Showing posts with label Gaurav Sharma Forbes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gaurav Sharma Forbes. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Media missives from ADIPEC 2023

With ADIPEC 2023 drawing to a close last week, the Oilholic capped a fascinating and engaging week with a rounding off piece for Forbes on the criticality of scaling up technology - and, of course, backing it up with petrodollars and willpower, if a meaningful energy transition is to be achieved. To this end, this blogger had great conversations with ABB, AiQ, AspenTech, AVEVA and Avaada Group. (More here)

Yours truly also hit the airwaves to discuss the various soundbites coming out of the conference and various developments in Abu Dhabi, all in the midst of a very volatile crude oil market riddled with demand concerns, supply-side tightening and geopolitical complications. The final broadcasting call before departing was with Asharq Bloomberg News, with this blogger's week out in Abu Dhabi peppered with plenty of other missives via the keyboard for Forbes, the Motley Fool, and of course via this blog. 

All blog entries for each ADIPEC day may be found here

Some commentary on Shell's share price direction via the Motley Fool may be found here. And here are selected Forbes copies in chronological order based on soundbites and insight from ADIPEC 2023. 

  • Emirati COP28 President Calls For A "Just, Orderly, Equitable And Responsible" Energy Transition, October 2, 2023.
  • India "Will Manage" And Won't Panic If Oil Rises Above $100, Says Energy Minister, October 3, 2023.
  • Abu Dhabi To Unveil World’s Fourth Largest Solar Farm "Very Soon", October 4, 2023.
  • Oil Futures Slump Further On Uncertain Global Demand Outlook, October 5, 2023.
  • Abu Dhabi In First Wind Farm Launch As 2GW Solar Project Nears Completion, October 8, 2023.
  • 4 Middle East Geopolitical Scenarios That May Hike Oil Market Risk Premiums, October 9, 2023.
  • Scaling Technology And Willpower Critical For 'Fast-Tracking' Global Energy Transition, October 10, 2023.
And that's a wrap. Keep reading, keep it here, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Rigzone click here.
To email: journalist_gsharma@yahoo.co.uk  

© Gaurav Sharma 2023. Photo: Gaurav Sharma on Asharq Bloomberg TV on October 4, 2023 © Asharq Bloomberg 2023.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Murban futures launch, OPEC+ and Q1 2021

The first crude quarter of 2021 threw up a number of interesting developments for the oil markets, from fluctuating price sentiments to a divergence of views on the global supply-demand dynamic. More on market permutations later, but the Oilholic would like to kick-off this post by flagging a historic development that carries the potential of bringing about profound changes to the crude futures market – the launch of the Murban Futures contract.

It had been long-time coming with ambitions for the contract launch first surfacing early in 2019, and official confirmation arriving later that year. Market upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic pushed the launch forward to 2021, when on March 29 the contract launched with a debut price of $63.43 per barrel. 

And with it history was made – Murban, traded on IntercontinentalExchange Futures Abu Dhabi, is the world's first futures contract predicated on the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company's (ADNOC) flagship onshore crude oil. It means the offered market positions are directly linked to a major regional production centre. 

Alongside ADNOC as its backer, are nine of the world's largest energy traders including BP, ENEOS, GS Caltex, INPEX, PetroChina, PTT, Shell, Total and Vitol. Their hope is that physical oil traders use it as a benchmark, and price quality differentials off it accordingly as is the case with Brent. If physical traders are convinced that the new benchmark is reasonably liquid, it would take liquidity away from WTI, Brent and Dubai crude.

That is no mean feat and there have been previous false dawns in the region. To improve the odds of the benchmark's success, ADNOC has removed destination restrictions on the crude setting Murban apart from its regional competitors who have historically been bogged down by such limitations. And Asian refiners will now have a direct means to hedge against shifts in the price of Murban, rather than using derivatives linked to Dubai crude.

