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Finding A Way Around The World’s Largest Oil Chokepoint

Finding A Way Around The World’s Largest Oil Chokepoint

Oil is sometimes referred to as ‘black gold’. The discovery and export of fossil fuels have led to tremendous wealth creation for certain countries. In this sense, no region in the world is more blessed than the Middle East. Especially the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf are rich in oil and gas deposits. Unfortunately, political instability is almost a synonym for the Middle East. The risk of supply disruptions is a significant threat for those heavily reliant on fossil fuel sales. Therefore, risk mitigation is an important part of the business.

The antagonism between Iran and the U.S. escalated significantly under President Trump. According to sources, Washington came close to acting militarily but the President was dissuaded when informed on the risks and potential losses. Skyrocketing oil prices are one of those consequences as Tehran has repeatedly threatened to close off the Strait of Hormuz in case it is attacked. Approximately 20 percent of the world’s oil travels through the narrow strait separating mainland Iran from Oman and the UAE. Even a short disruption of supplies will most definitely have a devastating effect on prices. Circumventing the Strait, therefore, is essential to maintain exports to markets.

While Iran has been the most vocal when it comes to threats concerning the Strait, it has a contingency plan if the situation escalates. The country is currently building a pipeline from Goreh near the border with Iraq and Kuwait where the majority of the country’s oil is produced to Jask on the Gulf of Oman. The project is slated to be finished in March 2021 and has a capacity of one million barrels per day (mbpd).

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

What Oil’s Troubles Mean to the Rest of Us

To the extent that stock prices reflect expectations of future value, investors don’t like the prospects for oil, and oil’s demise signals muted prospects for economic growth.

Exxon-Mobil (XOM) was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average this past August, ending a run that began when the Dow expanded to 30 stocks in 1928. This leaves Chevron as the sole oil company in the index. For most of those 92 years, there were three oil majors in the Index (Standard of NJ/Exxon, Texaco, and Standard of CA/Chevron) – now there is one. Should you care?

In one sense, no. The Dow is an actively-managed index, and 11 of the current 30 firms have replaced other names since 2000. (Exxon-Mobil was replaced by Salesforce.) The financial media treats changes in the Dow as measures of overall market levels, but little money is actually invested in DJIA-linked products. There’s an interesting article in all that, but it’s not this one.

On the other hand, the Dow committee likes to include industries and companies that are growing and successful. Removing XOM is a measure of the decline of the economic status of “big oil.” Over the last two months, both XOM and BP have approached their lows from this past March, which were in turn the lowest prices for those stocks since 1994 (BP) or 1997 (XOM). The S&P 500 has grown by a factor of four since 1997.

The WTI price of oil is (as of October 2020) around $40 per barrel, which is the lowest since 2003 on an inflation-adjusted basis except for a brief period at the start of 2016 and a few weeks this spring. This reflects the abundance of oil supplies after the COVID-induced demand collapse, but it also is a price below what’s necessary to operate much of the industry profitably…

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

Low prices batter oil industry (and later the rest of us)

Low prices batter oil industry (and later the rest of us)

It is a sign of the times that the largest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco, the state oil company of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, must borrow money to pay its shareholder dividend. I have written about the twice-delayed and often troubled initial public offering of the company previously (here and here).

Now it seems that the cash which the company is generating from operations is far less than the dividend payout—which leaves nothing for new drilling to replace reserves and other capital expenditures needed to keep the company going. Hence, the need to borrow.

All of this is due, in part, to low oil prices. And, the Saudis are not the only ones suffering, of course. U.S. producers, mostly those focused on high-cost shale deposits, continue to head toward bankruptcy or merge with other stronger companies. Another part of the equation is heavy debt. Naive investors kept handing over fresh capital, oblivious to the fact that the shale oil and gas industry as a whole has been free cash flow negative for years. That’s okay for a few years, but as a long-run strategy it means a company is simply consuming the capital of its investors.

