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Saudi Arabia Vs. Russia: The Next Oil Price War

Saudi Arabia Vs. Russia: The Next Oil Price War

Oil Refinery

International oil markets could be heading towards a new war, as leading OPEC and non-OPEC producers are vying for increased stakes. The unexpected cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC countries, instigated by the full support of Saudi Arabia (OPEC) and Russia (non-OPEC) has brought some stabilization to the crude markets for almost half a year. The expected crude oil price crisis has been averted, it seems, leaving enough room when looking at the fundamentals to a bull market in the coming months. As long as Saudi Arabia, Russia and some other major producers (UAE, Kuwait), are supporting a production cut extension, financials will be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

The effects of the 2nd shale oil revolution, as some have stated, have been mostly mitigated by a reasonably high compliance of OPEC and non-OPEC members to the agreed upon cuts, while geopolitical and security issues have prevented Libya, Iraq, Venezuela and Nigeria, from entering with new volumes. Stabilization in the crude oil market, as always, is not only fundamentals but also geopolitics and national interests. The latter now could also be the main threat to a successful extension of the OPEC production cuts in the coming months.

Fears are growing that OPEC’s leading producer, Saudi Arabia, is no longer happy with the overall effects it is generating by taking the brunt of the production cuts, while at the same time, other OPEC members, such as Iran and Iraq, are looking at production increases. Saudi Arabia’s other main rival Russia is also not sitting idle. Even if Moscow is still fully behind the official production cuts, Russian oil companies have been aggressively fighting for additional market share in Saudi Arabia’s main client markets, China, India and even Japan. Iraq and Iran, in contrast to what was expected, have been cutting away share in Europe.

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

Oil Rigs Rise For 12 Straight Weeks; Threaten Oil Price Recovery

Oil Rigs Rise For 12 Straight Weeks; Threaten Oil Price Recovery

For the 12th week in a row, the number of US oil rigs rose (up another 10 to 672 – the highest since September 2015). US Crude production continues to track the lagged rig count, pouring more cold water on OPEC’s production cut party.

The rig count grows, tracking the lagged oil price in a self-defeating cycle.

And crude production appears to have plenty more room to run.

OPEC’s No.2 Goes Rogue: Plans 600,000 Bpd Oil Output Increase

OPEC’s No.2 Goes Rogue: Plans 600,000 Bpd Oil Output Increase

Iraq oil field

Iraq has plans to boost its crude oil production by 600,000 bpd to 5 million bpd by the end of this year, regardless of its participation in OPEC’s production cut deal. Iraq is the cartel’s second-biggest exporter of crude and has been the most disinclined of all parties to the agreement since its inception, with a lot of observers expecting it to be the first one to cheat.

Iraq’s first problem is that as much as 95 percent of its budget revenues come from crude oil. There are no viable alternatives in sight for revenues at the moment. The second problem that the country has to contend with is its war with Islamic State, which makes these revenues more important than ever.

Amid the final push against IS in Mosul, Iraq is working hard to ensure the sustainable growth of its oil and gas industry—OPEC deal or no OPEC deal. Three months ago, Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi saidthat Baghdad is planning to build five new refineries on an investment basis, in addition to fixing and expanding existing refineries that were damaged in the war with IS.

While Al-Luaibi has repeatedly assured media—and indirectly, investors—that Iraq will stick to its OPEC commitment, Iraq is doing whatever it can to boost its returns from its only significant natural resource. Related: Don’t Be Fooled By Daily Oil Prices

As part of these efforts, the government recently started a review of the contracts it has with foreign oil companies operating local fields in a bid to better match its interests to those of the operators. Currently, international oil companies in Iraq are working under the so-called technical service contracts, which a few years ago, forced them to reduce production from some of the country’s biggest fields because Baghdad had no money to pay them for operating the fields.

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

Will The Oil Price Slide Lead To A Credit Crunch For U.S. Drillers?

Will The Oil Price Slide Lead To A Credit Crunch For U.S. Drillers?