Of late, ADNOC’s production levels have averaged above 2 million bpd, with half of it set aside for the export market. In Fujairah - the main delivery point for Murban - ADNOC is currently building underground storage caverns that will be able to hold 42 million barrels of crude, including Murban. This will further strengthen the physical barrel underpinning of Murban futures. All in all, a very noteworthy development that carries a reasonably high chance of success over the coming years. Here's the Oilholic’s more detailed take on the development via Forbes.

Switching tack from the debut of Murban futures to the crude world in general, bullish sentiment that took hold in November 2020 has catapulted oil prices from $40 to $60-plus levels for both Brent and WTI. There's now chatter of $100 per barrel medium-term prices and a spike to even $190 in certain circumstances if you are to believe JPMorgan. 

This is nothing short barmy chatter by the longs and is wildly optimistic. In terms of reconciling expected crude oil demand in a post-Covid world versus supply, the Oilholic reckons the paper market is running two to three quarters, or around $5 per barrel, ahead of the physical market

Economic output in key markets remains sluggish, while the International Energy Agency (IEA) does not expect crude demand to catch up with supply until the third quarter of 2021. As for OPEC+, while its market calls on March 4 and April 1 have been described as bullish, they are in truth really bearish. 

On March 4, OPEC+'s headline production cut level was pegged at 7 million bpd, along with an additional and surprising voluntary cut of 1 million bpd by Saudi Arabia alone. However, Russia and Kazakhstan were allowed to marginally increase their output to keep the OPEC+ peace.

And on April 1, OPEC+ said an additional 350,000 bpd will be added to production, with another 350,000 in June. From July, output will be increased by 450,000 bpd. Both OPEC+ announcements cheered the bulls. However, the market remains in real danger of getting ahead itself. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it crude!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Rigzone click here.
To email: journalist_gsharma@yahoo.co.uk 
© Gaurav Sharma 2021. Photo: Kristina Kasputienė from Pixabay

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Joining Citi Private Bank

It has been a fantastic 'crude' journey for the Oilholic in the energy market and this blog has been with yours truly every step of the way for over a decade. Thank you all for your support. While long may that continue, commentary here would be a little tempered and slightly irregular as this blogger has taken up a Vice President / Lead Analyst's position at Citi Private Bank. 

Things won't be coming to a close here, but whatever appears on this blog would be in a private capacity only. That also applies to any commentary published here in the past prior to Aug 1, 2020. That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

© Gaurav Sharma 2020.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

A catalogue of ‘crude’ missives on oil market turmoil

In the nine days that have lapsed since yours truly last wrote a blog post, the crude oil market has gone crude and cruder, peppered with barmy ideas, suggestions of strange alliances, tariffs, and of course tweets. For all of that, two things haven't materially changed – crude demand collapse continues as the coronavirus or Covid-19 pandemic spreads, and oversupply in the face of demand destruction is already here.

So here are few of The Oilholic’s missives via Forbes and Rigzone tackling various market slants between March 26-Apr 2:

  • With whole countries in lockdown mode, forecasters now reckon a fifth of global crude demand could be wiped out - Forbes, Mar 26, 2020
  • The Oilholic's thoughts on why a resurrection of OPEC+ would be too little, too late for the oil market - Forbes, Mar 27, 2020.
  • Oil futures are in record contango - Forbes, Mar 29,2020
  • Oil benchmarks ended Q1 2020 around 66% lower and lack of storage space is becoming apparent - Forbes, Mar 31, 2020
  • US shale explorer Whiting Petroleum becomes the first casualty of the current oil price slump as it files for bankruptcy - Forbes Apr 1, 2020
  • Moody's announces series of predictable negative outlooks on major oil and gas companies - Forbes, Apr 1, 2020
  • How Saudi belligerence has pushed VLCC rates to comedic highs - Rigzone, Apr 1, 2020
  • And finally, how a Donald Trump tweet sent oil futures soaring but the gains are unlikely to last - Forbes, Apr 2, 2020

And that's about it for the moment folks! Stay safe, keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Rigzone click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2020. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Summing up the geopolitics heavy last 4 weeks!

The end of the previous trading year and the start of the new one is usually a slow burner for crude  oil traders. However, the four or so weeks from Christmas Eve of 2019 all the way up to what's fast approaching late January of 2020, have turned out to be anything but!

