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During recent days the members of The Norwood Resource (TNR) have responded to an article published in Border Watch, a regional newspaper, which services the South Eastern area of South Australia.

TNR has highlighted another example of activists using sensationalist, inaccurate 'facts' about the activities of the oil and gas industry, in the hope of creating fear and concern among the general public. Please take the time to read this article, and visit TNR's Facebook page to leave a comment of support.

Here is the intro and article:

Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a heightened profile of the anti fracking and anti unconventional gas activists being reported in the Border Watch, a regional newspaper, which services the South Eastern area of South Australia.

Australia is heading for an election (2 July 2016) and while the major issues revolve around Border Security, Health, Education and Economic Management, in some regional centres around Australia, many local activists want their issues to be front and centre, particularly where they feel they have some support from swing voters.

The South East of South Australia is no different. Local activists seem to relish the opportunity to publicise their cause, regardless of the facts. The Border Watch, without checking out the facts relating to the claims, has even succumbed to the hysteria by advocating a moratorium on fracking and unconventional gas, even asserting the local activist group is a respected organisation.

If the publisher were to independently review the ‘facts’ it would be seen that this populist group does not have any foundation based on factual evidence to support it. Furthermore, publishing such information damages the reputation of the newspaper.

APPEA and SACOME responded to these half truths and nonsense assertions, providing facts and information in letters to the editor. However, as is often the case, the overwhelming and incessant emotive articles from the activists has caused unnecessary fear and misunderstanding among the readers of the newspaper.

In response, The Norwood Resource (which has taken many unfounded claims to task previously in The Border Watch) also submitted a letter in an attempt to bring some balance into this debate.

Unfortunately this letter is not yet published, although there were more sensationalist, scary stories about how fracking and unconventional gas will destroy forests, pristine(?) aquifers, and so forth.

We have therefore decided to publish our letter, which follows, through other media to ensure the evidence is available to public:

I write in regard to the many articles, letters and The Border Watch (TBW)’s editorial in regard to fracking and unconventional gas, which have been in TBW over recent weeks.

In many references, the opposition of fracking and unconventional gas development cite ‘potential’ impacts on water and aquifers, yet are unable to produce any evidence out of the 2.5 million fracks worldwide where a frack has propagated up from depth (4 km, where it is most likely any fracking in the South East would occur) to impact a near surface aquifer.

The use of the term ‘pristine’ to describe the aquifers is an emotive term and propaganda, since the aquifers have already been contaminated with pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, and well as run off from other local activities, meat works, dairies, piggeries and the like. These cases of contamination have occurred in the past were essentially initiated at point sources, and have been diluted with the water in the aquifers.

Further, it is disingenuous to seek a zero risk guarantee (your editorial) when nobody lives in a zero risk environment now. Look at the number of car accidents there are! Everything we do has a risk element.

In regard to ‘clean green image’, over 100 wells have already been drilled in the SE, a gas processing plant operated, and there is a gas turbine still using gas to supply electricity requirements for the region, and the ‘clean green image’ has not been tarnished.

Some of your articles cite gas bubbling out of the ground due to oil and gas activities, however, this is a natural phenomenon, and was even cited in the book ‘A Town Like Alice’, where in the 1940’s part of the Saturday night fireworks was setting fire to gas from water bores to light up the night sky.

This is why oil & gas companies will look in areas where there are natural gas seeps, since there is evidence of gas being present in the area, which is no different to the SE, where methane has been recorded as being present in water bores, and even comprising up to 90% of the ‘air’ between the water level and the surface.

In regard to safety of unconventional gas and the use of fracking to enhance the production, even Professor Anthony Ingraffea (the darling of the anti frackers) stated when giving evidence to the SA Inquiry into Fracking and Unconventional Gas that fracking “.. in my opinion it is that part that brings with it the least risk.”

Further, the lame attempt to reclassify the meaning of the term ‘fracking’ (hydraulic fracture stimulation), to include the whole process of drilling, fracking, production and processing means conventional gas operations (without fracking – and even prior to when fracking was invented) would also be classed as ‘fracking’, which is a nonsense, since no fracking has occurred. However, if the activists prefer to use this definition of fracking, please bear in mind the above referenced quote from Professor Ingraffea, who assisted in editing and reviewing the document to which Ms Lorenz refers.

