Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

High stocks and continued oversupply mean oil price has further to drop

March 9, 2015

The underlying and driving fundamental remains that there is an oversupply and oil stockpiles are still increasing. Certainly oil exploration has taken a hit with the drop in oil prices and will – eventually – lead to lower production. Certainly the growth of shale oil production in the US has slowed. But the decline in some of this production has only been to turn off the most expensive production rigs. The oversupply has hardly been affected. Industrial growth has not yet picked up enough to balance this oversupply.

Oil price has been relatively stable for over a month at around $60 per barrel and all the talk from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf is about a stabilisation at this level and a recovery of oil price in the second half of 2015.

MarketPulse:

Saudi Arabia’s oil minister said on Wednesday he expected oil prices, which hit a near six-year low in January, to stabilize, signalling cautious optimism about the market outlook. Giving a speech in the German capital, Ali al-Naimi also urged non-OPEC producers to help balance the oil market, saying it was not up to Saudi Arabia to subsidize higher-cost producers and that circumstances required non-OPEC to cooperate.

“Going forward, I hope and expect supply and demand to balance and for prices to stabilise,” Naimi said. “Global economic growth seems more robust.” The comments are a further sign OPEC’s top producer is sticking to its policy to defend market share. Last month, Naimi signalled satisfaction with developments, saying he saw oil demand growing and that markets were “calm”. Oil was trading just above $60 a barrel on Wednesday, up more than 30 percent from a near six-year low close to $45 on Jan. 13.

ABS CBN:

World crude prices are expected to gain this year or at least stabilise at between $50 and $60 a barrel, Kuwaiti Oil Minister Ali al-Omair was quoted as saying.

“Forecasts for the oil price this year indicate that it will gain or at least stabilise between $50 and $60 a barrel,” the official KUNA news agency quoted Omair as saying late on Saturday in Bahrain. The minister said prices are currently supported by conflict in Iraq and Libya and by a drop in sand oil and shale oil output. But that is counterbalanced by slow global economic growth, which is dampening demand, Omair said.

World prices dropped at close on Friday as the dollar rose sharply, making dollar-priced crude more expensive for buyers using weaker foreign currencies. West Texas Intermediate for delivery in April slid $1.15 to $49.61 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, ending near its week-ago level. Brent North Sea crude for April, the international benchmark, dropped 75 cents to $59.73 a barrel in London.

But there is a large element of wishful thinking here. The January price of around $45 per barrel was just testing the waters that we will probably see again later this year. According to “data released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows that crude inventory is sitting at an 80-year high with the United States recently recording its biggest weekly inventory rise in 14 years. Crude inventories are now sitting at 444.4 million barrels, which is more than a year’s worth of production”. Storage capacity in the US is now utilised to 60% compared to 48% at this time last year.

Global economic growth may provide some demand growth in the second half of 2015 and it is possible that oil price will remain at between $50 and 60 for most of the year. But I think it is more likely that we will see another dip to around $40.

US crude oil stocks March 2015 source EIA

US crude oil stocks March 2015 source EIA

 

 

Fossil fuel use still growing and will provide over 80% of global energy in 2035

February 20, 2015

The BP Energy Outlook for 2035 is out.

  • In absolute terms total energy usage will grow 37%.
  • Two-thirds of the increase in demand is met by fossil fuels. Roughly one-third of the increase in energy demand is provided by gas, another third by oil and coal together, and the final third by non-fossil fuels.
  • In 2035 fossil fuels will still provide 81% of the world’s energy (down from 86% in 2013).

It is fortunate that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are of little significance for global warming since man-made carbon dioxide emissions will increase by over 50% in the next 20 years. But it is unfortunate that the global warming/extreme climate lobby will continue to waste precious resources in attacking something quite irrelevant. So far a massive increase in emissions has caused no global warming for over 18 years. perhaps the fanaticism will decline after another 20 years (probably when the current crop of “climate scientists” have retired).

BP Energy Outlook 2035

BP Energy Outlook 2035

Iran prepares to resist Saudi Arabia even with $25 oil price

January 19, 2015

Iran needs $72 per barrel for its budget. That Iran (along with oil shale production) is one of the targets of Saudi Arabia’s oil price strategy seems very clear. They have the lowest cost of extraction and with their accumulated reserves they could probably withstand 5 -8 years with a price lower than $50. However their strategy will be completely nullified if there is growth in demand (for example with an economic recovery in China) before they have brought the shale oil producers and Iran to their knees. The question now is how low the price can go?