As it transpired, skirmishes in Iraq between Iran-backed militia and US forces heightened Middle East tensions over Christmas. What then followed took the market by surprise. In the small hours of January 2, the New Year got its first geopolitical jolt, after a US airstrike killed Qasem Soleimani, an IranianGeneral of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and commander of its Quds Force, a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations.

In the Oilholic's opinion, courtesy US President Donald Trump, it was the biggest targeted political killing in the region since that of another Iranian protégé - Lebanese Islamic Jihad Organization's founder and then Hezbollah's second-in-command ImadMughniyeh in 2008; a man widely thought to have masterminded the 1983 US embassy bombing in Beirut.

As speculators piled into the oil futures market with long calls, expecting the inevitable Iranian response, Tehran duly obliged via missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing US troops that it gave prior warning of and the attack caused no casualties. However, as has now been acknowledged, the Iranians mistakenly shot down a civilian airliner tragically killing 176 innocent people on board.

The phoney oil price rally also came and went as soon as Iran's phoney response to the US airstrike became evident. While there is no shortage of speculators, ample supplies in a crude market that has gotten used to living with a Middle East in flames has tempered any rash calls to the upside since.

Rising woes in Libya, Turkey's entry into an already messy civil war that's reached the gates of Tripoli and a subsequent force majeure of the country's oil exports that has followed in recent days, after the US-Iran episode, also offers such a case in point. The market is coping and the oil price is going to be kept honest courtesy ample supplies, especially of light sweet crude oil, as the Oilholic opined in a recent Rigzone column.

All things considered, 2020 could see Brent lurk in the $70-75 range, while the WTI could oscillate between $63 and $68, as yours truly noted, even if recent events have surely made for a very hectic four weeks for oil market observers. Let's leave it at that for now.

Away from all this, the Oilholic also had the pleasure of listing to Royal Dutch Shell's electric car driving Chief Financial Officer Jessica Uhl at a Reuters Breaking Views event in London on January 16. The oil giant's finance boss offered up some choice quotes on the evening, few of which are embedded here via yours truly's Twitter feed below (@The_Oilholic).
And that’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo: Oil pipeline © Cairn. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Meeting & greeting Emerson's inimitable boss

Before the Oilholic called time on CERAWeek 2019, this blogger had the absolute pleasure of meeting and greeting David Farr, the inimitable Chief Executive and Chairman of energy industry vendor Emerson Electric (NYSE:EMR) on the sidelines of the event on March 13. 

Farr, who has been Emerson's boss since 2000, has overseen the company's market valuation double under his stewardship. In a wide-ranging discussion, the industry captain touched on Emerson's performance, the Industry 4.0 challenge, change management, and more. 

No conversation would have been complete without touching on the portfolio shake-up that Farr has brought about at Emerson, and the unsuccessful bid for Rockwell Automation that did not turn out to be so bad in the end!

Ultimately, it all bottles down to corporate agility, and Farr said Emerson's two broad business streams - Automation and Commercial and Residential solutions - encompassing a diverse range of brands and businesses is working out pretty well. 


That's all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it crude!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo: David Farr (left) with Gaurav Sharma on March 13, 2019 at CERAWeek in Houston, Texas, USA. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas & a few crude notes!

Yes! Its that time of the year to wish you the dear readers of this blog the joys of the season and a very Merry Christmas, as another eventful year comes to a close. The Oilholic has been busy these past few weeks scribbling one's crude notes on oil market affairs for the International Business Times UK and Forbes

For starters, here is this blogger's take on US President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State

When the news emerged, as usual there were oversimplifications in the media, saying the nomination had much to do with Tillerson being close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, the Oilholic believes there's much more to the appointment; Tillerson for intents and purposes would be a formidable top US diplomat, not just Putin's mate. 

Additionally, here is one's commodities market year-ender, and some predictions on gold, silver and of course crude oil for 2017. Finally, here are some reasons - as outlined on Forbes - for why methinks the oil price might not rise further beyond $60 per barrel in 2017, as there is limited upside to such an an occurrence over the next 12 months. 

