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‘High’ Oil Prices Are Already Dampening Demand

‘High’ Oil Prices Are Already Dampening Demand

Fatih Birol

Crude oil prices are affecting demand for the commodity negatively, the International Energy Agency’s head Fatih Birol told S&P Global Platts in an interview.

“The higher oil price environment may, if they stay around this level, also have an impact…put some downward pressure under demand growth,” Birol said. The warning follows the release of IEA’s latest Oil Market Report, in which the authority kept its oil demand growth projections for this year unchanged at 1.4 million bpd.

The agency’s boss noted that Brent over US$70 a barrel is affecting demand the most in the emerging markets that account for the most of demand growth, including China and India, but also the United States.

“So it will not be a surprise if we are to revise our demand numbers in the next edition of the oil market report if the prices remain at these levels,” he told S&P Global Platts.

For those that are watching oil price movements and the reactions of the world’s largest importers, this is not news. After a slump in the fourth quarter of last year, Brent has rebounded by about 40 percent, trading above US$70 at the moment.

Prices were pushed up by the entry into effect of the latest OPEC+ round of production cuts with Saudi Arabia leading the charge and cutting considerably more than it had agreed to, yet again in a bid to raise prices to levels it feels more comfortable with. However, these are levels that India and China do not feel equally comfortable with.

India relies on exports for more than 80 percent of its oil consumption and China is more dependent on imports than it would like to be. So, it is no wonder that the climb in prices “will definitely hurt oil demand if it soared especially in the important demand growth centers such as India,” according to Birol.

Is This A Precursor For Peak Oil Demand?

Is This A Precursor For Peak Oil Demand?

oil barrels

The $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund of Norway may sell off all of its shares in oil producers.

The move is a shot across the bow for the oil industry. A $1 trillion fund, built on oil itself, now sees the future of oil as too risky.

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is not getting out of the oil business entirely. The government has only recommended exiting oil and gas exploration and production companies (i.e., upstream producers). The reason why the fund wants to pursue divestment is that it views the long-term oil market as volatile, unpredictable, and at this point, vulnerable to permanently low prices. “The goal is to make our collective wealth less vulnerable to a lasting fall in oil prices,” Norway’s finance minister, Siv Jensen, said. The fund currently holds about $37 billion in oil and gas stocks.

Based on that logic, the government wants to avoid the exposure to producers, since they will be the companies most impacted by changes in oil prices.

But the divestment is also one of the most powerful symbols yet regarding the potential for peak oil demand. The notion of permanently low oil prices is predicated on a peak and decline in consumption. And if a $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund views oil as inherently risky going forward, other investors could begin to fret. It’s worth noting that oil and gas stocks fellimmediately after the announcement.  

On the other hand, the selloff could also be viewed in the narrow interests of Norway itself. The sovereign wealth fund was built by oil revenues, so the divestment is a bit ironic. Critics might point out that it is a bit rich for a country that has been, and still is, funded by oil revenues to be taking such a stand on the future of the oil business.

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

Oil Market About To Enter Supply Deficit

Oil Market About To Enter Supply Deficit

Refinery China

In the latest edition of the Numbers Report, we’ll take a look at some of the most interesting figures put out this week in the energy and metals sectors. Each week we’ll dig into some data and provide a bit of explanation on what drives the numbers.

Let’s take a look.

1. Oil market entering supply deficit

• The OPEC+ cuts have likely already tipped the oil market into a supply deficit, according to Barclays.
• OECD inventories fell dramatically over the past two years, and came back to the five-year average in 2018, where they have mostly remained. 
• The OPEC+ cuts quickly headed off a renewed surplus, and will likely drain inventories over the course of this year. Inventories are set to fall below the five-year average.
• Still, Barclays says the market return to balance or even a small surplus in the second half of 2019.

2. China’s oil demand not collapsing

• Some of the more catastrophic oil forecasts for 2019 centered on a sharp slowdown in Chinese demand. 
• China’s car sales actually contracted year-on-year over the last few months, and car sales could continue to fall this year. 
• But China’s demand, while slowing relative to years past, is still expected to grow by 0.5 mb/d in 2019, according to Barclays, the same rate of expansion as 2018.
• Next year, however, China’s demand growth could slow a bit more, dipping below 0.4 mb/d, continuing a gradual deceleration in demand growth.

