Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Monday, February 03, 2014

Keystone XL revisited, some results & fossil fuels

Despite it having been a mad few days of 'crude' results, the Oilholic feels there is only one place to start this post – the US State Department's recent take on the Keystone XL project.

The Department's review of the project or should you like formalities – its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement – noted that it had "no objections" on any major environmental grounds to the cross-border 1,179 mile-long Alberta to Texas pipeline extension project.

Its take, of course, pertains to 875 miles of proposed pipeline construction across US jurisdictional control which has been the subject of immense controversy with everyone from the American workers' unions [flagging-up job creation] to environmentalists [warning about risk of spillage] weighing in.

So is the end of the saga close with a thumbs-up from the State Department? Sadly, not quite, not yet! A 30-day public comment period has begun and is scheduled to end on March 7. During this time, "members of the public and other interested parties" are encouraged to submit comments on "the national interest determination."

Then the ultimate decision has to be made by the ditherer-in-chief, President Barack Obama, who is yet to make his mind up, pending reviews from "other government agencies" and the public at large.

As expected, the State Department's statement is full of waffle. Hoping not to annoy either those for or against the project, it took no firm stances in the Oilholic's opinion. However, there is one very clear, in fact explicit, conclusion by the department, from this blogger's reading of it – Alberta's oil sands will be developed Keystone XL or not!

In a related development impact assessment, it also noted – perhaps in no small part down to recent incidents and accidents – that using the rail network to transport crude was an even worse option than the pipeline itself, if a carbon footprint was the deciding factor. The so-called "other agencies", most notably the Environmental Protection Agency, now have around 90 days to comment before the State Department finally issues its "final" recommendation to the President.

Then there would be no excuses or reasons for stalling left and we should know either ways by the summer. One thing is for sure, the Americans have formally acknowledged that cancelling the pipeline extension won't stop E&P activity in the oil sands. So if that's what the environmentalists are after, there's some food for thought. One wishes, the State Department read this blog more often. Yours truly could have saved them a lot of time and money in reaching such a blatantly obvious conclusion.

For TransCanada's sake, which first applied for a permit from the US government as far back as 2008, the Oilholic hopes the US$7 billion project does go ahead. Stepping away from pipeline politics, to some 'crude' financial results over the past week, one cannot but feel for BG Group's Chief Executive Chris Finlayson.

In a geopolitically sensitive industry, Finlayson's team could not be apportioned blame when he announced that group earnings would dip by 33% on an annualised basis to around $2.2 billion, owing to unrest in Egypt. In the backdrop of domestic strife, the Egyptian government has not honoured agreements covering BG Group's share of gas from fields in the country, with high levels of gas being diverted to the domestic market.

Unable to fulfil its export obligations, the company had to serve force majeure notices to affected buyers and lenders, in effect releasing all sides from contractual obligations for circumstances beyond their control. Hence, a company deemed to be high-flier in the oil & gas world was - albeit temporarily - made to look like a low-flapper boosted by occasional gusts of gas...er sorry wind!

As Egypt accounts for over 20% of its annual production at present – BG Group's profit warning made its shares take a plastering following the trading update on January 27, dipping 18% at one point. The price is currently in the £10 to £11 range and most analysts are nonplussed. For instance, Liberum Capital cut BG Group to hold from buy, with the target cut from £14.75 to £12.80. Investec analyst Neill Morton cut the group's EPS forecast for 2014 and 2015 by 22% and 16% respectively.

"However, we do not believe that a takeover is likely (or even possible?) for a $60 billion company which is likely to command a substantial takeover premium. The key challenges over the next 18 months are the developments in Brazil and Australia which still run the risk of further issues, in our view (for e.g. the Brazil development is being done by Petrobras)," Morton added.

While BG Group was warning on profits, supermajor Shell wasn't exactly covering itself in glory. Following on from a pretty substantial profits warning, Shell's profits [outstripping the effect of oil price fluctuations came] in at $2.9 billion for the last quarter of 2013, down from $5.6 billion noted over the same period in 2012. The market was already well prepared for a dip in performance from Shell, but much to this blogger's surprise, new chief executive Ben van Beurden said the company's strategy presentation [slated for March 13] would contain no fresh targets on production, capex and asset disposal.

