Showing posts with label oil blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oil blog. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Ten years of 'crude' blogging & a big thank you!

Its a day to say thanks and feel a tad nostalgic, as the Oilholic woke up this Christmas eve morning to the realization that today marks 10 years of this oil and gas market blog's appearance on cyberspace!

Boy does time fly! When yours took this blog live and put his first post up on December 24, 2009, Barack Obama had been in the White House for less than a year; Gordon Brown was still in Downing Street; the global economy was limping back from the financial crisis; the US shale revolution's impact hadn't been felt; OPEC had held its latest minister's meeting in Luanda, Angola instead of its secretariat in Vienna, Austria; and Brent and WTI futures closed at $76.31 and $78.05 per barrel respectively, with a premium in the latter's favour! That's a 10-year decline of $9.84 (-12.9%) for Brent and $17.5 (-22.42%) for WTI versus this European morning's prices in Asia.  

Back then, all this blog had was a handful of readers comprising of mutual acquaintances in the trading community who had been providing tips and invaluable feedback since 2007, when yours truly was working on concepts, and a trail site/domain. The subsequent blogging journey began on Christmas eve of 2009 when the Oilholic registered the www.oilholicssynonymous.com domain, and it has been quite a ride, and more, ever since. 


The blog underwent a complete template overhaul in 2011 as the readership started gaining traction. Well past its millionth pageview, it currently averages 12,000 reads a month. 

Well above average readership points are often brought about by posts on energy sector developments and events such as IPWeek, CERAWeek, OPEC and ADIPEC, where this blogger often takes speaking engagements at, resulting in monthly pageviews jumping above 100,000 reads a month. 

As in previous years, bulk of the readers who browse and read this blog in 2019 have come from the US, UK, Norway, Germany and China in that order, with American and British readers leading the pack by some distance. 

Many have logged in from some 127 countries week in, week out. So a massive thank you to all of you because without your readership, feedback and support this blog wouldn't be here. Alongside regular readers who find this blog via established routes, analytics also reveal the impact of Google, where many of you find your way to the Oilholic alongside LinkedIn, Twitter and Forbes.

What this blog has been about over the last 10 years is what it will be about in the future, carrying the Oilholic's analysis, thoughts, rants, musings and social media flags, about past events, developments and emerging scenarios in the sector, and the comments of fellow market experts one is able to interact with. 

It'll also continue to complement the Oilholic's analysis and media career, speaking circuit engagements, serve as a published clippings portfolio hub, broadcast commentary, work undertaken over the last 20 years (and counting), some favourite photographs and a selection of book reviews.

As the years go by, here's hoping this blog is (and will be) as much fun for those reading it as it is for the one writing it. So keep reading, keep it 'crude' and once again thank you for all your support.

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

© Gaurav Sharma 2019. Photo: Screenshot of Oilholics Synonymous Report's homepage in 2010 © Gaurav Sharma.

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.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

An ‘Atlas’ of e-learning for a contact sport

The Oilholic has had the pleasure of visiting quite a few E&P facilities over the years from offshore rigs to onshore gas fields. Going back roughly a decade, it wasn't uncommon [and still isn't] to see roughnecks in hard hats being given instructions ranging from operational to health and safety by a superior.

The mode of communication usually involved barking verbal instructions in highly colourful language with bulky printed training manuals on-hand containing everything from evacuation routes to rules and regulations. All of this has changed and rather dramatically, if one may add. What started as a slow, but sure, transformation at the turn of the millennium came in the form of former roughnecks and rig engineers imparting their wisdom for the benefit of budding on-site professionals via training courses using the electronic medium.
 
By 2006-07, e-learning provided by specialist providers had gained considerable traction in what is largely a contact sport. Among the stalwarts, in this relatively young but highly competitive market, is a part private equity-owned, part employee-owned educator headquartered in Aberdeen, Scotland called Atlas.
 
The firm came on the Oilholic's radar back in 2011 at the 20th World Petroleum Congress in Doha.  A further look into Atlas, at the suggestion of a banking sector contact, revealed a client portfolio of some of the biggest names in the business for a company which is less than 20 years old. IOCs aside, strikingly enough, this blogger found that a number of NOCs had also availed Atlas' service to give their workforces – as the educator's motto states – the "knowledge to perform."
 