Light crude price February 2015

Light crude price February 2015

The Iranians are girding their loins for a battle and are adjusting their budgets to be able to withstand a longer period with relatively low prices. Iran probably wants to avoid precipitating a further fall but I suspect that just mentioning their worst fears – in the present atmosphere – will only ensure that those fears come true. It would seem, from the almost belligerent Iranian stance, that prices will now almost certainly drop to around $25 per barrel within the next 6 -12 months.

Reuters:

Iran sees no sign of a shift within OPEC toward action to support oil prices, its oil minister said, adding its oil industry could ride out a further price slump to $25 a barrel.

The comments are a further sign that despite lobbying by Iranand Venezuela, there is little chance of collective action by the 12-member OPEC to prop up prices – entrenching the reluctance of individual members to curb their own supplies.

In remarks posted on the Iranian oil ministry’s website SHANA, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh called for increased cooperation between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. ……. 

Oil has plunged by more than half since June 2014 to below $50 a barrel on Monday, pressured by a global glut and OPEC’s refusal at its last meeting in November to cut its output. ……. 

OPEC decided against a production cut despite misgivings from non-Gulf members such as Iran and Venezuela, after top producer Saudi Arabia argued the group needed to defend market share against U.S. shale oil and other competing sources. ……… 

Zanganeh said Iran had no plans to cut its own oil production and that it had no further meetings with Saudi Arabia – Iran’s main political rival in the Gulf – since the OPEC meeting.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said countries behind the price fall would regret their decision and warned that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait would suffer alongside Iran from the price drop.

Zanganeh said Iran’s budget should be based on oil at $72 per barrel, but Iran could withstand lower oil prices. “Even if the oil price goes down to $25 a barrel, the oil industry will not be threatened,” the Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Oil wars: US crude drops below $50 as Saudi Arabia drops prices to protect market share

January 6, 2015

Some stock markets are spooked as oil prices continue to slide, but bringing oil price back to a cost-based price is a good thing in the long term. For too long – almost 45 years – oil producers and their governments have fleeced the consumer. Oil prices have had no relationship to cost of production but have been governed by artificially controlling its scarcity (by the OPEC cartel) and pricing it at the level of unacceptable pain for the consumer. Predatory governments have assisted by taxing oil products as far as they can even for the necessities of living (gasoline, diesel, LPG, fertilisers, pesticides…). If the present oil wars bring the price to the consumer in line with the cost of production – and there is no shortage of oil available to be produced – then it is a fundamentally sound, and long overdue, removal of one of the great, artificial distortions of the market place.

History will show the OPEC cartel to have held back development for 4 decades and to have been an evil thing.

Even if Saudi Arabia is engaged in a multi-pronged war – against shale oil, against Russia, against Iran – the root cause of the drop is that there is no longer a monopoly that the OPEC cartel enjoys. And the the way being shown by US shale oil is available to many more countries. In the short term it may well affect stock markets as these fetters are removed but in the long term this is an inexorable driver of growth – especially for the developing countries and their hard pressed consumers.

Remarkably many oil producers are now even increasing production in a time of a glut and cutting prices to win market share. They are being short-sighted. As the Opec cartel collapses, and it becomes a buyer’s market it will be oil price which governs and even then only for short term supply contracts. It will no longer be possible for the cartel oil producers to extort long-term contracts at high prices from developing countries who have no alternatives.

FP0106_Oil_C_JR

2015 not 2014 — via Financial Post

 Financial PostU.S crude crashed below US$50 a barrel while benchmark Brent crude tumbled under US$53 after data showed Russian oil output at post-Soviet era highs and Iraqi oil exports at near 35-year peaks.

Meanwhile, the outright price for Canadian heavy crude fell below US$35 a barrel. ……. The drop in WTI pushed the pushed the price of Canadian heavy crude to US$34.64 per barrel, a level that could make producing crude from the oilsands unprofitable for most operators in the world’s third-largest crude reserve.

Many of the region’s operators have already slashed capital spending and slowed work on new projects in order to cope with the price crash, though production from the region has not yet been affected.

…… Top crude exporter Saudi Arabia revealed it had made deep cuts to its monthly oil prices for European buyers , the sixth time in a row since June when it had slashed prices, corresponding with the rout in crude futures markets over the period. Analysts read the latest cut as reflecting Saudi Arabia’s deepening defence of its market share for crude. The OPEC kingpin also trimmed its prices for U.S. refiners for a sixth straight month, while raising rates for Asia.

