Showing posts with label Standard Chartered. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Standard Chartered. Show all posts

Friday, June 20, 2014

Final ‘crude’ thoughts from 21 WPC Moscow

The 21st World Petroleum Congress came to a close last evening at the mammoth Crocus Expo Center in Moscow, and its almost sundown here at the Red Square. A hectic five days gave plenty of food for thought and 'crude' tangents for discussion.

As noted on Tuesday, the Ukraine standoff failed to overshadow the event, as a veritable who's who of the oil & gas industry turned up regardless. Most movers and shakers, whether correctly, conveniently or cleverly, cited the premise that the Congress was a global event being hosted by Russia, and not a Russian event. So, in the eyes of most, there was no place for international politics. But it was certainly the place for industry intelligence gathering on an international scale.

If anything, it was the events in Iraq that cast a shadow over discussions rather than Ukraine. And with a rather eerie coincidence, just as the Congress came to a close on Thursday, the Brent front month futures price spiked to an intraday high of US$115.71 per barrel. That's the highest on record since September last year.

Most analysts here for the Congress noted that the speed with which the events are unfolding is most troubling and has serious implications for the oil price. For the present moment, the Oilholic is maintaining his price range prediction for Brent in the range of $90-105 circa. Instead of rushing to judgement, given that the US need for Middle Eastern crude oil is narrowing, this blogger would like to monitor the situation for another few weeks before commenting on his price prediction.

Meanwhile, Iran is out in force in Moscow pitching $100 billion worth of oil & gas projects. Additionally, among the many views on where to turn for new hydrocarbon resources, Arctic oil & gas exploration seems to be all the rage here. Here is the Oilholic's take in a Forbes article.

Elsewhere, executives from Saudi Aramco to Shell stressed the need to reduce output costs. Or to cite one senior executive, "We're seeking to either equal or better costs incurred by US unconventional plays." Drilling for oil has various permutations, but if natural gas is the objective, the target should be around $2 per thousand cubic feet, according to various US commentators here.

The oil & gas industry as whole is likely to need financing of $1 trillion per annum over the next 20 years as unconventional plays become commonplace, at least that's the macro verdict. Speaking in Moscow, Peter Gaw, managing director of oil, gas and chemicals at Standard Chartered, said the banking sector could meet the demands despite a tough recovery run from the global financial crisis.

Anecdotal evidence here and wider empirical evidence from recent deals suggest private equity firms will continue to be players in the services business. But Gaw also saw hybrid finance deals involving hedge funds and pension funds on the cards.

Andy Brogan, global leader of EY's oil & gas transactions, said the diversity of projects both in region and scope is evident. Asia Pacific and Latin America should be the two regions on the radar as some financiers attempt to move beyond North America. Sounding cautiously optimistic, Brogan added that the post-crisis "appetite" is gradually returning.

A senior US industry source also told the Oilholic that Bakken capex could top all industry estimates this year and might well be in the $20-25 billion range. Away from financing, a few other snippets, the Indian delegation left pledging more information on a new rationalised tax regime, licensing policy, and a move on its highly political subsidies regime.The world's fourth largest energy consumer is looking to stimulate foreign investment in its oil & gas sector. However, to facilitate that, India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows he has to shake things up.

Meanwhile, BP, already an investor in India, has inked a $20 billion LNG sale and purchase agreement with CNOOC, China's leading LNG projects developer.

While the rest of us were in Moscow, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and British Prime Minister David Cameron were among onlookers as the deal for up to 1.5 million tonnes per annum of LNG starting from 2019 was being inked.

Lastly, it has to be said that over the first two days of the Congress, the Oilholic nipped in and out of 8 forums, talks and presentations and one keynote. Not a single one passed without 'shale' being mentioned for better or for worse!

That brings yours truly to the final thoughts from Moscow and there's more than one. Firstly, the Congress has widely acknowledged the US shale bonanza is now firmly beyond doubt. Secondly, the thought that Arctic oil & gas exploration is the next 'final frontier' is getting firmly entrenched in the thinking of most here in Moscow.