Shale drillers

The recent drop in oil prices, which has almost wiped out the price gains since OPEC announced its supply-cut deal, is coming just ahead of the spring season when banks are reassessing the credit lines they are extending to support drillers’ growth plans.

WTI front-month futures have been trading below $50 a barrel for a couple of weeks, while Brent crude slipped briefly below $50 on March 22, dropping below that psychological threshold for the first time since November 30, the day on which OPEC said it agreed to curtail collective oil production in an effort to rebalance the market and lift prices.

Lenders review the oil and gas companies’ creditworthiness twice a year, in April and in October, in the so-called borrowing base redetermination. The recent drop in the price of oil may prompt banks to be more cautious in their assessments, but still, things look brighter for oil firms than they did in March last year when oil prices were consistently below $40 a barrel.

This time around, analysts expect reductions in credit lines should oil prices drop below $45 until creditworthiness reviews are over, according to Bloomberg.

These assessments are closely connected to the price of oil, given the fact that the value of the companies’ oil and gas reserves serve as the basis for their creditworthiness assumptions.

Nonetheless, reviews are less likely to lead to drastic credit cuts this spring because the companies that have survived the oil price crash have emerged leaner after major cost cuts, asset sales, and focus shifting to easier, cheaper, and more lucrative areas, such as the Permian. U.S. shale players have been locking in future production, and the best drilling areas are now estimated to be profitable at as low a price as $40 per barrel.

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

Venezuela In Dire Straits As Oil Production Falls Further

Venezuela In Dire Straits As Oil Production Falls Further

Oil Pipe

Venezuela’s economic crisis continues to deepen. The South American OPEC member is thought to be sitting on nearly 300 billion barrels of oil, far more than any other country in the world, including Saudi Arabia (estimated at 268 billion barrels). But the economy has been in freefall for several years, with conditions continuing to deteriorate.

The economic crisis has morphed into a full-blown humanitarian disaster. Just this week the Wall Street Journal reported on Venezuelan women traveling to neighboring Colombia to give birth because the state of Venezuela’s hospitals are horrific, with shortages of medical supplies and trained staff. Infant mortality is worse than in war-ravaged Syria.

Food and other essential items are also painfully scarce, leading to long lines at shops. Tensions run high because there is not enough to go around.

Now even gasoline is running low in Caracas, Reuters reports, an unusual development for the capital city.

Gas shortages suggests problems for Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA are deepening. The government depends on oil production for more than 90 percent of its export revenues, and the collapse of oil prices back in 2014, coupled with a long-term slide in output, have ruined the company’s finances.

That, in turn, puts even more pressure on PDVSA. A shortage of cash is straining the company’s ability to import refined products as it falls short on bills to suppliers. PDVSA needs to import refined products to dilute its heavy crude oil, but without enough cash, tankers are sitting at ports unable to unload their cargoes. Reuters also says that “many tankers are idle because PDVSA cannot pay for hull cleaning, inspections, and other port services.”

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

How OPEC Lost The War Against Shale, In One Chart

How OPEC Lost The War Against Shale, In One Chart

At the start of March we showed a fascinating chart from Rystad Energy, demonstrating how dramatic the impact of technological efficiency on collapsing US shale production costs has been: in just the past 3 years, the wellhead breakeven price for key shale plays has collapsed from an average of $80 to the mid-$30s…

… resulting in drastically lower all-in breakevens for most US shale regions.

Today, in a note released by Goldman titled “OPEC: To cut or not to cut, that is the question”, the firm presents a chart which shows just as graphically how exactly OPEC lost the war against US shale: in one word: the cost curve has massively flattened and extended as a result of “shale productivity” driving oil breakeven in the US from $80 to $50-$55, in the process sweeping Saudi Arabia away from the post of global oil price setter to merely inventory manager. 