Odd indeed, and if one might humbly add – Shell's asset disposal, especially if similar drives at BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips are to be used as measuring rods, seems a bit random! The Anglo-Dutch company said it was targeting disposals of $15 billion in the current financial year, and had stopped exploration in Alaska.

Its stake in the Australian Wheatstone project is expected to go, and a 23% stake in the Brazilian Parque das Conchas (BC-10) offshore project already has gone, subject to regulatory approvals. Ratings agency Fitch said such moves were positive, but added: "It remains to be seen whether Shell will take the opportunity that this flexibility affords it to retrench, or be tempted into shareholder friendly actions that could threaten its 'AA' credit rating."

Finally, ExxonMobil – biggest of the publicly traded IOCs by market value – also saw its profits below market expectations after a failure to offset declining production with fresh reserves. For the fourth quarter, it posted a net income of $8.35 billion, or $1.91 per share, compared with $9.95 billion, or $2.20 per share, over the same quarter in 2012. Those picky analysts were hoping for $1.92 to $1.94 per share – some will never be pleased!

Forget the analysts, here's an interesting article on what Warren Buffet sees in ExxonMobil to help draw conclusions on the "quintessential defensive stock." In response to his company's latest financials, chief executive Rex Tillerson promised to move ahead with new exploration projects.

Away from results, oil majors and minors ought to take notice as it seems oil might be overtaken by coal as the dominant primary energy source worldwide by 2017, according to the IEA. Adding further weight to this hypothesis, Worldwatch Institute's recent Vital Signs Online study noted that natural gas increased its share of energy consumption from 23.8% to 23.9% during 2012, coal rose from 29.7% to 29.9%, while oil fell from 33.4% to 33.1%.

Coal, natural gas, and oil, collectively accounted for 87% of global primary energy consumption in 2012. Finally, OPEC's 'long-standing' Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri has said its member nations will be able to handle the extra oil "expected to come from Iran, Iraq and Libya" to head off any oversupply.

We believe you sir, but it'll be kinda hard to keep a trio gagging for an export impetus to toe the line, say us supply-side analysts. Hopefully, oversupply or even the perception of oversupply should bring the price of the crude stuff down a fraction and may be price positive for consumers. Hence, a month into 2014, yours truly stands by his price forecast. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo 1: The White House, Washington DC, USA © Gaurav Sharma, April 2008. Photo 2: Shell tanker truck at Muscat International Airport, Oman © Gaurav Sharma, August 2013.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Speculators make the oil price belie market logic

The fickle crude oil market is yet again giving an indication about how divorced it is from macroeconomic fundamentals and why a concoction of confused geopolitics and canny speculation is behind the recent peaks and troughs. To give a bit of background – the WTI forward month futures contract surpassed the US$106 per barrel level last week; the highest it has been in 16 months. Concurrently, the spread between WTI and Brent crude narrowed to a near 33-month low of US$1.19 in intraday on July 11 [versus a high of US$29.70 in September 2011].
 
Less than a couple of weeks ago Goldman Sachs closed its trading recommendation to buy WTI and sell Brent. In a note to clients, the bank’s analysts said they expected the spread to narrow in the medium term as new pipelines help shift the Cushing, Oklahoma glut, a physical US crude oil delivery point down to the Houston trading hub, thus removing pressure from the WTI forward month futures contract to the waterborne Brent.
 
Goldman Sachs' analysts were by no means alone in their thinking. Such a viewpoint about the spread is shared by many on Wall Street, albeit in a nuanced sort of way. While Cushing's impact in narrowing the spread is a valid one, the response of the WTI to events elsewhere defies market logic.
 
Sadly Egypt is in turmoil, Syria is still burning, Libya’s problems persist and Iraq is not finding its feet as quick as outside-in observers would like it to. However, does this merit a WTI spike to record highs? The Oilholic says no! Agreed, that oil prices were also supported last week by US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments that economic stimulus measures were "still" necessary. But most of the upward price pressure is speculators' mischief - pure and simple.
 
