Showing posts with label Gaddafi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gaddafi. Show all posts

Sunday, June 08, 2014

OPEC vibes, a Libyan matter & market chatter

As OPEC prepares to meet for the first time this year, oil ministers of the 12 member nations should feel reasonably content. The hawks always like the oil price to be in three figures and doves usually like a support level above the region of US$85 per barrel using Brent as a benchmark. Needless to say, both camps are sitting comfortably at the moment and will continue to do so for a while.

Macroeconomic permutations and risk froth is keeping the oil price where OPEC wants it, so the Oilholic would be mighty surprised if the ministers decide to budge from the present official quota cap of 30 million barrels per day. Those going long on Brent have already bet on OPEC keeping its output right where it is.

Over the week to May 27, bets on a rising price rose to their highest level since September 2013. ICE's Commitment of Traders report for the week saw all concerned, including hedge funds, increase their net long position in Brent crude by 6% (or 4,692) to 213,364 positions, marking a third successive week of increases. Going the other way, the number of short positions fell by 7,796 to 42,096.

Wires might be saying that "all eyes" are on OPEC, but not many eyes would roll at Helferstorferstrasse 17 once the announcement is made. Futures actually slipped by around 0.5% as dullness and a minor bout of profit taking set in last week at one point. While the quota level is a done deal, what ministers would most likely discuss, when those pesky scribes (and er...bloggers) have been ejected out for the closed door meeting, is how much China would be importing or not.

Several independent forecasters, including the US EIA have predicted that China is likely to become the largest net importer of oil in 2014. By some measures it already is, and OPEC ministers would like to ponder over how much of that Chinese demand would be met by them as US imports continue to decline.

Other matters of course pertain to the appointment of a successor to Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri, and where OPEC stands on the issue of production in his home country of Libya, which is nowhere near the level recorded prior to the civil war.

In order to pick-up the Libyan pulse a little better ahead of the OPEC meet, yours truly headed to IRN/Oliver Kinross 3rd New Libya Conference late last month. The great and good concerned with Libya were all there – IOCs, Libyan NOC, politicians, diplomats and civil servants from UK and Libya alike.

A diverse range of stakeholders agreed that the race to reversing Libyan production back to health would be a long slow marathon rather than a short sprint. Anyone who says otherwise is being naively optimistic.

Forget geopolitics, several commentators were quick to point out that Libya has had no private sector presence in the oil & gas sector. Instead, until recently, it has had 40 years of a controlling Gaddafi fiefdom. Legislative challenges also persist, as one commentator noted: "The road map to a petroleum regime starts first with a constitution."

That's something newly-elected Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteg must ponder over as he tries to bring a fractured country together. Then there is the investment case scenario. Foreign stake-holding in Libyan concerns is only permitted up to 49% despite a risky climate; the Libyan partner must be the majority owner. The oil & gas business has always operated under risk versus reward considerations. But a heightened sense of risk is something not all investors can cope with as noted by Sir Dominic Asquith, former UK ambassador to Iraq, Egypt and Libya, who was among the delegates.

"There is a long term potential with a bright Libyan horizon on the cards. However, getting to it would be a difficult journey, and particularly so for small and medium companies with a lesser propensity to take risk on their balance sheets than major companies," he added.

Meanwhile, a UK Foreign & Commonwealth office spokesperson said the British Government was not changing travel advice to Libya for its citizens any time soon. "We advise against all but essential travel to the country and Benghazi remains off limits. In case of companies wishing to do business in Libya, we strongly urge them to professionally review their own security arrangements."

Combine all of these latent challenges with the ongoing shenanigans and its not hard to figure out why the nation has become one of the smallest producers among its 12 OPEC counterparts and it may be a while yet before investors warm up to it. However, amid the pessimism, there is some optimism too.

Ahmed Ben Halim, CEO of Libya Holdings Group noted that sooner rather than later, the Libyans will sort their affairs out, even though the journey would be pretty volatile. Fares Law Group's Yannil Belbachir pointed out that despite everything all financial institutions were functions normally. That's always a good starting point.