…… Some traders seem certain that U.S. crude will be trading in the US$40 region later in the week if weekly oil inventory numbers for the United States on Wednesday show another supply build. ……. 

Russia’s oil output hit a post-Soviet high last year, averaging 10.58 million barrels per day (bpd), up 0.7% thanks to small non-state producers, Energy Ministry data showed. Iraq’s oil exports were at their highest since 1980 in December, an oil ministry spokesman said, with record sales from the country’s southern terminals.

The Russian and Iraqi data overshadowed reports of drops in Libya’s oil output due to conflict. Libya’s oil output has fallen to around 380,000 bpd after the closure of the OPEC producer’s biggest oil port Es Sider, along with another oil port Ras Lanuf.

The sooner oil price drops to less than $40 per barrel, the sooner the oil price can stabilise for 12 – 18 months. Then, as the price works its way through the economies of the consumer countries, the markets could see a year or two of stable, sustainable growth.

Erectile dysfunction of a wind turbine

January 5, 2015

Environmentalists like wind turbines mainly for their phallic symbolism. The sight of multiple phalluses sticking up all over the countryside  makes them feel good about the virility of their “movement”.

The erectile dysfunction problem is probably psychological. As it is, wind turbines are subsidised because they cannot perform with no wind or with high winds. But this collapse was in light winds. A rapid infusion of subsidies would probably help.

Turbine collapse County Tyrone 2nd January 2015 The Independant

Wind turbine No. 3 at the Screggagh wind farm, Northern Ireland (Nordex N80, 2.5MW, 80m rotor) collapsed in light winds – image The Independent

The Nordex N80 wind turbine has an 80m diameter rotor and the tower, from ground level to hub, is also 80m tall. It is supposed to operate between wind speeds of 3 m/s and 25 m/s and its power rating of 2.5 MW is for a wind speed of 15 m/s. It is supposed to be able to withstand a wind speed of 70 m/s (but I suspect that this is just an optimistic calculation and not based on any realistic trials).

The design is with a modular tubular steel lattice tower. From the pictures I would speculate that it is a tower design failure. Possibly the fatigue conditions (caused by rotor imbalance or wind gusts) have been underestimated such that some strength (thickness) has been sacrificed for keeping the weight down.

The Guardian: The cause of the collapse is unclear as winds were light on Friday. It is understood the rotor blades spun out of control and the sound of the mechanical structure crashing to the ground could be heard up to seven miles away.

 

Less than $60 – but where’s the bottom for oil price

December 12, 2014

I reckon the bottom is about 6 months away and probably less than $40 per barrel before there is some recovery. If the price does not fall that much, or if it recovers faster, then Saudi Arabia will have lost its battle against shale oil. In any event, shale oil is here to stay and all Saudi Arabia can hope for is to restrict new and small oil shale wells. Even a steep fall to around $40, held for a period of only 6 – 12 months, will not be enough to put all shale oil producers out of business and win the battle against shale oil.

oil price bottom

Finland approves new Russian nuclear plant

December 5, 2014

Russia’s Rosatom had offered a to supply the reactor for the 1,200 megawatt Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant for Fennovoima at Pyhäjoki in north-east Finland. The Finnish government had required Finnish ownership of greater than 60% as a condition for granting a license for construction. Construction is planned to start in 2015 for the plant to be in operation in 2024. With Finnish Fortum now taking a 15% share in the project, Finnish ownership now exceeds 65%.

The Finnish parliament has this morning has given the basic approval for construction to start.

Reuters:

Finland’s parliament on Friday approved plans to build a new nuclear plant supplied by Russia’s state-owned Rosatom despite East-West tensions over the Ukraine crisis.

With support from 115 parliamentarians against 74 opposed, the vote comes at a time when the European Union has called for EU member states to curb energy deals with Russia.

The Fennovoima reactor in northern Finland, which will be supplied and fuelled by Rosatom, is expected to begin output in 2024.

Hanhikivi 1

The AES-2006 model proposed for the Hanhikivi site (source: Fennovoima)

NEI: Finland’s Fennovoima and Rusatom Overseas have signed a Project Development Agreement aiming at a nuclear power plant supply contract for Hanhikivi 1 to be signed by the end of 2013.

The companies have set “common targets,” according to which negotiations will be carried out. They are also in talks over the possibility of Rusatom Overseas acquiring a 34% stake in Fennovoima.

