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Yergin: Expect Extreme Volatility In Oil Markets

Yergin: Expect Extreme Volatility In Oil Markets

Flaring

Rising pipeline takeaway capacity in the Permian and global oil demand growth at its weakest in a decade are set to lead to more volatility in oil prices in the near term, a prominent energy expert said, joining a growing number of analysts who see prices further depressed by slowing economies and crude demand.

“The pipeline bottlenecks are in the process of being resolved, so a lot more oil is going to come onto the market by the end of the year. We expect the U.S. (crude oil output) to be up to 13 million barrels a day,” IHS Markit’s vice chairman Daniel Yergin told CNBC on Tuesday.

While U.S. production will continue to add more supply in an already oversupplied global market, on the demand side, expectations are getting increasingly pessimistic.

“We’re in one of the weakest periods since 2008 and we think demand growth this year is under a million barrels per day. So you have that factor at the same time as you have more oil coming to the market. So expect some volatility,” Yergin told CNBC in an interview on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi.

Despite expectations of volatility, IHS Markit’s vice chairman sees Brent Crude prices range-bound in the US$55-65 range.

Yergin is not alone in predicting substantially lower oil demand growth this year than originally anticipated.  

The International Energy Agency (IEA) revised down its demand growth estimates for 2019 in its latest Oil Market Report, by 100,000 bpd to 1.1 million bpd, after seeing that between January and May demand growth was just 520,000 bpd, the lowest increase for the period since 2008.     

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Russia Considers Possibility Of $25 Oil Next Year

Russia Considers Possibility Of $25 Oil Next Year

MBS Putin

Russia is considering the notion that oil prices may be as low as $25 per barrel in 2020, the country’s central bank said in its new forecast published on Monday, as cited by Reuters.

Russia’s Central Bank has forecast in its macroeconomic forecast that oil could possibly hit that low due to falling demand for oil and oil products worldwide, as well as from disappointed global economic growth.

The doom and gloom scenario was just one proposed by the bank. If that risk scenario actually materializes, Russia’s inflation could increase to 7% or 8% next year, on the back of falling gross domestic product to 1.5%– 2%.

Russia is perhaps uniquely positioned to withstand low oil prices, although $25 per barrel is pretty bleak.

One of the reasons why Russia is more impervious to low oil prices compared to its competition is that its currency weakens when oil prices fall. This provides some type of a cushion—at least to some extent—for its lower oil revenues. Russian oil companies can pay their expenses in this weaker ruble, but still rakes in US dollars for its oil exports. Further allowing it to withstand lower prices, are that Russia’s oil company’s taxes are designed to be less as oil prices fall.

So much so is Russia’s ability to adapt to lower oil prices, that it actually struggles with higher oil prices, which dent demand for its oil. Russia’s budget for 2019 was based on $40 oil.Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia needs $80—some say even $85—per barrel.

In August, Russia said its 2019 budget breakeven was at a Urals price of $49.20—the lowest breakeven in more than a decade.  This has Russia and Saudi Arabia—colleagues in the current production quotas designed to rebalance the market—at odds, and likely working toward perhaps different goals.

Possible Currency War Would Be A Disaster For Oil

Possible Currency War Would Be A Disaster For Oil

Yuan

Oil prices plunged on Friday after the U.S. and China both announced tariff hikes in tit-for-tat fashion. At the same time, markets opened on a positive note early Monday after President Trump struck a more conciliatory tone. But the respite could be brief.

Global financial markets are completely at the mercy of Trump’s twitter account these days. On Friday, stocks and commodities fell sharply after China announced an increase in tariffs on U.S. goods. In response, Trump announced yet another 5 percent increase in the suite of tariffs on Chinese goods, although, notably, he waited until after financial markets had closed for the week.