Some uber-optimists also expressed hope of making Libya a "solar power" by tapping sunlight to produce electricity, introduce it back into the grid and send it via subsea cable from Tripoli to Sicily. Noble cause indeed! Being more realistic and looking at the medium term, with onshore prospection and production getting disrupted, offshore Sirte exploration, first realised by Hess Corporation, could provide a minor boost. Everyone from BP to the Libyan NOC is giving it a jolly good try!

Just one footnote, before the Oilholic takes your leave and that's to let you all know that one has also decided to provide insight to Forbes as a contributor on 'crude' matters which can be accessed here; look forward to your continued support on both avenues. That's all from London for the moment folks; more shortly from sunny Vienna at the 165th meeting of OPEC ministers . Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma, 2014. Photo 1: OPEC HQ, Vienna, Austria. © Gaurav Sharma, 2014.

Monday, October 24, 2011

North Sea, Gaddafi, CFTC (Rhymes not intended)

The past week has been cruder than ever, loads to talk about – not least a bit of good news from the North Sea for a change. Following BP’s earlier announcement on its commitment to offshore west of the Shetland Islands to the tune of £4.5 billion, Statoil recently doubled the estimate of the size of its crude find in the North Sea.

The Norwegian energy major now says the Aldous Major South field, a prospection zone linked to the Avaldsnes field operated by Swedish firm Lundin Petroleum, could contain between 900 million and 1.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

While the find is perhaps one of the largest ever discoveries in the North Sea, what is of much more significance is the fact that much of extraction zone is in relatively shallower waters. Admittedly, the find and BP’s move are unlikely to increase British production levels to pre-peak (1999) levels. Nonetheless it is welcome news for a prospection zone, the British end of which has been bemoaning higher taxation and where the only overall bonanza independent observers sometimes see is the one related to decommissioning. (Not that, that’s over.)

From the North Sea to Col. Moammar Gaddafi – whose gory end had a near negligible impact on crude oil futures according to evaluations conducted by several City analysts. The former Libyan dictator was killed by revolutionary forces in his hometown of Sirte last Thursday. Most analysts felt focus had already shifted, following the fall of Tripoli, to restoring Libyan production. In fact damaged oil terminals, already factored in to the pricing strategy and supply/demand permutations, were more of a concern than the Colonel’s demise. As Libya moves forward, what sort of government takes shape remains to be seen.

Continuing with pricing, the ICE Brent forward month futures contract could not hold on to early gains last week and stayed below the US$110 level, but the WTI had a mini rally ending the week above US$87. Today in intraday trading Brent’s flirtation with the US$110 level and WTI’s with US$88 continues with all eyes on the outcome of the EU leaders’ summit on October 26th.

Analysts at Sucden Financial Research, expect some further consolidation in the oil market ahead of the meeting. “Thus, volume might be muted while high volatility and nervous trading are possible to dominate the markets. In the meantime, currencies movements will remain the key driver of oil direction, while it will be interesting to watch how the global equity markets will digest any breaking news,” they wrote in an investment note.

Moving away from pricing but on a related note, the Oilholic found time this weekend to read documents relating to the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) 20th open meeting on the Dodd-Frank regulations which approved, on October 18th, amongst other things, the final rule on speculative position limits.

To begin with the Oilholic, along with fellow kindred souls in the world of commodities analysis, wonders how a move designated to impose curbs on ‘excessive speculation’ does not actually define it or explains what constitutes admission to the category of ‘excessive speculation.’

The final ruling, according to the CFTC, will establish ground rules for trading 28 ‘core’ commodity futures contracts and also ‘economically equivalent’ futures, options and swaps. The limits are going to be introduced in two phases.

Wait a minute, it gets ‘better’ – limits for ‘spot-month’ will be introduced after the agency further defines what a ‘swap’ contract is (eh???). It seems there is no strict timeline for that definition to come about but the world’s press has been informed that the definition should come before the end of the year. The trading of four energy contracts will be affected – i.e. NYMEX Henry Hub Natural Gas, NYMEX Light Sweet Crude Oil, NYMEX New York Harbor Gasoline Blendstock and NYMEX New York Harbor Heating Oil.

