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EU Prepares Public For Winter Gas Siege

EU Prepares Public For Winter Gas Siege

European Union policymakers have started to prepare the public for siege conditions this winter if gas supplies from Russia are completely cut, an effort to demonstrate diplomatic resolve as well as avoid panic later in the year.

In recent weeks, officials from Germany and other EU member states have begun to talk openly and urgently about the need for immediate reductions in consumption in advance of the peak winter heating season.

They have also started to plan publicly for compulsory allocation, including rationing and prioritization among industrial users, as well as sharing among member states in the event there is not enough gas to supply everyone.

The stated reason is to accelerate the accumulation of inventories over the remainder of the summer to ensure European countries enter the winter with the highest possible inventories.

In reality, inventories are rising relatively rapidly and are already above the long-term seasonal average in most member states and across the region as a whole.

Inventories across the EU and the United Kingdom (EU28) stood at 751 terawatt-hours (TWh) on July 24 compared with a ten-year seasonal average of 698 TWh.

EU28 stocks were rising at a rate of 5.11 TWh per day in the seven days to July 24 compared with a ten-year seasonal average of 4.61 TWh.

In Germany, the largest stock holder, inventories of 161 TWh were above the long-term average of 145 TWh, and rising at 0.6 TWh per day, compared with a long-term average of 0.72 TWh per day.

On current trends, the European Union as a whole, and Germany in particular, are already likely to enter the winter with above average levels of gas in storage.

The problem is that it will not be enough if pipeline supplies from Russia are cut completely.

EU storage is designed to cope with seasonal swings in consumption not to withstand a war-like strategic blockade.

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

Widespread US Diesel Shortages Send Crack Spreads To Mindblowing Highs

Widespread US Diesel Shortages Send Crack Spreads To Mindblowing Highs

Global stocks of refined petroleum products have fallen to critically low levels as refineries prove unable to keep up with surging demand especially for the diesel-like fuels used in manufacturing and freight transportation. The result has been a surge in prices refiners receive for selling fuels compared with prices they pay for buying crude and other feedstocks, boosting their profitability significantly.

In the United States, refiners currently receive roughly an average of more than $150 per barrel from the sale of gasoline and diesel at wholesale prices, while paying only around $100 to purchase crude.

The indicative 3-2-1 margin of $50 per barrel is based on the assumption a refinery produces two barrels of gasoline and one barrel of diesel from refining three barrels of crude.

The margin is meant to be representative for an “average” refinery and is a gross figure out of which refiners have to pay for labor, electricity, gas, hydrogen, catalysts, pipeline transport and the cost of capital.

Net margins are narrower and refinery costs have been rising rapidly as result of widespread inflation ripping through the economy following the coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, even allowing for rising input costs, gross margins have more than doubled from $20 at the end of 2021, ensuring refiners have a strong financial incentive to maximize crude processing and fuel production.

DISTILLATE FOCUS

Gross margins are currently higher for making diesel (almost $60 per barrel) than for gasoline ($45 per barrel) reflecting the relative shortage of middle distillates.

U.S. distillate fuel oil stocks are 31 million barrels (23%) below the pre-pandemic five-year average compared with a deficit of only 6 million barrels (3%) in gasoline.

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

US Gas Prices Soar As Europe And Asia Scramble For LNG

US Gas Prices Soar As Europe And Asia Scramble For LNG

U.S. gas prices have surged to the highest level in real terms since the financial crisis in 2008 as strong demand for LNG from buyers in Europe and Asia puts pressure on inventories. Front-month futures for gas delivered to Henry Hub in Louisiana are trading at almost $9 per million British thermal units, up from just over $3 at the same point last year and less than $3 in 2019.

Front-month futures have surged into a record backwardation of almost $4 above futures for delivery one-year from now, as traders anticipate inventories will remain under pressure through the rest of the year.

Working gas stocks in underground storage are 335 billion cubic feet or 18% below the pre-pandemic five-year seasonal average for 2015-2019.

Inventories have remained low despite a fairly mild winter, with population-weighted heating demand this winter in the Lower 48 states around 7% below the average.

Domestic gas production has recovered to its pre-pandemic peak, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But exports especially in the form of LNG have risen sharply, which is keeping inventories low and putting upward pressure on prices.

In recent months, LNG exports have been equivalent to 10-12% of domestic dry gas production, up from around 4% in early 2019. Exports have become a big enough share of the market they have started to enforce a partial convergence with prices in Europe and Asia.

U.S. gas supplies have tightened as Europe and Asia scramble to buy LNG to refill their own depleted storage after last winter and amid fears about a disruption of gas supplies from Russia.

The rise in prices will enforce maximum fuel-switching among power generators from gas to coal to conserve fuel stocks this summer, with spot gas now uncompetitive against coal except for peak generation.