That's all on Christmas day folks! Keep reading, keep it Christmasy and 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on IBTimes UK click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2016. Photo: Christmas tree at Rotterdam Station, The Netherlands © Gaurav Sharma.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Resisting $40/bbl, Russia & some ‘crude’ ratings

Following two successive week-on-week declines of 6% or over, last Friday’s close brought some respite for Brent oil futures, although the WTI front month contract continued to extend losses. In fact, the US benchmark has been ending each Friday since June 12 at a lower level compared to the week before (see graph, click to enlarge).
 
Will a $40-floor breach happen? Yes. Will oil stay there? No. That’s because market fundamentals haven’t materially altered. Oversupply and lacklustre demand levels are broadly where they were in June. We still have around 1.1 to 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of extra oil in the market; a range that’s held for much of 2015. Influences such as Iran’s possible addition to the global crude oil supply pool and China not buying as much have been known for some time.

The latest market commotion is sentiment driven, and it’s why the Oilholic noted in a recent Forbes column that 2016-17 futures appear to be undervalued. People seem to be making calls on where we might be tomorrow based on the kerfuffle we are seeing today!

Each set of dire data from China, inventory report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), or a gentle nudge from some country or the other welcoming Iran back to the market (as Switzerland did last week) has a reactive tug at benchmarks. The Oilholic still believes Brent will gradually creep up to $60-plus come the end of the year, with supply corrections coming in to the equation over the remainder of this year.

Away from pricing, there is one piece of very interesting backdated data. According to the EIA, Russia’s oil and gas sector weathered both the sanctions as well as the crude price decline rather well.

For 2014, Russia was the world's largest producer of crude oil, including lease condensate, and the second-largest producer of dry natural gas after the US. Russia exported more than 4.7 million bpd of crude oil and lease condensate in 2014, the EIA concluded based on customs data. Most of the exports, or 98% if you prefer percentages, went to Asian and European importers.

Where Russian production level would be at the end of 2015 remains the biggest market riddle. Anecdotal and empirical evidence points to conducive internal taxation keeping the industry going. However, as takings from oil and gas production and exports, account for more than half of Russia's federal budget revenue – it is costing the Kremlin.

Finally, two ratings notes from Fitch over the past fortnight are worth mentioning. The agency has revised its outlook on BP's long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘Positive’ from ‘Negative’ and affirmed the IDR at 'A'.

The outlook revision follows BP's announcement that it has reached an agreement in principle to settle federal, state and local Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7bn, payable over 18 years. “We believe the deal has significantly reduced the uncertainty around BP's overall payments arising from the accident and hence has considerably strengthened the company's credit profile,” Fitch said.

The agency added there was a real possibility for an upgrade to 'A+' in the next 12 to 18 months, depending on how things pan out and BP's upstream business profile does not show any significant signs of weakening, such as falling reserves or production.

Elsewhere, and unsurprisingly, Fitch downgraded the beleaguered Afren to ‘D’ following the management's announcement on July 31 that it had taken steps to put the company into administration. The company's senior secured rating has been affirmed at 'C', and the Recovery Rating (RR) revised to 'RR5' from 'RR6'.

As discussions with creditors aimed at recapitalising the company failed, the appointment of administrators was made with the consent of the company's secured creditors who saw it as an “important step in preserving value of Afren's subsidiaries”. It is probably the only “value” left after a sorry tale of largely self-inflicted woes. That’s all for the moment folks, keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
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To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Graph: Oil benchmark Friday closes, Jan 2 to Aug 14, 2015 © Gaurav Sharma, August 2015.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

BG Group’s been ‘Shell-ed’

In case you have been away from this ‘crude' planet and haven’t heard, oil major Royal Dutch Shell has successfully bid for its smaller FTSE 100 rival BG Group in a cash and shares deal valuing the latter at around £47 billion (US$70 billion).

While it’s early days into the current calendar year, the deal, subject to approval by shareholders, could be one of the biggest of 2015 producing a company with a combined value of over £200 billion.