It is important that in any oil & gas exploration and production activities that risks are maintained as low as reasonably practical (ALARP), which is the guide that the Department of State Development employ when assessing any applications to do work in any area in the State.

Further, it is of primary importance that we have confidence in our Regulator to provide proper and diligent oversight to any oil & gas activities in the SE, and so it is heartening to know that SA has been independently assessed as one of the top three resource regulatory regimes in the world for shale and tight gas, situations where fracking is used.

The SA Regulator ‘has runs on the board’ having overseen 850 or so fracks in the north east of the State, where wells are drilled through the Great Artesian Basin and fracked, all without any significant impact on the environment or aquifers, and where organically certified cattle stations operate.

Perhaps a little less reporting of scaremongering, unsubstantiated assertions, and a closer examination of findings from credible investigations and formal inquiries might bring some balance back into this debate.

Bruce Holland
Secretary
The Norwood Resource

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North American crude oil prices are closely, but not perfectly, connected

selected North American crude oil prices

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Bloomberg L.P. data
Note: All prices except West Texas Intermediate (Cushing) are spot prices.

The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) front-month futures contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the most heavily used crude oil price benchmark in North America, saw its largest and swiftest decline ever on April 20, 2020, dropping as low as -$40.32 per barrel (b) during intraday trading before closing at -$37.63/b. Prices have since recovered, and even though the market event proved short-lived, the incident is useful for highlighting the interconnectedness of the wider North American crude oil market.

Changes in the NYMEX WTI price can affect other price markers across North America because of physical market linkages such as pipelines—as with the WTI Midland price—or because a specific price is based on a formula—as with the Maya crude oil price. This interconnectedness led other North American crude oil spot price markers to also fall below zero on April 20, including WTI Midland, Mars, West Texas Sour (WTS), and Bakken Clearbrook. However, the usefulness of the NYMEX WTI to crude oil market participants as a reference price is limited by several factors.

pricing locations of selected North American crudes

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

First, NYMEX WTI is geographically specific because it is physically redeemed (or settled) at storage facilities located in Cushing, Oklahoma, and so it is influenced by events that may not reflect the wider market. The April 20 WTI price decline was driven in part by a local deficit of uncommitted crude oil storage capacity in Cushing. Similarly, while the price of the Bakken Guernsey marker declined to -$38.63/b, the price of Louisiana Light Sweet—a chemically comparable crude oil—decreased to $13.37/b.

Second, NYMEX WTI is chemically specific, meaning to be graded as WTI by NYMEX, a crude oil must fall within the acceptable ranges of 12 different physical characteristics such as density, sulfur content, acidity, and purity. NYMEX WTI can therefore be unsuitable as a price for crude oils with characteristics outside these specific ranges.

Finally, NYMEX WTI is time specific. As a futures contract, the price of a NYMEX WTI contract is the price to deliver 1,000 barrels of crude oil within a specific month in the future (typically at least 10 days). The last day of trading for the May 2020 contract, for instance, was April 21, with physical delivery occurring between May 1 and May 31. Some market participants, however, may prefer more immediate delivery than a NYMEX WTI futures contract provides. Consequently, these market participants will instead turn to shorter-term spot price alternatives.

Taken together, these attributes help to explain the variety of prices used in the North American crude oil market. These markers price most of the crude oils commonly used by U.S. buyers and cover a wide geographic area.

Principal contributor: Jesse Barnett

May, 28 2020
Financial Review: 2019

Key findings

  • Brent crude oil daily average prices were $64.16 per barrel in 2019—11% lower than 2018 levels
  • The 102 companies analyzed in this study increased their combined liquids and natural gas production 2% from 2018 to 2019
  • Proved reserves additions in 2019 were about the same as the 2010–18 annual average
  • Finding plus lifting costs increased 13% from 2018 to 2019
  • Occidental Petroleum’s acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum contributed to the largest reserve acquisition costs incurred for the group of companies since 2016
  • Refiners’ earnings per barrel declined slightly from 2018 to 2019

See entire annual review

May, 26 2020
From Certain Doom To Cautious Optimism

A month ago, the world witnessed something never thought possible – negative oil prices. A perfect storm of events – the Covid-19 lockdowns, the resulting effect on demand, an ongoing oil supply glut, a worrying shortage of storage space and (crucially) the expiry of the NYMEX WTI benchmark contract for May, resulted in US crude oil prices falling as low as -US$37/b. Dragging other North American crude markers like Louisiana Light and Western Canadian Select along with it, the unique situation meant that crude sellers were paying buyers to take the crude off their hands before the May contract expired, or risk being stuck with crude and nowhere to store it. This was seen as an emblem of the dire circumstances the oil industry was in, and although prices did recover to a more normal US$10-15/b level after the benchmark contract switched over to June, there was immense worry that the situation would repeat itself.