Over the weekend at the G-7 Conference in France, Trump sent mixed messages on the trade war, suggesting he had “second thoughts,” with his team subsequently clarifying that his second thoughts regarded his regret he hadn’t hiked tariffs by an even greater amount. Nevertheless, traders took comfort in his comments about wanting to make a deal with China, in addition to his assertion that China had called him up asking for a return to negotiations.

Stocks opened up on a positive note on that news. However, it should be noted that Chinese officials said that they were “not aware of” the phone call that Trump alluded to. When pressed by reporters about the nature of the phone call, Trump said: “I don’t want to talk about calls. We’ve had calls. We’ve had calls at the highest levels.”

If we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it is that these events turn on a dime. The incoherent strategy from the White House, and the complete lack of an official policymaking process, makes it impossible to predict how events will unfold. It is odd then that financial markets were so sanguine at the start of the week.

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Will Europe Ever Shake Its Dependence On Russian Energy?

Will Europe Ever Shake Its Dependence On Russian Energy?

LNG

Much of the current discourse over Europe’s economic “independence” has revolved around its increasingly-tense relationship with the Trump administration over foreign policy issues such as trade and Iran. This focus has sidelined another important development, however: portions of the European energy industry—a major pillar of the single market—are increasingly coming into Russian and Chinese hands.

In spite of impending American sanctions and widespread opposition including from within the European bloc, Nord Stream 2—Gazprom’s $11 billion natural gas pipeline running underneath the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany— is nearing completion. Meanwhile, China has gone after energy prizes all over the union. As just one noteworthy example, state-owned utility China Three Gorges— already the largest shareholder in Energias de Portugal— mounted a colossal $10.8 billion bid to take over the entire Portuguese grid.

The uptick in Moscow and Beijing’s investments in nearly every aspect of Europe’s energy industry—from fossil fuels to renewables and power generation to energy infrastructure—have drawn criticism from both within the EU and abroad. Particular concerns have been raised over European unity and unfair competition. If unaddressed, these geopolitical and commercial implications could drive a wedge between the U.S. and Europe while sowing serious divisions within the single European market.

Can Europe trust Russian gas?

Longstanding geopolitical conflicts and Cold War-era rhetoric have fueled the uneasiness around Russian energy investment in Europe. In May, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perryproposed a sanctions bill which would target companies, including a number of European firms, involved in the Nord Stream 2 project in an effort to stall construction on the controversial pipeline. Although Gazprom has obtained authorization from Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany, it has encountered resistance from Denmark, which has yet to grant permission for the pipeline to pass through its territory.

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Carmakers Face Supply Bottleneck Of This Crucial Metal

Carmakers Face Supply Bottleneck Of This Crucial Metal

Energy

For Tesla and its chief competitors in the race for global domination of electric vehicle sales, it ain’t all about lithium ion.

There are other valuable metals needed to make the battery packs do what’s asked of them, with nickel being essential. Tesla and its battery producer partners, and other automakers and their suppliers, are worried about the longer-term supply of nickel according to a new study by BloombergNEF.

The study predicts that EV makers will be driving demand for nickel about 16 times to 1.8 million tons in the next years. 

Class-one nickel, a high-purity material used in batteries, is expected to see demand greatly outstrip supply in the next few years. That will be fueled by meeting the large Chinese EV market, and other global markets where demand is expected to grow.

That need for class-one nickel will outstrip supply within five years, according to the study.

One problem has been a lack of real investment in new mines for materials including nickel, Tesla’s global supply manager of battery metals, Sarah Maryssael, said at a Washington meeting in May. That could drive up prices as battery demand increases greatly.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is concerned about having enough economically viable — and available — metal to continue meeting its growing electric car demand. That will take off even more as the company taps into China’s booming markets.

“They are getting ready to have the new factory in China, and are at full capacity in North America,’’ Peter Bradford, chief executive officer of nickel producer Independence Group NL, said. “They recognize the biggest risk from a strategic supply point of view is nickel.’’