For the Anglo-Dutch oil major, BG Group's acquisition would also add 25% to its proven oil and gas reserves and 20% to production capacity, along with improved access to Australian and Brazilian prospects. BG Group shareholders will own around 19% of the combined group following the deal.

BG Group's new chief executive Helge Lund, who only took up the post last month, will remain with the company while the deal is being worked on. However, he is expected to leave once it is completed walking away with what many in the City reckon to be a £25 million golden goodbye. The Oilholic thinks that’s not too bad a deal for what would come to little over three months of service.

BG Group shareholders, who’ve had to contend with a lacklustre share price for the last 12 months given the company’s poor performance, can also expect a decent windfall should they choose to sell. The bid values BG at around 1,350p per share; a near 50% premium to its closing price of 910.4p on Tuesday. If they decide to hold on to their shares, they’d be likely to receive an improved "Shell of a dividend" from a company that has never failed to pay one since 1945.

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said, "Bold, strategic moves shape our industry. BG and Shell are a great fit. This transaction fits with our strategy and our read on the industry landscape around us."

The market gave the news a firm thumbs up. Investec analyst Neill Morton said BG’s long-suffering shareholders have finally received a compelling, NAV-based offer while Shell’s bid was arguably “20 years” in the making.

“We agree that BG’s asset base is better suited to a larger company, but the economics require something approaching Shell’s $90/bl assumption. Consequently, we do not expect a rival bid and are wary of this catalysing a flurry of copycat deals. But we are also mindful that investment bankers can be very persuasive! We suspect Shell aims to re-balance dividends versus buybacks over the long-term. This could imply lower dividend growth,” he added.

As for the ratings agencies, given that the deal completion is scheduled for H1 2016, and quite possibly earlier given limited regulatory hurdles, Fitch Ratings placed Shell's ratings on Rating Watch Negative (RWN) and BG Group's ratings on Rating Watch Positive (RWP).

The agency aims to resolve the Rating Watches on both companies pending the successful completion of the potential transaction and “once there is greater clarity with regard to Shell's post-acquisition strategy and potential synergy effects.” We’re all waiting to hear that, although of course, as Fitch notes – Shell's leverage will increase.

“Our current forecasts suggest that the company's funds from operations (FFO) adjusted net leverage will increase from 1.5x at end-2014 to around 2x in 2015-2017 based on conservative assumptions around the announced $30 billion divestment programme and execution of the announced share buybacks from 2017.”

Moody’s has also affirmed its Aa1 rating for Shell, but quite like its peers changed the company’s outlook to negative in the interim period pending the completion of the takeover. Meanwhile, some City commentators have speculated that Shell's move might trigger a wave of M&A activity in the oil and gas sector.

However, the Oilholic remains sceptical about such a rise in M&A. In fact, one is rather relieved that the Shell and BG Group saga would cool nonsensical chatter about a possible BP and Shell merger (oh well...there's always ExxonMobil).

They’d be the odd buyout or two of smaller AiM-quoted independents, but bulk of the activity is likely to remain limited to asset and acreage purchases. Of course, consolidation within the sector remains a possibility, but we are too early into a cyclical downturn in the oil market for there to be aggressive overtures or panic buying. However, 2016 could be a different matter if, as expected, the oil price stays low.

Moving away from the Shell and BG show, here is one’s take via a Forbes column on how oil markets should price in the Iran factor, following the conclusion of pre-Easter nuclear talks between the Iranians and five permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany.

Additionally, here’s another one of the Oilholic’s Forbes posts on why a decline in US shale activity is not clear cut. As it transpires, many shale producers are just as adept at coping with a lower oil price as any in the conventional industry. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
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To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Vintage Shell petrol pump, San Francisco, USA © Gaurav Sharma

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The $40-50 range, CAPP on Capex & Afren's woes

The first month of oil trading in 2015 is coming to a much calmer end compared to how it began. The year did begin with a bang with Brent shedding over 11% in the first week of full trading alone. Since then, the only momentary drama took place when both Brent and WTI levelled at US$48.05 per barrel at one point on January 16. Overall, both benchmarks have largely stayed in the $44 to $49 range with an average Brent premium of $3+ for better parts of January.

