Showing posts with label US oil production. Show all posts
Showing posts with label US oil production. Show all posts

Friday, July 19, 2019

Gauging Wall Street's 'crude' mood

The Oilholic has just about rounded up a near week-long power markets trip to New York, including a visit to understand the energy supply dynamic of the City’s landmark Rockefeller Center courtesy of industry colleagues at ABB, and a weekend of Formula E racing

But when in New York City old habits die hard, and this blogger rarely misses opportunities to discuss the oil market direction with fellow analysts and crude traders. The latest visit was no exception. Even New York's weather of the past week chimed with what we've seen in the crude market. On Thursday (July 11) the Oilholic arrived to a rain drenched Wall Street (above left) full of soggy bears with both oil benchmarks on the rise and WTI futures even touching $60 per barrel at one point (Brent - $66.52/bbl & WTI $60.20/bbl). 

Yet by the time yours truly packed it in a week later, New York and its Wall Street oil market bears were again basking in the sunshine (Brent at $61.93/bbl & WTI $55.30/bbl) even if Iran's grab of a UK-flagged Swedish-owned oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz added another dollar or two per barrel. And for all the kerfuffle, the inescapable truth is that both benchmarks have stayed range-bound. 

The Oilholic has assigned the reasons as - the abundance of US light crude (especially copious amounts being exported to Asia), deep concerns over global demand (and a possible negative quarter if not a full blown recession for the US economy on the horizon), and supply dynamic largely outweighing OPEC cuts over the near-term.

One has also said it on record that if the oil market bears are to be tamed, the key bullish factor on the horizon is not the Iranian shenanigans in the Persian Gulf (short of an unlikely all out war), but the easing of US-China trade tensions. 

Putting these thoughts to a select group of Wall Street analysts this blogger has known for over 10 years, came up with unsurprisingly similar conclusions. Ok, discussing market direction with a beer in the Fraunces Tavern in the company of seven industry acquaintances is hardly a scientific poll, and more of an indicative opinion – but whichever way you look at it, few put forward an obvious bullish breakout factor that would pull the oil price from its current range. 

Many see a $70 level as a near-term possibility for Brent, as does the Oilholic, but few reckon the level would be meaningfully capped given clouds on the 2020 horizon. 

More so, many agree that OPEC’s market credibility is now tied to how much and how far the Russians go along with its – or should we their own – agenda, as the Oilholic recently wrote for Rigzone

Away from the near-term, most expect the US production to provide a meaningful buffer for a minimum of five years. In that time, the supply-demand dynamic is bound to face profound changes and resulting scenarios could be materially different from where we currently are. To sum it up, the Oilholic has a $65-70 per barrel 2019 average price for Brent, and $55-60 per barrel for WTI; with both leaning towards the lower end of the range, bar a full-blown conflict in the Persian Gulf. 

As one wrote for Forbes, right after OPEC’s twice-delayed oil ministers’ summit; 2020 could get even more bearish. Many known contacts on Wall Street share that opinion, and the time they spared at such short notice this week is truly appreciated. And on that note, its time to say goodbye to NY 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 1: New York Stock Exchange, NewYork, USA. Photo 2: Wall Street, Lower Manhattan, New York, USA © Gaurav Sharma, July 2019. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

That US oil production chart by the EIA

Market chatter over US oil production appears to be all the rage these days, with many forecasters predicting 2019 to be another record year for the Americans. Some are even predicting US production to be as high as 13.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019. 

At the moment, its lurking around 12.3 million bpd according to the EIA. However, the chart below sums it up, and kinda explains why some commentators are so upbeat, given the trajectory of official data and related projections. Please click to enlarge chart. That's all for the moment folks, as the Oilholic is in Oslo, Norway for a conference. More from here shortly! 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: US oil production and projection © US EIA, May 2019

Saturday, June 08, 2019

US crude output & Russia’s fossil fuel abundance

Another week, another upbeat projection for US oil production. The latest one has been put forward by Oslo, Norway-headquartered research and analysis firm Rystad Energy, which projects US production to hit 13.4 million barrels per day (bpd) by December 2019. That's well above 12.3 million bpd total that's emerged from the US Energy Information Administration's latest publication. 

Moving on from the US, abundant and cheap fossil fuels in Russia are likely to slow the country's shift to renewable, according to Moody's, with the rating agency opining that Moscow will struggle to meet its 2024 targets for renewable capacity.

"The future looks brighter for the Russian renewable energy sector from the mid-2020s, however, as old generation fossil fuel-fired capacity retires and controls on emissions tighten," says Julia Pribytkova, Senior Analyst at the agency.

