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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Oil Marketers Urge Buhari To Crash Diesel Price
Petroleum marketers under the platform of Natural Oil and Gas Suppliers Association of Nigeria (NOGASA) rose from their 2nd National Executive Council (NEC) meeting last week, within a plea to President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to make dollars available at official rate to oil marketers.
This, they said, will enable them import diesel, end petrol scarcity, and ultimately save the Nigerian economy from sinking, saying that dollar support should be available till Dangote Refinery comes on stream later in the year.
The association, among others, urged the National Assembly to immediately enact a Bill for the establishment of Energy Bank for easy transaction in petroleum products in the sector.
National President of the Association, Mr Benneth Korie, who briefed the media after the NEC meeting in Abuja, noted that the bulk of the operational challenge peppering marketers and depot owners spring from expensive diesel which hovers around N850/litre.
While thanking President Muhammadu Buhari for approving a higher bridging cost payment to transporters, Korie said the operators’ challenges were far from over as oil marketers and depot owners spend about N20 million weekly on diesel to power their operations, thus eroding their profits.
The association urges the National Assembly to review the policy of taxation as it affects petroleum products supply and distribution chain.
Senate To Honour Brave Petrol Tanker Driver
The Senate has resolved to honour Ejiro Otarigho, the brave tanker driver who drove a burning tanker from danger zone to avert a tragic fire incident in Agbarho, Delta State.
The Senate has also recommended Ejiro to President Muhammadu Buhari for National Honours.
This followed a motion moved by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, and co-sponsored by Senator James Manager and Senator Peter Nwaoboshi, at plenary.
It would be recalled that in a rare act of bravery, Ejiro had last week driven a burning tanker from danger zone to avert what could have been a tragic fire incident in Agbarho, Delta State.
The incident happened last Friday when Ejiro drove the burning truck for 25 minutes from a densely populated area to Agbarho River where the tanker was completely razed in the inferno. The act was captured by onlookers and had gone viral.
Rising under Order 45 and 52 of the Senate Standing Order 2021 (as amended), Senator Omo-Agege stressed that but for Ejiro’s courage, a major fire disaster which would have claimed several lives and property could have happened in his senatorial district.
The Delta Central lawmaker noted that Ejiro’s “extraordinary display of courage, reflex application of special driving skills, and huge risk to his own life, prevented a huge national tragedy and catastrophe by driving a burning tanker loaded with inflammable petroleum products from residential areas to safety so that thousands of our people may not die in an inferno that would also have consumed so much property in Agbarho, Delta State on Friday, June 10, 2022”.
The driver’s audacious act of heroism, he stressed, has saved the nation from national tragedy and mourning.
Accordingly, the Senate resolved to “invite Mr. Ejiro Otarigho to the Chamber of the Senate for public commendation by the President of the Senate, Senator Ibrahim Lawan.
“Recommend Mr. Ejiro Otarigho to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, for a befitting National Honour as Mr. President may deem fit for his extraordinary act of bravery, courage and skill that prevented the loss of human lives and property on a massive scale”.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who presided over plenary, hailed the driver for risking his life to drive the burning truck out of residential area to save lives.
Court Adjourns Worker Vs NLNG Matter To Oct
The National Industrial Court sitting in Port Harcourt, on Thursday, adjourned the matter on the defamation of character and unlawful termination of employment between a contract worker, Tambari Michael, and the Nigeria LNG Limited to October 25, 2022.
The judge, Justice Nelson Ogbuanya, said the adjournment was to enable the new counsel to the claimant, Mecha Mecha Kalu, to study the case before continuing.
Recall that the clamnant, Tambari Michael, a former contract staff of NLNG, had approached the court in 2019 to challenge the termination of his appointment by the Supervisor of NLNG’s Logistics, praying the court to declare the termination of his job as illegal and unlawful third party interference.
Michael in the suit number NICN/ PH/43/2019 claimed that displaying his name and image amongst persons accused to have committed criminal offensCes was defamatory, which, according to him, runs contrary to Section 4 of the NLNG Code of Conduct bordering on harassment.
Defendants in the suit are Nigeria LNG Limited, AUGJ Services Nigeria Ltd (the contracting firm) and Abimbola Ibukunle, the company’s Logistics Supervisor when the services of the claimant were terminated.
Other demands stated by the Claimant in the suit are “Damages be awarded to claimant against 1st defendant (Nigeria LNG Limited) and 3rd defendant (Mrs. Abimbola Ibikunle) for defamatory publication made.
“Damages also to be awarded against 1st and 3rd defendants for unlawful interference upon Mr Tambari Michael’s employment with AUGJ Services (2nd defendant).”
When the matter was called in the court on Thursday, counsel to the claimant, Mecha Mecha Kalu, who appeared in court for the first time, informed the court that he had just taken over the matter as counsel and solicitor to the claimant.
Speaking to newsmen after the court session, counsel to the claimant, Mecha Mecha Kalu expressed confidence that his client will get justice in the court but, counsel to the defendant declined comment.
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