This is how Goldman explains it:

Shale’s short time to market and ongoing productivity improvements have provided an efficient answer to the industry’s decade-long search for incremental hydrocarbon resources in technically challenging, high cost areas and has kicked off a competition amongst oil producing countries to offer attractive enough contracts and tax terms to attract incremental capital. This is instigating a structural deflationary change in the oil cost curve, as shown in Exhibit 2. This shift has driven low cost OPEC producers to respond by focusing on market share, ramping up production where possible, using their own domestic resources or incentivizing higher activity from the international oil companies through more attractive contract structures and tax regimes. In the rest of the world, projects and countries have to compete for capital, trying to drive costs down to become competitive through deflation, FX and potentially lower tax rates.

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

Oil Production Vital Statistics February 2017

Oil Production Vital Statistics February 2017

Joint post with Neil Mearns who made all the graphs (CV for Neil).

January was the month that OPEC was supposed to reduce production by 1.2 Mbpd and Russia + others were supposed to cut a further 0.6 Mbpd. Now that the January production data are in we can see that OPEC cut by 1.04 Mbpd and that Russia + FSU cut by 0.1 Mbpd (well within the noise of revisions) and well short of the 0.3+ Mbpd expected. But global C+C+NGLs were down 1.46 Mbpd suggesting that other countries may have intentionally or unintentionally chipped in. Brent began January on $55.05 and ended the month on $54.77. Today it is $55.56. As explained in the feeble OPEC deal the depth of proposed cuts were to shallow when compared to the scale of over-supply and stocks to make a decisive impact on the direction of the oil price.

In January, Libya produced 690,000 bpd, up 70,000 bpd on the month but well short of their target of soon reaching 1 Mbpd. But if Libya (inset map up top) does manage to keep growing production throughout this year this will continue to undermine OPEC efforts to support price.

On 24 February there were 602 oil rigs operating in the USA up from 529 on 6th January as reported last month (Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7). Rising oil drilling activity in the USA will inevitably lead to more oil production at some point. US production was 12.48 Mbpd in January down from 12.51 Mbpd in December (Figure 12). Middle East drilling remains on a cyclical high (Figure 9) while drilling remains in the doldrums everywhere else (Figures 8 and 10).

The following totals compare January 2016 with January 2017:

  • World Total Liquids 96.62/96.39/ -230,000 bpd
  • OPEC 32.00/31.86/-140,000 bpd
  • Russia + FSU 14.19/14.43/ +240,000 bpd
  • Europe OECD  3.55/3.55/ no change
  • Asia 7.67/7.42/ -250,000
  • North America 19.81/19.48/ -330,000 bpd

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

Bankrupting OPEC… One Million Barrels Of Oil At A Time

Bankrupting OPEC… One Million Barrels Of Oil At A Time

The world hasn’t really caught on yet, but OPEC is in serious trouble.  Last year, OPEC’s net oil export revenues collapsed.  How bad?  Well, how about 65% since the oil price peaked in 2012.  To offset falling oil prices and revenues, OPEC nations have resorted to liquidating some of their foreign exchange reserves.

The largest OPEC oil producer and exporter, Saudi Arabia, has seen its Foreign Currency reserves plummet over the past two years… and the liquidation continues.  For example, Saudi Arabia’s foreign exchange reserves declined another $2 billion in December 2016 (source: Trading Economics).

Now, why would Saudi Arabia need to liquidate another $2 billion of its foreign exchange reserves after the price of a barrel of Brent crude jumped to $53.3 in December, up from $44.7 in November??  That was a 13% surge in the price of Brent crude in one month.  Which means, even at $53 a barrel, Saudi Arabia is still hemorrhaging.

Before I get into how bad things are becoming in Saudi Arabia, let’s take a look at the collapse of OPEC net oil export revenues:

The mighty OPEC oil producers enjoyed a healthy $951 billion in net oil export revenues in 2012.  However, this continued to decline along with the rapidly falling oil price and reached a low of $334 billion in 2016.  As I mentioned before, this was a 65% collapse in OPEC oil revenues in just four years.

