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When boom is bust: the shale oil bonanza as a symptom of economic crisis

When boom is bust: the shale oil bonanza as a symptom of economic crisis

The gradual climb in oil prices in recent weeks has revived hopes that US shale oil producers will return to profitability, while also renewing fevered dreams of the US becoming a fossil fuel superpower once again.

Thus a few days ago my daily newspaper ran a Bloomberg article by Grant Smith which lead with this sweeping claim:

“The U.S. shale revolution is on course to be the greatest oil and gas boom in history, turning a nation once at the mercy of foreign imports into a global player. That seismic shift shattered the dominance of Saudi Arabia and the OPEC cartel, forcing them into an alliance with long-time rival Russia to keep a grip on world markets.”

I might have simply chuckled and turned the page, had I not just finished reading Oil and the Western Economic Crisis, by Cambridge University economist Helen Thompson. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

Thompson looks at the same  shale oil revolution and draws strikingly different conclusions, both about the future of the oil economy and about the effects on US relations with OPEC, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

Before diving into Thompson’s analysis, let’s first look at the idea that the shale revolution may be “the greatest oil and gas boom in history”. As backing for this claim, Grant Smith cites a report earlier in November by the International Energy Agency, predicting that US shale oil output will soar to about 8 million barrels/day by 2025.

Accordingly, “ ‘The United States will be the undisputed leader of global oil and gas markets for decades to come,’ IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said … in an interview with Bloomberg television.”

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

The Man Behind The Oil Price Rally

The Man Behind The Oil Price Rally

MBS

The OPEC meeting is over and the cartel has extended production cuts throughout 2018. The decision is obviously crucial to supporting oil prices, but perhaps an even bigger story is the relentless strategy from the young Saudi Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, being played out both inside OPEC and in his own country. And oil is the key to it all.

Last Sunday premiered the newly formed Islamic anti-terrorism coalition, putting together leaders from Sunni Arab nations to denounce and combat fundamentalist terrorism throughout the Middle East and the world. It was another bold initiative towards the West of the young and energetic Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, coming on the heels of other bold moves that have looked to consolidate political and religious power in the Kingdom.

Together, all of these initiatives couldn’t be more transparent. They represent a movement of the most economically powerful nation in OPEC towards social, cultural and economic change, the realization of the Saudi “Vision 2030”. It is a top-down Arab Spring movement that likely has a better chance of success than the populist movements that resulted in more chaos than change in 2010.

However, the ultimate success for Vision 2030 will rely upon achieving the main economic goal of this revolution – the divestiture of Saudi Arabia from the singularity of oil revenues. Because we know that ultimately money – and lots of it – will be needed to drive the engines for change, we get a far better picture of just how important these latest production extensions agreed to in Vienna were for the young Prince.

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

OPEC Extension Sends Oil Prices Soaring

OPEC Extension Sends Oil Prices Soaring

Barrels

Oil markets’ initial reaction to yesterday’s OPEC news was rather dull, however oil prices saw a sharp spike on Friday morning as the bulls returned to the mix.

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OPEC followed through on its promise, extending the production cuts through the end of 2018, bringing relief to an oil market that had grown jittery in recent days. Oil prices traded in a relatively narrow range after the meeting and appeared muted. But once concerns over a selloff calmed, oil prices rallied once again on Friday morning.

OPEC deal extended through 2018. The deal will run from January through to December, and the exact volumes of the production cuts will be the same as this year. The OPEC/non-OPEC coalition said that they would monitor market conditions and would remain “agile,” ready to respond if the fundamentals deviate significantly from expectations. They will revisit the agreement at the next official meeting in June 2018, but they assume the cuts will last through the end of the year. Russian officials pressed for details on an exit strategy heading into the meeting, but the group offered no information – Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih said it would be “premature” to do so. One notable change is that Libya and Nigeria agreed to cap their production levels at their 2017 average, which doesn’t necessarily curtail supply but will prevent any “surprise,” as witnessed this year. The Russian and Saudi oil ministers played up their unity and boasted about their strong relationship. All smiles from Vienna.

