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Last Updated: October 12, 2017
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Oil prices will be lower for longer—that is the conventional wisdom. Data suggests, however, that  oil supplies are tightening and that higher prices are likely in the relatively near-future.

Refined Product Demand and Crude Oil Exports

U.S. crude oil plus products comparative inventories have fallen 120 mmb (million barrels) in 26 of the last 32 weeks (Figure 1). Strong domestic demand for refined products and increased crude oil exports are the main reasons. That translates into lower net imports of both crude oil and petroleum products to the United States. The year-to-date average of U.S. product net imports is down 0.5 mmb/day from 2016. That’s 3.5 mmb/week which is about the average weekly storage withdrawal since mid-February.

uploads1507791513398-3.3-mmb-week-470-kb-d-Decrease-in-Net-Petroleum-Product-Imports-.jpg

Figure 1. Approximately 3.3 mmb/week (470 kb/d) Decrease in Net Petroleum Product Imports Account for Most Inventory Reductions in 2017. Comparative Inventories Have Fallen 126 mmb Since Mid-February. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

U.S. crude oil exports have increased reaching a record 1.9 mmb/d during the week ending September 29 (Figure 2).

uploads1507791573738-Record-Crude-Exports-of-1.9-mmb-d-Week-Ending-Sept.-29-2017-.jpg

Figure 2. Record Crude Exports of 1.9 mmb/d Week Ending Sept. 29 2017. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Increased exports have been part of  how producers cope with limited U.S. refining capacity for the ultra-light oil from tight oil plays. Recent increases in exports levels, however, are because of higher international oil prices compared with domestic prices.

Brent has traded at a premium to WTI since U.S. tight oil became a factor in global supply in late 2010. That was largely because of limited take-away and refining capacity for the new U.S. supply in the early days of tight oil production.  The Brent-WTI “spread” reached $28 per barrel in September 2011 but decreased when infrastructure caught up with supply. It averaged about $1.68 in the first half of 2017.

In June, the spread began increasing and is currently almost $7 per barrel (Figure 3). Some of this is a “fear premium” because of tensions in the Middle East—the GCC boycott of Qatar and the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum. Some of it is also a buildup of inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma storage facility and WTI pricing point.

uploads1507791622139-Brent-Premium-to-WTI-Has-Increased-More-Than-5-barrel-From-1H-Average-.jpg

Figure 3. Brent Premium to WTI Has Increased More Than $5/barrel From 1H Average. Middle East Fear Premium plus Cushing Inventory Levels are the Cause. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Inventory increases at Cushing may be partly explained by refinery and pipeline outages following recent hurricanes but the build ups actually began in July a month before Hurricane Harvey. The causes are not entirely clear but rising inventories at Cushing especially when its storage exceeds 80% is generally a negative factor for WTI prices.

In addition to crude oil, exports of distillate, liquefied petroleum gases, and liquefied refinery gases have also increased in 2017.

Comparative Inventories and The Yield Curve

Falling U.S. comparative inventories (C.I.) in 2017 is a trend and not an anomaly. Figure 4 shows the 120 mmb decrease in C.I. since mid-February and the associated “yield curve” (Bodell, 2009) that correlates inventory with WTI price.

uploads1507791687282-U.S.-Crude-Product-Comparative-Inventory-Has-Fallen-120-mmb-Since-Mid-February-1-1.jpg

Figure 4. U.S. Crude + Product Comparative Inventory Has Fallen 120 mmb Since Mid-February–Yield Curve Suggests Higher Oil Prices Sooner Than Later. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

The magnitude of the inventory drawdown cannot be over-stated. The fact that it is driven by increasing demand suggests that that U.S. supply is moving steadily toward balance.

OECD comparative inventory (less the U.S.) has fallen 99 mmb since July 2016 (Figure 5). Although the data frequency is lower (monthly vs. weekly) and less systematic than U.S. inventory data, the reduction in C.I. is the main point.

uploads1507791801714-OECD-minus-U.S.-Comparative-Inventory-Has-Fallen-99-mmb-Since-July-2016-.jpg

Figure 5. OECD (minus U.S.) Comparative Inventory Has Fallen 99 mmb Since July 2016. Source: EIA, IEA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

The relative lack of price increase with falling C.I. for both the U.S. and OECD is because the yield curve was flat for much of the reduction because of the the magnitude of storage volume. Now, enough inventory has been drawn down that the curvature of the trend is increasing. Greater price response with incremental reduction in C.I. is likely as volumes approach the 5-year average.

Misplaced Concern About Shale Supply

Fears about burgeoning U.S. supply from shale reservoirs has been a consistent drag on market sentiment about price for at least a year. This has been based more on rig count than real evidence. Continental Resources chairman Harold Hamm has loudly blamed overly optimistic EIA supply forecasts for low U.S. oil prices. This is misplaced and typical of the hyperbole regularly heard from shale company executives.