Less than two months ago, we were being peddled with the argument that US shale was a game changer – not just by supply-side analysts, but by the IEA as well. So if that is the case, why are rational WTI traders spooked by fears of a wider conflict in the Middle East? Syria and Egypt do not even contribute meaningfully to the global oil market supply train, let alone to the North American market. Furthermore, China and India are both facing tough times if not a downturn.
 
And you know what, give this blogger a break if you really think the US demand for distillates rose so much in 10 days that it merited the WTI spiking by the amount that it has? Let's dissect the supply-side argument. Last week's EIA data showed that US oil stocks fell by about 10 million barrels for a second consecutive week. That marked a total stockpile decline of 20.2 million barrels in two weeks, the biggest since 1982.
 
However, that is still not enough to detract the value of net US inventories which are well above their five-year average. Furthermore, there is nothing to suggest thus far that the equation would alter for the remainder of 2013 with media outlets reporting the same. The latest one, from the BBC, based on IEA figures calmly declares the scare over 'peak oil' subsiding. US crude production rose 1.8% to 7.4 million barrels per day last week, the most since January 1992 and in fact on May 24, US supplies rose to 397.6 million, the highest inventory level since 1931!
 
But for all of that, somehow Bernanke's reassurances on a continuation of Federal stimulus, flare-ups in the Middle East [no longer a big deal from a US supply-side standpoint] and a temporary stockpile decline were enough for the latest spike. Why? Because it is a tried and tested way for those who trade in paper barrels to make money.
 
A very well connected analogy can be drawn between what's happening with the WTI and Brent futures' recent "past". Digging up the Brent data for the last 36 months, you will see mini pretexts akin to the ones we've seen in the last 10 days, being deployed by speculators to push to the futures contract ever higher; in some instances above $110 level by going long. They then rely on publicity hungry politicians to bemoan how consumers are feeling the pinch. Maybe an Ed Markey can come alone and raise the issue of releasing strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs) and put some downward pressure – especially now that he's in the US Senate.
 
Simultaneously, of course the high price starts hurting the economy as survey data factors in the drag of rising oil prices, usually within a three-month timeframe, and most notably on the input/output prices equation. The same speculators then go short, blaming an economic slowdown, some far-fetched reason of "uptick" in supply somewhere somehow and the Chinese not consuming as much as they should! And soon the price starts falling. This latest WTI spike is no different.

Neither the underlying macroeconomic fundamentals nor the supply-demand scenarios have altered significantly over the last two weeks. Even the pretexts used by speculators to make money haven't changed either. The Oilholic suspects a correction is round the corner and the benchmark is a short! (Click graph above to enlarge)
 
Away from crude pricing matters to some significant news for India and Indonesia. It seems both countries are reacting to curb fuel subsidies under plans revealed last month. The Indian government agreed to a new gas pricing formula which doubled domestic natural gas prices to $8.40/million British thermal units (mmbtu) from $4.20/mmbtu.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government is working on plans to increase the price of petrol by 44% to Rupiah 6,500 ($2.50) per gallon and diesel by 22% to Rupiah 5,500. With the hand of both governments being forced by budgetary constraints, that's good economics but bad politics. In Asia, it's often the other way around, especially with general elections on the horizon - as is the case with both countries.
 
Elsewhere, yours truly recently had the chance to read a Moody's report on the outlook for the global integrated oil and gas industry. According to the ratings agency, the outlook will remain stable over the next 12 to 18 months, reflecting the likelihood of subdued earnings growth during this period.

Analyst Francois Lauras, who authored the report, said, "We expect the net income of the global oil and gas sector to fall within the stable range of minus 10% to 10% well into 2014 as robust oil prices and a slight pick-up in US natural gas prices help offset ongoing fragility in the refining segment." 
 
"Although oil prices may moderate, we expect demand growth in Asia and persistent geopolitical risk to keep prices at elevated levels," he added.
 
The agency anticipates that integrated oil companies will concentrate on reinvesting cash flows into their upstream activities, driven by "robust" oil prices, favourable long-term trends in energy consumption and the prospects of higher returns.
 