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

OPEC Agrees To Extend Oil Supply Cuts Until End Of 2018: Bloomberg

OPEC Agrees To Extend Oil Supply Cuts Until End Of 2018: Bloomberg

With OPEC delegates sequestered in a Vienna conference room, as they negotiate the proposed 6-9 month production cut extension, at least one appears to be leaking the decision process to media outlets, because moments ago Bloomberg reported that OPEC ministers have agreed to extend their production cuts until the end of 2018 – agreeing with the Saudi-proposed 9 month extension – and discussions have now moved on to the mechanism that will be used to review the agreement in the middle of the year.

  • OPEC AGREES TO EXTEND OIL SUPPLY CUTS TO END OF 2018: DELEGATE
  • OPEC TALKS MOVED ON TO DETAILS OF MID-YEAR REVIEW: DELEGATE

These were some of the earlier headlines heading into the “announcement”:

  • IRAQ SAYS RUSSIA JOINING IN EXTENDING OUTPUT CUTS TO END OF ’18
  • SAUDI MIN: WE WILL REVIEW OUR EFFORTS IN JUNE NEXT YEAR
  • SAUDI MIN: OPEC+ MUST DO MORE BECAUSE OVERHANG REMAINS
  • AL-FALIH: IN 2Q AND 3Q, WE’LL SEE HEALTHY INVENTORY DRAWDOWNS
  • IRAQ COMMITTED TO LEVEL OF OPEC CUTS
  • U.A.E.: OPEC LOOKING FOR WIDER GROUP OF COUNTRIES TO JOIN CUTS
  • IRAN SAYS NO DISCUSSION TO RAISE CUTS VOLUME BEYOND 1.8M B/D

While oil prices had traded near session highs ahead of the leaked announcement, they have failed to spike on the news and in fact Brent is back under $64, suggesting that, as Goldman predicted, a favorable outcome had been more than priced in, and now the details of the agreement will determine which way oil moves next.

As Citi wrote moments before the report, “it looks like a 6-9 month extension is the most common expectation amongst OPEC members, though the inclusion of caveats is looking increasingly likely. 

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

OPEC October Production Data

OPEC October Production Data

All data below is based on the latest OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report.

All data is through October 2017 and is in thousand barrels per day.

I have now included Equatorial Guneia although I only have data from January 2015 from OPEC’s secondary sources. The January 2015 E. Guneia data was extended back to January 2005. I know this is inaccurate but production from E. Guneia is so small it will make little difference.

OPEC crude oil production dropped by 151,000 barrels per day in October.

 

Algeria took a hit in October, down 38,400 bpd.

Angola was up almost 70,000 bpd in October.

Not much is happening in Ecuador. They were up 7,100 bpd in October.

I do not have historical data for Equatorial Guinea. The OPEC MOMR gives average annual production data for 2015 and 2016 and quarterly data for the first two quarters of 2017. But now we will have monthly data from now on. However, they produce the least of all OPEC countries and their production will make little difference.

Gabon, another of the also-rans. Any change in their production will have only a small effect.

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

IEA Pours Cold Water On OPEC Optimism, Warns Global Oil Demand Shrinking

IEA Pours Cold Water On OPEC Optimism, Warns Global Oil Demand Shrinking

Pouring cold water on yesterday’s optimistic demand forecast projected by OPEC, which projected global crude demand growth to rise by 1.5mm b/d in 2018, this morning the International Energy Agency warned that the crude oil price rally could be short-lived because, contrary to OPEC’s expectations, global oil demand will be weaker than expected this year and next. In its closely watched monthly oil report, the IEA cut its crude demand growth outlook by 100,000 barrels a day for 2017 and 2018, as the WSJ reported. The agency now expects demand to grow by 1.5 million barrels a day this year and 1.3 million barrels a day next year.