3. Cobalt oversupplied, but in high demand

• Kobold Metals, a startup backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, is hoping to build a “Google Maps for the earth’s crust,” according to Bloomberg.
• The company is building a database of geological data on cobalt, a metal that is often overlooked but is increasingly important to batteries in electric vehicles and the broader shift towards clean energy.

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

World Bank Warns Of Extreme Volatility In Oil Markets

World Bank Warns Of Extreme Volatility In Oil Markets

World Bank

After several months of oil price rises and then a sharp reversal over the last few weeks, world oil markets are in for more heightened volatility next year because of scarce spare production capacity among OPEC members. This warning comes from the World Bank, which in the latest edition of its Russia Economic Report said that OPEC was the single most important factor for oil price outlooks in the short term.

“As non-OPEC oil supply growth is expected to be greater than that of global demand, the outlook for oil prices depends heavily on supply from OPEC members,” the report’s authors noted. The level of spare capacity among OPEC members is estimated to be low at present, suggesting there are limited buffers in the event of a sudden shortfall in supply of oil, raising the likelihood of oil price spikes in 2019.”

The World Bank is not alone in seeing OPEC’s spare capacity as an important factor for oil prices going forward. Spare capacity provides a cushion against price shocks as evidenced most recently by the June decision of the cartel and Russia to start pumping more again after 18 months of cutting to arrest a too fast increase in oil prices. They had the capacity to do it and prices stopped rising, helped by downward revisions of economic forecasts.

Now, the oil market is plagued with concerns about oversupply, but this could change quite quickly if there is any sign that OPEC is nearing the end of its spare production capacity. As to the likelihood of such a sign emerging anytime soon, this remains to be seen.

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

Alberta Orders “Unprecedented” Oil Output Cut To Combat Crashing Prices

While just a few hundred miles south, WTI is flirting with the one year low price of $50/barrel, Canada’s oil-producing hub, Alberta, would be ecstatic to have its oil trade at anything even remotely close to this level.

As we reported recently, Canadian oil producers are in an increasingly tough predicament. With high and increasing oil demand around the globe over the last year, Canadian oil production has increased accordingly. All of this is simple and predictable economics, but in the process Canadian oil hit a massive roadblock. Producers have the supply, and they have more than enough demand, but they don’t have the means to make the connection. Canadian export pipelines simply don’t have the capacity to keep up with either the supply or the demand.

Canadian oil producers have now maxed out their storage capacity, and the Canadian glut continues to grow while they wait for a solution to the pipeline problem to materialize. As pipeline space is at a premium and storage has hit maximum capacity, oil prices have fallen dramatically, and the differentials that had previously been hitting heavy oil hard in Canada (now at below $14 a barrel for the first time since 2016) have now spread to light oil and upgraded synthetic oil sands crude as well, leaving overall Canadian oil prices at record lows.

So in a long-awaited and according to local energy traders, overdue response, Canada’s largest oil producing province ordered what Bloomberg called “an unprecedented output cut”, an effort to ease a worsening crisis in the nation’s energy industry and adding to global actions to combat a recent price crash ahead of this week’s OPEC+ summit where oil exporters will similarly seek to slash output (something which all OPEC+ nations agree upon, but nobody wants to be the first to cut its own production).

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

The Rapid Acceleration Towards Peak Oil Demand

The Rapid Acceleration Towards Peak Oil Demand

crude oil

The drumbeat towards peak oil demand is accelerating, but since much of the acceleration is happening outside of the United States, its cadence is muted.

To be clear, the developed world passed peak oil demand a decade ago and has for years been forecast to continue reducing its demand. Increasing demand in industrializing countries, particularly China and India, each with a population tantamount to that of the OECD, slightly overpowers declines in the developed world, and as a result, global demand continues to increase. In its 2015 World Energy Outlook, the IEA forecast 1.5% y/y increase outside the OECD, -1.2% y/y in the OECD, and an overall growth of 0.5%. Global peak demand will likely occur while developing world demand is still growing. Increased decline in the first world could crest demand, but merely slowing the growth in the rest of the world is the more likely to tip the global balance to plateau then decline.

Demand for oil is dominated by transportation (cars, trucks/trains, planes and boats) and industry (plastics, fertilizers, steam/heat). Passenger vehicles comprise about 25% of global oil demand and thus are the number one target for major emissions reductions. When the IEA released its 2015 World Energy Outlook mentioned above, not a country on the planet had stated plans to ban new sales of oil-fueled cars. Only Japan and Portugal had even created incentives for electric vehicles. In 2016, three European countries outlined plans to end sales of new gasoline and diesel engines. Before the year was over, IEA revised its OECD forecast downward to -1.3% per year.

