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For Oil and Its Dependents, It’s Code Blue

For Oil and Its Dependents, It’s Code Blue

The great price collapse of 2020 will topple companies and transform states.

Oil drop
Failing vital signs: Economists predict a depression after the pandemic. That will mean less energy spending, which translates into ongoing low energy prices that already no longer cover the cost of extraction in many places. Illustration for The Tyee by Christopher Cheung. Oil rig image: Creative Commons.

If oil has been laid low by the coronavirus, then the nations whose economies most depend on it might soon be on ventilators. By any prognosis the great oil price collapse of 2020 has pushed the world’s most volatile commodity into Code Blue.

No one expects oil, its peddlers or consumers to emerge wealthier or wiser from this crisis. Oil company bankruptcies, already happening before the pandemic, will escalate. And more petro states will begin to stumble, like Venezuela, down the rabbit hole of collapse. 

The pandemic, combined with suicidal overproduction and a brief price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, has reduced oil consumption and revenues on a scale that is mindboggling. 

Prior to the pandemic, the world gulped about 100 million barrels a day, filling the atmosphere with destabilizing carbon. Today it sips somewhere between 65 million and 80 million barrels.

At least 20 to 30 per cent of global demand has vanished and nearly two dozen petro-producing countries including Canada have agreed to withhold nearly 10 million barrels from the market. Few expect this agreement will stop the price bleeding.

In fact, the price of Western Canadian Select or diluted bitumen remains below five dollars a barrel — cheaper than hand sanitizer. That’s a drop of more than 80 per cent compared to the month before.

Because the spending of oil fertilizes economic growth and expands national GDPs, most of the world’s economists now predict a long depression after the pandemic.

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Oil Price War Claims Another Victim

Oil Price War Claims Another Victim

LNG Qatar

The oil price war has already claimed its first victim.

Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL), once the largest oil and gas producer in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy becoming the first major shale producer to do so in the current year. Whiting has cited the “severe downturn” in oil and gas prices courtesy of the Saudi Arabia-Russia oil price war and COVID-19-related impact on demand. 

But this shale producer has no plans to go into a state of suspended animation: Whiting has announced that it will go ahead with full production claiming it has ample liquidity with $585M of cash on its balance sheet and has reached an agreement in principle with certain noteholders for a comprehensive restructuring.

In short, Whiting’s playbook is to buy more time hoping for a rebound in energy prices to bail it out. 

WLL shares have jumped 15.1 percent after the bankruptcy announcement–probably an indication that investors believe the company has healthy odds at a comeback. Still, the shares have crashed an appalling 95 percent YTD, making the sector’s 46.9 percent YTD plunge appear tame in comparison. Whiting has announced that existing shareholders holders will only receive 3 percent of the equity in the reorganized company. 

The bankruptcy is symptomatic of the sheer pain reverberating throughout the oil supply chainas per Bloomberg.

It also serves as a cautionary tale for the battered natural gas sector which is, sadly, following in the footsteps of Saudi Arabia, Russia and the oil sector by stubbornly refusing to lower production.

Source: CNN Money

Head Fake

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Big Oil is using the coronavirus pandemic to push through the Keystone XL pipeline

Big Oil is using the coronavirus pandemic to push through the Keystone XL pipeline

The oil industry saw its opening and moved with breathtaking speed to take advantage of this moment

TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline facility.
 TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline facility. Photograph: Jeff McIntosh/AP

I’m going to tell you the single worst story I’ve heard in these past few horrid months, a story that combines naked greed, political influence peddling, a willingness to endanger innocent human beings, utter blindness to one of the greatest calamities in human history and a complete disregard for the next crisis aiming for our planet. I’m going to try to stay calm enough to tell it properly, but I confess it’s hard.

