Showing posts with label Henry Hub. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Henry Hub. Show all posts

Friday, January 11, 2019

Moroccan perspective on natural gas market

The current situation in the natural gas market has several variables as we enter the first quarter of 2019. But before anything else, what price levels we are at would be a good conversation starter. Using the US Henry Hub as a benchmark, it remains stuck around $3/mmbtu. For Europe, adding an average $2+ mmbtu would be about par.

After a late December collapse, natural gas prices were seemingly being held down by higher than normal winter temperatures, before a big freeze hits several parts of Europe and North America. As for the market itself, most of the chatter these days is about how US LNG - both small and large scale - will add to the global supply pool with the country's capacity tipped to cap 40 million tonnes per annum (tpa) in 2019. 

As the Americans increasingly tussle with other major LNG exporters such as Qatar, Malaysia and Australia for a slice of the global market, Morocco - a net energy importer, albeit with substantial natural gas reserves - is in a reasonably positive position. 

The country has proven reserves of some 1.44 billion cubic meters (bcf) of natural gas, according to the CIA World Factbook, but domestic production is not even a tenth of that volume. Rabat is attempting to alter that dynamic via several independent upstarts led by SDX Energy, and accompanied by the likes of Sound Energy (which recently said it would focus exclusively on Morocco) and Chariot Oil & Gas. 

Seeing potential, the government is offering attractive terms to exploration and production companies (refer to the Oilholic's previous post on the subject). But until Morocco meaningfully discovers its domestic production mojo, the US shale gas bonanza couldn't have come at a more opportune time, as Rabat looks ensure security of supply over the medium-term. In October 2018, Energy Minister Aziz Rabbah confirmed that Morocco is preparing to invite bids for a LNG project in Jorf Lasfar worth $4.5 billion.

It includes construction of a jetty, terminal, pipelines and gas-fired power plants, ultimately leading to the import of up to 7 billion cubic metres of gas by 2025, in a very competitive global gas buyers' market. 

The announcement follows state-owned power utility ONEE announcement in 2017 that it had picked HSBC Middle East as a financial adviser for its plan to boost imports of LNG. The scenario provides plenty of talking points, which is why the Oilholic is heading to Morocco in February to speak and deliberate at the 2nd Morocco Oil & Gas Summit in Marrakesh, February 6-7, 2019, being organised by IN-VR Oil & Gas

It's all set up nicely, and this blogger early awaits the summit. But that’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photos: Cairn Energy / IN-VR Oil & Gas

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Downward revisions of gas price assumptions

While oil markets have grabbed all the headlines in recent weeks, there is something afoot in the natural gas markets that’s telling. Several analysts and rating agencies have revised their short to medium term gas price forecasts downwards over the past six weeks.

Earlier this month, Fitch Ratings revised its base case for Henry Hub down to US$3/mcf from $4/mcf in 2015, while not losing sight of a long-term value of $4.50/mcf. The agency’s stress case for credit ratings purposes this year has been revised to $2.75/mcf from $3.25/mcf, and the long run price to $3.25/mcf from $3.50/mcf.

There is nothing to sensationalise here, we’re not slipping down to April 2012 levels and sub-$2 prices. Yet, there is little to be broadly upbeat about over the medium term for US producers given the current abundance of gas. Alex Griffiths, Managing Director at Fitch Ratings, says the agency has merely reacted to rebounding inventories as noted by the EIA and other sources.

“A warmer US winter, and continued strong growth in domestic shale gas supply, including ongoing efficiency gains in drilling are having a bearing. The drop in forward oil prices is also likely to have a dampening effect on US gas demand over the medium term, as lower oil prices suggest lower profits and reduced economic feasibility for at least some US based LNG projects still at the planning stages,” he adds.

In fact, natural gas abundance could stunt the growth of new nuclear build in the eyes of many contacts. At present, nuclear power share of the overall US market is just shy of 20%. Cheap gas means the level is likely to be severely tested over the coming years. Only two new nuclear plants are currently under construction, with the first not expected to come online before 2018 at the earliest.

Gas producers, unlike their oil counterparts, can at least take some solace now in exporting their proceeds of shale to Europe and Asia as Sabine Pass LNG export terminal kicks into gear in 2017. However, Fitch says while the European gas price is in a much better place than the US, it too is going through testing times.