The Russian 1200 MW AES-2006 pressurized water reactor (VVER) is being considered for the Hanhikivi 1 project, in northern Finland. The plant corresponds with IAEA and EUR requirements, according to Rusatom Overseas. However, for licensing purposes it “will be adapted to be in accordance with Finnish national safety standards.”

Direct negotiations with Rusatom Overseas begun in April 2013. Talks also started with Toshiba in February 2013, but will now only continue with the Russian firm.

Fennovoima, which is owned by 60 companies representing industry, trade, and energy sectors from all around Finland, said that before a plant supply contract is signed, all of Fennovoima’s owners must decide on their continuation in the project.

Foto: Fennovoima

Image Fennovoima

 

 

Break-even price for shale oil could be as low as $40 per barrel

November 28, 2014

UPDATE: Reuters – Saudi Arabia’s oil Minister Ali al-Naimi declares war on US Shale OIL


 

Yesterday Saudi Arabia got its way at the OPEC meeting and successfully resisted all calls for a cut in production to try and stop the decline of world oil prices.  It seems Saudi Arabia (which has the lowest oil production cost in the world) has chosen the strategy of maintaining an oil price low enough to put a cap on US shale oil production and provide a disincentive for new shale oil wells.

This strategy is premised on the break-even price for shale oil being at or above $80 per barrel for small production sites down to about $30 per barrel for large production sites. For example Credit Suisse estimated these levels as varying between $24 and $85 earlier this year.

shale oil break even estimates credit suisse

shale oil break even estimates credit suisse sep 2014

 

The US department of Energy puts sustainable break even values between $35 and $54. The Saudi calculations seem to be based on similar estimates. They appear to believe that with current oil prices moving down to about $70 per barrel, some of the smaller US oil shale wells are already uneconomic and that at this price new investment for further production sites will dry up.

But shale oil production costs are declining – fast. Costs are coming down following the learning curve for both capital costs and running costs. The analyst estimates are already out of date. My estimate is that actual break-even points are already down about 20% from those in the Credit Suisse estimate.

So I believe the Saudis have miscalculated. The average break-even world price for shale oil is probably – already – closer to $40 per barrel rather than $60-70 per barrel being assumed. While new investment in shale oil wells may well be toned down by world oil consumption, it will probably not be because world oil price is below some critical threshold. If the Saudis believe that any uptick in consumption will bring the oil price back up to over $80 per barrel, they are following a flawed strategy. We could be in for a decade of relatively low oil prices perhaps with a floor at around $40 per barrel and set by the average break-even for shale oil.

Consumers are still very wary. They are not sure that the reduction in oil price will be sustained and is not just a temporary dip which might lure them into a higher and more vulnerable consumption level. It will take a few months for them to see that OPEC has actually lost control over the world oil price but is still in denial about that. A sustained low oil price is what will trigger a new – and sustained – wave of global growth that is now so badly needed. The cartel is shrinking. New shale oil producers will all be outside the cartel – and the sooner Europe, China and India start production the better. But it is the beginning of the end of the OPEC cartel power.

History will – I think – show that the OPEC cartel lasted for 50 years. It will show that the cartel started in 1973 and that market forces of supply and demand were re-established around 2020.

Are shale oil and low prices the beginning of the end of the OPEC cartel?

November 24, 2014

Currently US crude is at just above $76 per barrel and Brent oil is at about $80. OPEC members are meeting this week in Vienna and it is thought that cuts to oil production of between 0.5 million and 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) are possible. The drop in oil prices since June (from around $110 per barrel is due to a glut which in turn is due to over production, large quantities of US shale oil becoming available and simultaneously a reduced demand from China and others. Saudi Arabia is conspicuous by not having made any significant production cuts so far. This could be due to one of 3 reasons:

  1. Saudi Arabia is testing the breaking point for some of the shale oil producers since some of the smaller shale wells probably have a break-even level of around $60-70 per barrel, or
  2. Saudi Arabia and the US are targeting Russia and Iran whose economies are vulnerable and very dependent on the oil price (and the Russians alone would lose some $100 billion in oil revenues per year), or
  3. Saudi Arabia is tired of bearing the brunt of the production cuts and is forcing some of the smaller OPEC producers to take their share of the pain of production cuts.

If cuts of less than 0.5 million barrels per day are made it is thought that the prices are headed down to about $60 per barrel. One analyst estimates that a cut of 2 million bpd is needed to get back up to $80 per barrel. Something in between will be – well – something in between.