The last time OPEC net oil export revenues was this low was in 2004.  OPEC oil revenues that year were $370 billion based on average Brent crude price of $38.3.  Compare that to $334 billion in oil revenues in 2016 on an average Brent crude price of $43.5 a barrel.

This huge decline in OPEC oil revenues gutted these countries foreign exchange reserves.  Which means, the falling EROI- Energy Returned On Investment is taking a toll on the OPEC oil exporting countries bottom line.  A perfect example of this is taking place in Saudi Arabia.

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

Chinese Import Data Suggests OPEC Is Lying About A Production Cut

Chinese Import Data Suggests OPEC Is Lying About A Production Cut

To those cynics who accuse the self-monitoring OPEC, and its various adjunct agencies, of lying that it has implemented last year’s agreed upon production cuts, China just released January crude import data, which validates this skepticism.

As JPMorgan writes, while IEA estimated the OPEC crude oil production fell by 1mbd to 32.06mbd in January, suggesting an initial compliance of 90% with the output agreement reached end 2016, the latest oil supply details released by China customs today suggest a reduction of supplies was not yet seen by China, the world’s largest oil importer. 

In fact, quite the contrary: crude oil shipments from the 11 OPEC nations committed to a 1.2mbd output cut increased by 28% yoy, and more importantly, rose 4% from December 2016 – in a time when production was supposed to be declining – to 4.6mbd in January, accounting for 57% of China’s total oil imports. 

Ironically, if anyone was cutting it was the non-OPEC nations, mostly Russia, who foolishly assumed that Saudi Arabia et al would be true to their word: non-OPEC countries led by Russia that also agreed to a cut boosted their January supplies to China by 40% yoy, but saw a 10% drop sequentially, in line contractual expectations. Comparing January 2017 levels with the 2016 average, China’s crude oil imports from the committed OPEC and non-OPEC producers gained 6%/13% respectively, while the country’s total oil imports gained 5%.

 Some details:
  • Saudi, Angola and Iran lead OPEC supply growth to China. According to the China Customs’ buy country oil supply data, Saudi Arabia boosted shipments to China by 19% yoy and 41% mom to 1.19mbd in January (16% growth versus the 2016 average). Imports from Angola increased by 63% yoy and 46% mom to 1.17 mbd last month (33% higher than 2016 average), while volumes from Iraq jumped by 43% yoy  and 12% mom to 0.83mbd (14% higher than 2016 average).

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

 

Rising oil production will push Alberta economy to fastest growth in country in 2017: Conference Board

Rising oil production will push Alberta economy to fastest growth in country in 2017: Conference Board

Solid increases in oil production, Fort McMurray rebuild will be the difference in Alberta this year

The Conference Board of Canada forecasts Alberta will see a 2.8 per cent growth in real GDP in 2017.

The Conference Board of Canada forecasts Alberta will see a 2.8 per cent growth in real GDP in 2017. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

After two difficult years, Alberta’s economy is climbing out of recession thanks in part to oil prices, but the Conference Board of Canada warns the road to a full recovery will be long.

In its winter quarterly report released Thursday, the board projects Alberta will lead the country in terms of real GDP growth in 2017, which is forecast at 2.8 per cent.

“The recent stability in oil prices has encouraged optimism that the worst is over, laying the foundation for a modest gradual recovery in capital spending in the energy sector,” the report said.

Oil prices are expected to remain low, which will hinder economic recovery and pull overall real GDP growth down to 1.9 per cent in 2018, the report says.

The OPEC factor

However, an agreement made between Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC countries in late 2016 to cut crude oil production by 1.8 million barrels per day supports a stronger price outlook for Alberta’s energy sector, the report says.

While OPEC restrains itself, Alberta’s output is forecast to increase, as new oilsands projects come online.

The price of crude oil is also expected to rise to almost $60 US by the end of 2018.

That energy sector recovery is good for the Canadian economy as a whole, according to Marie-Christine Bernard with the Conference Board.

“There was very weak growth for Canada as a whole in the last two years,” she said.

