Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent oil prices soaring and could soon deprive oil markets of more than four million barrels of Russian oil.
For decades, OPEC has been looked upon in times of crisis to stabilise oil markets, and in the coming weeks, it is likely the cartel will be called upon again.
While it is widely believed that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have some spare capacity, OPEC’s real spare capacity has remained the cartel’s best-kept secret.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has upended global energy markets and, if stability doesn’t return soon, that could have serious geopolitical consequences for OPEC members. The pre-invasion hydrocarbon markets were almost in equilibrium, as stable global economic growth combined with rational management strategies from the OPEC+ alliance to balance markets.
Despite a global pandemic that disrupted the global economy for two years, energy markets had managed to return to a level of relative stability. Some were even predicting a post-Covid order in which OPEC+ would experience an era of strong influence and power.
Today, the OPEC+ alliance appears to be hanging by a thread as Russia faces an economic crisis on the back of sanctions imposed in response to its invasion. The ongoing shift inside OECD countries, especially the EU, the UK, and the U.S., to wean themselves off Russian energy supplies, is dramatic and could prove to be influential in isolating Russia from the wider energy market.
At a time when global oil and gas markets were already facing some supply issues, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine really threw fuel on the fire. Western energy-dependent countries are now calling on others to increase oil and gas production and exports not only to quell the global thirst for energy but also to counter the rapid rise in prices.
All eyes are on OPEC, as the oil exporters group, some call it an oil cartel, is considered the only viable option in the short term to supply more. Until now, all calls from Washington, London, and Brussels appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
In a seemingly desperate move to influence OPEC’s leaders, British PM Boris Johnson flew to Saudi Arabia, officially to discuss possible investment agreements, but mainly to push for additional oil volumes from the Kingdom.
During meetings with Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the defacto ruler of the Kingdom, and his counterpart, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Johnson pushed for additional oil supplies, while also discussing Western sanctions on Russia. The Prime Ministers’ efforts, however, have been met with silence, no new energy promises have been made by either party.
According to Johnson, when asked about a potential change in OPEC’s production strategies, MBS and MBZ both made it clear that they understand the need for stability in the global oil and gas markets.
The real answer from both OPEC leaders was very clear indeed, at this moment they will not change their production and export strategies and they will not endanger their strong relationships with Russia’s leader Putin. These responses were not particularly surprising for analysts.
OPEC has always prided itself on maintaining a healthy spare production capacity in order to influence oil markets. For decades, OPEC producers have been the center of attention for traders, importers, and financial analysts, and have always been considered the ultimate resource for energy in case of a global crisis. Saudi Arabia, and lately also Abu Dhabi, have been seen as the ultimate swing-producers that clients could rely on if a sudden geopolitical or technical issue were to occur blocking potential suppliers.
The Kingdom is still seen as the ultimate swing-producer, holding a spare capacity of between 1.2-2.1 million bpd. In the last couple of years, Abu Dhabi’s upstream expansion has pushed it into a position of being a swing producer, with 0.6-1.2 million bpd.
Riyadh’s geopolitical power position is directly related to this theoretical production capacity, as it mitigates the removal of Iran or Venezuela from oil markets. Abu Dhabi’s extra volumes are becoming increasingly important in such a tight oil market. Before the pandemic, US shale companies were also seen as swing producers, even if their long-term production capacity differed.
Since the end of the pandemic (which was the first time that global analysts seemed to understand that the market was heading towards a supply crisis), the market has had to reassess this narrative of spare capacity.
The lack of new oil and gas investment and discoveries in recent decades has left oil markets drastically unprepared for such a shortage. Some have warned that part of the current OPEC+ export strategy is based on internal capacity constraints.
In a market that was slowly recovering from major demand destruction, OPEC members could hide their domestic production constraints behind the facade of a conservative production policy.
Now, with Russia in crisis and an oil shortage looming, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other members will need to put their money were their mouth is. If they fail to act now, rumors about a lack of spare production capacity will become increasingly believable.
Current analysis already indicates that most OPEC producers are incapable of increasing production. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are believed to have higher capacity, but the current silence from both players is not going to instill confidence in observers.
A possible reality is hovering on the horizon in which 4+ million Russian oil barrels are stuck on Russian soil and the market is unable to find a substitute for them. If Saudi Arabia and the UAE are not able to supply that much-needed 2-3 million bpd to Western markets, oil prices will soar to unseen heights.