The IEA predicted that balances will likely show the crude market is oversupplied in Q4 2017 and the first half of 2018, with oil demand in 2017 at 97.7mmb/d, rising to 98.9 million in 2018. Meanwhile, non-OPEC Oil Supply is expected To rise by 700,000b/d In 2017 To 58.1mmb/d, and another 1.4 mmb/d in 2018 to 59.5mm b/d, led by shale output.

The IEA also noted that global oil inventories fell 63mm barrels In Q3, only second quarterly draw since 2014, with the call on OPEC crude seen at 32.6mmb/d in Q4, declining to 32.0mmb/d in Q1 2018.

However, “the highlight of the report was that they lowered their demand forecast,” said Jens Pedersen, senior analyst at Danske Bank. The report also cautioned that “if the geopolitical concerns calm down, then prices could fall down again, so on the margin it’s a tad bearish.”

The IEA noted that oil prices have risen roughly 20% since early September with Brent crude sustaining gains above $60 a barrel in recent weeks, on the back of supply disruptions and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. But if those problems prove temporary, a “fresh look at the fundamentals” would likely show the “market balance in 2018 does not look as tight as some would like and there is not in fact a ‘new normal.’”

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

OPEC Reports 151Kbpd Drop In October Crude Output; Raises Demand Forecast For 2018

OPEC Reports 151Kbpd Drop In October Crude Output; Raises Demand Forecast For 2018

True to its perpetually optimistic form, OPEC, which only last week for the first time conceded the threat posed by rising US shale production…

… sharply raised its demand forecast for cartel oil in 2018, ahead of a key meeting of the group’s ministers later this month. According to OPEC’s monthly market report, the oil exporters said the forecast demand for its oil next year had been increased by around 400,000 barrels a day from the previous month to 33.4mmbpd, about 0.46mmbpd higher than in 2017. Overall, the cartel now expects global demand growth to rise by 1.53 million barrels a day in 2017 – an upward revision of 74kbps from the October report citing better than expected performance from China – and 1.51 million barrels a day in 2018.

The increase comes on the back of the recent global economic strength, which has exceeded many analysts’ expectations, helping to draw down inventories that built up during the crude glut since late 2014. Furthermore, the rise in demand has combined with the 1.8mmbpd in production cuts by OPEC and non-OPEC nations since January of this year to help tighten the market, pushing the price of Brent back above $60 a barrel for the first time in two years.

As the FT adds, cartel analysts said demand for Opec crude is expected to reach 34m b/d in the second half of next year, roughly 1.4mmbpd above what they pumped last month, according to secondary sources. As usual, oil demand is contingent not only on overall confidence (i.e. the stock market), but also whether the global economy is expanding or contracting, which all boils down to whether China is creating lots of new debt each month.

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

The Changing Geopolitics of Energy

The Changing Geopolitics of Energy

In 2008, US policymakers worried that increasing dependence on energy imports, together with rising prices, would severely constrain American geopolitical influence. Instead, the revolution in shale energy has brought about a tectonic shift in international relations, one that promises to boost US global power in the long term.

TOKYO – In 2008, when the United States’ National Intelligence Council (NIC) published its volume Global Trends 2025, a key prediction was tighter energy competition. Chinese demand was growing, and non-OPEC sources like the North Sea were being depleted. After two decades of low and relatively stable prices, oil prices had soared to more than $100 per barrel in 2006. Many experts spoke of “peak oil” – the idea that reserves had “topped off” – and anticipated that production would become concentrated in the low-cost but unstable Middle East, where even Saudi Arabia was thought to be fully explored, with no more giant fields likely to be found.

The NIC analysts did not neglect the possibility of a technological surprise, but they focused on the wrong technology. Emphasizing the potential of renewables such as solar, wind, and hydro, they missed the main act.