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

India Facing Widespread Blackouts This Summer

India Facing Widespread Blackouts This Summer

India faces a persistent shortage of electricity over the next four months as rapid demand growth from air conditioners overwhelms the available generation on the network.

India’s grid reported a record load of 200,570 megawatts on July 7, 2021, at the height of last summer, according to the National Load Despatch Centre of the Power System Operation Corporation (POSOCO).

But since the middle of March, the grid has routinely reported maximum loads above 195,000 MW, including a peak of 199,584 MW on April 8 – less than 0.5% below the record.

In the evening, when there is no solar generation available and supplies are even more stretched, peak loads have hit a new record in recent days.

Exceptionally high loads have arrived far earlier this year, well before the most intense period of summer heat, implying the grid is in trouble.

In a symptom of the struggle to meet demand, the grid’s frequency has faltered since mid-March, dropping persistently below target, with longer and more severe excursions below the safe operating range.

Chronic under-frequency is a sign the grid cannot meet the full demand from customers and makes planned load-shedding or unplanned blackouts much more likely.

India has a frequency target of 50.00 cycles per second (Hertz), with grid controllers tasked with keeping it steady between 49.90 Hz and 50.05 Hz to maintain the network in a safe and reliable condition. Since the middle of March, frequency has averaged just 49.95 Hz and has been below the lower operating threshold more than 23% of the time.

On April 7, the average frequency fell as low as 49.84 Hz and frequency was below the lower threshold for 63% of the day, according to POSOCO data.

Frequency has been below target so often for so long in recent weeks it has sometimes appeared the system is operating according to a much lower informal target.

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

Global Oil Inventories Are Exceptionally Tight: Kemp

Global Oil Inventories Are Exceptionally Tight: Kemp

Global petroleum inventories are the tightest for years in a sign the market is overheating, as the global economy recovers rapidly from the coronavirus pandemic and major oil producers refuse to increase output faster.

Commercial inventories held in the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) totalled 2.68 billion barrels at the end of December 2021, down from 3.21 billion in July 2020.

Since peaking after the first wave of coronavirus infections in 2020, inventories have fallen at the fastest rate for decades, and ended last year at the lowest seasonal level since 2013.

OECD commercial inventories ended December roughly 8% below the previous five-year seasonal average, with or without the pandemic year, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). There is no precedent for such rapid depletion of stocks in recent decades and the EIA estimates stocks have fallen further in January and February (“Short-term energy outlook”, EIA, Feb. 8).

The result has been a surge in both nearby oil futures prices and calendar spreads, reflecting concerns about the availability of sufficient oil. Front-month Brent futures prices have climbed roughly 25% in the last two months, as the latest wave of coronavirus infections has ebbed and had limited impact on global economic growth or oil consumption.

Brent’s six-month calendar spread, which is closely correlated with stock levels, has surged into a backwardation of more than $8 per barrel this week, within the 99th percentile for all trading days since 1990.

The current combination of rapidly escalating front-month futures prices and backwardation is the most bullish since at least 1993.

Overheating

Low and falling inventories are a sign of excess demand and inadequate supply, putting continuous upward pressure on prices.

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

Kemp: Forget Russian Intentions, Fundamentals Drove Up Europe’s Gas Price

Kemp: Forget Russian Intentions, Fundamentals Drove Up Europe’s Gas Price

European policymakers and some traders blame Russia for the low volume of gas stored across the region which has sent both gas and electricity prices surging to record highs.

Russia’s pipeline gas export monopoly Gazprom has met commitments for long-term contracts, its clients confirm. But it has not raced to book extra pipeline capacity for spot buyers, despite European calls for more supplies.

Some policymakers and traders have speculated additional gas has been deliberately withheld to make a diplomatic point and accelerate the approval of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Others say Russia has withheld gas to create a shortage, drive up prices and increase export revenues, similar to the way the OPEC+ producer group raises oil prices and its revenues.

The other possibility is Russia has not supplied more gas because it faces its own shortage and wants to rebuild domestic stocks after they were depleted by a cold winter in 2020/21.

There is no empirical way to determine which theory is correct or what Russia’s intentions have been. But whatever the reason, the result is the same: gas is in short supply and European energy prices have hit record levels.

Escalating energy prices are a global phenomenon. Shortages of gas, coal, electricity and to a lesser extent oil are evident across North America and Asia as well as Europe. In every case, very high and rapidly rising prices this year are a reaction to very low and rapidly falling prices last year during the coronavirus-driven recession.

Energy prices have always been strongly cyclical. In this instance, an exceptionally severe cyclical slump in 2020 has produced an equally extreme cyclical upswing in 2021.