The background: a decade ago, beginning with indigenous activists in Canada and farmers and ranchers in the American west and midwest, opposition began to something called the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry filthy tar sands oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. It quickly became a flashpoint for the fast-growing climate movement, especially after Nasa scientist James Hansen explained that draining those tar sands deposits would be “game over” for the climate system. And so thousands went to jail and millions rallied and eventually Barack Obama bent to that pressure and blocked the pipeline. Donald Trump, days after taking office, reversed that decision, but the pipeline has never been built, both because its builder, TC Energy, has had trouble arranging the financing and permits, and because 30,000 people have trained to do nonviolent civil disobedience to block construction. It’s been widely assumed that, should a Democrat win the White House in November, the project would finally be gone for good.

And then came the coronavirus epidemic – and the oil industry saw its opening. It moved with breathtaking speed to take advantage of the moment.

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These Secretive Oil Companies Control $3 Trillion In Wealth

These Secretive Oil Companies Control $3 Trillion In Wealth


They control the vast majority of the world’s oil and gas assets, yet the average person has never even heard of them, outside of those that are famous for things like getting attacked by missiles or becoming embroiled in a high-profile corruption scandal. 

State-owned oil and gas companies (aka, the national oil companies, or NOCs) control at least US$3 trillion in oil and gas assets, compared to around $2.5 trillion as of 2017, and hold an estimated 90% of all known reserves–considerably more than publicly listed companies such as BPExxonMobil and Shell. Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco leads the pack as the world’s most profitable company. 

That means that NOCs control about as much wealth as all U.S. billionaires or roughly twice the assets of global multilateral development banks. 

If we go by annual revenue alone, China’s state-run Sinopec—explorer, producer, refiner, marketer and distributor—was the biggest oil and gas company in the world at the end of 2018. By net income, that title goes to Saudi Aramco, which reported net income in 2018 of $111.1 billion, compared to Sinopec’s $9.1 billion. 

These numbers may seem a bit wild, but no one really ever knows where they come from or how they are derived. 

By annual revenue metrics, by year-end 2018, four of the top 10 oil and gas companies in the world were state-owned: Sinopec, Aramco, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Russian Gazprom. The other six Top 10 titles went to Shell (4th), BP (5th), Exxon (6th), Total (7Th) Valero (8th) and Phillips 66 (10th). Related: The Best And Worst Oil Majors Of 2019

Despite their economic importance, most of these 71 NOCs are notoriously secretive–Norway’s Equinor being one of the few exceptions. For the remainder of the NOCs, their opacity poses a significant fiscal and governance risk, especially when they carry huge debts.

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



The Middle East is heading for a crisis in its oil industry.  Unfortunately, the market doesn’t realize there is any danger on the horizon because it mainly focuses on how much oil the Middle East is producing rather than its exports.  You see, it doesn’t really matter how much oil a country produces but rather the amount of its net oil exports.

A perfect example of this is Mexico.  As I mentioned in a recent article, NEXT OIL DOMINO TO FALL? Mexico Becomes A Net Oil Importer, Mexico is now a net importer of oil for the first time in more than 50 years.  Furthermore, the IEA – International Energy Agency, published in their newest OMR Report that Mexico is forecasted to lose another 170,000 barrels per day of oil production in 2019.  Thus, this is terrible news for the United States southern neighbor as it will have to import even more oil to satisfy its domestic consumption.

Now, when we think of the Middle East, we are mostly concerned with its oil production.  However, the Middle Eastern countries, just like Mexico, have been increasing their domestic consumption, quite considerably, over the past 40+ years.  How much… well, let’s take a look. Since 2000, total Middle East domestic oil consumption jumped from 5.1 million barrels per day (mbd) to 9.3 mbd in 2017:

As we can see, while Middle East oil production increased by 7.9 mbd from 2000 to 2017, domestic consumption expanded by 4.2 mbd.  This means that more than 50% of the Middle East’s production growth during this period was absorbed by domestic use.  The next chart shows how the changes in the regions oil production and consumption impacted net oil exports.