There is a growing realisation in City circles that short sellers may have gotten ahead of themselves a bit just as those going long did last summer. Agreed, oil is not down to sub-$40 levels seen during the global financial crisis. However, if the price level seen then is adjusted for the strength of the dollar now, then the levels being seen at the moment are actually below those seen six years ago.

The big question right now is not where the oil price is, but rather that should we get used to the $40 to $50 range? The answer is yes for now because between them the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping well over 30 million barrels per day (bpd) and everyone from troubled Libya to calm Canada is prodding along despite the pain of lower oil prices as producing nations.

The latter actually provides a case in point, for earlier in January the Western Canadian Select did actually fall below $40 and is just about managing to stay above $31. However, the Oilholic has negligible anecdotal evidence of production being lowered in meaningful volumes.

For what it’s worth, it seems the Canadians are mastering the art of spending less yet producing more relative to last year, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). The lobby group said last week that production in Western Canada, bulk of which is accounted for by Alberta, would grow by 150,000 bpd to reach 3.6 million bpd in 2015. 

That’s despite the cumulative capex tally of major oil and gas companies seeing an expected decline of 33% on an annualised basis. The headline production figure is actually a downward revision from CAPP’s forecast of 3.7 million bpd, with an earlier expectation of 9,555 wells being drilled also lowered by 30% to 7,350 wells. Yet, the overall production projection is comfortably above 2014 levels and the revision is nowhere near enough (yet) to have a meaningful impact on Canada’s contribution to the total global supply pool. 

Coupled with the said global supply glut, Chinese demand has shown no signs of a pick-up. Unless either the supply side alters fundamentally or the demand side perks up, the Oilholic thinks the current price range for Brent and WTI is about right on the money. 

But change it will, as the current levels of production simply cannot be sustained. Someone has to blink, as yours truly said on Tip TV – it’s likely to be the Russians and US independent upstarts. The new Saudi head of state - King Salman is unlikely to change the course set out by his late predecessor King Abdullah. In fact, among the new King’s first acts was to retain the inimitable Ali Al-Naimi as oil minister

Greece too is a non-event from an oil market standpoint in a direct sense. The country does not register meaningfully on the list of either major oil importers or exporters. However, its economic malaise and political upheavals might have an indirect bearing via troubles in the Eurozone. The Oilholic sees $1= €1 around the corner as the dollar strengthens against a basket of currencies. A stronger dollar, of course, will reflect in the price of both benchmarks.

In other news, troubles at London-listed Afren continue and the Oilholic has knocked his target price of 120p for the company down to 20p. First, there was bolt out of the blue last August that the company was investigating “receipt of unauthorised payments potentially for the benefit of the CEO and COO.” 

Following that red flag, just recently Afren revised production estimates at its Barda Rash oilfield in the Kurdistan region of Iraq by 190 million barrels of oil equivalent. The movement in reserves was down to the 2014 reprocessing of 3D seismic shot in 2012 and processed in 2013, as well as results from its drilling campaign, Afren said. 

It is presently thinking about utilising a 30-day grace period under its 2016 bonds with respect to $15 million of interest due on 1 February. That’s after the company confirmed a deferral of a $50 million amortisation payment due at the end of January 2015 was being sought. Yesterday, Fitch Ratings downgraded Afren's Long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR), as well as its senior secured ratings, to 'C' from 'B-'. It reflects the agency’s view that default was imminent.

Meanwhile, S&P has downgraded Russia’s sovereign rating to junk status. The agency now rates Russia down a notch at BB+. “Russia’s monetary-policy flexibility has become more limited and its economic growth prospects have weakened. We also see a heightened risk that external and fiscal buffers will deteriorate due to rising external pressures and increased government support to the economy,” S&P noted.

Away from ratings agencies notes, here is the Oilholic’s take on what the oil price drop means for airlines and passengers in one’s latest Forbes piece. Plus, here’s another Forbes post touching on the North Sea’s response to a possible oil price drop to $40, incorporating BP’s pessimistic view that oil price is likely to lurk around $50 for the next three years.