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

OPEC’s Fight To End The Oil Glut Is Far From Over

OPEC’s Fight To End The Oil Glut Is Far From Over

Offshore rigs

OPEC and its Russia-led non-OPEC allies are in their third year of managing supply to the market, hoping to draw down high inventories and push up oil prices.

Early this month, the so-called OPEC+ coalition of partners rolled over their production cuts of a combined 1.8 million bpd into March 2020, as the resurging oil glut threatened to derail their continued efforts to manage the market.

OPEC is now considering using several metrics to assess where global oil (over)supply stands, including taking the five-year average of oil stocks in 2010-2014 instead of the most recent five-year average 2014-2018, which it currently reports in its monthly oil market reports and which the International Energy Agency (IEA) also takes as a benchmark to measure oil inventories.

Analysts warn that the 2010-2014 average metric will not give a correct comprehensive assessment of the oil market.

Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, warns that moving the goalposts doesn’t change the situation in the oil market. The glut is there, regardless of how OPEC wants to measure inventories.   

“The important thing is that you can change the methodology but you cannot change the realities of the market,” Birol told Reuters, noting that the 2010-2014 average is a new perspective OPEC proposes to use, while the IEA has its own perspective.  

On the sidelines of the OPEC+ meeting in Vienna earlier this month, Khalid al-Falih, the Energy Minister of OPEC’s largest producer and de facto leader Saudi Arabia, told Al Arabiya:

“With demand rising over the next nine months and the commitments from all the countries, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we are approaching the normal levels of supplies of 2010-2014. It is one of the options in front of us as a goal.” 

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U.S. Shale Is Doomed No Matter What They Do

U.S. Shale Is Doomed No Matter What They Do

Shale drillers

With financial stress setting in for U.S. shale companies, some are trying to drill their way out of the problem, while others are hoping to boost profitability by cutting costs and implementing spending restraint. Both approaches are riddled with risk.

“Turbulence and desperation are roiling the struggling fracking industry,” Kathy Hipple and Tom Sanzillo wrote in a note for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

They point to the example of EQT, the largest natural gas producer in the United States. A corporate struggle over control of the company reached a conclusion recently, with the Toby and Derek Rice seizing power. The Rice brothers sold their company, Rice Energy, to EQT in 2017. But they launched a bid to take over EQT last year, arguing that the company’s leadership had failed investors. The Rice brothers convinced shareholders that they could steer the company in a better direction promising $500 million in free cash flow within two years.

Their bet hinged on more aggressive drilling while simultaneously reducing costs. Their strategy also depends on “new, unproven, expensive technology, electric frack fleets,” IEEFA argued. “This seems like more of the same – big risky capital expenditures.”

EQT’s former CEO Steve Schlotterbeck recently made headlines when he called fracking an “unmitigated disaster” because it helped crash prices and produce mountains of red ink. “In fact, I’m not aware of another case of a disruptive technological change that has done so much harm to the industry that created the change,” Schlotterbeck said at an industry conference in June. Related: Will The U.S Gas Glut Cap Oil Production?

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Is US Shale Cannibalizing Itself?

Is US Shale Cannibalizing Itself?

Shale

U.S. oil production continues to grow, but the shale industry is in the midst of a deceleration as low oil prices and a financial squeeze slow the pace of drilling.

The U.S. added 246,000 bpd of fresh supply in April, the latest month for which data solid is available. That put to rest concerns that the industry was in the midst of contraction, after production fell in January and February (some of which was due to offshore maintenance). Even as the rig count continues to fall, production grinds higher.

The EIA expects output to grow by another 70,000 bpd in July, with the Permian alone adding 55,000 bpd.

But the rate of growth is slowing. In April, production was up 1.6 million barrels per day (mb/d) compared to the same month a year earlier. By any measure, that is a massive increase. But it is down sharply from the nearly 2.1 mb/d year-on-year increase seen in August 2018, which looks set to be the peak in terms of the pace of growth.