However, major projects are exerting pressure on operating and capital efficiency measures as they are often complex, highly capital intensive and have long lead times. In the near term, Moody's expects that industry players will continue to dispose of non-core, peripheral assets to complement operating cash flows and fund large capex programmes, as well as make dividend payouts without impairing their balance sheets.
 
Finally, the agency said it could change its outlook to negative if a substantial drop in oil prices were triggered by a further deterioration in the world economy. It would also consider changing its outlook to positive if its forecast for the sector's net income increased by more than 10% over the next 12-18 months.

Moody's has maintained the stable outlook since September 2011. In the meantime, whatever the macroeconomic climate might be, it hardly ever rains on the speculators' parade. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!
 
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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo: Pump Jacks, Perryton, Texas, USA © Joel Sartore / National Geographic. Graph: WTI Crude Futures US$/barrel © BBC / DigitalLook.com

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Examining a crude 2011 & talking Iran vs. 2012

As the Oilholic conjectured at the end of 2010, the year 2011 did indeed see Brent Crude at “around US$105 to US$110 a barrel”. However there was nothing ‘crudely’ predictable about 2011 itself – the oil markets faced stunted global economic growth, prospect of another few quarters of negative growth (which may still transpire) and a Greek crisis morphing into a full blown Eurozone crisis.

The Arab Spring also understandably had massive implications for the instability / risk premium in the price of crude over much of 2011. However, the impact of each country’s regional upheaval on the price was not uniform. The Oilholic summarised it as follows based on the perceived oil endowment (or the lack of it) for each country: Morocco (negligible), Algeria (marginal), Egypt (marginal), Tunisia (negligible), Bahrain (marginal), Iran and Libya (substantial).

Of the latter, when Libya imploded, Europe faced a serious threat of shortage of the country’s light sweet crude. But with Gaddafi gone and things limping back to normal, Libya has awarded crude oil supply contracts in 2012 to Glencore, Gunvor, Trafigura and Vitol. Of these Vitol helped in selling rebel-held crude during the civil war as the Oilholic noted in June.

Meanwhile Iran remains a troubling place and gives us the first debating point of 2012. It saw protests in 2011 but the regime held firm at the time of the Arab spring. However, in wake of its continued nuclear programme, recent sanctions have triggered a new wave of belligerence from the Iranian government including its intention to blockade the Straits of Hormuz. This raises the risk premium again and if, as expected a blanket ban by the EU on Iranian crude imports is announced, the trend for the crude price for Q1 2012 is decidedly bullish.

Société Générale's oil analyst Michael Wittner believes an EU embargo would possibly prompt an IEA strategic release. The price surge – directly related to the Saudi ability to mitigate the Iran effect – would dampen economic and oil demand growth. Market commentators believe an EU embargo is highly likely, especially after it reached an agreement in principle on an embargo on January 4th.

However, a more serious development would be if Iran carries out its threat to shut down the Straits of Hormuz, disrupting 15 million bpd of crude oil flows and we would expect Brent prices to spike into the US$150-200 range albeit for a limited time period according to Wittner.

“A credible threat from missiles, mines, or fast attack boats is all it would take for tanker insurers to stop coverage, which would halt tanker traffic. However, we believe that Iran would not be able to keep the Straits shut for longer than two weeks, due to a US-led military response. The disruption would definitely result in an IEA strategic release. The severe price spike would sharply hurt economic and oil demand growth, and from that standpoint, be self-correcting,” he adds.

Nonetheless, not many in the City see a “high” probability of such a step by Iran. Anyway, enough about Iran; lets resume our look back at 2011 and the release of strategic reserves would be a good joiner back to events of the past year.

Political pressure, which started building from April 2011, onwards saw the IEA ask its members to release an extra 60 million barrels of their oil stockpiles on to the world markets on June 23rd. The previous two occasions were the first gulf war (1991) and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005). That it happened given the political clamour for it is no surprise and whether or not one questions the wisdom behind the decision, it was a significant event.

For what it was worth, the market trend was already bearish at the time, Libya or no Libya. Concerns triggered by doubts about the US, EU and Chinese economies were aplenty as well as the end of QE2 liquidity injections coupled with high levels of non-commercial net length in the oil markets.