The real technological breakthrough was the shale-energy revolution. While horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are not new, their pioneering application to shale rock was. By 2015, more than half of all the natural gas produced in the US came from shale.

The shale boom has propelled the US from being an energy importer to an energy exporter. The US Energy Department estimates that the country has 25 trillion cubic meters of technically recoverable shale gas, which, when combined with other oil and gas resources, could last for two centuries.

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

China Takes Aim At The Petrodollar

China Takes Aim At The Petrodollar

Dollar

China continues to pursue its ambitious plan to make its currency—the yuan—more international.

The world’s top crude oil importer and key oil demand growth driver is now determined to get as many oil exporters as possible on board with accepting yuan payments for their oil.

China is now trying to persuade OPEC’s kingpin and biggest exporter, Saudi Arabia, to start accepting yuan for its crude oil. If the Chinese succeed, other oil exporters could follow suit and abandon the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Pulling oil trade out of U.S. dollars would lead to decreased demand for U.S. securities across the board, Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High Frequency Economics, tells CNBC. Weinberg believes that the Chinese will “compel” the Saudis to accept to trade oil in yuan.

Other analysts warn that the true test of China’s push for a yuan oil trade will be if the Saudis are willing to risk the anger of the U.S. by accepting yuan payments.

The other option isn’t much better for the Saudis—if they continue to resist trading in yuan, they risk losing further market share of the world’s top crude oil importer and possibly the snub of Chinese investors for the much-hyped IPO of Saudi Aramco next year. Chinese sovereign wealth funds and major state companies have deeper pockets than major institutional investors in the West. For China, an Aramco investment could increase Beijing’s bargaining power to convince Aramco to accept yuan payments. Although there’s no indication yet that Aramco would want yuan for its oil, the Saudis say they’re willing to consider issuing yuan-denominated bonds, in what could be a break from the practice to issue debt only in U.S. dollars.

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

How OPEC Continues To Cheat On Its Own Deal

How OPEC Continues To Cheat On Its Own Deal

oil production

All data below is based on the latest OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report.

All data is through September 2017 and is in thousand barrels per day.

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The above chart does not include the 14th member of OPEC that was recently added, Equatorial Guinea. I do not have historical data for Equatorial Guinea so I may not add them at all. OPEC production has held steady for the past four months. Equatorial Guinea production is tiny, 141,000 bpd so their monthly change in production can be ignored without much effect. OPEC 14 production was up 88,000 barrels per day in September. But that was after their August production had been revised downward by 82,000 bpd.
The OPEC 13, (not including Equatorial Guinea), peaked in 2016 at 32,385 kbpd and are down 150 kbpd for the first 9 months of 2017. Please note that when I say “peaked” I mean “peaked so far“. I am well aware of the fact that OPEC, or some OPEC nations may have further peaks in the future.

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Not much is happening in Algeria. They peaked in 2008 at 1,393 kbpd and their annual average is down 338 kbpd since then.
Note: Here and below the annual average being down from the peak, I am referring to the average of the first 9 months of 2017. And, of course, I am aware that there may be further peaks down the road although that is highly unlikely for all but a couple of OPEC nations. That is because every OPEC nation is currently producing every barrel they possibly can and that includes Saudi Arabia.

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

OPEC Boosts Oil Demand Estimates, Admits Oil Prices Can’t Rise Above $55

OPEC Boosts Oil Demand Estimates, Admits Oil Prices Can’t Rise Above $55

In its latest OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report (October) the oil cartel has increased its oil demand estimates for 2017, 2018 on strengthening world economy, and weaker outlook for supplies from its rivals.

Specifically, OPEC forecasts that based on the current global oil supply/demand balance, demand for OPEC crude in 2017 is estimated at 32.8 mb/d, around 0.6 mb/d higher than in 2016. Similarly, OPEC crude in 2018 is projected at 33.1 mb/d, 350k b/d higher than September production, and ~200k b/d higher than the group estimated last month.  Global oil demand seen rising +1.38m b/d, or 1.4% in 2018 to 98.19m b/d

Meanwhile, OPEC claims that oil inventories in developed nations continued to decline, -24.7m bbl to 2.996b bbl in August, curbing surplus relative to a 5-year average to 171m bbl.