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

Smart Money Is Piling Into Oil

Smart Money Is Piling Into Oil

oil field dusk

Oil prices jumped to five-month highs this week, pushed higher by a bullish cocktail of supply outages, geopolitical unrest and a sputtering shale sector.

The most recent factor is the sudden eruption of the long simmering feud in Libya between rival factions. The attack on Tripoli by the Libyan National Army (LNA), a militia led by Khalifa Haftar, led to a spike in oil prices on Monday as the market priced in the possibility of supply outages.

One oil export terminal near Tripoli is the most obvious asset at risk. “If this port were to be shut down due to the fighting, this could see a delivery outage of up to 300,000 barrels per day,” Commerzbank said in a note on Tuesday. “The oil market is already undersupplied, so if supply from Libya also falls away the supply deficit will become even bigger.” Brent jumped to $71 and WTI to $64 on the news, the highest level in five months.

Intriguingly, speculators have only recently turned bullish on crude oil in terms of their positions in the futures market. “Indeed, our money-manager positioning index implies that speculative funds only moved from neutral to positive on oil in the latest week,” Standard Chartered wrote in a report on April 9. The investment bank argued that major investors only began to properly factor in geopolitical risk in the last few days, having overlooked risk for much of this year. Standard Chartered analysts said that the “supply security” of Libyan oil is “low,” and that output could decline in both the short and medium term. 

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Oil Industry Ponders Getting ‘Dragged into Low-Carbon Future’ While Claiming it ‘Stepped up’ on Climate

Oil Industry Ponders Getting ‘Dragged into Low-Carbon Future’ While Claiming it ‘Stepped up’ on Climate

fossil fuel refinery

The fossil fuel industry’s faith that the modern world economy will be powered by its products for the indefinite future is usually unwavering. But cracks in that faith recently appeared in Houston at the top annual oil industry conference, known as CERAweek.

The trade publication Platts S&P Global noted that “talk of oil at CERAWeek felt a bit more lackluster this time around,” according to several attendees. Various pressures — from climate-anxious investors to competition from renewables — apparently are tempering the oil and gas industry’s usual optimism.

Perhaps also contributing to the mood was Norway’s announcement, just a day before the conference began, that its sovereign wealth fund was divesting from over 100 oil and gas exploration companies around the world. This news led to headlines like “World’s largest sovereign wealth fund to scrap oil and gas stocks.” Its fund managers were clear this decision wasn’t out of concern for the climate, but instead to make sure they didn’t lose money on risky oil and gas investments. 

Only a few years ago, however, CERAweek was brimming with industry bravado, in which oil company CEOs mocked renewable energy sources and made claims that the oil industry just wanted to lift poor people out of poverty.

At the 2014 conference, attendees even heard Gina McCarthy — the Obama-appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency at the time — promise that “[c]onventional fuels like coal and natural gas are going to play a critical role in a diverse energy mix for years to come.”

Oil and Gas ‘Crisis of Confidence’

Embed from Getty Images

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The Oil Industry Faces A ‘Crisis Of Confidence’

The Oil Industry Faces A ‘Crisis Of Confidence’

Oil Industry

The oil industry is starting to feel the pressure of climate change.

Oil executives, by and large, have not been swayed to change their business practices despite years of warnings about the climate crisis. However, they are beginning to listen to shareholders who are demanding change, while also seeing policy risks looming just over the horizon.

The annual IHS CERAWeek Conference in Houston is usually a gathering of oil titans who meet to celebrate their business. A backslapping affair, the event doesn’t spend too much time worrying about climate change.

This year is a bit different. There has been palpable anxiety about the future. Shareholders are putting pressure on companies to report their risks and exposures to climate change. At the same time, oil executives are worried that shifting technologies, pushed along by government policy, will threaten future oil sales.