Finally, Istanbul should be congratulated on being named the host city of the 22nd World Petroleum Congress. By the time delegates arrive in town in 2017, the 'Kanal İstanbul' project should be well underway and the fate of the world's second-busiest oil & gas shipping artery – the Bosphorus – could make a good starting point.

On that note, its time to say Dos Vedanya to Russia and take the big flying bus home to London Heathrow! Here is a selection the Oilholic's photos from the Congress, which has been a memorable outing. It was an absolute pleasure visiting the Russian capital after a gap of 10 years, but sadly that's all from Moscow folks. Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2014. Photo 1: Red Square, Moscow, Russia. Photo 2: Logo of the 22nd World Petroleum Congress scheduled to be held in Istanbul. © Gaurav Sharma, June 2014.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Banality of forecasts predicated on short-termism

Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! So the Brent crude price sank to a weekly loss last week; the first such instance in roughly a month. Is the Oilholic surprised? Not one jot. What yours truly is surprised about is that people are surprised! One sparrow does not make spring nor should we say one set of relatively positive Chinese data, released earlier this month, implies bullish trends are on a firm footing.
The Chinese news was used as a pretext by some to go long on the Brent forward month futures contract for March as it neared its closure (within touching distance of US$120 per barrel). And here we are a few days later with the Brent April contract dipping to a February 15 intraday price of US$116.83 on the back of poor industrial data from the US.
 
The briefest of spikes of the week before was accompanied by widespread commentary on business news channels that the price would breach and stay above the US$120 mark, possibly even rise above US$125. Now with the dip of the past week with us, the TV networks are awash with commentary about a realistic possibility that Brent may plummet to US$80 per barrel. You cannot but help laughing when spike n’ dips, as seen over the past few weeks, trigger a topsy-turvy muddle of commentators’ quotes.
 
Sometimes the Oilholic thinks many in the analyst community only cater to the spread betters! Look at the here, the now and have a flutter! Don’t put faith in the wider real economy, don’t examine the macroeconomic environment, just give a running commentary on price based on the news of the day! Nothing wrong with that, absolutely nothing – except don’t try to pass it off as some sort of a science! This blogger has consistently harped on – even at times sounding like a broken record to those who read his thoughts often – that the risk premium provided by the Iranian nuclear standoff is broadly neutral.
 
So much so, that the reason the Brent price has not fallen below US$100 is because the floor is actually being provided by the Iranian situation on a near constant basis. But that’s where it ends unless the country is attacked by Israel; the likelihood of which has receded of late. Syria’s trouble has implications in terms of its civil war starting a broader regional melee, but its production is near negligible in terms of crude supply-side arguments.
 
Taking all factors into account, as the Oilholic did last month, it is realistic to expect a Brent price in the range of US$105 to US$115. To cite a balanced quote, Han Pin Hsi, the global head of commodities research at Standard Chartered bank, said that oil should be trading at US$100 per barrel at the present moment in time were supply-demand fundamentals the only considering factors.
 
In recent research, Hsi has also noted that relatively lower economic growth as well as the current level of tension in the Middle East has already been “priced in” to the Brent price by the wider market. Unless either alters significantly, he sees an average price of US$111 per barrel for 2013.
 
Additionally, analysts at Société Générale note that along with the usual suspects – sorry bullish factors – now priced in, Brent could see some retracement on profit-taking, though “momentum and sentiment are still bullish”. The French bank’s analyst, Mike Wittner, notes that just as the Saudis have (currently) cut production, concerns over prices being “too high” will cause them to increase production. “In short, our view is that Brent has already priced in all the positive news, and it looks and feels toppy to us,” he wrote in an investment note. “Toppy” – like the expression (slang for markets reaching unstable highs whereupon a decline can be expected if not imminent)!
 
