Showing posts with label Gunvor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gunvor. Show all posts

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Last contango in Harris (County)

The crude trading week that was gave the market a day that will live in infamy. For on Monday, April 20, 2020, the soon-to-expire WTI May contract – lost all its value, slid to zero and then went into negative prices for the first time in trading history eventually settling at -$37.63 per barrel down over 300%. 

Blame a supply glut that Harris County, Texas, US – home to America's oil and gas capital of Houston – is only too aware of, or blame the dire demand declines caused by the coronavirus/Covid-19 lockdowns around the world, or blame money managers holding paper barrel or e-barrels desperately looking to dump their holdings at the last minute with very few takers – whatever the reason might be, outrageously sensational the development most certainly was! 

Expiring crude futures contracts often have a run on them in a climate of depressed demand that we happen to be in but April 20 was something the Oilholic never imagined he would ever blog about. Yet here we are! The very next day – April 21 – the contract did return to positive turf after all the headlines had been written. So is it a 'switch the lights out' moment for the industry? Not quite. Is it an unmitigated disaster for Harris County and wider industry sentiment in North America – most certainly so. 

That's because near-term demand is not looking pretty, and the Oilholic sees no prospect of a return to normalcy at least until the end of July. That too might be contingent upon the global community getting some sort of a handle on the global pandemic. Implications in barrel terms could likely be a Q2 2020 demand slump of at least 20 million barrels per day (bpd) and might well be as much as 30-35 million bpd.

For upcoming and established US exploration and production plays gradually discovering lucrative East Asian markets of light, sweet crude and national headline production levels of 12.75 million bpd – the current situation is a crushing but inevitable blow. 

Chats with Wall Street and City of London forecasters – virtual ones of course (via Skype, WhatsApp, did anyone mention Zoom) – and with several industry contacts from Harris County, Texas to Denver, Colorado suggest come 2021 US production is likely to fall to ~11 million bpd. But a long-term market has been established for competitively priced light, sweet barrels currently available at a rather cheap price provided you can find a place to stack or store the barrels. 

In fact, the lowest spot price the Oilholic has encountered is just south of $2 per barrel as shutdowns and idle rigs become the order of the day. Only problem is storage – which contrary to popular belief, and as verified by satellite imagery – hasn't quite run out US onshore but is on the verge of being leased and spoken for. 

And it is costing dear on a floating basis too, something that is unlikely to change as traders gear up for contango plays! Simple formula - get your hands on crude cargo from anywhere between $2 to $18, ride out the coronavirus downturn, pin hopes on a Q4 2020 to Q1 2021 recovery and make a tidy profit!

Hypothetically, if December is the cut-off point for such bets right now, then WTI December contract is around $29 per barrel while WTI June is trading around $17. That gives one of the widest contango structure of $12 and a 70.6% discount to six-month forward contracts for anyone with hands on US light sweet crude; means to hold on to it; and flog it off six months later on margins not seen since 2009

It is doubtful the returns are likely to be of the magnitude raked in by Gunvor in the immediate recovery that followed the 2008-09 financial crisis but they could be substantial. Many on Wall Street are calling it the 'super-contango' but the Oilholic prefers something else. Opportunities and differentials like this do not come along often – so yours truly thinks calling it the 'Last contago in Harris' is way more colourful. That's all for the moment folks! Stay safe! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2020. Photo: View of Downtown Houston, Texas, US © Gaurav Sharma, May 2018.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Speaking @ OPEC & WPC plus Dec's trading lows

It’s been a hectic few weeks attending the OPEC conference in Vienna and the 20th World Petroleum Congress in Doha, but the Oilholic is now happily back in London town for a calm Christmas. In fact, a more than passive interest in the festive period’s crude trading lows is all what you will get for the next fortnight unless there is a geopolitical mishap. However, before we discuss crude pricing, this humble blogger had the wonderful experience of doing a commentary hit for an OPEC broadcast and moderating a Baker & McKenzie seminar at the WPC.

Starting with OPEC, it was a pleasure ditching pricing and quotas for once in Vienna and discussing the infrastructure investment plans of its 12 member nations in OPEC webcast on December 14th. The cartel has announced US$300 billion of upstream infrastructure investment between 2011 and 2015.

The market is right in believing that Kuwait and Qatar would lead the new build and give project financiers considerable joy. However, intel gathered at the WPC suggests the Algerians could be the surprise package. (To watch the video click here and scroll down to the seventh video on the 160th OPEC conference menu)

This ties-in nicely to the Baker & McKenzie seminar at the WPC on December 7th where the main subject under the microscope was investment opportunities for NOCs.

Six legal professionals attached to Baker's myriad global practices, including familiar names from their UK office, offered the audience insight on just about everything from sources of funding to a reconciliation of different drivers for NOCs and IOCs in partnerships.