Here are the key highlights from the report:

Crude Oil Price Movements

The OPEC Reference Basket rose to $53.44/b in September, its highest value since July 2015. Crude futures prices also saw gains, with ICE Brent averaging above the $55/b, supported by increasing evidence that the oil market is heading toward rebalancing. Geopolitical tensions and lower distillates stocks also pushed prices higher. ICE Brent averaged $55.51/b in September, a gain of $3.64, while NYMEX WTI increased $1.82 to average $49.88/b. Hedge funds raised net long position in ICE Brent and NYMEX WTI futures and options by almost 200,000 contracts. At the end of the month, the Brent crude contract curve had flipped into backwardation through December 2021. The sweet/sour spread widened significantly in Asia and Europe.

World Economy

Growth in the world economy continues to improve, with the forecast for 2017 revised up to 3.6% from 3.5% in last month’s report. Similarly, the 2018 forecast has been adjusted higher to 3.5% from 3.4%. The improving momentum is visible in all economies, particularly the OECD, which is seen growing by 2.2% in 2017 and by an upwardly revised 2.1% in 2018.

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

OPEC To Take Drastic Action Despite Shale Slowdown

OPEC To Take Drastic Action Despite Shale SlowdownOil

WTI recently dipped below $50 per barrel for the first time in a month, erasing the strong September rally. It’s no coincidence that after two weeks of price declines, OPEC has tried to talk up the oil market again, hinting that more drastic action could be forthcoming.

Echoing the world’s top central bankers, OPEC’s Secretary General said that the oil cartel might need to take “extraordinary” measures to balance the oil market next year. “There is a growing consensus that, number one, the re-balancing process is underway,” OPEC’s Mohammad Barkindo told reporters on Sunday in New Delhi. “Number two, to sustain this into next year, some extraordinary measures may have to be taken in order to restore this stability on a sustainable basis going forward.”

As always, OPEC is vague on the specifics, but the working assumption is that the group will agree to an extension of the cuts until at least mid-2018, or perhaps even as late as through the end of the year. There’s been some discussion about deeper production cuts, but there aren’t a ton of analysts who see OPEC going that far, despite Barkindo’s cryptic language.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia engaged in a bit of its own psy-ops with the oil market on Monday, saying that it was taking “unprecedented” steps to cut its oil exports. Saudi Aramco said it would lower exports by 560,000 bpd next month, “the deepest customer allocation cuts in its history.”

The comments are consistent with the country’s longstanding pattern of trying to jawbone the market when it wants higher prices. Based on Monday’s activity, the effort didn’t work. “The fact that we did not get any significant strength from the Saudi news is rather disheartening for the bulls,” Stephen Schork, an analyst and author of the Schork Report, told the WSJ. “The market is very skeptical of this.”

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

A Desperate OPEC Asks US Shale For Help In Cutting Oil Output

A Desperate OPEC Asks US Shale For Help In Cutting Oil Output

While OPEC has been presenting an optimistic facade in recent months, repeating at every oppostunity that the global oil market is “rebalancing” and demand is rising, the oil production cartel made a rare slip today when it addressed what should not be named in public: US shale production. Speaking on Tuesday, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo called on U.S. shale oil producers to help curtail global oil supply, warning extraordinary measures might be needed next year to sustain the rebalanced market in the medium to long term. Which is odd because in every other public address by OPEC members, we hear precisely the opposite: that the market is already in a state of “healthy rebalancing” and… the oil production cut which was supposed to last until this past June may now be extended beyond March of 2018.

“We urge our friends, in the shale basins of North America to take this shared responsibility with all seriousness it deserves, as one of the key lessons learnt from the current unique supply-driven cycle,” said Barkindo quoted by Reuters during a speech delivered at the India Energy Forum organized by CERAWeek in New Delhi.