On a related note, in its short-term energy outlook released on February 12, the EIA estimates the spread between WTI and Brent spot price could be reduced by around 50% by 2014. The US agency estimates that the WTI will average US$93 and US$92 in 2013 and 2014 respectively, down from US$94 in 2012. It expects Brent to trade at US$109 in 2013 and edge lower to US$101 in 2014, down from the 2012 average of US$112.
 
Elsewhere in the report, the EIA estimates that the total US crude oil production averaged 6.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2012, an increase of 0.8 million bpd over 2011. The agency’s projection for domestic crude oil production was revised to 7.3 million bpd in 2013 and 7.8 million bpd in 2014.
 
Meanwhile, money managers have raised bullish positions on Brent crude to their highest level in two years for a third successive week. The charge, as usual, is lead by hedge funds, according to data published by ICE Futures Europe for the week ended February 5.
 
Net-long positions, in futures and options combined, outnumbered net-short positions by 192,195 lots versus a figure of 179,235 the week before; a rise of 6.9% according to ICE’s latest Commitment of Traders report. It brings net-long positions to the highest level since January 2011, the month the current data series began.
 
On the other hand, net-short positions by producers, merchants, processors and users of the crude stuff outnumbered bullish positions by 249,350, compared with 235,348 a week earlier. It is the eighth successive weekly increase in their net-short position, ICE Futures Europe said.
 
Moving away from pricing matters, a few corporate snippets worth flagging up - starting with Gazprom. In a call to investors and analysts earlier this month, the Russian state energy giant finally appeared to be facing-up to greater competition in the European gas market as spot prices and more flexible pricing strategies from Norway’s Statoil and the Qataris put Gazprom’s defence of its conventional oil-indexation pricing policy to the test.
 
Gazprom ceded market share in defence of prices last year, although it did offer rebates to selected customers. However, it appears to be taking a slightly different line this year and aims to cede more ground on prices in a push to bag a higher market share and prop up its overall gas exports by volume.
 
Gazprom revealed that it had paid out US$2.7 billion in 2012 in refunds to customers in Europe, with the company planning another US$4.7 billion in potential price cuts this year in order to make its pipeline gas prices competitive with spot prices and incentivise European customers to make more voluminous gas purchases.
 
Commenting on the move, analysts at IHS CERA noted, “Increasing gas sales volumes by retaining the oil-indexation pricing strategy and then retroactively offering price discounts may be a difficult proposition, however, particularly if Ukraine, Gazprom’s largest gas export customer, continues to reduce its Russian gas purchases in response to Gazprom’s refusal to cut prices.”
 
“Rather than continuing to react to changing market conditions by offering lower prices to customers, Gazprom may need to take a more proactive approach to reducing its gas export prices in order to incentivise customers to buy more gas from the Russian gas firm this year,” they concluded.
 
Finally, TAQA, the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, said in a statement over the weekend that a new oilfield has been discovered in the North Sea. It reported that two columns of oil have been found since drilling began in November at the Darwin field, about 80 miles north-east of the Shetlands.
 
The field is a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi state-owned company and Fairfield Energy. TAQA acquired some of BP’s North Sea assets for US$1.1 billion in November 2012. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!
 
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© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo: Andrew Rig, North Sea © BP.  Graph: World crude oil benchmarks © Société Générale Cross Asset Research February 14, 2013.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Notes on a ‘Crude’ fortnight !

It has been a crude ol’ fortnight and there are loads of things to talk about. But first some “fused” thoughts from the Société Générale press boozer in London yesterday. There was consensus among crude commentators at the French investment bank most of whom asked that with commodities prices having been at or near record levels earlier this year, and subsequently subsiding only modestly, can anyone realistically say scribes or paranoid Western commentators are overstating the significance of China's presence in the global commodities markets? Nope! 

Additionally, should the existing commodities market conditions represent a bubble (of sorts); a deceleration in China could ultimately cause it to burst, they added. Most, but not all, also agreed with the Oilholic that IEA’s move to tap members’ strategic petroleum reserves (SPRs) may push Brent below US$100, but not US$90. At the moment it is doing neither. Finally, it is not yet time to hail shale beyond North America. Population concentration, politics and planning laws in Europe would make Poland a hell of a lot more difficult to tap than some American jurisdictions.