In 2017 a rash of targets to constrain fossil fuels for cars led Forbes to declare it to be “The Year Europe Got Serious about Killing the Internal Combustion Engine.”

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

The Next Pillar Of Oil Demand Growth

The Next Pillar Of Oil Demand Growth

Petchem plant

The debate about peak oil demand always tends to focus on how quickly electric vehicles will replace the internal-combustion engine, especially as EV sales are accelerating. However, the petrochemical sector will be much more difficult to dislodge, and with alternatives far behind, petrochemicals will account for an increasing share of crude oil demand growth in the years ahead.

Petrochemicals don’t receive much attention in the media, but its fingerprints are everywhere. They are used in plastics, fertilizers, packaging, clothing, dyes, cleaning products, cosmetics, medicines, tires – a seemingly limitless number of end-uses. They are so ingrained and embedded into modern life that they are almost unnoticeable.

Producing the zillions of consumer and industrial products coming from petrochemicals requires huge volumes of feedstocks. Needless to say, as the name suggests, the feedstocks are derived from petroleum – oil and gas. Moreover, demand for petrochemicals is soaring, as hundreds of millions of people in emerging markets move into the middle class.

A new report from the International Energy Agency positions the petrochemical industry as one of the driving forces behind oil demand growth for the next few decades. “The growing role of petrochemicals is one of the key ‘blind spots’ in the global energy debate,” the IEA wrote. “The diversity and complexity of this sector means that petrochemicals receive less attention than other sectors, despite their rising importance.”

The IEA says that the petrochemical sector could account for more than a third of oil demand growth to 2030, and nearly half to 2050, “ahead of trucks, aviation and shipping.” Passenger vehicles are currently a major source of oil demand, but they will “diminish in importance thanks to a combination of better fuel economy, rising public transit, alternative fuels, and electrification.”

But petrochemicals are much more interwoven into modern life, and the alternatives are far less developed.

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

IEA: Plastics Will Replace Fuels As Key Oil Demand Driver

IEA: Plastics Will Replace Fuels As Key Oil Demand Driver

Oil tanker

Plastics will displace fuels as the main driver for crude oil demand, the International Energy Agency said today, adding that petrochemicals will come to account for more than 33 percent of oil demand growth globally in the period to 2030. By 2050, they will drive half of the global oil demand growth, raising this demand by 7 million bpd by that year.

The report that contains the projection is titled The Future of Petrochemicals, and the IEA said it was part of a series of reports that aim to uncover “blind spots”, or facets of the global energy industry that receive less attention than they deserve.

Petrochemicals are indeed Big Oil’s big hope for the future—but the more distant future. Petrochemicals are used in thousands of products, with the biggest group among these being single-use plastic products. The bad news for oil is that green initiatives around the world are mounting, and many of them are targeting precisely this group of products. And yet, even if single-use plastic products are removed from the supply chain, enough demand will remain to drive the consumption of crude oil.

“Petrochemicals are one of the key blind spots in the global energy debate, especially given the influence they will exert on future energy trends,” IEA’s head, Fatih Birol, said. Petrochemicals are not just the plastics we see in single-use grocery bags. Petrochemical products are also essential in renewable energy installations such as solar panels and wind turbines, but also batteries, and thermal insulation, and thousands of other products and components.

The durability of petrochemicals demand is evident in the demand growth trends: the IEA says demand for plastics has almost doubled over the last 18 years, exceeding the demand growth rate of every other bulk material, including steel, aluminum, and cement. Perhaps more importantly, emerging markets have yet to catch up to developed ones in their plastics consumption. Now that’s a guarantee for steady demand in the future.

The Inevitable Oil Supply Crunch

The Inevitable Oil Supply Crunch


“The warning signs are there – the industry isn’t finding enough oil.”

That’s the start of a new report from Wood Mackenzie, which concludes that a supply gap could emerge in the mid-2020s as demand rises at a time when too few new sources of supply are coming online. By 2030, there could be a supply shortfall on the order of 3 million barrels per day (mb/d), WoodMac argues. By 2035, it balloons to 7 mb/d, and by 2040, it reaches 12 mb/d. “Barring technology breakthrough beyond what we already assume, we’ll need new oil discoveries,” the report says.

