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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Nigeria In Trouble As Oil Price Crashes Below $20
Oil price fell below $20 a barrel yesterday, after the International Energy Agency (IEA) said demand would slump by a record this year despite a historic production cut deal.
Futures fell as much as 4.5% in New York to the lowest since 2002.
Oil demand will drop by over 9 million barrels a day this year, wiping out a decade of consumption growth, the IEA said, exhausting storage by mid-year.
While Saudi Arabia and other Gulf producers have pledged to cut supply starting next month, they have continued to flood the market in April.
Stockpiles are rising everywhere and weakening key physical market gauges. New York oil futures moved deeper into contango, signaling an expanding glut, while swap prices indicate North Sea cargoes are trading at bumper discounts.
Oil has lost about two-thirds of its value this year as countries extend their coronavirus lockdowns, death tolls mount around the world and unemployment explodes in America.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated the global economy will shrink 3% this year, a signal that energy demand may remain weak, while the IEA is warning that the worst may be yet to come.
“We may see further downward pressure on prices in coming days and weeks,” IEA Executive Director, Fatih Birol, said.
The IEA said consumption in April will fall by almost a third to the lowest level since 1995, and make this year the worst in the history of the oil market.
Despite OPEC+’s efforts to balance supply, global inventories will accumulate by 12 million barrels a day in the first half of the year and “overwhelm the logistics of the oil industry” in the coming weeks, it warned.
The massive OPEC+ deal to cut production starts next month. Until then the battle for market share persists with Abu Dhabi cutting its crude pricing for Asia. It follows a similar move by Saudi Arabia earlier in the week.
NUPENG Lauds Members Over Petrol Supply Amid Lockdown
The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), has commended its members on essential services for ensuring uninterrupted supply of petroleum products to every nooks and crannies of the country during the lockdown occasioned by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The union, however, decried the harassment and intimidation of oil company workers by security agents, calling on oil companies and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to provide adequate security passes for the workers.
NUPENG in a statement by its President and General Secretary, Prince Williams Akporeha and Olawale Afolabi, respectively, said petroleum tanker drivers, petrol station workers, petroleum products depot workers, oil and gas suppliers, and liquefied petroleum gas retailers, had made NUPENG and the entire labour movement proud as they moved through difficult and dangerous situations to ensure fuel supply to Nigerians.
The statement read in part: “The leadership of NUPENG has reviewed the roles of our members in the frontline in this critical period as Nigerians fight to contain the spread of the deadly and contagious coronavirus pandemic and we are proud to say our members on essential services have made us proud.
“In fact, not only have they made NUPENG and the United Labour Congress of Nigeria proud, our petroleum tanker drivers and others have made the entire labour movement proud by continuing to ensure uninterrupted supply of petroleum products to every nooks and crannies of the country despite the difficult and sometimes, dangerous situations as most states across the country are on lockdown.
“Once again, we appeal to state governments, security agents and Nigerians in general to cooperate with members of our unions who are risking their lives to provide essential services in the nation.”
NUPENG also appealed to corporate organisations to provide sanitisers and other safety kits to members of the union on essential services, to protect them and members of their families.
It stated: “We want to use the opportunity to call on oil companies and the DPR to provide adequate pass to our members on essential services to end the harassment and intimidation they are being subjected to by security agents across the country.”
FG Releases N200bn To Improve Power Sector
Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, says the Federal Government has made payment of over N200 billion to the power sector towards improving electricity supply in the country.
Kyari disclosed this while speaking with newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, shortly after a closed door meeting between the NNPC team, Minister of Power, Mr Sale Mamman and Managing Director of Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), Mr Usman Mohammed.
“Actually the Federal Government has made payment of over N200 billion for power in the last 23 days and this will go a long way to ensure that issues around power supply are addressed.
“We will work as a team to ensure that all issues are settled”, he said.
Kyari said that the team was in the Ministry of Power to inform the minister that in the last one or two months and particularly during the COVID-19 period, NNPC has increased gas supply to the power sector.
According to him, there will be significant improvement in power generation in all Federal Government and associated power facilities.
“This also means that Nigerians will get better access to power during this lockdown period and going forward.
“There are issues around power supply process and we have discussed most of them and we are moving as a team to make sure that we resolve issues around payment and evacuation.
“We are very confident that this will get the desired result. We will visit some power plants tomorrow to make sure that we sort out any issue to ensure that Nigerians have access to better power,” he said.
He said that the minister was very clear on what was to be done to improve power supply.
“We will make sure this becomes transparent and obvious to all Nigerians,” he said.
On his part, TCN Managing Director, Mr Usman Mohammed said that the meeting was to ensure that there was constant supply of power as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mohammed said that the President has directed that there should be constant power supply to the people during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“This is why this meeting was conveyed by the Minister of Power to discuss supply of gas to the power plants.
“This is very important, before now, we have been discussing with NNPC, of course there is gas availability in the market but there are several power plants that don’t have gas and that is a big problem for us.
“With this meeting where the minister prevailed that NNPC should assist in suppling gas to the power plants, we believe that will have steady and sustainable power supply going forward especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, “ he said.
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