From an informal press party to a plethora of formal events at City law firms; of which there have been quite a few over the Q2 2011. Two of the better ones the Oilholic was invited to last quarter happened to be at Fulbright & Jaworski (May 10) and Clyde & Co (May 19).

The Fulbright event made Iraq and its “re-emergence” as an oil market as its central focus. Partners at the law firm, some of whom were in town from Houston, noted that since 2009 three petroleum licensing rounds have been held in Iraq with deals signed to cover of 51 billion barrels of reserves. There was enthusiastic chatter about the country’s ambitious plans to increase production from approximately 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd) to 12 million bpd by 2017. The Oilholic was also duly given a copy of the Legal guide to doing business in Iraq which regrettably he has so far not found the time to read.

Moving on, the Clyde & Co. event focussed on legal implications one year on from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. While much of the discussion was along predictable tangents, David Leckie and Georgina Crowhurst of Clyde & Co. drew an interesting comparison between the Piper Alpha tragedy of 1988 in the North Sea and the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico spill. Agreed that regulatory regimes across the globe are fundamentally different, but observe this – Piper Alpha saw no corporate criminal prosecutions, no individual prosecutions and no top level political criticism. Deepwater Horizon will see FBI criminal and civil investigation, possible individual liability and we all remember President Obama’s “I am furious” remark. Shows how far we have come!

Continuing with Deepwater Horizon fiasco, met Tom Bergin last evening, a former broker turned Reuters oil & gas correspondent and a familiar face in crude circles. His book on BP – the aptly titled Spills and Spin: The Inside Story of BP – is due to be released on July 7th. Admittedly, books on the subject and on BP are aplenty since the infamous mishap of April 20th, 2010 and business book critics call them a cottage industry. However, the Oilholic is really keen to read Bergin’s work as he believes that akin to Bethany “Is Enron Overpriced?” McLean and Peter Elkind’s book on the Enron scandal which was outstanding (and surrounded by a cacophony of average “accounts”); this title could be the real deal  on BP and the spill.

Bergin knows his game, waited to present his thoughts and research in the fullness of time instead of a hurriedly scrambled “make a quick buck” work, has followed the oil major in question and the wider market for a while and has unique access to those close to the incident. Watch this space for a review!

Now, on to pricing and industry outlooks – nothing has happened since the Oilholic’s last blog on June 23rd that merits a crude change of conjecture. IEA’s move to tap in to members’ SPRs will not push Brent’s forward month futures contract below US$90 over the medium term. Feel free to send hate mail if it does! Analysts at ratings agency Moody's believe that (i) ongoing unrest in parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA); (ii) protracted supply disruptions in Libya; and (iii) lingering questions about OPEC supply are likely to keep crude at premium prices over the next 12-18 months.

In the past week, the press has received some ballpark figures from the agency. The release of 60 million barrels will take place in this month – but this will not be a straight cut case of two million bpd; the actual release will be much slower. The breakdown, as per IEA communiqués, will be -


  • USA: 30 million barrels (or 50% of the quota comprising largely of light sweet with delivery of their lot to be complete by the end of August), 
  • Europe: 18 million barrels (30%)
  • Asia: 12 million barrels (20%)
Finally, the British Bankers Association (BBA) conference last week also touched on crude matters. Gerard Lyons, Chief Economist & Group head of Global Research at Standard Chartered opined that Western economies are two years into a recovery and that growth prospects are far better in the East than in the West. Hence, he also expects energy prices to firm up next year.

Douglas Flint, Group Chairman of HSBC Holdings noted that China is now a major destination for Middle Eastern exports (to be read oil and gas, as there is little else). So we’re back where we started this post – in the East that is!

© Gaurav Sharma 2011. Photo: Pipeline in Alaska © Michael S. Quinton, National Geographic

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