There is a case that can be made that the present day liquidity profile and reduced capital investment in upstream sources for new supplies of petroleum, match the similar scenario of the 2008-9 financial crisis. In recent times, and partially as a result of the global pandemic, huge infusions of cash have been pumped into the market to achieve a number of objectives. Commodities began an extreme pricing upswing last year as a result of this cash infusion and pent-up demand from the shut-down phase of the pandemic. As a result, not only are there strong parallels to 2008, but current conditions are even more exaggerated as we approach 2022, thanks to continued governmental and financial intervention in the markets. In this article, we will examine some of the key causes of the 2008 financial meltdown, and compare them against relevant data in the present day. We will then tie that to current data on petroleum supplies and production to make our final case about the likelihood of a severe global financial crisis.
Lack of capital investment in upstream petroleum supplies
If you follow the news you will become quickly and acutely aware that things are different on the global energy front. Strikingly different from just a year ago. One of the things that drives the conversation is the speed at which the market has flipped from assuming that oil would be plentiful and low priced well into the future to just the inverse. There was even a catch-phrase to describe this scenario, used as recently as March of 2020-Lower For Longer.
So what happened? As you can see below spending on fossil fuels has declined precipitously from 2014, reaching a bottom only last year. Estimates vary from between $600 bn to $1.0 Trillion of capital has been lost to oil and gas extraction since 2014.
Two primary reasons have been the cause of most of this capital restraint. The first is prices well below an acceptable rate of return for oil companies for much of this period. Lower for Longer carried an enormous financial impact onto the balance sheets of oil producers, and they did what oil companies do when oil prices drop. They stopped spending…on oil and gas. Even now, with prices that are much higher, domestic oil companies are choosing to pay down debt, buy back their stock, and raise dividends as opposed to increasing their capital budgets. This was discussed in detail in an OilPrice article in September.
The second principle chilling effect on global fossil fuel investment has been the action of governments and activist shareholders to foster so-called “green energy” alternatives through edicts, tax subsidies, and regulatory barriers. Following the Paris Accords, signatories have moved swiftly to reward investment in these alternative energy sources, primarily-wind, solar, and biomass. This, despite the fact that many of these alternative technologies are still evolving, and lack supporting infrastructure. We have in effect, “jumped” into the pool and then checked for water. We explored the actions by European governments in this OilPrice article.
International companies like, Shell, (NYSE:RDS.A), (NYSE:RDS.B) and BP, (NYSE:BP) are doing some of the same things, but also are diverting capital to renewable energy projects in an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. In a moment of candor and clarity, in response to an activist investor pushing the company to spin off its legacy assets, Shell CEO, Ben van Beurden said-
The needs of Shell’s customers, and the company’s efforts to pivot away from fossil fuels, were better served by keeping its range of assets and businesses. In particular, he said the company’s legacy oil-and-gas assets were needed to fund its investments in lower-carbon energy.
These companies are also scaling down their carbon-based operations, monetizing assets up and downstream. Shell in particular has led the way with their sale of their Permian assets to ConocoPhillips, (NYSE:COP). BP is considering further steps, but has not made any big moves in this regard recently. These actions will result in their portfolios becoming less carbon intensive as the alternative energies they are investing in now, come online mid-decade. Will they be as profitable? Doubts have emerged, but this is a question for a future article.
One need not worry about the financial viability of these green energy projects, over the short run at least, as there are ample government stipends in place to pay all or part of their costs. Domestically, and across the pond, governments have paved the road for a green energy transition. The market has already decided about this capital shifting as relates to these companies, bidding up their share prices by about half since the first of the year.
The problem for world energy consumption is that oil remains a fundamental driver of energy security globally and demand is running ahead forecasts with demand above 100 mm BOPD. Prices have gone higher. Much higher, and that could be problematic for the stability of the financial system if the thesis we are constructing comes into play.
The great global liquidity influx and a commodity boom
Liquidity or lack thereof is stuff of which financial crises are made. If you hark back to 2008-the last financial crisis that wasn’t related to the now winding down pandemic, an increasingly seized up financial system brought global markets to their knees as it metastasized. Liquidity in the form of massive government intervention righted the ship and by early 2009 green shoots were appearing in the market.
Two of the things that precipitated the financial crisis of 2008 were a leveraged asset bubble in housing and a maturing commodities super-cycle. Growth in commodities brought on by the Chinese economic boom led to oil topping out at nearly $150 per bbl in 2008. This boom continued to mid-2014, with oil regaining $110 bbl before succumbing to OPEC’s desire to retake market share from U.S. shale producers, and lower growth in the Chinese market. Oil became plentiful as OPEC opened the taps, and prices stayed low for the next 6-years.That is one key difference from 2008 that will tend to extend and exacerbate a downturn if it occurs. Oil is not plentiful and prices are spiking.
Climate policy will directly impact economic growth
We are already beginning to see the second-order effects of the climate policies being adopted in the wake of the Paris Accords and its offspring the COP-26 love fest in Glasgow this year. I am referring, of course to the energy crisis in the UK, brought on by unanticipated underperformance of wind farms, and under-investment and early retirement of petroleum energy sources, over the last few years. This has all been pretty well documented, and I am not going to belabor them further now.
By: David Messler
Stakeholders Want Policies To Harness Gas Resources
An earlier plan by the defunct Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) to equalise the consumption of gas, especially Liquefied Petroleum Gas may no longer fly as the government said subsidising the transport cost of the commodity in the face of a liberal market may not work.