For the sake of a crude analogy, the Oilholic quipped to Kevin Short, Director of Sales at Atlas, if they'd in fact become the Rosetta Stone of the oil & gas business. "I don’t think it is that simple, although our e-learning courses and industry solutions are indeed multi-linguistic," he laughs.
 
For Short, it's more about creating, marketing and selling virtual learning solutions aimed at "improving efficiencies while minimising operational and legislative risk". This could range from e-training courses for employees moving dangerous goods by air to a simple training solution for evacuating an E&P facility.
 
"There are industry standard courses available from our library; but more often than not, you'll find clients ordering bespoke solutions or an altered version of an existing training solution to suit their specific needs," Short explains.
 
There is no mystique about what Atlas provides and the company continues to record double-digit growth on an annualised basis, much to the delight of its PE owners [HG Capital] one assumes. Peer-to-peer contact and reviews have certainly been of immense help in achieving this – both in terms of retaining clients and bagging new ones. Over the years, Atlas has expanded to Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Houston.
 
Understandably, the firm keeps abreast of new emerging techniques in the E&P sector, unconventional prospection activity and allied health and safety issues to come-up with e-learning options for clients.
 
However, the Oilholic put one caveat to Short – pros from Aberdeen who have gained expertise for better parts of four decades, especially on the health and safety front in wake of the Piper Alpha tragedy (1988), are also on the educating circuit from Dubai to Calgary and in great demand. So is Atlas toughing it out with them too?
 
"In a sense, perhaps yes. But in terms of the broader picture no! That's because we also work with some of these professionals a lot of the time and hire them as what we call 'Subject Matter Experts' to work on fresh concepts for courses and bespoke solutions for clients. What's good for them is good for Atlas and by default good for the commissioning client."
 
When it comes to fishing these guys out – networking, events, headhunting those with industry reputation and project-based demand all play a part. Such expertise has helped the company put together its patented Atlas Knowledge Centre – a 3,000 page grab of all of the company's core content. Akin to a virtual oil & gas knowledge encyclopaedia, it is made available to subscribers serving as a "refresher" or instant help-guide to learners.
 
But what about converting new clients around the e-learning viewpoint? Short says competency is key here. "We can help companies by ensuring that their recruits not only just sit the course but based on the information that's been given to them, they become competent to handle the tasks at hand. It is not just about providing reading and reference material but rather ensuring that the candidate is learning."
 
Atlas also has an advisory board to help it test run pilot courses and provide constant feedback. Last time the Oilholic checked, there were around 53 companies on board for such an exercise. Finally, the company is also rather careful in being shall we say 'electronic platform neutral'.
 
"If a client wants an e-learning solution to work on a BlackBerry we wouldn't urge them to adopt an Android OS system, or Apple OS. Ultimately, that's their call. We have a young team here who will tailor a course to the clients' IT requirements and subsequently licence it to them, rather than it being the other way around." A wise line to take indeed! That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

NOTE: November 1, 2013 - To read this blogger's interview with Atlas CFO Graeme Park for CFO World click here.
 
To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
 
© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo: Atlas HQ, Energy Park, Aberdeen, Scotland © Gaurav Sharma, October 2013.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The tale of Alberta's first commercial oilfield

A quaint town called Turner Valley in Alberta, Canada may not mean much to the current crop of oil and gas industry observers. However, it has a special place in British history as well as that of the industry itself. Back in 1914, the town acquired the status of Western Canada's oil hub and had the country's first commercial oilfield which, for a while, was the largest oil and gas production base in the entire British Empire as it stood then.
 
Hell’s Half Acre by David Finch is a meticulously researched and entertaining tale of the townsfolk of Turner Valley, and those who came from further afield to make it all happen back in the day. The author, who has been researching the social history of Western Canada’s oil and gas industry since the 1980s and has no fewer than 15 books about the region to his name, recounts where it all began in earnest for the province.
 