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

Europe’s Gas Prices Surge To Avert Risk Of Winter Shortage

Europe’s Gas Prices Surge To Avert Risk Of Winter Shortage

Europe’s gas and electricity prices are setting record highs on a daily basis and rising at an accelerating rate as the market tries to destroy enough demand to protect depleted inventories ahead of the winter.  Gas storage sites in the European Union and United Kingdom are currently just under 76% full, compared with a ten-year seasonal average of almost 90%, according to data compiled by Gas Infrastructure Europe.

In the last decade, storage has emptied by an average of 57 percentage points over winter, but depletion is highly variable, ranging from a minimum of 38 points in 2013/14 to a maximum of 71 points in 2017/18.

If this winter sees an average drawdown, storage sites would be reduced to just 19% full by next spring, the second lowest for a decade, leaving the region with a persistent gas shortage next year.

If the winter sees a moderately strong draw, in the 75th percentile, storage would be reduced by 68 percentage points to a record low of just 8% next spring, increasing the probability supply will actually run out in some areas.

If the winter sees a maximum draw, similar to 2017/18, storage would be almost exhausted by next spring, making local shortages almost inevitable.

Futures prices are rising to avert this threat by rationing demand now to conserve inventories and reduce the risk of running out later in the winter.

Sharply rising prices are the reason wholesale markets (such as European gas) rarely run into physical shortages, unlike retail markets (U.K. gasoline and diesel) where price rises are typically more limited for commercial and political reasons.

Europe’s gas and electricity prices are likely to remain elevated until there is clear evidence that they have begun to reduce demand and conserve inventories.

The Electrical Grid Is Becoming Increasingly Vulnerable To Catastrophic Failure

The Electrical Grid Is Becoming Increasingly Vulnerable To Catastrophic Failure

Future electricity systems must be made more resilient

Prolonged blackouts in Louisiana following Hurricane Ida are a reminder the power grid needs to become more resilient as well as reliable if even more services such as electric vehicles are going to depend on it in future.

The electricity system is already directly responsible for providing a wide range of energy services in homes, offices and factories, including space heating, air-conditioning, cooking, refrigeration and power. The grid is also at the heart of a collection of other critical systems, including oil and gas supply, water and sewerage, transport, communications, public safety and healthcare, which cannot function properly without it.

In future, the grid is likely to be responsible for the provision of even more energy services as policymakers push to electrify many remaining services as part of the strategy for achieving net zero emissions.

But in the rush to electrify the entire energy system, policymakers may be inadvertently increasing the vulnerability of the economy and society in the event of a large-area, long-duration power failure.

Rather than several closely connected but separate systems for electricity, gas, oil, and transport, in future there will increasingly be only one very tightly integrated system, increasing its vulnerability to catastrophic failure.

The risk created by linking formerly separate systems into a central system prone to a single point of failure has been understood for decades (“Brittle power: energy strategy for national security“, Lovins, 1982). In particular, the more tightly coupled systems become, the greater the risk an unanticipated problem in one part could cascade through the whole (“Normal accidents: living with high-risk technologies“, Perrow, 1999).

At present, blackouts render some services unavailable (lighting, power), but households and businesses may be able to use others (gas heating, gasoline vehicles). In future, blackouts could disrupt substantially all energy services.

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

Oil Demand Growth Could Start To Soften Soon

Oil Demand Growth Could Start To Soften Soon

Oil

OPEC may tout the production cuts pact as the key driver of oil market rebalancing, but if it weren’t for the strong global oil demand growth of the past three years, we wouldn’t have seen international agencies calling the end of the oil glut.

Demand was strong because the lower-for-longer oil prices between 2015 and 2017 stimulated consumption growth in both mature OECD economies like the United States and most of Western Europe, and in emerging non-OECD markets—China and India in particular.

All oil importing nations benefited from the lower oil prices, but while demand growth in India and China is largely driven by economic expansion and industrial activity, in OECD economies demand is more closely linked with large and sustained changes in oil prices. The 70-percent rally in oil prices since the middle of last year is expected to moderate growth in the more price-sensitive OECD economies, Reuters market analyst John Kemp argues.

Oil demand will continue to increase, largely driven by non-OECD markets like China and India, but the higher oil prices could slacken the pace of the OECD demand growth that could curb global oil demand growth.

Last year, oil demand grew by 1.7 million bpd—similar to the 2016 growth and well above the 10-year average of some 1.1 million bpd, BP said in its BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 published this week.

“Not surprisingly, oil demand in 2017 continued to be driven by oil importers benefitting from the windfall of low prices, with both Europe (0.3 Mb/d) and the US (0.2 Mb/d) posting notable increases, compared with average declines over the previous 10 years,” BP noted.

Growth in non-OECD China—500,000 bpd—was closer to its 10-year average, according to the review.

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

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