Russia's Energy Strategy aims to tighten controls on CO2 emissions starting from mid-2020s, in part by increasing the share of clean energy, such as nuclear and renewables, improving energy efficiency and introducing caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Away from supply-side chatter, looks like oil benchmarks registered an uptick as the end of the week approached, after having taken a hammering for much of May. Brent still ended the week down 1.86% compared to last Friday (May 31), but WTI futures made a better recovery ending up 0.92%. That’s all for the moment for 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: Oil extraction site in Russia © Lukoil.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

In Houston Town To Trump's Iranian Frowns

The Oilholic is back in Houston, Texas for another round of events and networking. However, getting stuck in one's hotel room watching CNN on a sunny Texan afternoon certainly wasn't part of the plan.

Of course, with US President Donald Trump taking on himself to single-handedly tearing up the Iran Nuclear deal, there was little choice but add to the afternoon news-watchers ranks. 

And with customary aplomb, the Donald annulled the US end of a "very bad deal" with Tehran at 2pm Eastern. It's something he had always criticised, and had promised he'd annul if he won the Presidency. So, the Oilholic wonders, why is the market surprised? 

Here are one's thoughts on what the President's move could mean for the global supply and demand dynamic via a Forbes post. In fact, Moody's Analytics reckons Trump's sanctions have the power to knock off 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude off the global market. 

But given the President's move is unilateral, unlike Barack Obama's multilateral sanctions, the volume would be less than half of what his predecessor managed inflict on the Iranian before they came to the table (i.e. 1 million bpd).

Of course, both leading up to and in the hours after Trump's announcement, both Brent and WTI fell by as much as 3% only to gain 2%, before ending the day firmly on a bullish note. While this blogger is not offering investment advice, a bit of caution is advised.

The Oilholic, for the moment is minded to stick to his average Brent price forecast range of $65-75 per barrel. These are early days, much needs to unfold here. But that's all for the moment from Houston folks. 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.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo: Billboard in Houston, Texas, USA © Gaurav Sharma, May 2018. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Fatih & Mohammed show enlivens CERA Week 2018

The Oilholic is back in Houston town, for IHS CERA Week, one of the oil and gas industry’s premier event, and so far its all about the tussle between US shale producers and OPEC/non-OPEC ‘supergroup’. 

Before the things gained traction on the first day of the week-long event, the International Energy Agency (IEA) emphatically declared the US would dominate oil production over the next five years, and is well on its way to becoming the world’s number one oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia. (Here’s the Oilholic’s Forbes report). 

The IEA’s inimitable Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol also pointed out that describing the think-tank as an ‘oil consumers’ club’ is becoming clich√©d these days as four of its members – the US, Canada, Brazil and Norway, were accounting for much of the world’s oil production growth.

Meanwhile, OPEC Secretary Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, who is also in town, made it known that the OPEC/non-OPEC production cut underpinned by Saudi Arabia and Russia has been a success, and making a tangible impact in rebalancing the market.

So post-luncheon, both men took to the stage with Daniel Yergin, Vice Chairman of IHS Markit, for  a delightful, somewhat testy but good natured, exchange. 

Barkindo declared the OPEC and non-OPEC production cut has been “efficient”, “surpassed expectations” and “brought optimism to the market.”

Birol said that optimism was most apparent in the US, with shale producers, well...producing at a canter, and positioning themselves to cater to robust oil demand from India and China. Providing an undercurrent to his stance, was the news that India was taking it first US natural gas consignment, a mere nine months after inking an agreement to import American crude. 

Of course, Birol warned that oil and gas investment was lagging, with 2018 investment valuation projected to rise by only 6% on an annualised basis. 

Barkindo declared that was “not in the interest of the global economy.”

Via production cuts, the 24 OPEC and non-OPEC producers were providing “insurance and stability” to the global market; a move that was open to “all producers,” he added. 

Of course, US producers driven by the spirit of private enterprise, are not really queuing up to join anytime soon. So what should they do? “Enjoy”, quipped Birol, to peals of laughter in the room. 

And so it went, but the Oilholic suspects you get the gist. Elsewhere on day one, Total CEO Patrick Pouyann√© said in the crude industry size does matter, and that a lower price environment gives bigger players opportunities to make strategic acquisitions. 

“It’s good to be a large integrated oil and gas company. Key to success is stable investment, regardless of oil price,” he added. 

Plenty more to come from CERA Week, but that’s all from Houston for the moment folk. 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.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo: (Left to right) IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo and IHS Markit Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin speak at CERA Week 2018 © Gaurav Sharma 2018. 

Saturday, June 03, 2017

To boldly go where no US oil patch has gone before!

The NASA inspired car showroom photographed by the Oilholic some months ago in Houston, Texas could sum up the US oil patch's inspirational streak. Its going where, quite possibly, no US oil patch has gone before. 