A potential failure to find a swing-producer would not only lead to a real energy price crisis but would also undermine the current strategic power OPEC holds. Geopolitically, OPEC producers’ attractiveness to others (financial markets, manufacturers, and investors, but also defense/security) is linked to their oil and gas supply capabilities. Without this, the entire geopolitical equation will change.
OPEC Production Capacity
Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the UAE, and Kuwait have four million bpd of spare capacity – in 3-6 months
By: Cyril Widdershoven
Widershoven reports for Oilprice.com
NB, Konexa Boost Renewable Energy
Nigerian Breweries (NB) Plc has signed a power purchase agreement with Konexa, an integrated energy development and investment platform to deliver 100 per cent renewable energy that will cover the electricity needs of its two breweries – Kakuri and Kudenda, in Kaduna State.
Under the 10-year agreement, Nigerian Breweries has outsourced the power supply for its breweries, converting from fossil fuels into a full-service renewable energy solution, using hydro-power sources.
This step is in line with its business strategy and ‘Brew a Better World’ sustainability agenda. The project is co-funded by Climate Fund Managers and Konexa.
The Managing Director, NB, Mr. Hans Essaadi, described the agreement as another significant step in the company’s journey in its quest to operating a carbon-neutral plant in future, adding that its partnership with Konexa will reduce its energy costs and cost of production.
“By 2030, we want to become a standard reference point in Nigeria when it comes to sustainability and efficient use of resources. Under our ‘Brew a Better World’ agenda, we are taking several bold steps to become a carbon-neutral company”, Hans explained.
The Commercial Director at Konexa, Joel Abrams, explained that the agreement was part of Konexa’s commitment to supporting industry, national governments and utilities to achieve clean and reliable 24-hour-a-day power.
He added that the partnership anchors Konexa’s confidence in the power sector and will bring long-term investment and world-class operations to support the sector’s sustainability by improving reliability, quality of service, and job creation.
“We are very pleased to be part of the energy transition that Nigerian Breweries Plc. is leading. This agreement is particularly significant in the current context of increasing energy costs from traditional fossil fuels.
“This type of solution can apply to many businesses across Nigeria, allowing them to obtain cost-effective power from a reliable partner while focusing on their core business,” he stated.
The Chief Investment Officer, Climate Fund Managers Tarun Brahma, n his part, said, “we are proud to support Konexa and look forward to actively supporting Nigerian Breweries Plc. as they demonstrate leadership in driving the decarbonisation of their operations in Nigeria”.
Last year, NB Plc inaugurated its 663.6 KWP solar power plant at its Ibadan brewery, which supplies 1GWh yearly to the brewery while reducing its carbon emissions by 10,000 tonnes over a 15-year lifespan of the plant.
NLNG Bags FIRS’ Most Supportive Taxpayer Award
The Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited has been recognised by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as its most supportive taxpayer.
The recognition was conveyed in a statement by the Executive Chairman of FIRS, Mr. Muhammad Nami, in which he commended the 20 top-performing taxpayers whose compliances to tax obligations helped the service surpass its N6 trillion tax collection target in 2021.
Nami said FIRS was particularly pleased that the feat was achieved, and it was possible to provide the government with the necessary funds to meet its social contracts with the citizens despite the very harsh global economic conditions imposed by the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
The country’s top-performing taxpayers were scheduled to be unveiled, recognised and awarded by President Muhammadu Buhari at an exclusive dinner during the FIRS 2022 National Tax Week, but the event was cancelled due to the unfortunate attack on the Kaduna-Abuja railway on the 28th of March 2022.
Reacting, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria LNG Limited, Dr. Philip Mshelbila, said the award was coming at an auspicious time when the company was celebrating its 33rd Incorporation Anniversary and taking stock of its programmes and their impact on the lives of Nigerians and the country.
Mshelbila reiterated NLNG’s commitment to its vision of “helping to build a better Nigeria” and stated further that “the Company still has more to give by making gas count for the country and representing Nigeria in the league of top gas producers in the world.”
He affirmed the Company’s commitment to fulfilling its tax obligations in line with its vision of being a globally competitive LNG company helping to build a better Nigeria; and also thanked the board, management and staff of NLNG for their continued support.