The drilling rigs, processing plants and pipelines are all there, and so are anecdotes of the wildcatters and workers who put it all in place, who made it happen and who lived to tell their tales. In order to make for a lively narration, Finch has gelled archived material and the dozens of interviews he conducted extremely well. But this pragmatic book of just over 200 pages, not only narrates a tale of commercial success, but also what costs were paid by Turner Valley in its (and by default) Canada's historic quest for black gold; an effort, which as fate would have it, was sandwiched between the two World Wars.
 
Hell's Half Acre is a very real place in a coulee just outside of Turner Valley, writes Finch. For two decades, companies piped excess natural gas to the lip of this gorge and burned it – in order to produce valuable gasoline they had to also produce the natural gas for which there were limited markets at the time. In fact, the glowing sky could be seen as far south west as Calgary, the author tells us.
 
Canada's national treasure also became a military target for while. At its height, and before peaking in 1942, the Turner Valley provided 10 million barrels per day towards the Allied War Effort. As you would expect, what was then (and still is) a cyclical industry saw its own booms and busts. The companies and their cast of characters from Turner Valley have also been delved into, and in some detail, by Finch.
 
The Oilholic first came across this book on a visit to Calgary and a chance visit to DeMille Bookstore at the recommendation of a local legal expert. For that, this blogger is truly grateful to all parties concerned, and above all to the author for enriching one's knowledge about this fascinating place. Hence, this review was long overdue!
 
Today Turner Valley, a harbinger of the success of Canada's oil and gas industry, is known for tourism, leisure and for being the hometown of Laureen Harper, the frank and vivacious wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. So Finch's colourful book could serve as a timely reminder of the importance of a bygone era as Turner Valley begins the countdown to its centennial celebrations of the 1914 discovery of oil.
 
The Oilholic is happy to recommend this book to all those interested in the history of the oil and gas business, origins of the Canadian energy industry, Alberta's place in the global geopolitical oil and gas equation and last, but not the least, anyone seeking a riveting book about the Great Alberta Oil Patch.
 
To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.

To email: gaurav.sharma@oilholicssynonymous.com

© Gaurav Sharma 2013. Photo: Front Cover – Hell’s Half Acre © Heritage House Publishing

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shale & the 163rd OPEC ministers’ summit

The Oilholic has exchanged the blustery wind and rain in London for the blustery wind and rain in Vienna ahead of 163rd OPEC meeting of ministers here on May 31, which half the world’s media and energy analysis community have already dubbed a ‘non-event’. The other half are about to! Industry commentators here and beyond think the 12 member group is going to hold its current production quota at just above 30 million barrels per day (bpd).
 
Even before yours truly boarded the flight from London Heathrow, a Rotterdam based contact in the spot trading world suggested one needn’t have bothered with the market having already factored-in an “as you were” stance by OPEC. This is borne out in further anecdotal evidence; the futures market on leading benchmarks has been bearish in the past 48 hours (not solely down to OPEC).
 
Accompanying overtones describing the meeting as a non-event is the sentiment that OPEC is being haunted by North America’s shale revolution. As if with perfect timing, the US EIA announced on Thursday that the country's crude-oil supplies rose 3 million barrels for the week ended May 24, to 397.6 million barrels; the highest level on record since it began collecting data in 1978.
 
Last week, the International Energy Agency (IEA) added its take on North American production scenarios by suggesting that demand for OPEC's oil is expected to plummet as production from the US (and Canada) increases by a fifth to 11.9 million bpd by 2018, compared with this year.
 
Additionally, Iraqi production is returning to health. So to put things into context, by 2020 the IEA expects Iraq's oil output to more than double to 6.1 million bpd and were this to happen, OPEC’s unofficial production could rise well above 36 million bpd. As a knee-jerk reaction, the cartel – according to the agency – would have to withhold up to 2.3 million bpd from the market by 2015 (with its spare capacity rising well above 7 million bpd).
 
Given all of this, you might be excused for thinking the global crude market was facing a supply glut and everything was gloomy from OPEC’s standpoint. Yet, the price of oil – Brent or OPEC’s own basket of crude(s) – is still above US$100 per barrel. That’s exactly where most in OPEC want it to be.
 
Arriving a day (or two) ahead of the meeting, 7 out of 12 OPEC ministers have told various media outlets that a US$100 price was acceptable, where it needs to be and “necessary” for investment.  These include senior government officials from Angola, Ecuador, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Venezuela. A US$100 floor price is a uniting theme it seems and most have sounded intent on holding the current official production quota!
 