Sentiment is rapidly rising in favour of US production capping an all time high in 2018 of (well in excess of) 10 million barrels per day (bpd). 

If achieved, that would be the highest US production on record, well above 1980s Texan boom and more recently, when both Dakotas put the word ‘revolution’ and in the shale revolution we’ve now become so accustomed to. 

The other leveller of course, is innovation. With extraction costs having declined dramatically and oilfield services firms' offerings to exploration and production companies getting ever more competitive, some with viable shale plays can keep going even at a $30 per barrel oil price. 

Here’s the Oilholic’s assessment in a recent Forbes post. Inventories may not have quite rebalanced, while more oil is on the way. 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 Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on IBTimes UK click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2017. Photo: Exterior of NASA-themed car dealership in Houston, Texas, USA © Gaurav Sharma 2017. 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Of soundbites and buffer crude producers

If sounbites were the sole influencers of the oil market direction, Brent ought to be near $60 per barrel. (see chart on the left, click to enlarge

The fact that it isn’t, and couldn’t be any further from that promised level despite OPEC cuts tells you that verbal quips from oil producers matter little when the market is trying to readjust to a new normal; i.e. the impact of a buffer producer in the shape of the US of A.  

When OPEC and 11 non-OPEC producers came together last December to announce a headline production cut of 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd), it was done in the knowledge that inevitably US shale producers would benefit from higher prices too. 

However, the economic paradox of that was additional US barrels replacing barrels taken out by the OPEC and non-OPEC agreement. In March, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih ensured that the OPEC put unravelled by quipping that his country would not subsidise non-OPEC margin plays by supporting an extension of the OPEC and non-OPEC agreement, due to expire in June. 

The result was a near instantaneous drop in both benchmarks as the market factored in the possibility of more OPEC barrels. Soon thereafter, on witnessing the ensuing oil price slide, ministers of several OPEC member nations, including Al-Falih himself, issued soundbites claiming an extension to the cut was in fact possible. However, in the Oilholic’s humble opinion, the damage had already been done by that time. 

This blogger's interaction with the wider market – whether we are talking spot or futures traders – leads one to believe that sentiment is in favour of higher US production, with each OPEC and non-OPEC barrel taken out of the market subsidising an American barrel. Of course, it’s not as linear or simple but the market’s reasoning isn’t flawed.  

All OPEC soundbites in favour of extending the cartel’s cut further are fuelling such sentiment further. Should OPEC extend its cut, the artificial support to the oil price would again be short-lived, as US barrels will continue to flood into the market. 

Finally, the Oilholic believes the market is showing signs of rebalancing unless it is artificially tampered with, and there could be some semblance of normalcy by September-end. So as such neither is an OPEC cut needed nor are the soundbites in its favour. Perhaps the cartel might consider keeping mum for a change! 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 Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on IBTimes UK click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com


© Gaurav Sharma 2017. Graph: Oil benchmark prices year to date © Gaurav Sharma 2017.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Back in Houston town for CERAWeek

The Oilholic is back in Houston, Texas for the 2017 instalment of IHS CERAWeek; one of the world’s largest gatherings of oil and gas policymakers, executives, movers and shakers alike.

An early start to an empty lobby (see left) and a late finish (as yet to follow) are all but guaranteed, and it’s only day one! 

The morning began with the International Energy Agency’s Executive Director Fatih Birol telling us another supply glut courtesy of rising US shale production was around the corner (report here). 

Then Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan told scribes it was an oil buyers’ market as far as he was concerned, and that he is not averse to the idea of India buying crude from the US, now that Washington permit unrefined exports. Take that Opec! (More here).

By the way, a rather large Russian delegation appears to be in town, led by none other than energy minister Alexander Novak himself. When put on the spot by IHS CERA Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin, the Kremlin’s top man at CERAWeek said Russia will achieve a 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) production cut by the end of April. 

However, Novak said Russia will not decide on extending its production cut deal with Opec and 10 other non-Opec producers until the middle of 2017.

Late afternoon, ExxonMobil’s relatively new boss Darren Woods put in a refined performance unveiling a $20 billion downstream investment plan, which is sure to delight President Donald Trump. (More here)

That’s all from CERAWeek for the moment folks. 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 IBTimes UK click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2017. Photo: Entrance to IHS CERAWeek 2017 in Houston, Texas, USA © Gaurav Sharma.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Threat of the other & US energy security

The intertwining of US foreign policy with the country’s energy security has been a matter of public discourse for decades. The connection only witnessed a dilution of sorts roughly six years ago when the US shale bonanza started easing the economy’s reliance on oil imports in meaningful volumes. 