The fact is that U.S. output has been flat since early 2017 and the EIA has adjusted its forecasts as data replaces sampling algorithms in their accounting (Figure 6).

uploads1507791846990-U.S.-Output-Has-Been-Flat-in-2017-.jpg

Figure 6. U.S. Output Has Been Flat in 2017. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

The reason is that despite increased drilling, frack crews and equipment are not sufficient to meet demand for well completions. Pressure pumping equipment was not maintained and parts were cannibalized after the oil price collapse, and crews were laid off. It may take another year of strong demand to rebuild this capacity.

The result is that far more tight oil wells are being drilled than completed and I expect that this pattern will continue (Figure 7).

uploads1507791943762-More-Permian-Wells-Have-Been-Drilled-Than-Completed-in-2016-2017-The-Number-of-DUCs-is-Increasing-.jpg

Figure 7. More Permian Wells Have Been Drilled Than Completed in 2016 and 2017. The Number of DUCs (Drilled Uncompleted Wells) is Increasing. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc.

Fears that DUCs (drilled uncompleted wells) will flood the market with supply are unrealistic. When these wells are completed, it will be gradual and the natural ~30% annual decline in legacy shale production will be difficult to overcome. Moreover, production from the Eagle Ford and Bakken plays is declining. Only Permian production is increasing and on balance, it is unlikely that net shale production will increase much unless production trends outside the Permian basin somehow reverse.

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Infographic: Oil and Gas Scams & How to avoid them!

Oil and gas sector is one of the most lucrative sectors for job seekers from industries all over the world. It offers great salaries and benefits packages and an opportunity to travel and work overseas. Due to its high demand, scammers are preying on the vulnerable oil and gas workers. To ensure you don’t fall prey to their mischievous tactics, we would recommend reading our guideline below:

How does scamming occur? 

The scammer poses as an employer or recruiter of an oil and gas company or he may claim to be an employee or recruiter for a job consultancy firm catering to the oil and gas industry. They offer irresistible employment opportunities and often demand money in advance to conduct further processes. Money is often demanded on the pretext of work visas, travel expenses, background or credit checks that the job requires.

What do scammers want from you?

 It is important to understand what the scammer's agenda is so that it helps you shield yourself from getting conned:

To extract money: On the pretext of getting you a job in the energy sector employing any of the tactics mentioned above

For identity theft: scammers look for valid identity of people and ask for confidential personal details including bank details to commit fraud through your name or to withdraw money from your account.

Whatever be their modus operandi, their goal is to either separate you from your cash or accomplish an identity theft. The bigger problem is, the scammers are getting better at their game and coming up with innovative ideas to lure innocent job seekers. In oil and gas industry, the scammers are targeting the job seekers from overseas, immigrants or contractors as they feel it is easier to attract them on the pretext of work permits, high salaries, paid travel, better lifestyle in the first world countries.

How to spot a job scam and keep yourself secure?

 There is always a difference between real and fake, all you need to do is be watchful to notice the underlying discrepancies. There is a pattern that scammers usually follows, which is discussed below. Make sure you watch out for these red flags when you receive any job offer next time:

Free email provider - No legitimate hiring agency or company will use the services of free email provider like Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo. So, if you are receiving an email or have been requested to share your details on emails that use free email services, then be extremely cautious. The scammers try to trick the job seekers by using an email address that looks authentic for instance: [email protected]. It is important to notice here that the ‘xyz’ part of the email ID is usually a gmail, yahoo, etc. which is a free email address. A legitimate job provider would never use.

Fake or new company name - If company name or oil and gas recruitment agency name is mentioned along with the free email id, then do a quick search on the company. Verify its existence and contact them via official email address and contact numbers mentioned on the website. Check their social media presence too. If the website and social media page look new while the company claims to be in business for a substantial amount of time, know for sure that there is something fishy.

Bad grammar and confusing job details - The scammers usually do not pay much attention to structure the mail. You can spot grammatical errors and even the job descriptions are not explained well or is completely different than your skillset and experience. Any authentic mail from a company or oil and gas recruitment agency will ensure an error-free, concise, and clear communication

Fee to conduct a job interview - No legitimate oil and gas company or recruitment agency will ever ask for money to conduct a job interview or to apply to job positions. If the mail says, the money will be refunded once you appear for a job interview, then please do not trust such claims as it is always bogus.

Asking for confidential personal information - Anyone asking for information that you will never put on CV, is a warning sign. It includes your bank details, passport copy, identity cards, your current residential details and so on. No genuine company will ever ask for such details before you sign the offer letter. If by chance, you have shared your bank details or another confidential detail to the scammer, contact your bank and email service provider and register a complaint against it.

Unknown source - There are countries who have strict spam rules and until you subscribe or give consent to the company, they cannot send you emails. So, if you receive an email from a company you haven’t contacted or have not applied for jobs, then be cautious it might be a scam.

The principle on which scammers operate is “Too good to be true”.  Don’t entertain any job offer that offers a position, you are not qualified for or offers a salary which is unrealistically high. In the oil and gas sector, be careful not to reveal your passport/work visa details to the scammer. Remember, if you find anything which is way beyond the realistic expectations, then trust your instincts and drop the offer and do not respond.

See our infographic below for a quick summarized glance -


 If you are looking for a job in the Energy sector then sign up today to stay updated with the latest industry news, apply for jobs and network - https://www.nrgedge.net/jobs 

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Asif Mukri
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