Oil prices look to be ending the year on a high with WTI breaking $60 on Friday morning and Brent climbing towards the $67 mark. Analysts are now looking towards the New Year, with opinion divided on whether oil markets can maintain this upwards momentum.
Oil prices are set to close out the year up more than 11 percent, hitting their highest level since 2015. However, the road to higher prices was rocky. In the first half of the year, the OPEC cuts appeared to have little effect, and oil prices gyrated. But the cuts started to take a large bite out of inventories in the third quarter and the price rally ensued. Other notable developments included the return of geopolitics as a market mover, with outages in Libya, Iraq, the North Sea and Canada all contributing to higher prices. U.S. shale also came roaring back in 2017, and those production gains are expected to continue into next year. Looking forward, there is disagreement among market analysts about where prices go from here. Some view oil as overpriced, with a price correction looming. Others see oil prices grinding higher as 2018 wears on due to falling inventories.
U.S. oil production unexpectedly falls. The EIA reported a drop in U.S. oil production, with last week’s output falling by 35,000 bpd. Also, crude inventories fell by a robust 4.6 million barrels for the week ending on December 22, although gasoline inventories ticked up again. The dip in oil production could very well be a one-off anomaly, but the report added some bullish momentum to oil on the final trading day of the year. WTI hovered at the $60-per-barrel mark with a few hours left in 2017.
Barclays: Oil set for price correction. Barclay’s analysts argue that oil prices are due for a correction, citing several reasons that point to a coming downturn. Investors are overstretched with bullish bets on oil futures, exposing the market to a snap back in the other direction. Also, China’s economy is expected to slow in 2018, raising the risk of weaker-than-expected demand. Plus, oil supply is rising in the U.S., Brazil and Canada, among other countries. Inventories could start to build again in 2018, slowing the rate of rebalancing. Barclays notes that there are plenty of reasons why their forecast could be wrong, but they predict lower prices in the near-term.
Trump could kill Iran nuclear deal in January. President Trump faces a series of deadlines in January that offer him the opportunity to tear up the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Every three months the President has to recertify the agreement, and Trump will have that decision before him again in about two weeks. “[I]n the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said in October. The President could restore sanctions on Iran, which could lead to an escalation of conflict. Politico reports that Trump’s top national security team opposes such a move and hopes to convince the President not to go down that road.
Trump scrapping fracking rule. The Trump administration is rolling back Obama-era rules on hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The 2015 proposed rules had not yet taken effect, and were delayed by a Wyoming court. They would have required the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking and also set standards on well design. The oil and gas industry applauded the decision to scrap them.
Cold weather boosts coal and natural gas prices. The rate of coal burning in U.S. power plants hit a three-year high as the eastern half of the country found itself in a deep freeze. Coal temporarily reclaimed the top spot among power sources in the U.S., a position it held for decades until natural gas overtook it a few years ago. Coal and natural gas prices are up on higher demand for heating, with regional price spikes particularly acute. New England saw a spot gas price surge to $35/MMBtu. The development could add a bit of momentum to the Energy Department’s proposal to offer support for coal and nuclear power. Still, it should be noted that Henry Hub prices, while up a bit, remained below $3/MMBtu. The price spike is confined to areas in the northeast, and in any event, natural gas production is expected to continue to rise.
Explosion at Venezuelan refinery. Reuters reported that an explosion hit a unit at Venezuela’s largest refining complex, injuring two workers. The incident highlights the deteriorating state of Venezuela’s oil assets, as state-owned PDVSA lacks the cash to keep up with maintenance.
Libya pipeline explosion. An explosion hit a Libyan pipeline earlier this week, knocking about 70,000 to 100,000 bpd offline. The incident provided a lift to oil prices, and it also highlights the risk to supply from some unstable countries. Libya managed to restore output to about 1 mb/d this year after several years of producing only a fraction of that amount.
Russia looks to shale. Russia is starting to look at its shale potential, and large reserves are thought to be located in the Bazhenov shale in Western Siberia. In fact, it is thought to be the largest shale formation in the world. Up until now, Russia has relied on conventional sources, but Russian companies are starting to move into shale. “The Bazhenov is a huge prize,” says Alexei Vashkevich, Gazprom Neft’s exploration director, according to the WSJ. Output from Russia’s shale is not expected before the mid-2020s, but it could be crucial to offsetting declines from mature oil fields.
In our Numbers Report, we take a look at some of the most important metrics and indicators in the world of energy from the past week. Find out more by clicking here.
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Explosion: Stakeholders Want Replacement Of Old Pipelines
As part of measures to avert further pipeline explosion in the Niger Delta, stakeholders in the region have called for the replacement of all obsolete oil pipelines in the area.
The views of the stakeholders were expressed during a random interview conducted by The Tide on the growing spate of pipeline explosions resulting in wastage of lives.
Speaking during the interview, President of a pro Niger Delta group, Niger Delta coalition Against Violence, (NDCAV), Comrade Lekia Christian said pipeline explosions in the Niger Delta and most recently the nasty experience at Komkom in Oyigbo Local Government Area in Rivers State were linked to leakages from broken pipelines that spilled out petroleum products.
He said people were tempted to stop the spilled crude and meet their waterlow.
“Pipeline explosion has become a recurrent event in the Niger Delta and lives have always been wasted in these sordid experiences. It is the responsibility of the Federal Government, through relevant institutions, to find a lasting solution to this prevalent issue. Most of the pipelines in the Niger Delta are old and need replacement; something has to be done as a matter of urgency to avert further disasters,” he said.