In an era of ‘lower for longer’ oil prices and shale’s contribution to US energy security being hot topics, author Sebastian Herbstreuth refreshingly reframes the country’s ‘energy dependency’ as a cultural discourse via his latest book – Oil and American Identity published by I.B. Tauris

In a book of 270 pages, split by six detailed chapters, Herbstreuth attempts to draw and examine a connection between the US energy business and American views on independence, freedom, consumption, abundance, progress and exceptionalism.

Stateside, foreign oil is selectively depicted as a serious threat to US national security. However, that selective depiction is contingent upon the ‘foreignness of foreign oil’ to quote the author. Herbstreuth shows how even reliable imports from the Middle East are portrayed as dangerous and undesirable because the region is particularly 'foreign' from an American point of view, while oil from friendly countries like neighbouring Canada is cast as a benign form of energy trade.

The author has somewhat controversially, and rather brilliantly, recast the history of US foreign oil dependence as a cultural history of the world’s largest energy consumer in the 20th Century.

That age-old concern about there being an existential threat to the US, as a society built on the internal combustion engine and mobility, is in part born out of the very cultural fears flagged by the author in some detail.

The striking thing is that the fear still lurks around despite the rising contribution of US shale oil and gas to US energy security. Reading Herbstreuth’s work you feel that in many ways the said fear slant is never going to go away, for it is as much a cultural issue as a geopolitical or economic one, neatly packaged by the political classes for the ultimate ‘Hydrocarbon Society’.

The Oilholic would be happy to recommend Oil and American Identity to fellow analysts, those interested in the oil and gas business and cultural studies students. Furthermore, a whole host of readers looking to ditch archaic theories and seeking a fresh perspective on the crude state of US energy politics would find Herbstreuth’s arguments to be pretty powerful.

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.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2016. © Photo: Front Cover – Oil and American Identity © I.B. Tauris, 2016.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Preparing for an oil slump away from US pumps

The Oilholic is delighted to be back in lovely San Francisco, California, some 5350 miles west of London town. And what a 'crude' contrast it has been between two visits - when yours truly was last here little less than two years ago, the oil price was in three figures and our American cousins were (again!) bemoaning oil prices at the pump, not all that unaware about even higher prices we pay in Europe.

Not so anymore – for we’re back to under $3 per gallon (that’s 3.785 litres to Europeans). Back in January, CNBC even reported some pumps selling at rock bottom prices of as little as 46 cents per gallon in eastern US; though its doubtful you’ll find that price anywhere in California. 

Nonetheless, the Bay Area’s drivers are smiling a lot more and driving a lot more, though not necessarily honking a lot less in downtown San Francisco. By and large, you might say its happy days all around; that’s unless you run into an oil and gas industry contact. Most traders here are pretty prepared for first annual decline in global oil production since 2009, underpinned by lower US oil production this year.

Ratings agency Moody’s predicts a peak-to-trough decline in US production of at least 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) that is about to unfold. On a related note, Genscape expects North American inventories to remain at historically high levels for 2016, and production to fall by -581,000 bpd in 2016, and -317,000 bpd in 2017, as surging blended Canadian production is expected to grow at +84,000 bpd year-over-year in 2016.

Most reckon the biggest US shale declines will occur in the Bakken followed by the Eagle Ford, with Permian showing some resilience. Genscape adds that heavy upgrader turnarounds in Spring 2016 will impact near-term US imports from Canada.

All things being even, and despite doubts about China’s take-up of black gold, most Bay Area contacts agree with the Oilholic that we are likely to end 2016 somewhere in the region of $50 per barrel or just under.

As for wider domino effects, job losses within the industry are matter of public record, as are final investment decision delays, capital and operating expenditure cuts that the Oilholic has been written about on more than one occasion in recent times. Here in the Bay Area, it seems technology firms conjuring up back office to E&P software solutions for the oil and gas business are also feeling the pinch.

Chris Wimmer, Vice President and Senior Credit Officer at Moody's, also reckons the effects of persistently low crude oil prices and slowing demand in the commodities sectors are rippling through industrial end markets, weakening growth expectations for the North American manufacturing sector.

Industry conditions are unfavourable for almost half of the 15 manufacturing segments that Moody's rates, with companies exposed to the energy and natural resource sectors at the greatest risk for weakening credit metrics.

As a result, Moody's has lowered its expectations for median industry earnings growth to a decline of 2%-4% in 2016, from its previous forecast for flat to 1% growth this year. "This prolonged period of low oil prices initially affected companies in the oil & gas and mining sectors, but is spreading to peripheral end markets," Wimmer said.