U.S. oil production is not in danger of outright decline, not for the foreseeable future. But growth is clearly slowing. The U.S. could add 1.3 mb/d of new supply this year, according to an average of forecasts from multiple analysts, compiled by Reuters. That figure would be down from 1.5 mb/d of additional supply that came online in 2018. Related: Another Beneficiary Of The OPEC Deal Emerges

Financial stress is spreading, and top industry executives in Texas are arguably at their gloomiest in years. Consolidation and bankruptcies could pick up pace in the next few months, a bankruptcy attorney told Reuters.

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

Persian Gulf Conflict Could Send Oil Beyond $325

Persian Gulf Conflict Could Send Oil Beyond $325+

Drone

The possibility of Iran attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz to tanker traffic has increased significantly in recent weeks, as has the possibility of a Persian Gulf War, especially with the Islamic Republics’ intentional destruction of a U.S. surveillance drone on June 20.

This act provides weight to Tehran’s threat that it will inflict a heavy toll on U.S. allies in the region if attacked by American forces and will not allow these same countries to export their oil if it can’t export its own.

The memory remains remarkably fresh in Iran of the 1951-53 oil embargo that toppled the democratically-elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh – and the CIA installing the despot Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the so-called Shah of Iran, in his place.

The impact on oil markets of an Iranian closure of the Strait of Hormuz would be enormous.

Strait of Hormuz Closure

The leadership of the Iranian Navy and the Revolutionary Guard Navy, knowing they could never challenge the U.S. in a conventional naval contest, have been accumulating considerable asymmetric and other capabilities to enable the Islamic Republic to close the Strait of Hormuz since the “tanker war” in the Persian Gulf during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

These capabilities include thousands of sea mines, torpedoes, advanced cruise missiles, regular-sized and mini-submarines, and a flotilla of small fast-attack boats, most of which are concentrated in the strait region. Related: Oil Prices Set For Worst Weekly Drop In Five Weeks

Pentagon planners believe Iran would use all of these capabilities in an integrated fashion to both disrupt maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz and attempt to deny American and allied forces access to the region. Iranian naval forces are viewed as a “credible threat” to international shipping in the strait.

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The Oil Crisis Saudi Arabia Can’t Solve

The Oil Crisis Saudi Arabia Can’t Solve

Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s CEO Amin Nasr’s message to the press that oil flows to the market are guaranteed, should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Looking at the current volatility in the Persian/Arabian Gulf and the possibility of a temporary closure of the Strait of Hormuz, the Aramco CEO’s message might be a bit overoptimistic. In reality, Aramco will not be able to keep the necessary crude oil and products volumes flowing to Asian and European markets in the case of a full Strait of Hormuz blockade. Even that Aramco owns and operates a crude oil pipeline with a capacity of 5 million bpd, carrying crude 1,200 kilometers between the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea, much more is needed to keep the oil market stable.  

Nasr’s move to stabilize the market is praiseworthy but should be seen as an attempt to quell fears of traders and financial analysts, especially just before the OPEC+ meeting in Viennanext week. Nasr reiterated that Aramco (aka the Kingdom) is able to supply sufficient crude through the Red Sea, reiterating that the necessary pipeline and terminal infrastructure is there. However, what analysts tend to forget, Nasr’s statement is only linked to Saudi’s oil export volumes, which will likely be not higher this summer than around the level this pipeline can support. The real issue, if it comes to a full-blown conflict, is that not only Saudi oil is being threatened.

At present, between 20-21 million bpd of crude and petroleum products are transported via the Strait of Hormuz. Saudi exports are a vast part of it, but also the UAE, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iran, will have to look at additional routes.

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Two Events That Will Determine Oil Prices

Two Events That Will Determine Oil Prices

offshore rig

Two big events over the next two weeks will determine the trajectory for oil prices in the second half of the year. One of those events will take place in Japan, the other in Austria.