I just don’t like cartels and especially when they are state sponsored cartels. So far shale oil production is just from the US, and the OPEC strangle-hold on oil price has yet to be broken. But, over time, I expect this cartel to weaken as other countries produce oil and gas from shale. I remain of the opinion that the OPEC cartel has – no doubt – enriched the oil producing countries but has only done so at the expense of the rate of development of non-producers. OPEC has done the global economy a disservice by holding back the developing countries and the strongest correlation in geopolitics is the link between energy consumption and development (not just GDP but also virtually every development parameter).

It may cause some short term turbulence but in the long run it will be a “good thing” even if oil price were to collapse to below $50 per barrel. Some producers will be hard hit but the net result for the global economy will be positive. So I shall be quite happy if OPEC cannot reach agreement on how much oil production to cut or if they make just a small cut. It is time for some of the the developing countries to get a break from the oil price extortion which has been in place since 1973. The sooner the OPEC cartel is rendered obsolete the better.

Reuters:

Some commodity fund managers believe oil prices could slide to $60 per barrel if OPEC does not agree a significant output cut when it meets in Vienna this week. Brent crude futures have fallen by a third since June, touching a four-year low of $76.76 a barrel on Nov. 14. They could tumble further if OPEC does not agree to cut at least one million barrels per day (bpd), according to some commodity fund managers’ forecasts. ….. 

Yet fund managers and brokerage analysts are divided over whether OPEC will reach an agreement on cutting output. Bathe put the likelihood at no more than 50 percent. Oil prices have been falling since the summer due to abundant supply, partly from U.S. shale oil, and because of low demand growth, particularly in Europe and Asia. As a result, some investors believe a small cut of around 500,000 bpd would not be enough to calm the markets. Doug King, chief investment officer of RCMA Capital, sees Brent falling to $70 per barrel even with a cut of one million bpd.

“With this, I would expect lower prices in the first half of 2015,” he said. If OPEC fails to agree a cut, prices will drop “further and quite quickly”, with U.S. crude possibly sliding to $60, he said. U.S. crude closed at $76.51 on Friday, with Brent just above $80. ……..

The market has been awash with conspiracy theories as to why Saudi Arabia has not already intervened. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman hinted at “a global oil war under way pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other”. Hepworth argued that Saudi Arabia appeared pretty happy with current pricing levels and suggested they were waiting to see where the cut-off point for U.S. production was. “Time is on their side, they can afford to wait,” he said, stressing he was talking months, not years, but added if oil fell below $70 that waiting time “shrinks to weeks”.

Tom Nelson, of Investec Global Energy Fund, said he believed Saudi Arabia had allowed the price to fall to incentivise smaller OPEC producers, which often rely on the biggest producer to intervene, to join Riyadh in cutting output. “They (the Saudis) want to cut but they don’t want to cut alone,” Nelson said, adding that a cut of between one million and 1.5 million bpd should be sufficient to balance the market.

“The market really wants to see that OPEC is still functioning … if there is a small cut, with an accompanying statement of coherence from OPEC that presents a united front, and talks about seeing demand recovery, and some moderation of supply growth, then Brent could move up to $80-$90.”

Saudi attack on shale oil could backfire

November 12, 2014

If the recent drop in oil price has been engineered (even in part) by Saudi Arabia as an attempt to put some of the burgeoning shale oil production sites out of business they will need to go much further. A break-even for shale oil production is probably at less than $50 per barrel. In any event the drop so far (25%+ in 6 months) is just the fillip the world economy needs. Saudi Arabia is probably not as vulnerable as other oil producing countries but increasing production to drive down the oil price is a dangerous game which could be self-defeating. Whether the current glut is just due to reduced world (read Chinese) demand and increased shale oil (US) production or has also been exacerbated by increased Saudi production, the oil consumer wins. Consumption will increase – and that will automatically reduce the glut and further increase the production of oil from shale.

If the global economy is to come out of the doldrums it needs the Asian economies – the tigers, the dragon and the elephant – to start prowling in earnest. Increasing consumption in the developing world seems to be one of the most effective ways of stimulating the world economy. It inevitably leads to increased production of consumer goods in the developed countries. And this current step-reduction of oil price could be just the trigger that is needed.

Yesterday the price of crude (WTI) was at about $77 per barrel and that price is sufficient to keep even the small shale oil wells in operation.

crude oil price Nov 2014

crude oil price Nov 2014

 


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