"Slackening demand and cancelled or deferred orders in the commodities sectors will constrain growth for a growing number of end markets as the fallout from commodities weakness and lackluster economic growth expands."

Everyone from Caterpillar to Dover Corp has already warned of lower profits owing to weak equipment sales to customers in the agriculture, mining, and oil and gas end markets. The likelihood of deteriorating performance will continue to increase until the supply and demand of crude oil balance and macroeconomic weakness subsides, Wimmer concluded.

Finally, as the Oilholic prepares to head home, not a single US analyst one has interacted with seems surprised by a Bloomberg report out today confirming the inevitable – that China will surpass the US as the top crude oil importer this year. As domestic shale production sees the US import less, China’s oil imports are seen rising from an average of 6.7 million bpd in 2015 to 7.5 million bpd this year.

And just before one takes your leave, Brent might well be sliding below $40 again but all the talk here of a $20 per barrel oil price seems to have subsided. Well it’s the end of circling the planet over an amazing 20 days! Next stop London Heathrow and back to the grind. That's all from San Francisco folks. 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 2016. Photo I: Vintage Tram in Downtown San Francisco. Photo II: Gas prices in Fremont. Photo III: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, USA © Gaurav Sharma, March 2016.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Are you serious Mr President?

Ah, the joys of the oil market! Yet another day of volatility is all but guaranteed. Nearly a fortnight into February, it’s increasingly looking like how it was in January, and how it’s likely to be in March - an uptick of 2-6% followed by a slump of 2-6% in headline oil futures prices on repeat mode.

In the meantime, we have descended into the realm of the ridiculous. If you believe market chatter – it goes something like the Russians will cut oil production, only if the Saudis agree. They’ll cut only if the Iranians agree, who say it’s the Saudis and their allies who should make room for additional Iranian production. 

It is manifestly apparent, that should there be a coordinated OPEC and non-OPEC oil production cut excluding Canada and the US, the only producers to benefit would be the ones in North America. Such a cut would at most provide a short-term bounce of $7-10 per barrel, enabling shale producers, who were coping and managing just fine at $35 per barrel, to come back into the game and hedge better for another 12-18 months, as one wrote on Forbes. 

The Oilholic suspects both Russian and Saudi policymakers know that already. Which is why, it is a borderline ridiculous idea for parties who know very well that the market will take its own course, and any attempts to manipulate it artificially could have the very opposite effect some in OPEC such as Nigeria and Venezuela are hoping for. 

Meanwhile, each US oil inventory update makes Brent and WTI dance. With the latter currently below $30 barrel, US President Barack Obama has come up with his own sublime contribution to a ridiculous market. 

News emerged earlier this week that Obama has proposed a $10.25 per barrel levy on oil extracted in the US! According to Treasury projections, the levy, which would be applied to both imported and domestically-produced oil but won’t be collected on US oil shipped overseas, would raise  $319 billion over 10 years.

The plan would temporarily exempt home-heating oil from the tax. According to Obama, it "creates a clear incentive for private sector innovation to reduce America's reliance on oil and invest in clean energy technologies that will power our future."

The levy would be collected from oil companies to boost spending on transportation infrastructure, including mass transit and high-speed rail, and autonomous vehicles. However, noble the intention might be, its timing, execution and rate cap are completely barmy. In fact so barmy, the President knows there is no chance a Republican-controlled Congress would pass it. 

Without going into a costing analysis, oil companies would (a) be hit hard, and (b) almost certainly attempt to pass it over to consumers. Domino effect in terms of jobs and consumer spending adds another layer, making it extremely unpopular. So only a President who has no more elections to fight can come up with such a policy at such a time for the industry! 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 Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2016. Photo: White House, Washington DC, USA © Gaurav Sharma, April 2008.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Brent- WTI parity (again) before the year-end!

Before the year is out, we’ve got parity yet again between both benchmarks. Right at the start of the year, the West Texas Intermediate briefly traded at a premium to Brent having achieved parity at $48.05 per barrel on January 15


Come the end of the year and we are here again! Parity between both benchmarks was achieved once more at a lower level of $36.40 per barrel on December 22 (see above, click to enlarge), exactly $11.65 lower with WTI in the ascendancy. In fact, the US marker's premium appears to holding.

The OPEC stalemate, peak winter demand and lifting of US exports ban are and will remain price positives for the WTI, as one wrote in a Forbes column. So is this a reversal of the 'crude' pecking order of futures contracts we have gotten used to since 2010? The Oilholic feels its early days yet. However, the development sure makes for an interesting 12 months in more ways than one.

Happy Christmas dear readers, but 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 Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Bloomberg terminal screen grab showing moment of Brent-WTI parity on December 22, 2015  © Bloomberg.