The conjecture is that as long that floor is maintained, the cartel won’t be cutting production. In fact, OPEC kingpin and Saudi Arabia’s oil minister Ali al-Naimi, who has been in Vienna since May 28, has said existing conditions represent the best environment possible for the market in the face of economic headwinds and that “demand is great.” Despite the best efforts of scribes, bloggers, wiremen and analysts collective, neither Iran nor Venezuela, both of whom are always pushing for cuts to boost the price, have uttered much in the past 24 hours.
 
In contrast, Abdul Kareem al-Luaibi, oil minister for Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, said, “There is balance between demand and supply, and this is reflected on prices, they are stable. We don’t want any shock to the market, the stability of prices is important for the global economy.”
 
The Oilholic thinks the cartel will maintain status quo until the floor dips to US$80 per barrel, if it does. However, the unity will disappear the moment the oil price dips below US$99 with Venezuela and Iran being among the first to start clamouring for another production quota cut.
 
This brings us back to the hullabaloo about North American shale (and unconventional E&P) versus OPEC! The right wing commentators and the US media plus politicians of all stripes – some of whom of conveniently forget Canada’s part in the North American energy spectrum – make it sound as if OPEC, which still accounts for just over 40% of the world’s crude oil market, would suddenly become irrelevant overnight.
 
The IEA, as the Oilholic noted a few weeks ago, described it as nothing short of a paradigm shift in the context of the oil market, although in not these exact words. Then there is the dilemma of OPEC ministers – who are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If an OPEC minister acknowledges the impact of North American shale, he is described in the media as one who is resigned to the cartel’s decline. Conversely, if an OPEC minister dismisses it, the rebuttal is that he’s doing so because he’s scared!
 
Here is an example from this afternoon, when Iraqi minister al-Luaibi was asked for a comment, he said, “The US shale oil production increase – although it has some impact, it's not a significant impact on oil production or exports, and as you all might notice OPEC countries are all producing more oil than the agreed quota ceiling.”

Now, instead of the Oilholic doing so, do your own research on how the quote has been reported stateside? It will vindicate the sentiment expressed in the previous paragraph. Yours truly is not belittling the shale revolution stateside – but how on earth can the current level of incremental production be maintained beyond the medium term is beyond common sense. So its worth getting excited about but not overexcited about it too! Furthermore, a bit of pragmatism is needed in this debate – one which the Oilholic saw in a brilliant article in the FT by Ajay Makan.
 
In the column, Makan notes how within OPEC there is divide between the relatively comfortable Gulf producers (for e.g. Saudi Arabia) and the rest (most notably Iran, Venezuela and African members). The Saudis have welcomed the impact of shale as they can afford the price falling below US$100 level but some of their peers in OPEC can’t. For some more than the others, “a reckoning appears inevitable, particularly if growth in demand slows,” writes Makan.
 
Then again, beyond supply scenarios, it is worth asking whose shale bonanza is it anyway? First and foremost it is, and as the Oilholic was discussing with Phil Flynn of Price Futures a couple of months ago, price positive for American consumers, followed by LNG importing Asian jurisdictions. While Indian and Chinese policymakers are hardly jumping for joy and will for the foreseeable future continue to rely on OPEC members (and Russia) for majority of their crude cravings, some in the US are already fretting about what US exports would mean for domestic prices!
 
A group – America’s Energy Advantage – backed by several prominent US industrial brands including Alcoa, Huntsman chemicals and Dow Chemical, has claimed that "exporting proceeds of shale (to be read LNG) carries with it the potential threat of damaging jobs and investment in the US manufacturing sector as rising exports will drive up the price of gas to the detriment of domestic industries."
 
Boone Pickens, in a brilliant riposte, has asked can the US do what it has been criticising OPEC for since the cartel's inception and restrict exports? The inimitable industry veteran has a point! That's all for the moment from Vienna folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!
 
To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
 
© Gaurav Sharma 2013. OPEC logo on HQ exterior, Vienna, Austria © Gaurav Sharma.

Contact:

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

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here