So, what does this mean for the economy and society as a whole? Normally, such developments, while bad for the industry, would be interpreted as a boon for the rest of society. After all, cheap energy means cheap fuel for consumers and business owners and more money to spend on other things. It also means lower costs for everything we make and buy since all products require energy to produce.…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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

Middle East Oil Producers Are Drowning In Debt

Middle East Oil Producers Are Drowning In Debt

Arab Gulf oil producers are losing billions of U.S. dollars from oil revenues this year due to the pandemic that crippled oil demand and oil prices. Because of predominantly oil-dependent government incomes, budget deficits across the region are soaring.

Middle East’s oil exporters rushed to raise taxes and cut spending earlier this year, but these measures were insufficient to contain the damage.

The major oil producers in the Gulf then rushed to raise debt via sovereign and corporate debt issuance. Bond issues in the region have already hit US$100 billion, exceeding the previous record amount of bonds issued in 2019.

Thanks to low-interest rates and high appetite from investors, the petrostates are binging on debt raising to try to fill the widening gaps in their balance sheets that oil prices well below their fiscal break-evens leave.

Saudi Aramco Taps International Debt Market Again

One of the latest issuers is none other than the biggest oil company in the world, Saudi Arabia’s oil giant Aramco, which raised this week as much as US$8 billion in multi-tranche bonds.

Aramco is tapping the international U.S.-denominated bond market for the second time in two years, after last year’s US$12 billion bond issue in its first international issuance, for which it had received more than US$100 billion in orders.

Saudi Aramco prefers to considerably increase its debt to cope with the oil price collapse than to touch its massive annual dividend of US$75 billion, the overwhelming majority of which goes to its largest shareholder with 98 percent, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Analysts warn that the dividend windfall from Aramco will not be enough to contain Saudi Arabia’s widening budget deficit if oil prices stay in the low $40s for a few more years.

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

Oil Price Crash Costs Saudi Arabia $27.5 Billion In Revenue In 2020

Oil Price Crash Costs Saudi Arabia $27.5 Billion In Revenue In 2020

The oil price collapse is depriving Saudi Arabia of US$27.5 billion in oil revenues this year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Friday, admitting that the current oil income is not enough to cover the Kingdom’s salaries bill.

Saudi Arabia had projected last year that this year’s revenues for the state would be US$222 billion (833 billion Saudi riyals), of which US$137 billion (513 billion riyals) would come from oil, the crown prince said in a speech carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

However, after the collapse in oil prices, Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues actually dropped to US$109 billion (410 billion riyals), Mohammed bin Salman said.

Thus, the price crash—which Saudi Arabia itself helped to create by flooding the market with oil in April—cost the world’s top oil exporter just over US$27.5 billion in oil revenues this year.

“These revenues alone are insufficient to cover even the salaries bill estimated at 504 billion riyals in this year’s budget, not to mention the difficulty of financing other items which include capital spending by 173 billion riyals and social security benefits by 69 billion riyals as well as operation and maintenance bill estimated at 140 billion riyals and others, which means an economic recession and millions of jobs lost,” Mohammed bin Salman said in his speech.

The collapse in oil prices has forced the Kingdom to take some very unpopular measures such as tripling the value-added tax (VAT), reducing payouts to poorer households, and discontinuing cost-of-living allowances for state workers.

Earlier this week, Fitch Ratings revised down its the outlook on Saudi Arabia’s long-term foreign-currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’, citing “the continued weakening of its fiscal and external balance sheets, which has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and lower oil prices, despite the government’s strong commitment to fiscal consolidation.”

THE FORMER INDUSTRIAL METAL: The Silver Price Surges As Copper & Oil Get Crushed

THE FORMER INDUSTRIAL METAL: The Silver Price Surges As Copper & Oil Get Crushed

The notion that silver is just an “Industrial Metal” was utterly destroyed today as both the copper and oil prices were crushed as silver surged higher.  This is precisely what I was looking for as a positive sign showing that silver is now disconnecting itself from the INDUSTRIAL METAL BALL & CHAIN.