Friday, December 18, 2015

US oil exports could level crude playing field

It has taken 40 years but US politicians finally found the timing, inclination and effort required to get rid of a legislative relic dating back to the Arab oil embargo of 1975 – a ban on exporting the country's crude oil that has plagued the industry for so long for reasons that no longer seem relevant.

Late on Friday, when news of the lifting of the ban arrived, the Oilholic could scarcely believe it. As recently as July 2014, this blogger opined in a Forbes column that movement on this front was highly unlikely until after the US Presidential election. However, in this instance, one is both pleasantly surprised as well as glad to have been proved wrong.

US producers, including independent upstarts behind the country’s shale bonanza, would now be able to sell their domestically produced barrels out in the international market competing with those already having to contend with a global supply glut.

Let's not kid ourselves, lifting of the ban would not necessarily lead to a significant spike in US oil exports over the short-term. However, it at least levels the playing field for the country’s producers should they want to compete on the global markets. It is also price positive for WTI as a crude benchmark leading it to compete better and achieve parity (at the very least) with global benchmarks in the spirit of free market competition.

Of course, in keeping with the shenanigans long associated with political circles in Washington DC, lifting of the ban came as part of a $1.1 trillion spending bill approved by the Senate that will fund the government until 2016.

The spending bill also includes tax breaks for US solar and wind power, and a pledge by both errant Republicans and Democrats not to derail a $500 million grant to the UN Green Climate Fund.

No matter what the political trade-offs were like, they are certainly worth it if the reward is the end of an unnecessary and redundant ban. 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 Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.
To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Alaska Pipeline, Brooks Range, USA © Michael S. Quinton / National Geographic

Thursday, May 21, 2015

US oil production decline much less than feared

As the latest visit to Houston, Texas nears its conclusion, the Oilholic walked wistfully past a petrol station in the Lone Star state. What European motorists wouldn’t give for US$2.49 (£1.61) per US gallon (3.79 litres) to fill up their cars. That was the price was this morning (see left)!

Ditching wistfulness and moving on to price of the crude stuff, the latest energy outlook report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) sees Brent averaging $61 per barrel in 2015, with WTI averaging around $55. The EIA also expects a decline in crude oil production stateside from June onwards through to September.

However, there is little anecdotal evidence here on the ground in Houston to suggest the Eagle Ford is slowing down if activity elsewhere is. Furthermore, feedback from selected attendees at two events here – Baker & McKenzie’s 2015 Oil & Gas Institute 2015 and the Mergermarket Energy Forum – alongside most experts this blogger has spoken to since arrival, point to the said production decline being much less than feared.

On average, most opined that we’d be looking at a decline of between 35,000 to 45,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year. It would imply that US production would still stay within a very respectable 9.1 to 9.3 million bpd range with much of the drop coming from North Dakota. As if with eerie timing, American Eagle’s filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, following its inability to service debt on plays in North Dakota (and Montana), provided a near instant case in point.

Overall picture is less clear for 2016. If the oil price stays where it is, we could see a US production decline in the region of 60,000 to 100,000 bpd. EIA has estimated the decline might well be towards the upper end of the range. 

It comes after analysts at Goldman Sachs labelled the recent oil prices “rally” as being a bit ahead of itself. Or to quote their May 11 email to clients in verbatim: “While low prices precipitated the market rebalancing, we view the recent rally as premature.

“The oil market focus has dramatically shifted over the past month, from fearing a breach of US crude oil storage capacity to reflecting a well under way oil market rebalancing. We view this shift in sentiment and positioning as excessive relative to still weak fundamentals.”

The Oilholic has repeatedly said over the past six weeks that both benchmarks are likely to stay within the $50-75 barrel range, as the decline in the number of operational oil rigs stateside was not high enough (yet) to trigger persistently lower US production. EIA data and feedback here in Houston supports such conjecture.

Meanwhile, the front page of the Financial Times loudly, but bleakly, declared on Tuesday that “more than $100 billion of projects” were on ice with Canada hit the hardest. According to the newspaper’s research, Shell, BP, Statoil and ConocoPhillips have all led moves to curtail capital spending on 26 major projects in 13 countries.

Speaking of ConocoPhillips, its CEO Ryan Lance has joined an ever increasing chorus stateside of oil industry bosses calling on the US government to lift its 40-year plus ban on crude exports

At a conference in Asia, Lance told Bloomberg that the Houston-based oil and gas producer had sufficient production capacity stateside to cater the global market and ensure stable domestic supply. Right, so there’s no danger to Houstonians paying $2.49 per gallon to fill up their cars then?