Norway’s Equinor sounded the alarm. Eldar Saetre, CEO of the Norwegian oil company, said that the industry faced a “crisis of confidence,” and that companies were not doing enough to plan for the epochal change that is beginning to unfold. “We need to drive this as an industry, to be part of the solution and not be dragged into a low-carbon future,” Saetre told the Wall Street Journal. Some companies are taking action, but “there is definitely denial within companies and in boardrooms, as well as ignorance and an unwillingness to act.” 

Last week, Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund proposed a divestment from oil exploration companies, an event that may turn out to be a significant moment in history, marking the beginning of a difficult chapter for the oil industry.

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

IEA 2018 World Energy Outlook: Peak oil is here, oil crunch by 2023

IEA 2018 World Energy Outlook: Peak oil is here, oil crunch by 2023

Preface. I’ve been working on a post about the latest IEA 2018 World Energy Outlook report, but the excerpts from the cleantechnica article below states most clearly why there is likely to be a supply crunch as soon as the early 2020s and the investment implications.

Meanwhile, here’s what I’ve gleaned from other summaries of the report.

Although many hope that oil companies will drill for oil when prices go up and close the supply gap looming within the next few years, very little oil has been found to drill for for several years now. The IEA 2018 report also says that shale oil will not rescue us, and likely to peak in the mid-2020s.

Oil companies do have money, but they haven’t been drilling because there’s no cheap oil to be found, so instead they’ve been spending their money buying their shares back.

From  crashoil.blogspot.com: World Energy Outlook 2018: Someone shouted “peak oil”

This excerpt is in Spanish translated to English by google.  It shows a civilization crashing 8% decline rate that the IEA hopes will be brought to an also civilization crashing 4% rate with new oil drilling projects.

“How is this alarming graph interpreted? According to the text, the red is what they call “natural decline” and corresponds to how oil production would decrease if the companies did not even invest in maintaining the current wells; As explained in the report, it is 8% per year. The pink area corresponds to the “observed decline” and is what the IEA inferred how production will actually decline if companies invest what is needed for the correct maintenance of the current deposits. This decline corresponds to 4% per year.

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

Trump Administration Drills Down on Alaska’s Arctic Refuge

Trump Administration Drills Down on Alaska’s Arctic Refuge

The deeply unpopular plan would benefit a few rich oil companies while threatening people, wildlife and the climate.

The Trump administration is barreling ahead with plans to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest refuge in the country and an area of global ecological importance.

Many refer to the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge — the very place where oil drilling is being planned — as the “American Serengeti.” A home for grizzly bears, wolves, musk oxen and a host of other species, the area is famous as the birthing ground for the enormous Porcupine caribou herd, which each spring floods across the refuge’s coastal plain in the tens of thousands, arriving in time to raise newborn calves amid fresh tundra grasses. The coastal plain is also the annual destination for millions of migrating birds, who come from nearly every continent on Earth to raise the next generation of swans, terns and over 200 other species. In late summer these avian visitors disperse to backyards, beaches and wetlands across the planet.

Photo: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

Drilling on the Arctic Refuge has long been opposed by most Americans. Among the staunchest opponents of drilling are indigenous people in northern Alaska and the Canadian Arctic, whose cultures and diets are entwined with the Porcupine herd. They include the Gwich’in people of northern Alaska, who have lived in the Arctic for millennia and reside alongside the Arctic Refuge. Their name for the coastal plain is Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit, or “the Sacred Place Where Life Begins,” a name reflecting the shared destiny of the caribou and the people. For the Gwich’in and others, fighting against drilling is a cultural imperative and a civil-rights issue.

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

WSJ Confirms: Trump-Appointed Venezuela Coup Leader Plans Neoliberal Capitalist Shock Therapy

Juan Guaido

WSJ Confirms: Trump-Appointed Venezuela Coup Leader Plans Neoliberal Capitalist Shock Therapy

Venezuela’s US-appointed coup leader Juan Guaidó plans to privatize state assets and give foreign corporations access to oil, the Wall Street Journal admitted.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Venezuela’s US-appointed coup leader Juan Guaidó has already drafted plans for “opening up Venezuela’s vast oil sector to private investment” and “privatizing assets held by state enterprises.”