U.S. President Donald Trump will meet Chinese President Xi Jingping on the sidelines of the G-20 conference next week in Osaka, Japan. Nothing less than the health of the global economy hangs in the balance.

Both leaders have powerful forces pulling them in opposite directions. On the one hand, both have a domestic political constituency invested in confrontation, or, at least, in not backing down from a trade fight. Neither wants to lose face. Trump campaigned on taking on China, and at least part of his political base may be disappointed if he comes home short of victory. In Beijing, Xi is also under tremendous pressure. The protests in Hong Kong leave him little room for error, and being seen as backing down to Trump would be highly damaging.

However, both leaders are also under pressure to end the trade war. Trump has a presidential election right around the corner, and farm country has been hit hard by sinking agricultural prices related to tariffs. China’s economy has also been hit hard by American tariffs, so Xi would likely be relieved to reach a compromise.

The stakes are high. The global economy is slowing down. Manufacturing data is weak, the auto market has slumped badly, trade volumes are sharply down globally. If the talks fail and the U.S. and China decide to escalate the pressure – Trump has threatened to hike tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods – a full-blown recession is possible.

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The “Polar Silk Road” Could Be A Gamechanger For Natural Gas

The “Polar Silk Road” Could Be A Gamechanger For Natural Gas

Pipeline

It’s been well over a year since the then-United States Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused Russia and China of being “revisionist powers” each working its way toward making a power grab on the world stage and announced that the U.S. would be shifting its international relations focus away from fighting terrorism and instead prioritize what Mattis referred to as a “great power competition.” Now, 17 months later, it looks like Mattis’ nightmares are coming true as Russia and China have increasingly worked together in defiance of the Trump administration in a kind of diplomatic ‘marriage of convenience’.

Just this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping made his eighth official visit to Russia in a trip highly publicized in both Russian and Chinese media. “This year marks the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic ties and China’s ties with Russia are deepening at a time of profound change in the global geopolitical landscape,” remarked former Chinese ambassador to Britain Ma Zhengang, as quoted by the South China Morning Post.

One of the most current examples of this newly strengthened relationship between Beijing and Moscow is a new joint venture between state-owned shipping corporations in Russia and China to create a “Polar Silk Road” in the Arctic Sea. a year ago, officials in Beijing announced that China would be pursuing investment across the Arctic Route to encourage commercial shipping through the northern passage as a part of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative. Belt and Road is a massive undertaking involving investments programs worth trillions of dollars, which will go toward connecting Asia and Europe by sea, rail, and road to promote more trade between the continents.

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The Most Crucial Pipeline Of The Middle East?

The Most Crucial Pipeline Of The Middle East?

Pipeline

Contemporary Middle Eastern history is strongly influenced by energy politics. Besides providing revenue for the state’s coffers, oil is also a potent geopolitical tool in the hands of resource-rich countries. Recently, officials from Lebanon, Syria and Iraq have engaged in talks to restart the dysfunctional pipeline that once connected oilfields near Kirkuk in Iraq with the coastal city of Tripoli in Lebanon. Restarting the pipeline could have long-term political, economic, and strategic consequences for the involved states and the wider region.

The original infrastructure was constructed during the 30s of the previous century when two 12-inch pipes transported oil from Kirkuk to Haifa in British mandated Palestine and Tripoli in French-mandated Lebanon. The Tripoli line was supplemented by a 30-inch pipeline in the 50s which could transport approximately 400,000 barrels/day. The Kirkuk-Tripoli pipeline was suspended by Syria during the Iraq-Iran war in an attempt to support Tehran in its struggle against Baghdad.

(Click to enlarge)

Paving the way

The current political climate, which has enabled cooperation between Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, is the consequence of one country’s foreign policy. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iranian influence has grown considerably across the Middle East. Tehran’s support for proxies in neighboring countries has strongly influenced regional politics and made Saudi Arabia nervous of what it sees as “Persian encroachment”.