On the corporate front, refineries continued to struggle as expected with many major NOCs either divesting or planning to divest refining and marketing (R&M) assets. US major ConocoPhillips' announcement in July that it will be pursuing the separation of its exploration and production (E&P) and R&M businesses into two separate publicly traded corporations via a tax-free spin-off R&M co. to shareholders did not surprise the Oilholic – in fact it’s a sign of times.

Upstream remains inherently more attractive than the downstream business and the cliché of “high risk, high reward” resonates in the crude world. Continuing with the corporate theme, one has to hand it to ExxonMobil’s inimitable boss – Rex Tillerson – for successfully forging an Arctic tie-up with Rosneft so coveted by beleaguered rival BP.

On August 30th, 2011, beaming alongside Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Tillerson said the two firms will spend US$3.2 billion on deep sea exploration in the East Prinovozemelsky region of the Kara Sea. Russian portion of the Black Sea has also been thrown in the prospection pie for good measure as has the development of oil fields in Western Siberia.

The US oil giant described the said deal as among the most promising and least explored offshore areas globally “with high potential for liquids and gas.” If hearts at BP sank, so they should, as essentially the deal had components which it so coveted. However, a dispute with local partner TNK-BP first held up a BP-Rosneft tie-up and then finished it off.

One the pipelines front, the TransCanada Keystone XL project continues to be hit by delays and decision is not expected before the US presidential election; but the Oilholic feels the delay is not necessarily a bad thing. (Click here for thoughts)

The Oilholic saw M&A activity in the oil & gas sector over 2011 – especially corporate financed asset acquisitions – marginally exceeding pre-crisis deal valuation levels. Recent research for Infrastructure Journal – suggests the deal valuation figure for acquisition of oil & gas infrastructure assets, using September 30th as a cut-off date, is well above the total valuation for 2008, the year that the global credit squeeze meaningfully constricted capital flows.

Finally, on the subject of the good old oil benchmarks, since Q1 2009, Brent has been trading at premium to the WTI. This divergence has stood in recent weeks as both global benchmarks plummeted in wake of the recent economic malaise. WTI’s discount reached almost US$26 per barrel at one point in 2011.

Furthermore, waterborne crudes have also been following the general direction of Brent’s price. The Louisiana Light Sweet (LLS) increasingly takes its cue from Brent rather than the WTI, and has been for a while. Hence, Brent continues to reflect global conditions better.

Rounding things up, 2011 was a great year in terms of crude reading, travelling and speaking. Starting with the reading bit, 2011 saw the Oilholic read several books, but three particularly stood out; Daniel Yergin’s weighty volume - The Quest, Dan Dicker’s Oil’s Endless Bid and last but not the least Reuters’ in-house Oilholic Tom Bergin’s Spills & Spin.

Switching to crude travels away from London town, the Oilholic blogged from Calgary, Vancouver, Houston, San Francisco, Vienna, Dusseldorf, Bruges, Manama and Doha; the latter being the host city of the 20th World Petroleum Congress. The Congress itself and other signature events in the 2011 oil & gas calendar duly threw up several tangents for discussion.

Most notable among them were the two OPEC summits, the first in June which saw a complete disharmony among the cartel’s members followed by a calmer less acrimonious one in December where a unanimous decision to hold production at 30 million bpd was reached.

On the speaking circuit front, 2011 saw the Oilholic comment on CNBC, Indian and Chinese networks, OPEC webcasts and industry events, most notable among which was the Baker & McKenzie seminar at the World Petroleum Congress which was a memorable experience. That’s all for the moment folks. Here’s to 2012! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Photo: Oil rig © Cairn Energy.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Crude Oil prices & some governments

I have spent the last two weeks quizzing key crude commentators in US and Canada about what price of crude oil they feel would be conducive to business investment, sit well within the profitable extraction dynamic and last but certainly not the least won't harm the global economy.

Beginning with Canada, since there’s no empirical evidence of the Canadian Dollar having suffered from the Dutch disease, for the oil sands to be profitable – most Canadians remarked that a price circa of US$75 per barrel and not exceeding US$105 in the long term would be ideal. On the other hand, in the event of a price dive, especially an unlikely one that takes the price below US$40 per barrel would be a disaster for petro-investment in Canada. A frozen Bow River (pictured above) is ok for Calgarians, but an investment freeze certainly wont be!