The report confirms what The Grayzone previously reported.

“Juan Guaidó, recognized by Washington as the rightful leader, said he would sell state assets and invite private investment in the energy industry,” read the  Wall Street Journal’s January 31 article.

The paper noted that Guaidó plans “to reverse President Nicolás Maduro’s economic polices,” explaining:

“Mr. Guaidó said his plan called for seeking financial aide from multilateral organizations, tapping bilateral loansrestructuring debtand opening up Venezuela’s vast oil sector to private investment. It includes privatizing assets held by state enterprises … He also said he’d end wasteful state subsidies and take steps to revive the private sector.”

In other words, Guaidó plans to implement the neoliberal capitalist shock therapy that Washington has imposed on the region for decades.

Using funding from US-dominated international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Venezuelan coup leader seeks to adopt an aggressive “structural adjustment” program, enacting the kinds of economic policies that have led to the preventable deaths of millions of people and an explosion of poverty and inequality in the years following capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union.

In a speech, Juan Guaidó even echoed rhetoric that is popular among US conservatives: “Here, no one wants to be given anything.”

It is clear that the coup leader’s priorities reflect those of Venezuela’s capitalist oligarchs and right-wing politicians in the United States. Economic liberalization is the Venezuelan opposition’s first and most important goal; democracy is just a pretense.

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

Loonie Slumps As Bank Of Canada Folds On Economic Enthusiasm

Amid near-record-low Canadian crude prices and a housing crisis, The Bank of Canada appears to have finally given up its narrative that ‘everything is awesome’.

The BoC walked back much of its enthusiasm about the nation’s outlook in a decision that kept interest rates unchanged, spinning bad news as good by saying that the economy may have “additional room for non-inflationary growth.” Of course, if the economy was growing faster, the BOC would simply say that the economy is growing… well, faster or “near potential.”

Instead, holding rates unchanged at 1.75%, the BOC cited almost everything that has gone wrong:

  • moderating global growth,
  • a “materially weaker” outlook for the oil sector,
  • a faster-than-expected deceleration of inflation,
  • a drop in business investment and downward historical revisions to output

Following the latest central bank dovish relent, the USDCAD jumped 0.8% to ~1.3374 after touching highest (i.e. the CAD dropping the most) in more than five months on the cautious language, a dovish outlook that could change expectations for 2019 BOC rate hikes.

Even with the dovish undertones, the statement reiterated that rates will need to rise to “neutral range” – which like the Fed it has no idea what it is – within its discussion of recent downside risks, to wit:

“Governing Council continues to judge that the policy interest rate will need to rise into a neutral range to achieve the inflation target.”

Still, the generally less-confident tone is an acknowledgement of developments over the past few weeks that have cast doubt on the strength of the nation’s expansion and prompted investors to scale back the expected pace of future rate increases.

The final nail in the hawkish case coffin was the key shift in tone (red rectangle below) which notes that while the Canadian economy growing in line with expectations, “data suggest less momentum going into the fourth quarter.”

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Big Oil Won’t Spend Despite Fat Profits

Big Oil Won’t Spend Despite Fat Profits

oil tankers

Higher oil prices are expected to leave the oil industry flush with cash, but the “capital discipline” mantra remains. Market watchers have wondered whether top oil executives would eschew with tight-fisted spending plans once their pockets fattened up again.

“We’re laser focused on disciplined free cash flow generation and strong execution. Discipline means, we’re not chasing higher prices by ramping up activity,” ConocoPhillips’ CEO Ryan Lance told investors on an earnings call. “By staying disciplined, we generate strong free cash flow, which we then allocate in a shareholder-friendly way.” He went on to stress how committed the company was to boosting the quarterly dividend and share buyback program.

