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Oil Markets Could See Deficit In 2019

Oil Markets Could See Deficit In 2019

valve Iraq

The oil supply surplus is “starting to reverse,” according to a new report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The investment bank noted that oil prices had collapsed in late 2018 not only because of an oversupply problem, but also because of other “non-fundamental factors,” including the selloff of long positions by hedge funds and other market managers, as well as by fear and uncertainty in broader financial markets. Still, the bottom line was that the oil market saw a glut once again emerge in the fourth quarter.

However, “now the 1.3mn b/d surplus in 4Q18 is starting to reverse,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts wrote in a January 10 note. In fact, the bank says that the OPEC+ cuts could translate into a “slight deficit” for 2019. “With investor positioning reflecting a bearish set-up, Brent prices have already bounced back above $60/bbl, and we retain our $70/bbl average forecast for 2019,” BofAML wrote.

Oil price forecasts vary quite a bit, but a dozen or so investment banks largely agree that the selloff in late December, which pushed Brent down to $50 per barrel, had gone too far. BofAML is betting that Brent rises back to $70 per barrel.

However, the investment bank issued a rather significant caveat. This assessment is based on the assumption that the global economy does not take a turn for the worse. BofAML analysts said that Brent could plunge as low as $35 per barrel if global GDP growth slows from 3.5 percent to 2 percent.

At this point, it is anybody’s guess if the global economy slows by that much, but there is a growing number of indicators that at least suggests such a deceleration is possible. The recent data from China showing a shocking slowdown in both imports and exports is discouraging.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

There’s No Sugarcoating Canada’s Oil Crisis

There’s No Sugarcoating Canada’s Oil Crisis

Cenovus rig

Has financial disaster been averted in Canada’s oil and gas industry?

‘Disaster’ is all relative. Let’s just say 2019 is going to be a difficult year following a tough set of recent circumstances.

One thing we know is that the recent episode of bargain-basement commodity prices—triggered by a regional glut of oil and gas looking for a pipeline to call home, combined with low international oil prices—has wounded this year’s outlook for conventional oilfield activity. That’s the segment of the business, outside the oil sands, where two-thirds of the industry’s spending typically occurs.

Beyond the tight orbit of Fort McMurray’s oil sands, in the broader oil and gas fields of BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the overt indicator of sectoral health is drilling activity. Like counting cars on a freeway, you know the economy is bad if there are only a few commuters on the road.

It’s looking pretty bad for the first quarter. We’re entering the peak ‘rush hour’ of the winter drilling season with only 180 bits turning on active rigs. The level of activity is feeling a lot like the depths of 2016, the lowest New Year’s entry in decades (see Figure 1).

For comparison, last year at this time the rig count was climbing toward a more stable February peak of 348. But stability is hardly in the energy dictionary right now. Volatile discounts, weak international prices, illiquid equity markets and a never-ending pipeline drama has spooked those with money and hollowed those without. It’s pretty simple really: No confidence plus no money equals no drilling. That’s what was happening late last year.

Having said that, the very real potential for fiscal disaster was averted. To clear the late ’18 production glut, the government of Alberta stepped into the market with a mandatory oil curtailment (8.7 percent across the board).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canada’s Crude Oil Production Cuts Are Unsustainable

Canada’s Crude Oil Production Cuts Are Unsustainable

Canada oil

In an attempt to combat a ballooning oil glut and dramatically plummeting prices, the premier of Alberta Rachel Notley introduced an unprecedented measure at the beginning of December when she is mandating that oil companies in her province cut production. This directive was particularly surprising in the context of Canada’s free market economy, where oil production is rarely so directly regulated.

Canada’s recent oil glut woes are not due to a lack of demand, but rather a severe lack of pipeline infrastructure. There is plenty of demand, and more than enough supply, but no way to get the oil flowing where it needs to go. Canada’s pipelines are running at maximum capacity, storage facilities are filled to bursting, and the pipeline bottleneck has only continued to worsen. Now, in an effort to alleviate the struggling industry, Alberta’s oil production has been cut 8.7 percent according to the mandate set by the province’s government under Rachel Notley with the objective of cutting out around 325,000 barrels per day from the Canadian market.