While analysts will continue to regurgitate that the future silver price depends on industrial demand, we can now take this analysis and throw it into the dustbin.  The world is heading into a new paradigm of “Building Wealth to Protecting Wealth.”  And let me tell you, you cannot protect wealth in most STOCKS, BONDS, or REAL ESTATE.  Those days are over for good.

Unfortunately, 99% of investors still haven’t figured that one out yet… but they will.

Today, it was quite an impressive day for silver (and gold) as the metals surged higher while copper, the king industrial metal, got destroyed.  Here is a chart of the copper price versus silver.

As we can see, copper is down 5% while silver is up 2%.  Thus, the leading indicator of the global economy, COPPER, just put out a very BAD SIGNAL, indeed.  Now, if silver was just a mere industrial commodity, why didn’t it’s price follow along with copper???

And, if that isn’t bad enough, take a look at the WTI Oil price.  The West Texas Intermediate oil price was down 5% as well.

With the U.S. oil price falling $2 in one day, that just wiped out $21 million in oil revenues to the oil companies.  This is also terrible news for the U.S. Shale Oil Industry is being held together by DUCT TAPE, BAILING WIRE, and ELMERS GLUE.

Today, I also posted the broad selloff in oil on my SRSrocco Report Twitter feed:

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

The Debt Crisis Is Mounting For Oil Economies

The Debt Crisis Is Mounting For Oil Economies

Dubai. Abu Dhabi. Bahrain. And, of course, Saudi Arabia. The two emirates this year issued debt for the first time in years. So did Bahrain. Saudi Arabia stepped up its debt issuance. The moves are typical for the oil-dependent Gulf economies. When the going is good, the money flows. When oil prices crash, they issue debt to keep going until prices recover. This time, there is a problem. Nobody knows if prices will recover.

In August, Abu Dhabi announced plans for what Bloomberg called the longest bond ever issued by a Gulf government. The 50-year debt stood at $5 billion, and its issuance was completed in early September. The bond was oversubscribed as proof of the wealthiest Emirate’s continued good reputation among investors.

Dubai, another emirate, said it was preparing to issue debt for the first time since 2014 at the end of August. Despite the fact the UAE economy is relatively diversified when compared to other Gulf oil producers, it too suffered a hard blow from the latest oil price crash and needed to replenish its reserves urgently. Dubai raised $2 billion on international bond markets last week. Like Abu Dhabi’s bond, Dubai’s was oversubscribed.

Oversubscription is certainly a good sign. It means investors trust that the issuer of the debt is solid. But can the Gulf economies remain solid by issuing bond after bond with oil prices set to recover a lot more slowly than previously expected? Or could this crisis be the final straw that tips them into actual reforms?

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

“It’s Happening Again” – Traders Store Oil At Sea As Recovery Falters

Crude prices slid Thursday as the stalled global economic recovery from the virus pandemic triggers a “second wave” of demand fears and sparks renewed interest in floating storage as the oil market flips bearish.

Reuters said a “fresh build-up of global oil supplies, pushing traders including Trafigura to book tankers to store millions of barrels of crude oil and refined fuels at sea again.”

Floating storage, onboard crude tankers, comes as traditional onshore storage nears capacity as supply outpaces demand.

Total Oil Inventories 

Refinitiv vessel data shows trading house Trafigura has recently chartered at least five crude tankers, each capable of 2 million barrels of oil.

The inventory build up, driving up demand for floating storage comes as OPEC+ recently trimmed supply curbs from earlier this year on expectations demand would improve. Though with the peak summer driving season in the US now over, demand woes and oversupplied markets are pressuring crude and crude product prices.

Very large crude-oil carrier (VLCC) storage has started to rise once again.