For the record, this blogger does not think oil prices will average around $50 for the next three years. One suspects that neither does BP; rather it has more to do with prudent forward planning. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
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To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Oil pipeline with Alaska's Brooks Range in the background, USA © Michael S. Quinton / National Geographic

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Buyers' market & an overdue oil price correction

Recent correction in the price of crude oil should come as no surprise. The Brent front month futures contract fell to a 26-month low last week lurking around the US$98 per barrel level.

The Oilholic has said so before, and he’ll say it again – there is plenty of the crude stuff around to mitigate geopolitical spikes. When that happens, and it has been something of a rarity over the last few years, the froth dissipates. In wake of Brent dipping below three figures, a multitude of commentators took to the airwaves attributing it to lower OECD demand (nothing new), lacklustre economic activity in China (been that way for a while), supply glut (not new either), refinery maintenance (it is that time of the year), Scottish Referendum (eh, what?) – take your pick.

Yet nothing’s changed on risk front, as geopolitical mishaps – Libya, Sudan, Iraq and Ebola virus hitting West African exploration – are all still in the background. What has actually gotten rid of the froth is a realisation by those trading paper or virtual contracts that the only way is not long!

It’s prudent to mention that the Oilholic doesn’t always advocate going short. But one has consistently being doing so since late May predicated on the belief of industry contacts, who use solver models to a tee, to actually buy physical crude oil, rather than place bets on a screen. Most of their comparisons factor in at least three sellers, if not more.

Nothing they've indicated in the last (nearly) five months has suggested that buyers are tense about procuring crude oil within what most physical traders consider to be a "fair value" spot trade, reflecting market conditions. For what it’s worth, with the US buying less, crude oil exporters have had to rework their selling strategies and find other clients in Asia, as one explained in a Forbes post earlier this month.

It remains a buyers’ market where you have two major importers, the US and China who are buying less, albeit for different reasons. In short, and going short on crude oil, what’s afoot is mirroring physical market reality which paper traders delayed over much of the second quarter of this year from taking hold. Furthermore, as oversupply has trumped Brent’s risk premium, WTI is finding support courtesy the internal American dynamic of higher refinery runs and a reduction of the Cushing, Oklahoma glut. End result means a lower Brent premium to the WTI. 

However, being pragmatic, Brent’s current slump won’t be sustained until the end of the year. For starters, OPEC is coming to the realisation that it may have to cut production. Secretary General Adalla Salem El-Badri has recently hinted at this.

While OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia is reasonably comfortable above a $85 price floor, hawks such as Iran and Venezuela aren’t. Secondly, economic activity is likely to pick up both within and outside the OECD in fits and starts. While Chinese economic data continues to give mixed signals, India is seeing a mini-bounce. 

Additionally, as analysts at Deutsche Bank noted, “With refineries likely to run hard after the maintenance period, this will support crude oil demand and eventually prompt crude prices, in our view. This may be one of the factors that could help to eliminate contango in the Brent crude oil term structure.”

While the general mood in the wider commodities market remains bearish, it should improve over the remainder of the year unless China, India and the US collectively post dire economic activity, something that’s hard to see at this point. The Oilholic is sticking to his Q1 forecast of a Brent price in the range of $90 to $105 for 2014, and for its premium to WTI coming down to $5.

Meanwhile, Moody's has lowered the Brent crude price assumptions it uses for ratings purposes to $90 per barrel through 2015, a $5 drop from the ratings agency's previous assumptions for 2015. It also reduced price assumptions for WTI crude to $85 per barrel from $90 through 2015.

The agency’s price assumptions for 2016 and thereafter are $90 per barrel for Brent crude and $85 for WTI crude, unchanged from previous assumptions. Moody’s continue to view Brent as a common proxy for oil prices on the world market, and WTI for North American crude.