Thankfully, it has not.

On May 19, trade in the NYMEX WTI contract for June delivery was retired and ticked over into a new benchmark for July delivery. Instead of a repeat of the meltdown, the WTI contract rose by US$1.53 to reach US$33.49/b, closing the gap with Brent that traded at US$35.75b. In the space of a month, US crude prices essentially swung up by US$70/b. What happened?

The first reason is that the market has learnt its lesson. The meltdown in April came because of an overleveraged market tempted by low crude oil prices in hope of selling those cargoes on later at a profit. That sort of strategic trading works fine in a normal situation, but against an abnormal situation of rapidly-shrinking storage space saw contract holders hold out until the last minute then frantically dumping their contracts to avoid having to take physical delivery. Bruised by this – and probably embarrassed as well – it seems the market has taken precautions to avoid a recurrence. Settling contracts early was one mechanism. Funds and institutions have also reduced their positions, diminishing the amount of contracts that need to be settled. The structural bottleneck that precipitated the crash was largely eliminated.

The second is that the US oil complex has adjusted itself quickly. Some 2 mmb/d of crude production has been (temporarily) idled, reducing supply. The gradual removal of lockdowns in some US states, despite medical advisories, has also recovered some demand. This week, crude draws in Cushing, Oklahoma rose for the second consecutive week, reaching a record figure of 5.6 million barrels. That increase in demand and the parallel easing of constrained storage space meant that last month’s panic was not repeated. The situation is also similar worldwide. With China now almost at full capacity again and lockdowns gradually removed in other parts of the world, the global crude marker Brent also rose to a 2-month high. The new OPEC+ supply deal seems to be working, especially with Saudi Arabia making an additional voluntary cut of 1 mmb/d. The oil world is now moving rapidly towards a new normal.

How long will this last? Assuming that the Covid-19 pandemic is contained by Q3 2020, then oil prices could conceivably return to their previous support level of US$50/b. That is a big assumption, however. The Covid-19 situation is still fragile, with major risks of additional waves. In China and South Korea, where the pandemic had largely been contained, recent detection of isolated new clusters prompted strict localised lockdowns. There is also worry that the US is jumping the gun in easing restrictions. In Russia and Brazil – countries where the advice to enforce strict lockdowns was ignored as early warning signs crept in – the number of cases and deaths is still rising rapidly. Brazil is a particular worry, as President Jair Bolosnaro is a Covid-19 skeptic and is still encouraging normal behaviour in spite of the accelerating health crisis there. On the flip side, crude output may not respond to the increase in demand as easily, as many clusters of Covid-19 outbreaks have been detected in key crude producing facilities worldwide. Despite this, some US shale producers have already restarted their rigs, spurred on by a need to service their high levels of debt. US pipeline giant Energy Transfer LP has already reported that many drillers in the Permian have resumed production, citing prices in the high-US$20/b level as sufficient to cover its costs.

The recovery is ongoing. But what is likely to happen is an erratic recovery, with intermittent bouts of mini-booms and mini-busts. Consultancy IHS Markit Energy Advisory envisions a choppy recovery with ‘stop-and-go rallies’ over 2020 – particularly in the winter flu season – heading towards a normalisation only in 2021. It predicts that the market will only recover to pre-Covid 19 levels in the second half of 2021, and a smooth path towards that only after a vaccine is developed and made available, which will be late 2020 at the earliest. The oil market has moved from certain doom to cautious optimism in the space of a month. But it will take far longer for the entire industry to regain its verve without any caveats.

Market Outlook:

  • Crude price trading range: Brent – US$33-37/b, WTI – US$30-33/b
  • Demand recovery has underpinned a rally in oil prices, on hopes that the worst of the demand destruction is over
  • Chinese oil demand is back to the 13 mmb/d level, almost on par year-on-year
  • News that development of potential Covid-19 vaccines are reaching testing phase also cheered the market
  • The US active oil and gas rig count lost another 35 rigs to 339, down 648 sites y-o-y

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May, 23 2020