Even before the government stepped in, some private oil companies had already self-imposed production caps in order to combat the ever-expanding glut and bottomed-out oil prices. Cenovus Energy, Canadian Natural Resource, Devon Energy, Athabasca Oil, and others announced curtailments that totaled around 140,000 barrels a day and Cenovus Energy, one of Canada’s major producers, even went so far as to plead with the government to impose production caps late last year.

So far, the government-imposed productive caps have been extremely successful. In October Canadian oil prices were so depressed that the Canadian benchmark oil Western Canadian Select (WCS) was trading at a whopping $50 per barrel less than United States benchmark oil West Texas Intermediate (WTI). now, in the wake of production cuts, the price gap between WCS and WTI has diminished by a dramatic margin to a difference of just under $13 per barrel.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Shale Oil Revolution Actually Reflects a Nation in Decline

Shutterstock

The Shale Oil Revolution Actually Reflects a Nation in Decline

Faster consumption + no strategy = diminished prospects

Here in the opening month of 2019, as the US consumes itself with hot debate over a border wall, far more important topics are being ignored completely.

Take US energy policy. In the US press and political circles, there’s nothing but crickets sounding when it comes to serious analysis or any sort of sustainable long-term plan.

Once you understand the role of energy in everything, you can begin to appreciate why there’s simply nothing more important to get right.

Energy is at the root of everything. If you have sufficient energy, anything is possible. But without it, everything grinds to a halt.

For several decades now the US has been getting its energy policy very badly wrong.  It’s so short-sighted, and rely so heavily on techno-optimism, that it barely deserves to be called a ‘policy’ at all.

Which is why we predict that in the not-too-distant future, this failure to plan will attack like a hungry wolfpack to bite down hard on the US economy’s hamstrings and drag it to the ground.

Shale Oil Snafu

America’s energy policy blunders are nowhere more obvious than in the shale oil space, where it’s finally dawning on folks that these wells are going to produce a lot less than advertised.

Vindicating our own reports — which drew from the excellent work of Art Berman, David Hughes and Enno Peters’ excellent website — the WSJ finally ran the numbers and discovered that shale wells are not producing nearly as much oil as the operators had claimed they were going to produce:

Fracking’s Secret Problem—Oil Wells Aren’t Producing as Much as Forecast

Jan 2, 2019

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Oil’s Wild Price Swings Set to Create Global Chaos

Oil’s Wild Price Swings Set to Create Global Chaos

Volatility is here to stay — and the political and economic implications will touch us all.

As the current global oil glut shakes up petro states around the world, oil prices are becoming more volatile than Donald Trump tweets.

Neither Canada, now the dumb owner of a marginal 65-year-old pipeline, nor Alberta, a key exporter of bitumen, a cheap refinery feedstock, has paid much attention to this revolution.

As a consequence Canada has no strategy to deal with the new normal of highly volatile oil prices.

Government incompetence explains the hew and cry in Alberta about its overproduction crisis and the various proposals to solve it, ranging from the purchase of rail cars (a bad idea) to the decision to order companies to cut production of heavy oil by about 325,000 barrels a day (a sensible idea).

Alberta’s panic attack is based on the idea that bitumen from the province’s oilsands producers is selling at a discount because of a lack of pipeline capacity.

The reality is that the dramatic 30-per-cent drop in oil prices since the beginning of October, from more than US$70 to US$50, is upsetting oil exporters, producers and markets around the world.

Different kinds of oil fetch different prices, based on their quality and transportation costs. And all are experiencing dramatic price drops. Alberta’s bitumen, a cheap refinery feedstock, is not the only crude languishing during a global market glut.

Refineries in Japan and Korea, for example, scooped up cheap U.S. oil earlier this year.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Energy Dominance,” what does it mean? Decoding a Fashionable Slogan

“Energy Dominance,” what does it mean? Decoding a Fashionable Slogan

“Now, I know for a fact that American energy dominance is within our grasp as a nation.” Ryan Zinke, U.S. Secretary of the Interior (source)

“All Warfare is Based on Deception” Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

Over nearly a half-century, since the time of Richard Nixon, American presidents have proclaimed the need for “energy independence” for the US, without ever succeeding in attaining it. During the past few years, it has become fashionable to say that the US has, in fact, become energy independent, even though it is not true. And, doubling down on this concept, there came the idea of “energy dominance,”introduced by the Trump administration in June 2017.  It is now used at all levels in the press and in the political debate.