Fitch uses UK’s National Balancing Point (NBP) gas price as proxy, which it has also revised down to $6/mcf in 2015 from $8/mcf to reflect downward movements in the market price since last year. Overall, the NBP has fallen nearly 20% since a year ago to around $7.50/mcf.

“We believe that due to seasonal factors and the downward impact of oil-linked gas contracts elsewhere in the market, which typically readjust price with a six or nine-month lag, it is appropriate to reflect a weaker market as our base assumption for the rest of the year. From 2016, the base case price deck for NBP sees a gradual improvement back to $8 in the long run,” Griffiths adds.

So should US producers continue to look elsewhere in order to get more bang for their invested bucks? Exporting to Europe and Asia seems to be the answer. Invariably though, as pointed out by opponents of US gas exports, this would lead to a rise in domestic gas prices.

US gas will continue to trade at some discount to European prices and at a considerable discount to Asian prices. As the Oilholic noted last year in a Forbes column, the Henry Hub is not relocating to Wales or Singapore any time soon! Even in a depressed gas market, disparities will persist.

That the European market is the most depressed of all shouldn’t be in any doubt. On February 3, Russia’s Gazprom, still Europe’s leading provider of natural gas (Ukraine-related sanctions or not), said it would reduce gas imports from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which it passes on to end clients, by 60% and 75% respectively, to compensate for weak demand.

Not only does it have heavy implications for both those countries, but Moody’s unsurprisingly views it as a credit negative for Intergas Central Asia (ICA, Baa3 positive), Kazakhstan's gas transmission company operating one of main Central Asian pipelines.

The agency says Gazprom’s move has the potential to trigger a 40% dip in ICA’s profits on an annualised basis. “Such revenue deterioration would weaken the credit metrics of ICA, which generates more than 50% of its revenue from the transportation of Asian gas under contract for Gazprom. It would also reduce the company's ability to generate cash, as well as its resilience to foreign currency risk associated with its predominantly US dollar-denominated debt,” it adds.

In summation, these are serious if not precarious times for the gas markets, and it’s not the just US players who ought to be worried.

On a closing note, here is the Oilholic’s recent chat for Forbes with US Department of Energy CIO Donald Adcock. Additionally, here is one’s take on how oil traders, trading houses and of course hedge funds are looking to play contango. As usual they’ll be winners, losers, sinners and pretty happy shippers.

That’s all for the moment folks! The Oilholic is off to gather fresh intel from Mexico City and Houston. Until next time, keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com 

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Offshore rig, USA  © Shell

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Talking geopolitics & refineries at Platts event

Following on from earlier conversations with contacts in the trading community about the direction of the Brent crude price versus geopolitics, the Oilholic extended his queries to the Platts Energy Risk Forum, held in London earlier this week. At the event, Dave Ernsberger, global editorial director of oil coverage at Platts, summed-up the market mood as we near the final quarter of 2012 (see graphic above, click to enlarge). “This year has been one of two realities, namely the dire economic climate and upward geopolitical risk. H1 2012 saw anxiety about a war in the Middle East and H2 sees renewed fears of a demand slowdown,” he told delegates.

“The oil price is poised to break away from the mean – but which way? So far it has been chained and shackled in the US$15-20 range either way falling below US$90 and rising above US$115 over the course of this year. The threat of an Iran versus Israel conflict which might draw the US in by default has not gone away. On the other hand a European recession could bring a new oil price crash. Additionally, there is a perception that supply-demand and spare capacity scenarios are not what they are made out to be,” Ernsberger added.

Over a break in proceedings, the Oilholic quizzed the Platts man about the actual influence of the geopolitical or instability premium on the price of the crude stuff and market conjecture about it being broadly neutral for 2013.

“I think the current geopolitical dynamic is fairly well understood at this point. The big touching points which are at play for instance, but not limited to, the US-Iran-Israel issue and the China-Japan and Asia Pacific energy politics have been with us for a while. I feel it is hard to see how those geopolitical arenas will evolve significantly in 2013 because we are at a stalemate point. In a sense, if you look forward they should be neutral,” Ernsberger said.

However, both of us were in agreement that one always needs to be careful about a geopolitical trigger as a single tiny flashpoint could offset the placidness. But from where Ernsberger and the Oilholic sit at present – geopolitical influences are in a kind of suspended animation for next year. The Platts Energy Risk Forum also noted that demand forecasts for 2012 have stabilised and that Chinese demand, on a standalone basis, had slowed considerably. As such, the price outlook for 2013 is overwhelmingly bearish.