“The difficulties in the resource sector and in particular in the energy sector really hurt investment. That really pulled economic growth down in Canada to one and one-and-a-half per cent on average over the last two years.”

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

Biggest Gasoline Glut In 27 Years Could Crash Oil Markets

Biggest Gasoline Glut In 27 Years Could Crash Oil Markets

Distillate tanks

Oil prices are stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for more definitive data on what comes next. OPEC compliance is helping keep prices afloat, but rising U.S. oil production is acting as a counterweight.

A new problem that has suddenly emerged is the record levels of gasoline sitting in storage. The market has already had to digest the fact that U.S. crude oil stocks were rising, and investors have done their best to explain away the trend. But now gasoline inventories are climbing to unexpected heights.

It would be one thing if crude stocks were rising, perhaps because refiners were going offline for maintenance. But if that were the case, then gasoline stocks would draw down on lower refining runs. But if both crude and refined product inventories are going up at the same time, then there should be some reasons for worry.

In fact, the glut of gasoline is now the worst in 27 years. At 259 million barrels, U.S. gasoline storage levels are now at their highest level since the EIA began tracking the data back in 1990.

(Click to enlarge)

Part of the reason for the glut, of course, are high levels of production. Although gasoline production ebbs and flows seasonally, U.S. production has been on an upward trend in recent years. Instead of bouncing around in a range of 8.5 to 9.5 million barrels per day before 2014, U.S. production since the collapse of oil prices has steadily climbed to a range of 9 to 10 mb/d.

(Click to enlarge)

But that increase came in order to satisfy rising demand (which, of course, was stoked by lower prices). More demand should have soaked up that excess supply. However, that is where the problem gets worse. Lately, U.S. demand has faltered.

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

US Shale Production To Soar By 3.5 Million Barrels/Day Over Next Five Years: BofA Explains Why

US Shale Production To Soar By 3.5 Million Barrels/Day Over Next Five Years: BofA Explains Why

Two years ago, when Saudi Arabia launched on an unprecedented campaign to crush high-cost oil producers, in the process effectively putting an end to the OPEC cartel (at least until last year’s attempt to cut production), it made a bold bet that US shale producers would be swept under when the price of oil tumbled, leading to a tsunami of bankruptcies, as well as investment and production halts. To an extent it succeeded, but where it may have made a glaring error is the core assumption about shale breakeven costs, which as we reported throughout 2016, were substantially lower than consensus estimated.

In his latest note, BofA’s Francisco Blanch explains not only why a drop in shale breakevens costs is what is currently the biggest wildcard in the global race to reach production “equilibrium”, but also why US shale oil production could surge in the coming years, prompting OPEC to boost production in hopes of recapturing market share.  Specifically, Blanch predicts that US shale oil production could grow by a whopping 3.5 million barrels per day over the next five years.

Here’s why: as he explains “many oil companies around the world have survived the price meltdown by bringing down breakeven costs in the last two years.

But what parts of the world can grow output in the years ahead? In BofA’s view, US shale oil producers will come out ahead and deliver outsized market share gains by 2022. Shale oil output in the US may grow sequentially by 600 thousand b/d from 4Q16 to 4Q17 on increased activity in oil rigs and fast productivity gains. Importantly, breakeven costs for key major US plays now stand around the $55/bbl mark.

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

Norway Doubles Down On Arctic Oil

Norway Doubles Down On Arctic Oil

Statoil oil operation

While Canada and the U.S. ban Arctic drilling for oil and gas motivated by environmental concerns, and majors such as Shell pull out of their Arctic projects due to financial pressures, Norwegian energy companies are planning to increase drilling in the country’s Arctic shelf in the Barents Sea.

It seems that the limited oil price increase that followed OPEC’s production cut deal has been enough for Statoil and Lundin to decide to allocate more funds to Arctic drilling, especially since the price rise has been accompanied by a major discovery for Lundin and a likely future major discovery for Statoil.