No doubt, the US has good reasons to be bullish on oil production. Of the three major world producers, it is the only one growing: it has overtaken Saudi Arabia and it seems to be poised to overtake Russia in a few years. (graphic source).

This rebound in the US production after the decline that started in the early 1970s is nearly miraculous. And the miracle as a name: shale oil. A great success, sure, but, if you think about it, the whole story looks weird: the US is trying to gain this “dominance” by means of resources which, once burned, will be forever gone. It is like people competing at who is burning their own house faster. What sense does it make?

Art Berman keeps telling us that shale oil is an expensive resource that could be produced at a profit only for market conditions that are unrealistic to expect. So far, much more money has been poured into shale oil production than it has returned from the sales of shale oil.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Battle For Syria’s Oil Region

The Battle For Syria’s Oil Region

Syria oil

The Syrian Civil War has gone through several phases over the course of seven years and it now appears to be entering another one. Government forces have regained control over much of Syria with Russian air support and Iranian ground forces. Only Idlib and the territories east of the Euphrates river remain out of the hands of President Assad’s regime. With the U.S. planning an imminent withdrawal from Syria, things could soon shift again.

Control over Eastern Syria is important for the government in Damascus for political and economic reasons. President Assad has on numerous occasions stated his desire to establish control over the entire Syrian territory in order to strengthen the image of a strong and stable regime. Before the war, Syria produced 387,000 barrels per day of which 140,000 bpd were exported. Most of this oil came from Eastern Syria, which is now under the control of the U.S.-backed SDF. Currently, the Syrian oil industry is a shadow of its former self due to the civil war.

A weakened IS led to government forces progressing from the west, while the SDF expelled the Islamic fundamentalists from the north. The Euphrates river has become the natural border between the SDF and the Syrian military. After a serious incursion on February 7th, 2018, during which approximately 300 Syrian soldiers and Russian mercenaries died attacking U.S. and SDF forces on the eastern shores, it has become relatively calm in the region. Related: Saudis Tread On Thin Ice As Prices Slide

The success of the SDF is a direct consequence of cooperation with Washington. The U.S. is the guarantor of security through the presence of 2,000 special forces and continuous air support.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

IEA Chief: U.S. Oil Output To Near Saudi+Russian Production By 2025

IEA Chief: U.S. Oil Output To Near Saudi+Russian Production By 2025

Offshore rig

Total U.S. oil production around 2025 will almost equal the combined production of Russia and Saudi Arabia, Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency on Friday.

The huge growth in U.S. shale production will completely change the balance of oil markets, Birol told the news agency.

The IEA’s Oil 2018 report from earlier this year sees the United States dominating the global oil supply growth over the next five years.

OPEC capacity will grow only modestly by 2023, while most of the growth will come from non-OPEC countries, led by the United States, “which is becoming ever more dominant in the global oil market,” the IEA said.

Driven by light tight oil, U.S. production is seen growing by 3.7 million bpd by 2023, more than half of the total global production capacity growth of 6.4 million bpd expected by then. Total liquids production in the United States—including conventional oil, shale, and natural gas liquids—will reach nearly 17 million bpd by 2023, “easily making it the top global producer, and nearly matching the level of its domestic products demand,” the IEA said in March this year.

“The United States is set to put its stamp on global oil markets for the next five years,” Birol said back then.

The U.S. is currently pumping oil at record levels of more than 11 million bpd, while Russia and Saudi Arabia—which also hit record highs in October and November, respectively—will curtail 230,000 bpd and 322,000 bpd of their production in the first six months of 2019, respectively.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Interest Rate Hike Hits Oil Hard

Interest Rate Hike Hits Oil Hard

Federal Bank

Oil prices have been slammed over the past week, dragged down by a variety of forces, including soaring U.S. shale production, higher-than-expected output from Russia, and worries about global demand. On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve decided to pile on.

The central bank hiked interest rates by a quarter-point yet again, the fourth time this year. That was largely expected. But the details that market watchers were more concerned with were the Fed’s intentions for 2019. Fed chairman Jerome Powell, in the face of withering pressure from the White House, signaled his intention to hike rates two more times in 2019. To be sure, that was down from a previous plan of three rate increases, but it wasn’t exactly the pullback that President Trump had wanted. Powell dismissed questions about political pressure from the President, saying that “nothing will cause us to deviate from” the job at hand.