“Despite the recent slide in oil prices, we think that the OPEC+ leadership will continue to direct its efforts towards securing better compliance rather than pushing for deeper cuts at this stage,” RBC analysts said.

Another catalyst for the bearish tilt in crude markets is that China’s oil imports are likely to subside as independent refineries have reached maximum annual oil import quotas.

Reuters notes, in a separate report, that other top commodity traders are booking tankers to store crude products at sea, including diesel and gasoline.

Refinitiv vessel data also shows Vitol, Litasco, and Glencor have been booking tankers in the last several days to store diesel for the next three months.

“The market is soft and bearish, and floating storage is returning again,” a market source told Reuters.

Private Equity Is Bargain Hunting In Canada’s Oil Patch

Private Equity Is Bargain Hunting In Canada’s Oil Patch

After two months of an encouraging—if not half-hearted–rebound, oil prices have gone into reverse gear once again. Futures tied to WTI crude were down a whopping 8% on Monday morning to trade at $36.35/barrel, a level they last touched two months ago as the markets come under a fresh wave of pressure from a stalling recovery in demand as well as a mistimed expansion of production by OPEC that threatens to reverse the gains by the cartel’s latest production cuts.  The latest rout has elicited another round of price cuts by Saudi Arabia in a situation eerily reminiscent of the oil price war that sent the markets crashing into negative territory for the first time ever.

But as the debt-riddled U.S. shale patch braces for a new reality of ‘Lower Forever’ with massive asset writeoffs amid a growing wave of bankruptcies, its equally distressed neighbor further north has resorted to a different trick: Mergers and Acquisitions.

Starved of vital capital by weary banks and shareholders, small- and mid-sized oil and gas companies in Canada are scrambling to find partners in a bid to become bigger and– hopefully–more solvent.

Meanwhile, bargain-hunting private equity firms have pounced on the opportunity, hoping to buy distressed assets for pennies on the dollar.

WTI Oil Price 30-Days Change

Source: Business Insider

Source: Visual Capitalist

Orphaned Businesses

After years of continuous underperformance and paltry returns following a six-year downturn by the sector, cheap credit for Canada’s oil and gas companies has dried up, forcing them to look for less conventional means to survive.

The Covid-19 crisis has only served to worsen the situation, with the S&P/TSX Capped Energy–Canada’s equivalent of the U.S.’ Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE)–down 46.8% in the year-to-date vs. -41.9% return by XLE.

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

Today’s Energy Predicament – A Look at Some Charts

Today’s Energy Predicament – A Look at Some Charts

Today’s energy predicament is a strange situation that most modelers have never really considered. Let me explain some of the issues I see, using some charts.

[1] It is probably not possible to reduce current energy consumption by 80% or more without dramatically reducing population.

A glance at energy consumption per capita for a few countries suggests that cold countries tend to use a lot more energy per person than warm, wet countries.

Figure 1. Energy consumption per capita in 2019 in selected countries based on data from BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.

This shouldn’t be a big surprise: Our predecessors in Africa didn’t need much energy. But as humans moved to colder areas, they needed extra warmth, and this required extra energy. The extra energy today is used to build sturdier homes and vehicles, to heat and operate those homes and vehicles, and to build the factories, roads and other structures needed to keep the whole operation going.

Saudi Arabia (not shown on Figure 1) is an example of a hot, dry country that uses a lot of energy. Its energy consumption per capita in 2019 (322 GJ per capita) was very close to that of Norway. It needs to keep its population cool, besides running its large oil operation.

If the entire world population could adopt the lifestyle of Bangladesh or India, we could indeed get our energy consumption down to a very low level. But this is difficult to do when the climate doesn’t cooperate. This means that if energy usage needs to fall dramatically, population will probably need to fall in areas where heating or air conditioning are essential for living.