On a closing note, here’s the Oilholic’s second take for Forbes on the role of China as a refining superpower. Recent events have meant that their refining party is taking a breather, but it’s by no means over. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: Russian Oil Extraction Facility © Lukoil. Graph: Brent curve structure, September 19, 2014 © Deutsche Bank

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Not that taut: Oil markets & geopolitical tension

The month of August has brought along a milestone for the Oilholics Synonymous Report, but let’s get going with crude matters for starters as oil markets continue to resist a risk premium driven spike.

The unfolding tragedy in Iraq, Libya’s troubles, Nigerian niggles and the fear of Ebola hitting exploration and production activity in West Africa, are more than enough to provide many paper traders with the pretext to go long and spook us all. Yet, the plentiful supply and stunted OECD demand scenario that’s carried over from last month has made geopolitical tension tolerable. As such its not percolating through to influence market sentiment in any appreciable fashion, bringing about a much needed price correction.

It wasn’t the news of US air strikes on ISIS that drove Brent down to a nine month low this week, rather the cautious mood of paper traders that did it. Among that lot were hedge fund guys n’ gals who burnt their fingers recently on long bets (that backfired spectacularly in July), and resisted going long as soon as news of the latest Iraqi flare-up surfaced, quite unlike last time.

According to ICE data, hedge funds and other money managers reduced net bullish bets on Brent futures to 97,351 contracts in the week to August 5; the lowest on books since February 4. Once bitten, twice shy and you all know why. Brent price is now comfortably within the Oilholic’s predicted price range for 2014.

Away from pricing, the other big news of course is about the megamerger of Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI), Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP) and El Paso Pipeline Partners Operating (EPBO), into one entity. The $71 billion plus complicated acquisition would create the largest oil and gas infrastructure company in the US by some distance and the country’s third-largest corporation in the sector after ExxonMobil and Chevron.

Moody’s, which has suspended its ratings on the companies for the moment, says generally the ratings for KMP and its subsidiaries will be reviewed for downgrade, and the ratings for KMI and EPBO and their subsidiaries will be reviewed for upgrade.

Stuart Miller, Moody's Vice President and Senior Credit Officer, notes: "KMI's large portfolio of high-quality assets generates a stable and predictable level of cash flow which could support a strong investment grade rating. However, because of the high leverage along with a high dividend payout ratio, we expect the new Kinder Morgan to be weakly positioned with an investment grade rating."

Sticking with Moody’s, following Argentina’s default on paper, the agency has unsurprisingly changed its outlook on the country’s major companies from stable to negative. Those affected in the sector include YPF. However, Petrobras Argentina and Pan American Energy Argentina were spared a negative outlook given their subsidiary status and disconnect from headline Argentine sovereign risk.

Switching tack from ratings notes to a Reuters report, a recent one from the newswire noted that the volume of US crude exports to Canada now exceeds the export level of OPEC lightweight Ecuador. While the Oilholic remains unconvinced about US crude joining the global crude supply pool anytime soon, there’s no harm in a bit of legally permitted neighbourly help. Inflows and outflows between the countries even things out; though Canadian oil exports going the other way are, and have always been, higher.

On the subject of reports, here’s the Oilholic’s latest quip on Forbes regarding the demise of commodities trading at investment banks and another one on the crucial subject of furthering gender diversity in the oil and gas business

Finally, going back to where one began, it is time to say a big THANK YOU to all you readers out there for your encouragement, criticism, feedback, compliments (as applicable) and the time you make to read this blogger’s thoughts. Though ever grateful, one feels like reiterating the gratitude today as Google Analytics has confirmed that US readers have overtaken the Oilholic's ‘home’ readers as of last month.

It matters as this humble blog has moved from 50 local clicks in December 2009 to 148k global clicks (and counting) this year and its been one great journey. The US, UK and Norway are currently the top three countries in terms of pageviews in that order (see right), followed by China, Germany, Russia, Canada, France, India and Turkey completing the top ten. Traffic also continues to climb from Australia, Brazil, Benelux, Hong Kong, Japan and Ukraine; so onwards and upwards to new frontiers with your continuing support. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo: Oil rig, USA © Shell. Graphics: Oilholics Synonymous Report, July 2014 clickstats © Google Analytics