The Americans came up with a slightly lower US$70-90 range based on consumption patterns. They acknowledge that should the price spike over the US$150 per barrel mark and stay in the US$120-150 range over the medium term, a realignment of consumption patterns would occur.

This begs the question – what have Middle Eastern governments budgeted for? Research by commentators at National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, the Oilholics’ feedback from regional commentators and local media suggests the cumulative average would be US$65 per barrel. Iran and Iraq are likely to have budgeted at least US$10 above that, more so in the case of the former while Saudi Arabia (and maybe Kuwait) would have budgeted for US$5 (to US$10) below that.

Problem for the Oilholic is getting access to regional governments’ data. Asking various ministries in the Middle East and expecting a straight forward answer, with the notable exception of the UAE, is as unlikely as getting a Venezuelan official to give accurate inflation figures.

Meanwhile, price is not the only thing holding or promoting investment. For instance, the recent political unrest has meant that the Egypt Petroleum Corp. has delayed the Mostorod refinery construction until at least May. The reason is simple – some 20-odd participating banks, who arranged a US$2.6 billion loan facility want the interim government to reaffirm its commitment to the project, according to a lawyer close to the deal. The government, with all due respect, has quite a few reaffirmations to make.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Bow River, Calgary, Alberta, Canada © Gaurav Sharma, April 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shell Divests, BP Invests and Libya Implodes!

Earlier on Monday, oil giant Shell announced its intentions to sell most of its African downstream businesses to Swiss group Vitol and Helios Investment Partners for US$1 billion adding that it will create two new joint ventures under the proposed deal.

The first of these JVs will own and operate Shell's existing oil products, distribution and retailing businesses in 14 African countries, most notably in Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar.

The second JV will own and operate Shell's existing lubricants blending plants in seven countries. The move is in line with Shell’s policy of divesting its non-core assets. It sold US$7 billion of non-core assets in 2010. While Shell was divesting in Africa, BP was investing in India via a strategic oil & gas partnership with Reliance Industries.

Both companies will form a 50:50 joint venture for sourcing and marketing hydrocarbons in India. The agreement will give BP a 30% stake in 23 oil and gas blocks owned by Reliance including 19 off the east coast of India. Market feedback suggests the deal is heavily weighted towards gas rather than the crude stuff.

In return for the stake, BP will invest US$7.2 billion in the venture and a further US$1.8 billion in future performance-related investments. The combined capital costs are slated to be in the region of US$20 billon with local media already branding it as the largest foreign direct investment deal in India by a foreign company.

Switching focus to the Middle Eastern unrest, what is happening from Morocco to Bahrain is having a massive bearing on the instability premium factoring in to the price of crude. However, the impact of each country’s regional upheaval on the crude price is not uniform. I summarise it as follows based on the perceived oil endowment (or the lack of it) for each country:

• Morocco (negligible)
• Algeria (marginal)
• Egypt (marginal)
• Iran (difficult to gauge at the moment)
• Tunisia (negligible)
• Bahrain (marginal)
• Libya (substantial)

Of these, it is obvious to the wider market that what is happening in Libya is one of concern. More so as the unrest has become unruly and the future may well be uncertain as the OPEC member country accounts for around 2% of the daily global crude production.

Italian and French oil companies with historic ties to the region are among those most vulnerable, though having said so BP also has substantial assets there. Austria’s OMV and Norway’s Statoil are other notable operators in Libya. A bigger worry could be if Iran erupts in a similar unruly way. Given the international sanctions against Iran, oil majors are not as involved there as they are in Libya. However, the question Iran’s crude oil endowment and its impact on the oil markets is an entirely different matter.

Finally, the ICE Brent crude forward month futures contract stood at US$108.25 per barrel, up 5.6% in intraday trading last time checked. I feel there is at least US$10 worth of instability premium in there, although one city source reckons it could be as high as US$15. The "What if" side analysts (as I call them) are having a field day - having already moved their focus from Iran to Saudi Arabia.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Vintage Shell gasoline pump, Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco, California, USA © Gaurav Sharma, March 2010

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