Michael Haigh, analyst at Société Générale CIB notes, “In the short run therefore these rules might not impact price volatility (they still have to define a swap) and we believe the rules will not decrease volatility or stop commodity price spikes down the road. Increased volatility and price spikes are actually more likely in our opinion. The rules will also create a better paper-trail for the CFTC knowing who is holding what and in which market (swap or futures) but legal challenges to the rule are considered likely.”

As for the nitty-gritty, the initial spot month limits will be the CFTC's legacy limits for agricultural commodities (e.g., 600 contracts for corn, wheat and soybeans, 720 for soybean meal and 540 for soybean oil). For other commodities, exchange limits will be applied. Thereafter, spot limits will be based on 25% of the deliverable supply as determined by the exchanges and these will be adjusted every other year for agricultural contracts but each year for metals and energy.

In the second phase, the CFTC will set limits for positions in non-spot contracts (and all months combined) based on open interest. The CFTC should have that data by August 2012. In practical terms, it appears that the all months combined/single month limits will therefore take effect in late 2012 or early 2013 after the CFTC reviews the data, comes up with limits and imposes them.

The CFTC promises to conduct a study 12 months after implementation and would ‘promptly’ address any problems. However, Haigh notes that by all logical reasoning, the study would be at least one year after full implementation, so sometime in 2014. “A reversal of rules would obviously come much later. By then, the damage may have already been done and the markets would have seen even wider gyrations in prices with the removal of liquidity,” he concludes.

Rounding things up, ABN-AMRO – the ‘once’ troubled Dutch bank is attempting to ‘re-establish’ its international presence to energy, commodities and transportation clients according to a communiqué issued from Amsterdam this morning. To this effect, a new office was opened in Dallas staffed by a 'highly regarded' energy banking team swiped from UBS. More offices are to follow in Moscow and Shanghai over the coming year on top of an existing network of 10 international offices. Lets see how the reboot goes!

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: North Sea oil rig © Cairn Energy Plc

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Libya & OPEC’s “Will they, Won’t they” Routine

As the situation in Libya worsens, depending on differing points of view of Gaddafi goons and rebel fighters, OPEC’s routine of sending conflicting messages does not harm the price of crude – something which I don’t think the cartel minds all that much over the short term. In fact the OPEC basket price of crude seems to be following Brent’s price more closely than ever.

In a nutshell according to various newswires, Gaddafi militia and rebel fighters are toughing it out near oil terminals over 500km east of the capital Tripoli. Heaviest of the skirmishes have been outside (& within) the oil town Ras Lanuf, with both sides claiming a position of strength. A rebel spokesperson even gave out a statesman like statement, telling the BBC they would “honour” oil contracts.

However, anyone looking towards OPEC to calm the markets got a ‘crude’ response and mixed signals in keeping with the cartel's well practised drill of letting the wider world indulge in a guessing game of whether a production increase was on cards or not. The Saudis sought to calm, the Venezuelans and Iranians tried to confuse and the rest were quite simply confused themselves.

Moving away to a corporate story, pre-tax profits announced last week by UK independent upstart Tullow Oil have jumped 361% to US$152 million with a 19% rise in revenues to US$1 billion in the year to 31 December. In a statement to investors, its chief executive Aidan Heavey said the outlook was "very positive". I’d say its much more than that sir!

Finally, one of UK’s signature refineries – Pembroke – would now be a proud member of San Antonio, Texas-based refining major Valero Energy Corp. That’s after its current owner Chevron announced on March 11 that Valero had agreed to pay US$730 million for the refinery and US$1 billion for the assets. Ratings agency Moody's views Valero's acquisition of Pembroke and associated marketing and logistics assets as credit neutral. It may well be noted that it took Chevron nearly a year to...ahem....get rid of it (??)

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo © Gaurav Sharma 2009