“Inflation has still remained just a touch below two percent. So I do think that gives the committee the ability to be patient in moving forward.” Powell told reporters. He noted that there are some warning signs in the global economy, but that U.S. “economic activity has been rising at a strong rate,” which made the bank comfortable with its decision to continue with its monetary tightening policy.

The central bank made some slight tweaks to its forward-looking language, suggesting that it may ease up on interest rate hikes if the economy deteriorates.

Still, stocks plunged on the news, as did crude oil. As of Thursday, WTI was down close to $46 per barrel and Brent was hovering at about $55 per barrel, the lowest levels in 15 months. “[M]any market participants clearly still believe the Fed’s view is overly optimistic, as US stock markets came under pressure amid fears of excessive tightening of monetary policy and bond yields fell,” Commerzbank said in a note.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Shale Under Pressure As Oil Falls Below $50

Shale Under Pressure As Oil Falls Below $50

fracking operation

The OPEC+ cuts still are not doing very much to boost oil prices, dashing hopes for many U.S. shale producers. With companies in the process of formulating their budgets for 2019, the prospect of $50 oil sticking around raises questions about the heady production figures expected from the shale patch.

The IEA expects U.S. oil production to grow by 1.3 million barrels per day (mb/d) in 2019. But oil prices could significantly impact those projections. “Total U.S. shale oil growth is highly sensitive to WTI prices in the $40-60 range,” Morgan Stanley wrote in a December 13 note. The investment bank said that shale producers are growing more sensitive to prices below $60 but less sensitive to price spikes above $60. “If WTI remains around current levels (~$50/bbl), US growth should start to slow.”

The investment bank said that larger companies, such as ConocoPhillips or Occidental Petroleum, are less sensitive to price swings than smaller E&Ps. On the other hand, some companies could begin to slow production if prices linger at low levels. Morgan Stanley pointed to Apache Corp., Murphy Oil, Newfield Exploration, Oasis Petroleum, Whiting Petroleum and Chesapeake Energy. “With low oil prices, we see these companies slowing production growth in 2019 to spend within cash flow (or minimize outspend), [free cash flow] levels fall or turn negative, and leverage metrics move higher.”

Other analysts also see price sensitivity from the shale sector. “We expect 5-10% capex growth on average at $59 WTI, which should yield production growth of nearly 1.3mn b/d,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a note. “However producers may budget for lower oil prices given the recent decline in prices and increase in uncertainty.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change

It is accepted that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a cartel that restrains oil production and keeps prices higher than they would otherwise be. Indeed, this is the premise behind the “OPEC Accountability Act of 2018” in the US Senate. This bill would address high and rising oil prices by trying to break OPEC. US pressure on OPEC — particularly on friendly governments such as Saudi Arabia that are seen as leaders in the organization — to “open the spigots” is not new. Nor is the control of oil exports by producing countries for political purposes. However, the environmental impact of high oil prices is only lightly considered.

There is little debate that motor vehicle industry changes to increase fuel efficiency were a historic and significant environmental advance. When OPEC action has led to increased prices, the quantity of oil in demand has fallen. This was starkly demonstrated when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) — founded in 1968 — flexed its price-making muscles in the 1970s. Production cuts and an embargo against sale of oil to several countries raised the spot price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude from $3.56 per barrel in mid-1973 to $4.31 later in the year to $10.11 in January. By the time President Jimmy Carter famously suggested we all turn down our thermostats, the price of WTI crude had reached $14.85 per barrel. The price finally peaked in mid-1980 at $39.50 — a 1000 percent increase in seven years. The price of gasoline more than tripled. In response, we got the Department of Energy, the Chevy Citation, and more fuel-efficient Japanese and German automobile imports.

More recently, the total vehicle miles traveled in the US fell in 2007 amid high oil prices and the Great Recession, and did not increase again until gas prices fell over the second half of 2014 ― from $3.69 per gallon to $2.12.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Diesel or no Peak Diesel? The Debate is Ongoing

Peak Diesel or no Peak Diesel? The Debate is Ongoing

In a recent post, Antonio Turiel proposed that the global peak of diesel fuel production was reached three years ago, in 2018. Turiel’s idea is especially interesting since it takes into account the fact that what we call “oil” is actually a wide variety of liquids of different characteristics. The current boom of the extraction of tight oil (known also as “shale oil”) in the United States has avoided, so far, the decline of the total volume of oil produced worldwide (“peak oil”).