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

Saudi Arabia Refuses To Learn From Its Two Failed Oil Price Wars

Saudi Arabia Refuses To Learn From Its Two Failed Oil Price Wars

Having failed to achieve the slightest semblance of success in the two oil price wars that it started – the first running from 2014 to 2016, and the second running from the beginning of March to effectively the end of April this year – it might be assumed that key lessons might have been learned by the Saudis on the perils of engaging in such wars again. Judging from various statements last week, though, Saudi Arabia has learned nothing and may well launch exactly the same type of oil price war in exactly the same way as it has done twice before, inevitably losing again with exactly the same catastrophic effects on it and its fellow OPEC members. At the very heart of Saudi Arabia’s problem is the collective self-delusion of those at the top of its government regarding the Kingdom’s key figures relating to its oil industry that underpins the entire regime. These delusions are apparently not discouraged by any of the senior foreign advisers who make enormous fees and trading profits for their banks from Saudi Arabia’s various follies, most notably oil price wars. It is, in the truest sense of the phrase, a perfect example of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, although in this case, it does not just pertain to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) but to all of the senior figures connected to Saudi Arabia’s oil sector. One of the most obvious examples of this is the chief executive officer of Saudi Arabia’s flagship hydrocarbons company, Saudi Aramco (Aramco), Amin Nasser, who said last week – bewilderingly for those who know even a modicum about the global oil markets – that Aramco is to go ahead with plans to increase its maximum sustained capacity (MSC) to 13 million barrels per day (bpd) from 12.1 million bpd.

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

Why Fracking Activity Hasn’t Increased As Oil Prices Recovered

Why Fracking Activity Hasn’t Increased As Oil Prices Recovered

It’s been a long dry spell in the Permian. Shale drilling and completions activity has collapsed to levels not seen since before 2000 (as far back as records are kept). That was the year shale activity first began to pick up from essentially nil and hit all-time peaks in 2008. With occasional ebbs and flows, it had gradually drifted down to the start of the current calamity, where active rigs stood at a somewhat healthy 805 rigs turning to the right. 

Fracking has also taken a commensurate dive over the last eight months, defying the conventional wisdom that as prices began to improve, activity would increase. It hasn’t happened in either case. Why?

Driven by low prices not seen much in modern history, formerly high-flying shale drillers like Chesapeake Energy have gone bankrupt. The service providers who do the actual work like Halliburton, (NYSE:HAL), Schlumberger, (NYSE:SLB) have written off tens of billions worth of fracking-related equipment, closed facilities and laid off thousands of workers.

Much of the expansion from 2016 onward was fueled by growth at any cost mindset in the drillers, and aided by bankers willing to accept ever-increasing estimates for the value of reserves. In 2018 much of that laissez-faire mentality in the boardrooms of the drillers and in the vaults of the bankers came to an abrupt halt as profits and cash flow were demanded. That was the moment shale activity began to falter numerically, while at the same time, a miracle was taking place. Production grew from advances in technology and a deeper understanding of key reservoirs to record levels.

EIA-STEO

Peaking at nearly 13 mm BOE in March of this year, a failure of OPEC+ nations to agree on production cuts that same month, led oil to begin a precipitous decline in price.

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

Oil Price Crash Sparks A Wave Of Banking Mergers In The Middle East

Oil Price Crash Sparks A Wave Of Banking Mergers In The Middle East

The historic oil price crash and Covid-19 pandemic have left major producers of the commodity in a deep economic crisis. Dramatic production cuts by OPEC+ has exacerbated the situation by further lowering export inflows for economies that depend heavily on oil dollars. Some, such as the UAE, have tried to put on a brave face by touting the strength of their banking systems and claiming they can withstand shocks of any scale.

Unfortunately, a growing body of evidence suggests pretty much the opposite: A wave of banking mergers is sweeping through the Middle East as the sector scrambles to stay afloat amid slowing economic growth.

About $440 billion worth of deals are already on the table. That’s a remarkable feat for a region that has the lowest banking penetration anywhere on the globe. 

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia–guilty of initiating the oil price war with Russia that triggered the oil price crash–is well represented in the growing trend.