The NDCAV president also called for improved security and surveilance on the pipelines.
In his views, an environmental sociologist and lecturer in the University of Port Harcourt, Dr Steve Wodu, also blamed the sequence of pipeline explosions in the Niger Delta on obsolete facilities which, he said, constitute serious risk to the lives of the people of the host communities.
He said: “It’s unfortunate that most of the pipelines conveying crude oil in the Niger Delta are yet to be replaced despite the dilapidated status of the facilities. This is totally wrong and constitute big risk to the lives of the people. The NNPC and PPMC should embark on an overhaul of all oil pipeline facilities in the Niger Delta to address the issue of pipeline explosions in the area.
“The negligence of relevant institutions in maintenance of pipelines is an issue of critical concern as it affects the lives of the people negatively. This is a disservice and another worst form of injustice to the people of the Niger Delta.”
It could be recalled that the issue of pipeline explosions was also raised at the Senate plenary recently, following a motion by the Senator representing Rivers South East District, George Sekibo and three others following the recent explosion that claimed lives and properties at Oyigbo.
The Senate, in its ruling, urged the NNPC and PPMC and other relevant agencies in the oil and gas industry to find a lasting solution to the issue.
The Senate also called for a holistic review of all existing pipelines to ascertain the levels of functionalities.
By: Taneh Beemene
Rivers Community Shuts Down SPDC Flow Station
The people of Umudiaga Community in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State have shut down the Ahia flow station, operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) on behalf of its Joint Venture Partners.
The community, which expressed its discontent with Shell through a peaceful protest, also gave one week ultimatum to the company to give electricity to the community or have its operations grounded.
Addressing the protesting crowd at the Shell facilities located within the community, last Wednesday, the Community Development Committee (CDC) chairman, Barr Emeka Ogbugo, said the protest was an expression of the community’s disapproval of the company’s continuous negligence of the plight of Umudiaga people.
He said: “The community has suffered for over 50 years despite the presence of Shell in the area. Apart from the one kilometer road constructed by Shell since 1961, there is nothing to show in the community in terms of development.
“Shell gave us electricity that didn’t last for two years. We have a flow station that gathers oil from other communities, yet our community is highly neglected in infrastructural and human capital development”.
He explained that several letters had been written to Shell to address the issues of electricity in the community, but such requests were turned down.
The CDC chairman vowed that the Shell facilities would remain shut down until the community gets a positive response from the company and demanded that the community should be connected to the national grid, rather than being given light from the Shell flow station.
In his reaction, the youth leader, Comrade Daniel Akpelo Wosa, accused SPDC of marginalising the Umudiaga community, in terms of employment opportunities, scholarship and other social amenities.
The Umudiaga women leader, Comfort Chukwu, who also spoke during the protest, urged SPDC to improve on their community relations policies by giving the people a sense of belonging.
Efforts to get the reactions of the SPDC proved abortive as calls made to the company’s Corporate Affairs Manager were not successful.
By: Taneh Beemene
Marketers Blame Terminal Operators For Hike In Cooking Gas Price
The Nigerian Association of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (NALPGAM), has, blamed Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) terminal owners and off-takers for the recent hike in the price of cooking gas.
Prices of Liquefied Petroleum Gas, popularly called cooking gas, had gone up by more than 30 per cent, with customers in some parts of the country paying as much as N5, 500 for a 12.6kilograme cylinder of the gas. About a month ago, the price stood at about N2,800 – N3, 000 for the 12.6kg cylinder.
Executive Secretary of NALPGAM, Mr. Bassey Essien in a statement in Lagos last Friday, alleged that the activities of off-takers and terminal owners (where the gas was stored for sales to marketers) was responsible for the rise in the prices of the commodity.
“It becomes necessary to bring to the attention of users of cooking gas, stakeholders in the industry and the government the level of exploitation that currently subsists in the pricing of cooking gas by terminal owners and off-takers,” said Essien.
“The Federal Government approved the allocation of about 350,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) of gas per annum for local consumption through the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) company and this has been distributed through the terminals and off-takers to marketers who eventually distribute to end users.
“We noticed recently that gas delivered to terminals and off-takers, which was being sold at N3,200,000 per 20 MT a week ago suddenly jumped to between N4,000,000 and N4,300,000 per 20MT at the terminals, ” Essien alleged.
According to him, the decision of terminal operators to raise the price of the gas from their own end has seen Nigerians paying more in recent weeks that they did a month ago. The marketers, however, maintained that the price structure from the NLNG has not changed.
“We dissociate our association from exploitative acts of terminal owners. It is like taking the industry and stakeholders for granted to the detriment of the efforts of the Federal Government at deepening cooking gas utilisation in the country, which has been yielding positive results, ” Essien said.
Essien said that with this development, many Nigerians would go back to using kerosene and firewood which had attendant health effects.
“A filling station which was selling 300 litres of kerosene a week has seen its sales increased to about 6,000 litres because people who cannot afford gas due to the increment are going back to kerosene.
“This has so many negative effects on the economy, especially as food sellers would have to increase the prices of their food or reduce the quantity not to run at a loss,” he said.
Essien commended the NLNG for its efforts in supplying gas to Nigerians and urged the company to improve on its performance to deliver gas to other coastal terminals outside Lagos to reduce the inherent pressure on the terminals in the South West.
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