This is just as stakeholders were demanding for deliberate policies that would enable the country to harness gas resources to benefit from the global energy transition agenda.
While the defunct PEF had disclosed earlier this year that a scheme to pay for the transportation of gas as part of an effort to encourage the use of cooking gas in homes across the country was being considered, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) said such a move may be unnecessary.
Executive Director, Distribution System, Storage and Retail Infrastructure at NMDPRA, Ogbugo Ukoha said although Nigeria has gas in large quantities, bottlenecks undermine realisation of full potential.
Speaking in Abuja recently on equalisation for gas, Uhoha said: “the Act provides for liberalisation. We can’t set prices, we can’t equalise it.”
According to him, the market would stabilise at some point and deal with prevailing issues. The Independent Petroleum Producers Group (IPPG), headed by Abdulrazaq Isa, has also noted the right policies were necessary if Nigeria would benefit from its gas resources.
Stressing on the evolving industry landscape, ongoing industry reforms, IOCs’ divestment, and the role indigenous exploration and production companies can play in this new era in guaranteeing the nation’s energy security, Isa said: “Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind in view of the global energy transition agenda. Natural gas should be considered as a transition fuel with deliberate policies formulated to attract investment into the sector.”
While noting that the PIA enactment will set a solid growth foundation for the entire industry, the IPPG Chairman said it was imperative that effective regulations are formulated to derive the full benefits of the Act.
According to Isa, ‘’industry-wide consultation in the enactment of regulations is required to promote inclusivity and ensure robustness of regulations’’.
The IPPG Chairman also identified key challenges being faced by the industry in the areas of security, funding, high operating costs, lengthy contract cycle, amongst others.
’’We look forward to collaborating with the NUPRC in finding long lasting and sustainable solutions to these challenges,’’ Isa said.
Obasanjo Makes Case For Renewable Energy For Power Generation
Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has urged the country to embrace renewable energy for power generation.
Obasanjo, who led the country as military Head of State between 1975 and 1979 and civilian President from 1999 to 2007, made the call, last Friday at the inauguration of a two megawatts, MW, solar power project at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital,
He said solar energy is remarkably cost effective as it costs less than two and half years’ supply of diesel to power the generators at the Library and that the project marks one of the enduring personal legacies he is proud to call his own.
“Today, I am speaking to you in a facility powered by the sun – solar energy. It is the way of a future Carter envisioned all those years ago. It will help build the future we want. The Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library solar power project is a reflection of our commitment to clean and renewable energy and is the single largest investment this not-for-profit organization has made.
“As large an investment as it is, it is remarkably cost effective. It costs less than two and half years supply of diesel to power our generators. So in diesel terms it pays for itself in less than 3years. So in effect the electricity it produces after three years is almost at no cost,” Obasanjo said.
He noted that solar energy does not emit any green house gases that diesel generators do, and that, as such, it has the potential to earn carbon credits which are currently priced at US$40 per ton.
He added: “Based on estimated annual production of 2,307,000 kilo Watt hours per year, we can expect to earn nearly US$39,589 in carbon credits per year.
“By monetising this facility with strategic sponsorships and marketing alliances we will be able to generate revenue.
“Combined, this solar facility can generate electricity, generate revenues that contribute to the upkeep of the library, help save the planet making a small contribution to climate mitigation and adaptation, provide shade for parking, and be an inspiration for future generations. Who says you can’t make a profit out of saving the planet?”
CSOs To Hold Confab On Fuel Subsidy Removal
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria operating under the aegis of Civil Society Coalition for Economic Development (CED), on Thursday, said plans were afoot to organise a conference on ‘Fuel subsidy removal’ in Nigeria.
The coalition, which comprised 82 groups, disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, stressing that they were committed to pushing for subsidy removal as well as engaging other stakeholders in some sectors of the economy to see reasons with the government on the need to lay fuel subsidy payment to rest.
The convener of the group, Comrade Yusuf Dan Maitama, further said that the proposed theme of the conference is “Subsidy removal and the Future of Nigeria’s Economy,” adding that there was no better time for the total removal of fuel subsidy than now given the economic challenges the nation is going through.
According to the coalition, the conference which is slated for Tuesday and Wednesday next week will take place in Abuja and Lagos, featuring world-class resource persons in the oil and gas sector in order to refocus activities of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector and to secure the nation’s resources for its critical mass rather than private pocket benefactors.
The coalition lamented that the fuel subsidy regime which had been in place for the past 20 years, has enriched a few individuals and denied citizens of what was supposed to be a collective wealth, adding that moves by the present administration to end the subsidy regime were the right step.
Citing further reasons for the conference, the coalition posited that the Nigeria National Petroleum Company’s commitment to implementing a policy that ensures total removal of subsidy should be supported by all.
“The fuel subsidy regime has in the last 20 years done more harm than good to the economy of the nation and it appears Nigeria is the only country in the world that has a fuel subsidy regime in place.
“We have slated a conference for Tuesday and Wednesday, 2022 and we are going to assemble top class oil experts to speak on reasons fuel subsidy regime should be put to rest,” the group said.
Recall that the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had a few days ago disclosed to the Senate Committee on Finance that the Federal government would offer a N5,000 transportation grant to poor Nigerians to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal in 2022.
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