Source: World Bank

Giant mergers

Source: Bloomberg

#1 Saudi Arabia The National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabia’s largest lender by assets, has lined up a $15.6 billion takeover bid for rival Samba Financial Group. The $15.6B tab represents a nearly 30% premium to Samba’s valuation before the deal was announced, while the potential deal will create a $210 billion (assets) behemoth.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, the Kingdom’s central bank, has unveiled nearly $27 billion in stimulus packages to support its flagging banking system suffering from years of weak private sector loan growth. The Kingdom’s oil and gas sector accounts for 50% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. The IMF has estimated Saudi Arabia’s fiscal breakeven sits at $76.1 per barrel, a far cry from the current ~$40/bbl.

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

Huge Debt Payments Come At Worst Time Possible For Canadian Drillers

Huge Debt Payments Come At Worst Time Possible For Canadian Drillers

The collapse in oil prices has significantly deteriorated Canada’s oil companies’ finances and has made repaying their debt more challenging. Over the past decade, Canadian firms have borrowed money to survive the previous oil crisis of 2015-2016 and boost production post-crisis. But now the second price collapse in less than five years is leaving Canada’s oil patch, especially the smaller players, extremely vulnerable as debt maturities approach.   

This year, the oil crash coincides with the highest-ever annual debt maturities in the Canadian energy sector, according to Refinitiv data cited by Reuters. In 2020, oil and gas firms have to repay US$3.7 billion (C$5 billion) in debt maturities, up by 40 percent compared to last year.  

The debt pressure adds to the Canadian energy sector’s new predicament with low oil prices, low cash flows, and low overall demand for crude oil due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some companies are set to default on debts, while others are looking at restructuring options and refinancing. Banks are not generally too keen to own energy assets. But the banks may be the ultimate judge of who can refinance, who can stay afloat, or who can go belly up in this crisis, legal and industry professionals told Reuters.

Some of Canada’s oil and gas firms had not overcome the previous crisis when this one hit.

According to Bank of Canada’s recent Financial System Review—2020, the COVID-19 crisis led to widespread financial distress in all sectors, but “Canada is also grappling with the plunge in global oil prices, which hit while many businesses in the energy sector were still recovering from the 2014–16 oil price shock.”

The energy sector has the most refinancing needs over the next six months, at US$4.43 billion (C$6 billion), and faces the most potential downgrades, according to Bank of Canada.

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How Saudi Arabia Caused The Worst Oil Price Crash In History

How Saudi Arabia Caused The Worst Oil Price Crash In History

  • Saudi Arabia made good on its promise to flood the market with oil after the collapse of the previous OPEC+ deal in early March.
  • The Kingdom’s oil exports jumped by 3.15 million bpd to 11.34 million bpd in April.

Saudi Arabia made good on its promise to flood the market with oil after the collapse of the previous OPEC+ deal in early March, exporting a record 10.237 million barrels per day (bpd) in April 2020, up from 7.391 million bpd in March, data from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative (JODI) showed.  

Total oil exports from Saudi Arabia, including crude oil and total oil products, also soared in April – by 3.15 million bpd to 11.34 million bpd, mostly due to the surge in crude oil exports, according to the data released by the JODI database, which collects self-reported figures from 114 countries.    

Production at the world’s top crude oil exporter also jumped in April—to over 12 million bpd, at 12.007 million bpd, the database showed.

After flooding the market with oil in April and contributing to the oil price crash, OPEC’s de facto leader and largest producer, Saudi Arabia, agreed that same month to a new round of OPEC+ cuts in response to the demand crash and plunging oil prices. Saudi Arabia had to reduce its oil production to 8.5 million bpd in May and June under the OPEC+ deal for removing 9.7 million bpd of collective oil production from the market. 

According to OPEC’s secondary sources in the latest Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR), Saudi Arabia slashed its crude oil production in May to the required level of 8.5 million bpd.  

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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