The seeds of the problem were sown during the oil market downturn that began in 2014. Global upstream exploration spending plunged from $60 billion in 2014 to just $25 billion in 2018, according to WoodMac. Unsurprisingly, that translated into a steep decline in new discoveries. In the early part of this decade, the oil industry was discovering around 8 billion barrels of oil annually. That figure has plunged by three quarters since 2014.

The precise figures vary, but Rystad Energy came a similar conclusion, noting that the total volume of new oil and gas reserves discovered plunged to a record low in 2017. “We haven’t seen anything like this since the 1940s,” Sonia Mladá Passos, Senior Analyst at Rystad Energy, said in a December 2017 statement. “The most worrisome is the fact that the reserve replacement ratio in the current year reached only 11% (for oil and gas combined) – compared to over 50% in 2012.”

This year, the industry has had a bit more success. Spending is on the rebound and new discoveries are on track to rise by about 30 percent, although that is heavily influenced by the developments in Guyana, where ExxonMobil and Hess Corp. have reported nearly a dozen discoveries, and hope to ramp up production to around 750,000 bpd by 2025.

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

OPEC Warns Of Slowing Oil Demand Amid Growing Risks To Global Economy

Amid fears of global oil supply disruption and production curbs, in its latest monthly report, OPEC expects global oil supplies to remain stable, while cautioning that demand is becoming a growing concern.

In the latest report, OPEC said that preliminary data suggested that the global oil supply increased 490,000 barrels a day to average 98.9 mb/d in August, compared with the previous month.

OPEC projects that in 2018, non-OPEC oil supply will grow by 2.02 mmb/d despite making a downward revision of 64,000 b/d from its last report. In 2019, non-OPEC oil supply is expected to grow by another 2.15 mb/d, an upward revision of 17,000 b/d. Meanwhile, OPEC’s supply is also rising.

According to secondary sources total crude oil production by OPEC members averaged 32.56 mb/d in August, an increase of 278,000 b/d over the previous month. As shown in the table below, oil output increased mostly in Libya, Iraq and Nigeria, while production declined in Iran, which is due to be hit with sanctions on its oil industry from November onwards, Venezuela, which is experiencing economic and political upheavals depressing production, and Algeria.

Meanwhile, oil production by OPEC’s leader Saudi Arabia rose by 38kb/d to 10.4 million barrels daily, ticking up every months since May, when it and Russia signalled that they could increase output to fill any supply shortages due to incoming U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil industry.

One curious divergence: according to secondary sources, Iran’s oil supply production fell by 150,000 barrels a day from July to August to around 3.5 mb/d. But according to Iran’s own reporting, production was stable and unchanged production figures for the last three months, however, of 3.8 mb/d.

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

Can Oil Demand Really Peak Within 5 Years?

Can Oil Demand Really Peak Within 5 Years?

Eagle Ford

Oil demand could peak as soon as five years from now.

Predicting the point at which the world reaches peak oil demand has become something of a cottage industry. The estimates range, but tend to fall somewhere around 2030 or later. However, two new predictions – just out this week – put peak oil demand as soon as the 2020s, perhaps around 2023, much faster than almost anybody is predicting, not least oil companies and their investors.

A new report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative says that a combination of technology, policy and “necessity” will translate into a peaking of oil demand in the 2020s. By necessity, Carbon Tracker refers to the need to transition to cleaner energy on environmental grounds and the drive to avoid the geopolitical pitfalls of energy dependence. Moreover, the “emerging market leapfrog” ultimately means that oil demand destruction could happen sooner than many people think.

“The motor of change now lies in the emerging markets, which is where all the growth in energy demand lies,” the Carbon Tracker report argues. “They have less fossil fuel legacy infrastructure, rising energy dependency, and are anxious to seize the opportunities of the renewables age. We believe it highly likely therefore that emerging markets will increasingly source their energy demand growth from renewable sources not from fossil fuels.”

The adoption of renewables at such a blistering rate will only be possible because costs continue to fall. Carbon Tracker argues that the rate of adoption for solar PV, wind, batteries and electric vehicles will follow an “s-curve,” referring to a period of slow growth that suddenly morphs into a steep growth curve after it passes a certain threshold.