One unintended result of the European crisis brings us to another area of interest - refining. Platts noted that the EU-wide recession is speeding up refinery closures. It suggested that 3 to 5 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil refining capacity is under immediate threat of closure or actually did close recently. Additionally, an estimated 7 million bpd needs to close to adjust for more efficient refining in Asia and Middle East. But the closures are lifting refining margins over the short-term in a business that remains volatile (see graphic above right, click to enlarge). Ernsberger also brought forth a very valid observation for the readers of this humble blog – the striking similarity between the survival (or vice versa) statistics within the refining and civil aviation sectors.

“Refining and aviation are two industries where it’s a race to the bottom! There is so much competition in both these industries that basically whatever environment you are operating in – even if you are operating in India or China – it’s a race to the bottom…Typically, what you’ll find is that every company would try and stay in the business as long as it can and will only leave when it runs out of money. It’s also why refining and aviation have more bankruptcies than any other sector I can think of,” he said.

At the same forum, it was also a pleasure running into Dr. Vincent Kaminski, a former Enron executive who repeatedly raised strong objections to the financial practices at the company prior to its scandal-ridden collapse in 2002. In the aftermath of the scandal, Dr. Kaminski was praised for being among the voices of reason at a company riddled with malpractices. (For background read Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind’s brilliant book – The Smartest Guys in the Room)

Dr. Kaminski, who is an academic on the faculty of Houston’s Rice University at present, told the forum that by the time of its collapse Enron had mutated from an energy company to one which traded practically everything and one which was not alone in devising trading strategies based on exploiting geographical constraints.

“Energy markets have evolved over the last 20 years into an integrated global system. Markets for different physical commodities form what can be called a tightly coupled system. While market participants learn and adjust their behaviour in order to survive and prosper in a changing world, the system itself evolves and remains far removed from a stable equilibrium at any point in time,” he added.

Dr. Kaminski also dwelt on the Shale Gas revolution in the US which was decades in the making but transformed the country's energy landscape upon fruition leading to the availability of natural gas in abundance and a dip in gas price-contracts (see graphic on the left, click to enlarge). “As US production sky-rocketed, conventional wisdom about the possibility of LNG shortages barely five years ago was turned on its head. By April 2012 we even noted a sub-US$2/mBtu front-month settlement on the NYMEX,” he added.

Later in the afternoon, Dr. Kaminski told the Oilholic that US LNG import terminals currently being prepped to export gas in wake of the shale bonanza could one day be sending tanker-loads to Europe in direct competition with Qatar and Russia.

“On the flipside for the US consumer, the moment a viable gas export market is established for US gas, the impact on the country’s domestic gas market would be a bullish one. That is the nature of market forces,” he added.

When asked about the prospects of shale prospection in Europe – most notably in Poland, Ukraine, Sweden and the UK – Dr. Kaminski said he was a ‘realist’ rather than a ‘sceptic’. “What happened in the US, did not take place overnight. Technology, legislative facilitation and public will – all played a part and gradually fell into place. I do not see it being replicated in Europe over the short term and certainly not with the speed that some are hoping it would,” he concluded.

Just as the Oilholic was winding down from a discussion on shale with Dr. Kaminski, it seems the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) was talking up the economic benefits of a British Shale Gale! In a policy statement circulated to parliamentarians, the IMechE said shale gas was ‘no silver bullet’ for UK energy security but will provide long-term economic benefits in the shape of thousands of jobs.

Dr. Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at IMechE and lead author of the shale gas policy statement, said, “Shale gas has the potential to give some of the regions hit hardest by the economic downturn a much-needed economic boost. The engineering jobs created will also help the Government’s efforts to rebalance the UK’s skewed economy.”

However, Dr. Fox added that shale gas "is unlikely to have a major impact on energy prices and the possibility that the UK might ever achieve self-sufficiency in gas is remote." 

IMechE projects that 4,200 jobs would be created per year over a ten-year drill programme. The engineering skills developed could then be sold abroad, just as the oil and gas experience built up in North Sea oilfields is now being sold across the world. Well, we shall see but that’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

© Gaurav Sharma 2012. Graphic 1: Platts dated Brent – January 2011 to August 2012 © Platts September 2012. Graphic 2: International cracking margins snapshot © Platts / Turner Mason & Co. September 2012. Graphic 3: US Natural Gas futures contract © Dr. Vincent Kaminski, Rice University, Texas, USA /Bloomberg.

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For comments or for professional queries, please email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

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