‘Oil Market Fears Recession More Than Tight Fuel Inventories’
The oil market saw an other volatile week as bullish and bearish catalysts collided.
There is a growing fear that a potential recession could weigh heavily on oil demand.
Overall, the market appeared more concerned about the rising odds of a recession rather than falling U.S. fuel inventories to multi-year lows.
The oil market wrapped up another volatile week of hectic trading, swinging up and down in a $5 a barrel range as it was pulled between bullish and bearish catalysts in both directions every day.
Both benchmarks hit an eight-week high early on Tuesday, only to pull back later in the day and join on Wednesday the sell-off on Wall Street triggered by renewed investor concerns about a possible recession as top retailers flagged soaring costs and supply chain bottlenecks in their quarterly earnings reports.
In the week to May 20, oil market participants paid more attention to “recession fear” headlines than to the weekly U.S. petroleum status report, which showed another draw in gasoline inventories and higher implied domestic demand, which, despite record-high gasoline prices in America, is only set to rise further as we enter the summer driving season.
“The market is reacting to all sorts of different headlines hour to hour, and the movement in oil markets on a day-by-day basis getting even more exaggerated,” Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates in Houston, told Reuterson Thursday, when oil settled higher after the U.S. dollar weakened, following a plunge in crude prices in earlier trading on the same day.
Overall, the market appeared more concerned about the rising odds of a recession rather than falling U.S. fuel inventories to multi-year low levels for this time of the year.
Investors and speculators pulled back from oil, with crude being a riskier asset, as concerns about a more pronounced global economic slowdown—and even a recession—intensified and dampened risk appetite.
“The possible easing of U.S. sanctions against Venezuela could be considered another bearish factor, coming in addition to the Hungarian veto on the EU’s plan to ban Russian oil,” Sebastien Bischeri, Oil & Gas Trading Strategist at Sunshine Profits, wrote inInvesting.com.
The EU is still struggling to persuade Hungary to accept an EU embargo on Russian oil imports. Adding to bearish factors were fresh COVID outbreaks in China, where Shanghai is tentatively reopening, but infections are rising in the Beijing area.
However, while the market is focused on gloomier economic outlooks, it has ignored—at least this past week—the critically low U.S. fuel inventories.
Not that oil demand has soared so much. It’sthe capacity for supply, globally and in the U.S, that is now a few million barrels per day lower than it was before the pandemic.
Rising demand since economies reopened and people returned to travel, combined with lower refining capacity and very tight distillate markets have drawn down U.S. product inventories to below seasonal averages and at multi-year lows, with record-low inventories reported on the East Coast.
Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 4.8 million barrels in the week ending May 13, and are about 8% below the five-year average for this time of year, the EIA said in its latest weekly inventory report on May 18. Implied gasoline demand, measured as products supplied, rose, despite record-high prices across the United States.
Gasoline inventories in the U.S. are at their lowest levels for this time of the year since 2014, with stocks on the East Coast even tighter, at their lowest since 2011 for this time of the year.
“While refiners have some room to increase runs (utilization rates increased by 1.8 percentage points to 91.8% over the week), gasoline demand should increase as we move into driving season, which suggests that we will see further tightness in the US gasoline market.
In this case, we are likely to see further pressure on the US administration to try rein in gasoline prices,” ING strategists Warren Patterson and Wenyu Yao wrote on Thursday.
According to Bjarne Schieldrop, Chief analyst, Commodities, at SEB:
”The global refining system is severely stretched following reductions in capacities in 2020/21, reviving oil product demand along with re-openings with Russia/Ukraine issues on top. We are now heading into summer driving season with much higher gasoline demand with a start-out of very low inventories.”
Concerns about economic growth, and consequently, demand for fuels, are yet to be reflected in actual data, Saxo Bank said on Thursday.
“On the ground, however, this worry has yet to be reflected with inventories of crude oil and gasoline still falling while US implied gasoline demand, despite record prices, remains robust.
“Meanwhile, in China the easing of lockdowns is not going well with fresh outbreaks slowing the pace towards normalisation. Until then, the market is likely to focus on the general level of risk appetite, which is currently challenged,” Saxo Bank’s strategy team noted.
By: Tsvetana Paraskova
Paraskova writes for Oilprice .com.
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