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

The Real Reason Behind The Next Oil Squeeze

The Real Reason Behind The Next Oil Squeeze


The last quarter has seen increased volatility in oil prices, an increase that I attribute to the growing tensions in international markets as fears of a global trade war intensify. The headlines seem to get starker by the day, and markets loathe this type of uncertainty.

(Click to enlarge)


The intent of this article is to provide some guidance as to where oil prices may be headed in the near term. I think there are some key drivers at play here and will discuss them in some detail in the rest of this article.

Supply and Demand

One of the reasons for the big energy depression that hit in mid-2014 was an oversupply caused by Saudi Arabia ramping up production to drive prices down. They had several goals in doing this as has been discussed in countless articles, but chief among them was the desire to take high cost barrels off the market. Their primary targets were the American frac machine in North America, and deepwater production that was grabbing an increasing share of big IOC dollars.

This worked fairly well over the short run, as energy producers outside Saudi were unprepared. For most of 2016, the frackers in America retooled their portfolios and improved practices, cutting average well costs down to where they were economic with $40-50-dollar oil. U.S. shale was back in business.

The deepwater business is still struggling to regain its momentum.

(Click to enlarge)


Demand is likely to increase for the foreseeable future though, with an average annual increase of about 1.6mm BOPD for the years covered in the Global Supply and Demand Chart above (2013-2018). The upward slope continues through 2019 at about the same rate of increase.

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

Is A Supply Crunch In Oil Markets Inevitable?

Is A Supply Crunch In Oil Markets Inevitable?


The oil industry is more profitable than at any time in years, yet the industry could fail to supply enough oil to meet global demand in just a few years’ time.

A series of second quarter earnings reports over the past two weeks has revealed surging profits across the oil industry, with some companies posting earnings that are double or triple from a year earlier. But even though they are flush with cash, the industry has not returned to the profligate spending levels that were common prior to the 2014 market downturn.

Depending on one’s perspective, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. According to Carbon Tracker, the oil industry has trillions of dollars of projects in the pipeline that will become financial risks as governments around the world seek to address climate change. In essence, lots of oil and gas reserves will remain in the ground due to forthcoming taxes, regulation or simply demand destruction as alternatives take hold. Against this backdrop, a shortfall in spending is not such a bad thing.

On the other hand, energy agencies and forecasters, such as the International Energy Agency, have warned that the current pace of spending by the global oil industry is insufficient.

The downturn that began in 2014 led to a severe cutback in spending on exploration and development. Spending plunged by 25 percent in 2015, followed by another 26 percent decline in 2016. Since then upstream expenditures have bottomed out, rebounding 4 percent last year. The industry is only track to increase spending by another modest 5 percent in 2018. But there is little sign that the industry will return to spending at the same rate that it did prior to the downturn.

(Click to enlarge)

…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


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…

It’s The Demand, Stupid! Is China About To Burst The Black Gold Bubble?

For months we have heard about how the oil market’s over-supply ‘glut’ has been removed thanks to OPEC/NOPEC’s production cut deal and the narrative of ‘global synchronous recovery’ has buoyed the demand side of the equation – sending crude prices to four year highs (helped considerably by an increasing geopolitical risk premium, that is now evident more in Brent than WTI).

However, the last couple of weeks have turned ugly for the ‘no brainer’ record spec longs in crude oil as prices have tumbled (and President Trump has complained)..

The 50% surge in crude prices – and concurrent rise in gas prices at the pump – has begun to worry some that demand destruction looms. However, as The Wall Street Journal’s Nathaniel Taplin reports, what investors may not appreciate is that demand growth is also poised to slow in the world’s largest net oil importer last year, China.

Chinese petroleum demand still appears fine. Growth bounced back to a healthy 9% on the year in April, twice the rate in March. April’s petroleum burn was flattered, however, by exceptionally weak demand in the same month the year before – and probably by the official end of the government’s winter pollution controls, which had given temporary shot in the arm to Chinese industry this spring.

Unfortunately the overall trend for the industrial and transport sectors – which together account for about 70% of Chinese oil demand – looks shaky.

Growth rates in freight traffic and electricity production both peaked in the third quarter of 2017, excluding January and February figures distorted by the Lunar New Year holiday.

Freight tonnage growth is now running at barely half the 11%-12% rate it reached in mid-2017.

Weakening global trade, driven partly by the slowdown in Europe, will put further downward pressure on those numbers.

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

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