Once the panel discussion was over, the Baker partners were kind enough to allow the Oilholic to open the floor for some lively questioning from the audience. While the Oilholic did most of the probing and Baker professionals did most of the answering, the true credit for putting the seminar and its research together goes to Baker’s Emily Colatino and Lizzy Lozano who also clicked photos of the proceedings.

Now from crude sound-bites to crude market chatter post-OPEC, as the end of last week saw a major sell off. Despite the price of crude oil staging a minor recovery in Monday’s intraday trading; both benchmarks were down by over 4 per cent on a week over week, five-day cycle basis on Tuesday. Since the festive period is upon us, trading volumes for the forward month futures contracts will be at the usual seasonal low over the Christmas holidays. Furthermore, the OPEC meeting in Vienna failed to provide any meaningful upward impetus to the crude price level, which like all traded commodities is witnessing a bearish trend courtesy the Eurozone crisis.

Sucden Financial Research analyst Myrto Sokou notes that investors remained very cautious towards the end of last week and were prompted towards some profit taking to lock in recent gains as WTI crude was sliding down toward US$92 per barrel level.

“After market close on Friday, Moody’s downgraded Belgium by two notches to Aa3, as liabilities associated with the Dexia bailout and increased Eurozone risks were cited as key factors. In addition, market rumours on Friday of a France downgrade by S&P were not followed up, though the agency did have server problems during the day. Suspicion is now that they will wait until the New Year to conclude review on Eurozone’s second largest economy,” Sokou said in a note to clients.

Additionally, crude prices are likely to trade sideways with potential for some correction higher, supported by a rebound in the global equity markets. “However, should the US dollar strengthen further we expect some pressure in the oil market that looks fairly vulnerable at the moment,” Sokou concludes.

Away from pricing projections, the Reuters news agency reports that 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.

On to corporate matters and Fitch Ratings has upgraded three Indonesian oil & gas utilities PT Pertamina (Persero) (Pertamina), PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (Persero) (PLN) and PT Perusahaan Gas Negara Tbk (PGN) to 'BBB-' following the upgrade to Indonesia's Long-Term Foreign- and-Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'BBB-' from 'BB+'. The outlooks on all three entities are Stable, agency said in a note on December 15th.

Meanwhile, a Petrobras communiqué suggests that this December, the combined daily output of the Brazilian major and its partners exceeded 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/day) in the promising Santos Basin. The company said that on December 6, two days after operations began at well RJS-686, which is connected to platform FPSO Cidade de Angra dos Reis (the Lula Pilot Project), the total output operated by Petrobras at the Santos Basin reached 205,700 boe/day.

This includes 144,100 barrels of oil and condensate, in addition to 9.8 million cubic meters of natural gas (equivalent to an output of 61,600 boe), of which 8.5 million cubic meters were delivered to the Monteiro Lobato Gas Treatment Unit (UTGCA), in Caraguatatuba, and 1.3 million cubic meters to the Presidente Bernardes Refinery (RPBC) Natural Gas Unit, in Cubatão, both in the state of São Paulo.

Finally, ratings agency Moody's notes a potential sizable lawsuit against Chevron Corporation in Brazil could have a negative impact on the company, but it is too early to judge the full extent of any future liability arising from the lawsuit.

Recent news reports indicate that a federal prosecutor in the state of Rio de Janeiro is seeking BRL20 billion (US$10.78 billion) in damages from Chevron and Transocean Ltd. for the offshore oil leak last month. The Oilholic thinks Transocean’s position is more troublesome given it’s a party to the legal fallout from the Macondo incident.

That’s all for the moment folks – a crude year-ender to follow in early January! In the interim, have a Happy Christmas! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo 1: Gaurav Sharma on OPEC's 160th meeting live webcast from Vienna, Austria on Dec 14, 2011 © OPEC Secretariat. Photo 2 & 3: The Oilholic at Baker & McKenzie seminar on investment opportunities for NOCs at the 20th World Petroleum Congress in Doha, Qatar on Dec 7, 2011 © Lizzy Lozano, Baker & McKenzie.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Crude 7 days & wayward Hayward’s comeback?

It is not often that we talk about Jean-Claude Trichet – the inimitable and outgoing European Central Bank president here, but last week he said something rather interesting at a London School of Economics event which deserves a mention in light of the unfolding Greek tragedy (part II) and before we talk crude pricing.

Trichet said the ECB needs to ensure that oil (and commodity) price increases witnessed in recent months do not trigger inflationary problems. Greece aside, Trichet opined that the Euro zone recovery was on a good footing even though unemployment (currently at a ten year high) was “far too high.”

While he did not directly refer to the deterioration in Greece’s fiscal situation, it may yet have massive implications for the Euro zone. Its impact on crude prices will be one of confidence, rather than one of consumption pattern metrics. Greece, relative to other European players, is neither a major economy and nor a major crude consuming nation. Market therefore will be factoring in the knock-on effect were it to default.