“At the moment we (OPEC and independent U.S. producers) both agreed that we have a shared responsibility in maintaining stability because they are also not insulated from the impact of this downturn,” Barkindo said, referring to a slide in oil prices that spurred OPEC to agree production cuts late last year. “The call by independents themselves (is) that we need to continue this interaction.”

Some independents… but not all, and certainly not the cas-flush US shale producers.

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

Russia And China Continue To Boost Oil Ties

Russia And China Continue To Boost Oil Ties

Oil

Even before the OPEC/non-OPEC production cuts took effect in January 2017, Russia had already beaten Saudi Arabia to become China’s single largest oil supplier for 2016. Since then, Saudi Arabia has sacrificed still more of its market share in the prized Chinese market, while Russia has dominated Beijing’s top suppliers’ list for most of this year.

Now Russia’s oil giant, Rosneft—whose chief executive Igor Sechin is a close ally of Vladimir Putin—is reportedly aiming to further increase its crude oil deliveries to China, as Russia looks to boost energy ties with the world’s biggest crude oil importer and top driver of global oil demand growth.

Since the OPEC/Russia oil production deal began, the U.S. has stepped up sanctions on Russia, which made Western banks and companies even more cautious in dealing with Russian firms. Considering this, it’s not a huge surprise that Rosneft and Russia want to boost ties with Chinese firms, refiners, and banks.

Rosneft now aims to almost double its crude oil exports to China through Kazakhstan, Reuters reported last week, citing industry sources.

Although it’s not immediately clear when that increase will take place, this plan is only the latest in a series of projects that boost Russian oil supplies to Chinese refiners. Chinese firms, on the other hand, recently made big investments in Russian energy projects and firms, including in a large stake in Rosneft.

Chinese industrial conglomerate CEFC recently agreed to buy 14.16 percent in Rosneft for approximately $9 billion. The deal didn’t come as a surprise, coming on the heels of a Rosneft announcement regarding the sealing of a strategic partnership deal with CEFC, but it’s clearly indicative of a continuing warming between Moscow and Beijing that gave the former the upper hand in the race for market share with Saudi Arabia.

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

The Geopolitical Consequences Of U.S. Oil Exports

The Geopolitical Consequences Of U.S. Oil Exports

Tanker

Two crucial things happened yesterday.

The first you may have noticed – oil prices moved back up.

As for the second, most so-called “experts” seemed to have missed.

See, the environment we’re seeing in energy markets is very different from what we saw only a week ago, when oil prices were also rising.

Because yesterday also saw – for the first time in world history – a reigning Saudi Arabian monarch in Moscow for talks with Russia’s head of state.

Historically, Russia has been much closer to Iran – Saudi Arabia’s main regional enemy.

Now, King Salman and President Putin are expected to endorse the plan to extend the OPEC-Russia deal to cut oil production and boost prices beyond the current end date of March 2018.

But that’s not all they’re going to talk about…

Other, more far-ranging matters will also be on the agenda, including the war in Syria.

And the catalyst for this huge shift in global geopolitics is surprisingly simple.

It’s all about America’s record-breaking oil exports…

Russia and Saudi Arabia Need Each Other… for Now

Now, there’s no indication that Russia and Saudi Arabia are on the road to an alliance on anything beyond oil prices.

Even then, that accord remains only as long as it is in the subjective interest of the parties.

Nonetheless, it is disquieting to Washington that any such prospects may be on the horizon… or that U.S. oil exports may be introducing a range of foreign policy concerns.

From an energy perspective, the main issue at hand is the OPEC-Russian deal to cap oil production, which is now almost certain to continue further than the agreed-on end date of March next year.

And after some concerns had been raised over individual OPEC members exceeding the quotas the deal assigned them, evidence is now emerging that the restraint is holding.

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

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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