The Iranian support for Syria’s President Assad provided a lifeline to the regime during the country’s civil war. Tehran has invested significantly in maintaining the position of its ally in Damascus. In neighboring Iraq, the democratization process installed a Shia-dominated parliament which is supported by powerful paramilitary groups funded and organized by the Quds force, the branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard responsible for extraterritorial activities. Despite significant military and political gains, consolidation is required to cement the ties between Iran’s Arab partners, which would also benefit Tehran.

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

The Biggest Losers In The Shale Slowdown

The Biggest Losers In The Shale Slowdown

shale

Schlumberger saw its debt rating downgraded by S&P due to the unfolding slowdown in drilling by U.S. shale companies.

The largest oilfield service company in the world has seen its earnings hit as the shale industry goes through a soft patch. S&P cut Schlumberger’s debt rating to A+, down from AA-. Meanwhile, Halliburton saw its outlook downgraded from “stable” to “negative.”

“Oilfield services companies will no longer be able to generate the high operating margins they did in 2014,” Carin Dehne-Kiley, an analyst at S&P, wrote in a report. “The oilfield services industry has fundamentally changed due to permanent efficiency and productivity gains realized by E&P companies as well as investor sentiment calling for E&P companies to live within cash flow and limit production growth.”

The sharp fall in oil prices late last year, which stretched into the first quarter of 2019, led to a rapid erosion in the U.S. rig count. The oil rig count fell by 5 to 797 for the week ending on May 24. The rebound in oil prices this year has not led to a corresponding bounce back in the rig count.

Shale companies have pulled back, making modest spending cuts amid the soft patch. Moreover, the U.S-China trade war may have killed off yet another rally, with gloom spreadingacross the industry. Another lengthy downturn would likely deepen the modest austerity measures implemented by shale producers, which would further weigh down the oilfield services sector.

Lower drilling activity translates into less interest in the variety of services that Schlumberger offers. A depressed market for equipment, labor and other services means that companies like Schlumberger have less leverage in pricing negotiations with oil producers. Several years on from the massive oil market bust in 2014, Schlumberger has been trying to claw back the steep discounts it was forced to offer to producers. 

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

Tainted Russian Oil Crisis May Drag On For Months

Tainted Russian Oil Crisis May Drag On For Months

Crude Oil

It’s been a month since Russian oil flows through the Druzhba pipeline were suspended due to contamination, and despite Russia’s assurances that clean oil will resume flowing through the pipeline westward to Europe in the second half of May, analysts and traders say the progress is very slow while costs could be very high.

Last month, Russia halted supplies via the Druzhba oil pipeline to several European countries due to a contamination issue, which the Russians say was deliberate

Refineries in Belarus, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Germany have been impacted by the contamination issue as clean Russian oil is not flowing normally yet, while Western refiners and Russian companies are in a dispute over who’s paying for the clean-up and when.

Western oil traders tell Bloomberg’s Javier Blas that the contamination issue and the subsequent clean-up, blending of dirty oil, and restart of normal deliveries via the pipeline will be much costlier than initial estimates and could take much longer than anticipated.

The cost could be as high as US$1 billion, according to traders and executives at refiners in Moscow, Geneva, and London, who spoke to Bloomberg. Traders also believe that the contaminated oil volume could be as high as 40 million barrels, double the 20 million barrels that Russian officials are claiming

Earlier this week, Russia said that it is already sending clean within-standards crude oil via the Druzhba pipeline toward Hungary and Slovakia, with first clean oil expected to arrive at the metering stations in those countries within a week.

A spokeswoman for Czech pipeline operator Mero told Reuters on Friday that clean Russian oil via the pipeline is expected to reach the Czech Republic on Monday afternoon. Russian oil reached Slovakia on Wednesday evening.

The now month-long suspension of Russian oil supply to several European countries comes as global supply outages mount with Venezuela and Iran, and with increasing supply disruption risks in Libya and the Middle East.  

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