Shale oil has changed a lot of things in the oil industry, but it couldn’t avoid the decline of conventional oil. That, in turn, had consequences: shale oil is light oil, not easily converted to the kind of fuel (diesel) which is the most important transportation fuel, nowadays. That seems to have forced the oil industry into converting more and more “heavy” oil into diesel fuel but, even so, diesel fuel is becoming gradually more scarce and more expensive, to the point that its production may have peaked in 2015. In addition, it has created a dearth of heavy oil, the fuel of choice for marine transportation. In short, the famed “peak oil” is arriving not all together, but piecemeal — affecting some kinds of fuels faster than others.

Turiel’s proposal has raised a considerable debate among the experts, with several of them challenging Turiel’s interpretation. Turiel himself and Gail Tverberg (of the “our finite world” blog) discussed the validity of the data and their meaning. Below, I reproduce the exchange with their kind permission. As you will see, the matter is complex and at the present stage it is not possible to arrive at a definitive conclusion. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

No, The U.S. Is Not A Net Exporter Of Crude Oil

No, The U.S. Is Not A Net Exporter Of Crude Oil

Oil tanker at sea

Last week Bloomberg created quite a stir with this story: The U.S. Just Became a Net Oil Exporter for the First Time in 75 Years. I have seen a number of follow-up stories that praised the significance of this development, but others laughed it off as misleading or incorrect.

There is some truth to both viewpoints. Yes, the headline is somewhat misleading and requires some context. But there continues to be a trend in the direction of energy independence for the U.S. So, today I want to break down the numbers so readers can understand the truth about U.S. petroleum production, consumption, and exports.

Domestic Crude Production Has Surged

The Bloomberg story is based on data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Each week the EIA publishes detailed statistics on U.S. oil production, consumption, exports, and inventories in a report called the Weekly Petroleum Status Report. So, let’s go straight to the source.

For the week ending 11/30/18, the EIA reported that the U.S. produced 11.7 million barrels per day (BPD) of crude oil. That represents a 2 million BPD increase from the year-ago number. This number is generally accepted even by those who believe the Bloomberg headline was misleading.

Further down in the report, the category of Products Supplied is listed at 20.5 million BPD. This is approximate U.S. crude oil consumption for the week. Thus, as some skeptics of the story suggested, the bottom line is that the U.S. is burning more than 20 million BPD while producing less than 12 million BPD. Thus, the conclusion for some was that the U.S. isn’t close to being energy independent.

Other Supply

But there is important context between these numbers. First, the 20.5 million BPD is a fairly accurate representation of U.S. consumption, but there is a large U.S. production number that isn’t included in the crude oil production numbers.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Saudis Reportedly Target US Inventories By Slashing Oil Exports

WTI prices briefly popped above $52 before fading quickly after Bloomberg reported that after flooding the US market in recent months, Saudi Arabia plans to slash exports starting in January in an effort to dampen visible build-ups in crude inventories.

Bloomberg reports that, according to people briefed on the plans of state oil company Saudi Aramco, American-based oil refiners have been told to expect much lower shipments from the kingdom in January than in recent months following the OPEC agreement to reduce production.

Oil traders were not that impressed…

And while the plan to slash Saudi exports to America may ultimately convince a skeptical oil market about the kingdom’s resolution to bring supply and demand incline, it may anger President Trump, who has used social media to ask the Saudis and OPEC to keep the taps open.


Hopefully OPEC will be keeping oil flows as is, not restricted. The World does nott want to see, or need, higher oil prices!


OPEC November Production Data

OPEC November Production Data

All the below OPEC data is from the latest OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report. The data is in thousand barrels per day and is through November 2018.

OPEC  15 was down 11,000 barrels per day in November but that was after October production was revised upward by 67,000 bpd.

OPEC production was 32,965,000 barrels per day in November. The revised October numbers, 32,976,000 was an all time high.

Above are the major revisions. All other revisions were in the low single digits.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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