clearly towards zero risk. All this means potential additional costs," de Margerie said, adding that oil prices could reach US$90 a barrel by end-2010.

© Gaurav Sharma 2010. Photo courtesy © Cairn Energy Plc

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