Lundin announced earlier this month that it had struck a deposit holding between 35 and 100 million barrels of oil equivalent in its Filicudi prospect in the southern Barents Sea. According to the company, which is exploring the prospect in partnership with Aker BP and Dea, Filicudi may contain as much as 700 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Statoil, for its part, is gearing up for a major drilling campaign focusing on what could turn out to be the largest field in Norway’s Arctic shelf: the Korpfjell field. Dubbed an elephant, Korpfjell may hold up to 10 billion barrels of crude, not least because of its immediate proximity to another promising deposit, the Perseevsky oil prospect in the Russian section of the Arctic. Perseevsky is being explored by Rosneft in partnership with Statoil.

Naturally, there is major environmental opposition to this Arctic foray: Greenpeace, Bloomberg recalls, last year launched a lawsuit against the Norwegian government for awarding exploration licenses in the Barents Sea. The case will be heard this fall.

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OPEC Production Cut May Need to Be Extended: Oil Ministers

OPEC Production Cut May Need to Be Extended: Oil Ministers

Production

The oil ministers of Iran and Qatar have suggested that OPEC’s production cut agreement may have to be extended beyond the June deadline, despite an almost 100-percent compliance rate.

The comments come a day after the American Petroleum Institute reported the second-largest crude oil inventory increase in history, at 14.227 million barrels, which added fuel to worries that production cut efforts are not enough to rebalance the market.

Iran’s Oil Minister, Bijan Zanganeh, told Iranian media after a meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart that the option of extending the cut needs further study, but, he said, “in principle” the group must do it. Zanganeh also said that most OPEC producers would be happy with oil at US$60 – a level that has proved difficult to reach.

Qatar’s Oil Minister Mohammed Al Sada, for his part, spoke at a news conference in Doha, saying that the oil market may rebalance in the third quarter, adding that “it’s too early to make a judgment.”

At the same time, however, Qatar’s Finance Minister said that the country is comfortable with the current level of oil prices, with expectations that it will be able to plug its budget hole this year, at oil price levels of US$45, as stipulated in the budget.

The latest update from OPEC on how the production cut was progressing pegged daily production for January at 32.89 million barrels, versus a target of 32.5 million barrels. This represented a compliance rate of 91 percent and suggested that nearly everyone is on board with the market rebalancing effort.

Iraq is still producing 130,000 bpd more than agreed, but as a whole, the cartel is exceeding expectations of compliance. This, however, seems to be insufficiently lifting benchmark prices. After API’s report yesterday, WTI slipped below US$52 and Brent dropped below US$55.

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

The Oil War Is Only Just Getting Started

The Oil War Is Only Just Getting Started

Oil infrastructure

It’s been a month now that investors and analysts have been closely watching two main drivers for oil prices: how OPEC is doing with the supply-cut deal, and how U.S. shale is responding to fifty-plus-dollar oil with rebounding drilling activity. Those two main factors are largely neutralizing each other, and are putting a floor and a cap to a price range of between $50 and $60.

The U.S. rig count has been rising, while OPEC seems unfazed by the resurgence in North American shale activity and is trying to convince the market (and itself) and prove that it would be mostly adhering to the promise to curtail supply in an effort to boost prices and bring markets back to balance. In the next couple of months, official production figures will point to who’s winning this round of the oil wars.

This would be the short-term game between low-cost producers and higher-cost producers.

In the longer run, the latest energy outlook by supermajor BP points to another looming battle for market share, where low-cost producers may try to boost market shares before oil demand peaks.

BP’s Energy Outlook 2017 estimates that there is an abundance of oil resources, and “known resources today dwarf the world’s likely consumption of oil out to 2050 and beyond”.

“In a world where there’s an abundance of potential oil reserves and supply, what we may see is low-cost producers producing ever-increasing amounts of that oil and higher-cost producers getting gradually crowded out,” Spencer Dale, BP group chief economist said.

In BP’s definition of low-cost producers, the majority of the lowest-cost resources sit in large, conventional onshore oilfields, particularly in the Middle East and Russia.

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

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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