To be fair, the ConocoPhillips boss is not alone in calling for a lifting of the ban. Since last July, the Oilholic has counted at least 27 independents, many mid-tier US-listed oil and gas producers including Hess Corp and Continental Resources, and almost all of the majors voicing a similar opinion.

They can say what they like; there won’t be any movement on this front until there is a new occupant in the White House. That’s all from Houston on this visit folks, its time for the big flying bus home. 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 2015. Photo: Price display board at a Shell Petrol Station in Houston, Texas, USA © Gaurav Sharma, May 2015.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The ostentatious & those 'crude' percentages

The Oilholic finds himself gazing at the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nevada once again after a gap of five years. This gambling hub's uniqueness is often the ostentatious and loud way it goes about itself. The oil market had its own fair share of loud and exaggerated assumptions last week.

Sample these headlines – “Brent spikes to 2015 high”, “Oil markets rally as shale production drops”, “Brent up 10%.” There is some truth in all of this, and the last one is technically correct. Brent did close last Friday up 10.03% relative to the Friday before, while WTI rose 8.41% and OPEC's basket of crude oil(s) rose 10.02% over a comparable period (see graph blow right hand corner).

Bullish yes, bull run nope! This blogger believes market fundamentals haven't materially altered. There is still too much crude oil out there. So what's afoot? Well, given that one is in a leading gambling hub of world, once 'the leading one' by revenue until Macau recently pinched the accolade, it is best to take a cue from punters of a different variety – some of the lot who've been betting on oil markets for decades out of the comfort of Nevada, but never ever turn up at the end of a pipeline to collect black gold.

Their verdict – those betting long are clutching at the straws after enduring a torrid first quarter of the year. Now who can blame the wider trading community for booking a bit of profit? But what's mildly amusing here is how percentages are interpreted by the media 'Las Vegas size', and fanned by traders "clutching at the straws", to quote one of their lot, 'Las Vegas style'.

For the moment, the Oilholic is sticking one's 2015 forecast – i.e. a mid-year equilibrium Brent price of $60 per barrel, followed by a gradual climb upwards to $75 towards the end of the year, if we are lucky and media speculation about the Chinese government buying more crude are borne out in reality. The Oilholic remains sceptical about the latter.

Since one put the forecast out there, many, especially over the last few weeks wrote back wondering if this blogger was being too pessimistic. Far from it, some of the oldest hands in the business known to the Oilholic, including our trader friends here in Las Vegas, actually opine that yours truly is being too optimistic!

The reasons are simple enough – making assumptions about the decline of US shale, as some are doing at the moment is daft! Make no mistake, Bakken is suffering, but Eagle Ford, according to very reliable anecdotal evidence and data from Drillinginfo, is doing pretty well for itself. Furthermore, in the Oilholic’s 10+ years of monitoring the industry, US shale explorers have always proved doubters wrong.

Beyond US shores – both Saudi and Russian production is still marginally above 10 million bpd. Finally, who, alas who, will tell the exaggerators to tackle the real elephant in the room – the actual demand for black gold. While the latter has shifted somewhat based on evidence of improved take-up by refiners as the so called “US driving season” approaches, emerging markets are not importing as much as they did if a quarter-on-quarter annualised conversion is carried out.

Quite frankly, all eyes are now on OPEC. Its own production is at a record high; it believes that US oil production won’t be at the level it is at now by December and its own clout as a swing producer is diminished (though not as severely as some would claim).

Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared the country's financial crisis to be over last week, but it seems Russia’s GDP fell between 2% to 4% over the first quarter of this year. The news caused further rumbles for the rouble which fell by around 4.5% last time one checked. The Oilholic still reckons; Russian production cannot be sustained at its current levels.

That said, giving credit where it is due – Russians have defied broader expectations of a decline so far. To a certain extent, and in a very different setting, Canada too has defied expectations, going by separate research put out by BMO Capital and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Fewer rigs in Canada have – again inserting the words 'so far' – not resulted in a dramatic reduction in Canadian production.

Finally, here's an interesting report from the Weekend FT (subscription required). It seems BP's activist shareholders have won a victory by persuading most shareholders to back a resolution obliging the oil major to set out the potential cost of climate change to its business. As if that's going to make a difference - somebody tell these activists the oil majors no longer control bulk of the world's oil – most of which is in the hands of National Oil Companies unwilling to give an inch!

That's all for the moment folks from Las Vegas folks, as the Oilholic turns his attention to the technology side of the energy business, with some fascinating insight coming up over the next few days from here. In the interim, 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 2015. Photo: Paris Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Nevada, USA © Gaurav Sharma, April 2015. Graph: Oil benchmark prices - latest Friday close © Gaurav Sharma, April 17, 2015.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Viewing US oil output through Drillinginfo’s lens

Perceptions about massive a decline in US oil production currently being put forward with such fervour and the ground reality of an actual one taking place are miles apart; or should we say barrels apart. 