Conoco beat analysts’ estimates, earning $1.36 per share in the third quarter, eight times the earnings from the $0.16 per share a year earlier. Conoco also saw soaring production in the big three shale areas – the Permian, Eagle Ford and Bakken – with output up 48 percent to 313,000 bpd. Lance said that the company still wants to “optimize” its portfolio, which includes $600 million in asset sales.

Conoco’s experience highlights an important industry trend, which is prioritizing profits over growth and size. Lance pointed out that the last time earnings were this good was back in 2014. “Brent was over $100 per barrel and our production was almost 1.5 million barrels of equivalent oil per day. So we’re as profitable today as we were then, despite prices being 25% lower and volumes being 20% lower,” Lance told investors. “So bigger isn’t always better. That’s why we’re focused on per share growth and value, not absolute volume growth.”

Norwegian oil company Equinor (formerly Statoil) echoed that sentiment.

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The Implications Of A Fractured U.S., Saudi Alliance

The Implications Of A Fractured U.S., Saudi Alliance

oil tanker

After the resurgence of the U.S. oil industry in recent years due to hydraulic fracking and the shale oil revolution, most thought the days of Middle Eastern oil producers, Saudi Arabia in particular, being able to threaten use of the so-called oil weapon as geopolitical leverage or even coercion were over. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Even though the U.S. is pumping oil at record levels, hitting 11 million barrels of oil per day, a rate that should have negated such a threat from ever resurfacing, it seems that Washington has also arguably shot global oil markets in the foot by re-imposing economic sanctions against Iran, with more sanctions slated to hit the Islamic Republic’s energy sector in just a matter of weeks.

The loss of Iranian barrels from global oil markets has already pushed prices well past $80 per barrel recently, and prices could break into the $90 plus range after November. Added to the fray are long term production problems in major OPEC producers Venezuela, Nigeria and Libya – in effect offsetting the ramp-up in U.S. production and the ability for shale producers to play the coveted role of oil markets swing producer. Now Saudi Arabia has taken at least marginal control of oil markets back again – not a comforting prospect for many.

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it would retaliate against any punitive measures from the U.S. linked to the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi with even “stronger ones.”  In what Bloomberg News called an implicit reference to the kingdom’s petroleum wealth, the Saudi statement noted the Saudi economy “has an influential and vital role in the global economy.”

1973 oil embargo remembered

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The Oil Industry Needs Large New Discoveries, Very Soon

The Oil Industry Needs Large New Discoveries, Very Soon


Market participants and analysts are all focused on the imminent oil supply gap that is opening with the U.S. sanctions on Iran just five weeks away.

But beyond the shortest term, a larger and more alarming gap in global oil supply is looming—experts forecast that unless large oil discoveries are made soon, the world could be short of oil as early as in the mid-2020s.

The latest such prediction comes from energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, which sees a supply gap opening up in the middle of the next decade. At the current level of low oil discoveries and barring technology breakthrough beyond WoodMac’s assumptions, that supply gap could soar to 3 million bpd by 2030, to 7 million bpd by 2035, and to as much as 12 million bpd by 2040.

It’s not that discoveries aren’t being made, they just aren’t enough to offset the natural decline at mature fields while global oil demand is still expected to continue to rise.

The main reason for lower discoveries is that spending on exploration has drastically plunged since the 2014 oil price crash. The good news is, according to Wood Mackenzie, that the volume of new discoveries is correlated with spending on exploration. So if spend were to increase, the chance of more and major oil discoveries gets higher.

As early as the beginning of this year, WoodMac said that the share of exploration of upstream investment has slipped to below 10 percent since 2016 and is not about to recover. “This could be the new normal, with the days of one dollar in six or seven going to exploration forever in the past,” the consultancy said in its ‘5 Things to look for in 2018.’

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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