Quite frankly, the Oilholic agrees with Fitch Ratings that if commercial lenders roll over their loans to Greece, it will deem the country to be in “default". Standard & Poor's has already issued a similar warning while Moody’s says there is a 50% chance of Greece missing a repayment within three to five years.

With confidence not all that high and the OPEC meeting shenanigans from a fortnight now consigned to the history books, the crude price took a dip with the ICE Brent forward month futures contract at US$112.54 last time I checked. Nonetheless, oil market fundamentals for the rest of 2010 and 2011 are forecasted to be reasonably bullish.

Analysts at Société Générale feel many of the prevalent downside risks are non-fundamental. These include macro concerns about the US, Europe (as noted above) and China; the end of QE2 liquidity injections; concerns about demand destruction; uncertainty about Saudi price targets; fading fears of further MENA supply disruptions; and still-high levels of non-commercial net length in the oil markets.

In an investment note to clients, Mike Wittner, the French investment bank’s veteran oil market analyst wrote: “Based on these offsetting factors, our forecast for ICE Brent crude is neutral compared to current prices. We forecast Brent at US$114 in Q3 11 (upward revision of $3) and US$113 in Q4 11 (+$6). Our forecast for 2012 is for Brent at US$115 (+$5). Compared to the forward curve, we are neutral for the rest of 2011 and slightly bullish for 2012.”

Meanwhile the IEA noted that a Saudi push to replace “lost” Libyan barrels would need to be competitively priced to bring relief. Market conjecture and vibes from Riyadh suggest that while the Saudis may well wish to up production and cool the crude price, they are not trying to drive prices sharply lower.

The problem is a “sweet” one. The oil market for the rest of 2011, in the agency’s opinion, looks potentially short of sweet crude, should the Libyan crisis continue to keep those supplies restrained. Only “competitively priced OPEC barrels” whatever the source might be could bring welcome relief, it concludes.

Now on to corporate matters, the most geopolitically notable one among them is a deal signed by ConocoPhillips last Thursday, with the government of Bangladesh to explore parts of the Bay of Bengal for oil and gas. This is further proof, if one needed any, that the oil majors are venturing beyond the traditional prospection zones and those considered “non-traditional” thus far aren’t any longer.

The two zones, mentioned in the deal, are about 175 miles offshore from the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong at a depth of 5,000 feet covering an area of approximately 1.27 million acres. According to a ConocoPhillips' corporate announcement exploration efforts will begin “as soon as possible.”

In other matters, the man who founded Cairn Energy in 1980 – Sir Bill Gammell is to step down as the independent oil upstart’s chief executive to become its non-executive chairman under a board reshuffle. He will replace current chairman Norman Murray, while the company’s legal and commercial director Simon Thomson will take over the role of chief executive.

However, Sir Bill would continue as chairman of Cairn India and retain responsibility for the sale of Cairn Energy's Indian assets to Vedanta in a deal worth nearly US$10 billion. The deal has been awaiting clearance for the last 10 months from the Indian government which owns most of ONGC, which in turn has a 30% stake in Cairn India's major oil field in Rajasthan.

It was agreed in 1995, that ONGC would pay all the royalties on any finds in the desert. But that was before oil had been found and the government is now trying to change the terms of that arrangement with some typical Indian-style bickering.

Elsewhere, after becoming a publicly-listed company last month, Glencore – the world's largest commodities trader – reported a net profit for the first three months of the year to the tune of US$1.3 billion up 47% on an annualised basis. Concurrently, in its first public results, the trader said revenue was up 39% to US$44.2 billion.

Glencore's directors and employees still hold about 80% of the company and the figures should make them happier and wealthier still. Glencore leads the trading stakes with Vitol and Gennady Timchenko’s Gunvor second and third respectively.

Finally, the so-called most hated man in America – Tony Hayward – commenced a rather spectacular comeback last week flanked by some influential friends. Together with financier Nathaniel Rothschild, investors Tom Daniel and Julian Metherel, Hayward has floated Vallares, an oil and gas investment vehicle which raised £1.35 billion (US$2.18 billion) through an IPO recently.

This is well above market expectations according to most in the City and all four have nailed their colours to the mast by putting in £100 million of their own money. Some 133 million ordinary shares nominated at £10 each were offered and taken-up rather enthusiastically. Rumour has it that hedge funds, selected Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds and institutional investors (favouring long-only positions) are among the major buyers.

Vallares’ focus will be on upstream oil and gas assets away from "tired, second-hand assets" in the North Sea or in politically unstable areas such as Venezuela or central Asia. The Oilholic thinks this is way more than an act of hubris. However, the investment vehicle’s success will not particularly reverse Hayward’s deeply stained reputation. A failure well be the end. Only time will tell but the front man has brought some powerful friends along on the “comeback” trail. They are likely to keep a more watchful eye over Hayward and perhaps prevent him from going wayward.

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Fairfax, Virginia, USA © O. Louis Mazzatenta, National Geographic

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