Assuming that a decline in production stateside would start eroding the oil supply glut thereby lending slow but sure support to the oil price is fine. But declarations on the airwaves by some commentators that a North American decline is already here, imminent or not that far off, sound too simplistic at best and daft at worst.

The Oilholic agrees that Baker Hughes rig count, which this blog and countless global commentators rely upon as a harbinger of activity in the sector, has shown a continual decline in operational rigs over recent weeks and months. However, that does not paint a complete picture.

Empirical and anecdotal data from Canada demonstrates that Western Canadians are aiming to do more with less. According to research conducted by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), fewer wells would be dug this year but production will actually rise on an annualised basis over 2015. That’s despite the fact that the Western Canadian Select fell to US$31 per barrel at one point.

There’s a similar story to be told in the US of A, and digital disruptors at Drillinginfo are doing a mighty fine job of narrating it. The Austin, Texas headquartered energy data analytics and SaaS-based decision support technology provider opines that much of the current conversation obsessively intertwines the oil price dip with a decline in activity, bypassing efficiencies of scale and operations achieved by US shale explorers.

“Our conjecture is that an evident investment decline does not imply that production is nose-diving in tandem. Quite the contrary, our research suggests exploration and production firms are 25% more efficient than they were three years ago,” says Tom Morgan, Analyst and Corporate Counsel at Drillinginfo.

It’s not that Drillinginfo is not recording dip in rig counts and new drilling projects coming onstream via its own DI Index. Towards the end of February, its US rig count stood at 1433, while new US oil production dipped 9% on the month before to 525 million barrels per day (bpd). However, if what’s quoted here sounds better than what you’ve heard elsewhere then it most probably is for one simple reason.

“What we put forward is in real-time. Two years ago, we started handing out GPS trackers to operators to latch on to their rigs. It was not easy convincing an old fashioned industry to immediately warm up to what we were attempting to do. It was a long drawn out process but we converted many people around to our viewpoint.

“At present, over 80% of rigs in continental US are reported on daily via Drillinginfo installed GPS units. In return, the participants get free access to our collated data. At this moment in time, not only can I point out each of these rigs via a heat signature (see image from January above left, click to enlarge), but also pinpoint the coordinates for you to locate one, drive there and verify yourself. I’d say our data is 99% accurate based on back testing and reconciling trends with our archives,” Morgan adds.

Drillinginfo also examines the actual spud of a well that's been drilled but not yet completed, as well as permit applications. “The thought process in case of the latter is that if you have applied for a permit to drill, then you are more than likely [if not a 100%] sure of going ahead with it.”

Drillinginfo saw a 24% decline in US permit application between January and February. This shows that investment is slowing down, yet at the same time operational wells are generally on song. With the end of first quarter of this year in sight, the US is still the world’s leading producer in barrels of oil equivalent terms.

Oil production continues to rise, albeit not in incremental volumes noted over the first and second quarters of last year prior to the slump. US producers, or shall we say those producers who can, are strategically lowering operations in less bankable or logistically less connected shale plays, while perking up production elsewhere.

For instance, while the collated production level at Bakken shale plays in North Dakota is declining, production at Eagle Ford shale in Texas has risen to 159,000 bpd; a good 26,000 bpd above levels seen towards the end of last year.  In terms of the type of wells, Drillinginfo sees older vertical wells bear the brunt of the slump, while production at onstream horizontal wells is either holding firm or actually rising a notch or two.

“No one is pretending that market volatility and the oil price slump isn’t worrying. What we are encountering is that shale players are trying to achieve profitability at a price level we could not imagine ten, five or even three years ago because technology has advanced and efficiencies have improved like never before,” Morgan adds.

While pretty reliable, feed-through of information via the Baker Hughes rig count is not real-time but looking backwards based on a telephone and electronic submission format. By that argument, the Oilholic finds what Drillinginfo has to say to be an eye-opener in the current climate, particularly in an American context. 

However, company man Morgan, who has known Drillinginfo's co-founder and CEO Allen Gilmer since both their freshmen years at Rice University back in the 1980s, has a more polished description.

“Today we talk of heat map of rigs, real-time data, rig movement monitoring, type and location of rigs going offline, and much more. I’d say we’re bringing agility via a digital medium to participants in a very traditional business.”

That agility and sense of perspective is something the industry does indeed crave, especially in the current climate. The Oilholic would say what Genscape is bringing to storage monitoring; Drillinginfo is bringing to upstream data analytics. 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 Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Graphic: Map of new US wells drilled in January 2015, and those drilled within the last six months © Drillinginfo, 2015