Oil Market Waiting For A Catalyst

Robert Boslego - INO.com Contributor - Energies


On November 15th, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said, “We need to recognize that by the end of March we’re not going to be at the level we want to be which is the five-year average, that means an extension of some sort.”

He went on to say that Saudi Arabia favors making an extension decision at the OPEC meeting at the end of this month. “My preference is to give clarity to the market and announce on November 30 what we’re going to do.”

At the conclusion of the last OPEC meeting in May, the Saudi minister had stated that the current production quotas will “do the trick” of rebalancing stocks to normal levels within six months. Earlier this month, the DOE projected that global OECD stocks at end-2017 would be right where they were at end-2016. And it projected that 2018 inventories will be higher, not lower.

Russia’s continued participation seems to be a linchpin, and the Russian energy minister, Alexander Novak, reportedly met with Russian oil producers about their view of extending the production deal. According to TASS, everyone but Gazprom Neft agreed to a six-month extension, not the nine-month extension favored by Mr. Al-Falih. Gazprom Neft expects to launch new projects in 2018. Continue reading "Oil Market Waiting For A Catalyst"

Peak Oil Demand Season is Coming To A Close

Robert Boslego - INO.com Contributor - Energies


Peak demand for crude at refineries and for products to consumers is drawing to a close this season. Together, they caused total U.S. oil inventories to drop by 49 million barrels from their peak in the week ending June 9th. Total U.S. oil inventories stand at 1.304 billion barrels in the week ending August 11th, 58 million barrels lower than a year ago.

Refinery demand for crude oil set a new record high this summer, as the 4-week trend reached 17.458 million barrels per day, 4.4% higher than last year. As depicted in the graph below, refiners will soon be dialing back their operations for maintenance, and this will reduce the demand for crude at U.S. refineries by about 1.5 mmbd.

U.S. Crude Input to Refineries

Domestic demand was relatively strong this summer, up about 2.0% from last year. Gasoline demand was somewhat disappointing, but distillate demand spiked. As shown in the graph below, seasonal demand has likely peaked and will be headed lower in the weeks and months ahead. Continue reading "Peak Oil Demand Season is Coming To A Close"

Why OPEC's Cut-Extension Is Another Blunder

Robert Boslego - INO.com Contributor - Energies


OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, blundered when it decided to engage in a battle for market share in November 2014. It assumed it could drive American shale oil companies bankrupt and then pick up their market share.

But this strategy was destined to fail. For one thing, they didn’t take into account that American shale oil companies had hedged their future production. That protected the companies from experiencing the impact of lower prices to the extent that they had hedged.

Second, they didn’t take into account the American bankruptcy system. Companies can continue as “zombies” surviving by cutting costs to the bone, and selling assets to other companies at a discount to keep afloat. The buyers then have a lower “cost basis.”

Third, they didn’t take into account their own vulnerabilities. Sure, their national oil companies have low production costs but their oil revenues largely support the national budgets. They need high oil prices to balance their budgets, effectively making them high-cost producers (e.g., KSA about $65/b in 2017). Continue reading "Why OPEC's Cut-Extension Is Another Blunder"

Crude Oil Seasonality, Inventory Rebalancing and Production Cuts

Robert Boslego - INO.com Contributor - Energies


The historical stock build from December 2014 through July 2016, and subsequent decline from August through December has led some to conclude that global stocks had started to rebalance. Instead, the normal seasonality in stocks had been masked by the high overproduction of OPEC, but then normal seasonality kicked-in.

Global OECD inventories from past years demonstrate the normal seasonal patterns, with some variability. As shown in the graph below, stocks normal build early in the year and peak around August. Stocks normally drop from September through December.

OECD Oil Inventories 2010-14

But in 2015, the oversupply was so excessive that stock just kept building through the year. They finally peaked in July 2016, then dropped off due to normal seasonal demand. This normal pattern led to a false conclusion that the rebalancing of stocks had begun. Continue reading "Crude Oil Seasonality, Inventory Rebalancing and Production Cuts"

OPEC's Rollover Of Deal May Be Full Of Holes

Robert Boslego - INO.com Contributor - Energies


Crude oil was the worst-performing asset in the first quarter of 2017, losing 5.9 percent. That period coincided with the first three months of the OPEC-non-OPEC production cutbacks, which were intended to reduce global inventories and support oil prices.

Instead, global stocks increased from end-December through February. And U.S. crude stocks built by a staggering 57 million barrels through March. In addition, based on the Energy Department’s weekly data, U.S. crude production rose by 429,000 b/d from end-December through end-March. The Saudi Energy Minister, Khalid Al-Falih, had said during the OPEC press conference on December 10th that he did not expect any increase in U.S. production for all of 2017.

Khalid A. Al-Falih
Source: OPEC

Saudi Arabia claimed to cut its production effective January 1st, but crude imports from KSA to the U.S. soared until the final week of March. In the YTD through March 24th, imports were up by 17% from the same period in 2016, and by 30% from December. Continue reading "OPEC's Rollover Of Deal May Be Full Of Holes"