Short-Term Energy Outlook
December 12, 2017 Release
Global liquid fuels
North Sea Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $63 per barrel (b) in November, an increase of $5/b from the average in October. EIA forecasts Brent spot prices to average $57/b in 2018, up from an average of $54/b in 2017.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices are forecast to average $4/b lower than Brent prices in 2018. After averaging $2/b lower than Brent prices through the first eight months of 2017, WTI prices averaged $6/b lower than Brent prices from September through November.
NYMEX WTI contract values for March 2018 delivery traded during the five-day period ending December 7, 2017, suggest that a range of $48/b to $68/b encompasses the market expectation for March WTI prices at the 95% confidence level.
· EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil production averaged 9.7 million barrels per day (b/d) in November, up 360,000 b/d from the October level. Most of the increase was in the Gulf of Mexico, where production was 290,000 b/d higher than in October. Higher production in November reflected oil production platforms returning to operation after being shut in response to Hurricane Nate. EIA forecasts total U.S. crude oil production to average 9.2 million b/d for all of 2017 and 10.0 million b/d in 2018, which would mark the highest annual average production, surpassing the previous record of 9.6 million b/d set in 1970.
· U.S. regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.56 per gallon (gal) in November, an increase of nearly 6 cents/gal from the average in October. The increase in November primarily reflected increasing crude oil prices. EIA forecasts the U.S. regular gasoline retail price will average $2.59/gal in December, 34 cents/gal higher than at the same time last year. EIA forecasts that U.S. regular gasoline retail prices will average $2.51/gal in 2018.
· U.S. dry natural gas production is forecast to average 73.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2017, a 0.7 Bcf/d increase from the 2016 level. EIA forecasts that natural gas production in 2018 will be 6.1 Bcf/d higher than the 2017 level.
· In November, the U.S. benchmark Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $3.01 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), up nearly 14 cents/MMBtu from October. Expected growth in natural gas exports and domestic natural gas consumption in 2018 contribute to an increase in EIA’s forecast Henry Hub natural gas spot price from an annual average of $3.01/MMBtu in 2017 to $3.12/MMBtu in 2018. NYMEX contract values for March 2018 delivery that traded during the five-day period ending December 7, 2017, suggest that a range of $1.98/MMBtu to $4.27/MMBtu encompasses the market expectation for March Henry Hub natural gas prices at the 95% confidence level.
Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
· EIA expects the share of total U.S. utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas will average about 32% in 2017, down from 34% in 2016 as a result of higher natural gas fuel costs and increased generation from renewable energy sources. EIA projects the 2017 share of generation from coal will average 30%, about the same as last year. The forecast 2018 generation shares for natural gas and coal remain relatively unchanged from 2017, averaging 32% and 31%, respectively. Generation from renewable energy sources other than hydropower grows from about 8% in 2016 to a forecast share of nearly 10% in 2018. Nuclear power’s forecast share of total electricity generation averages about 20% in both 2017 and 2018, similar to its 2016 level.
· Estimated U.S. coal production for the first 11 months of 2017 is 719 million short tons (MMst), 54 MMst (8%) higher than production for the same period in 2016. Annual production is expected to be 791 MMst in 2017, falling to 771 MMst in 2018 because of lower exports and no growth in coal consumption.
· U.S. coal exports for the first three quarters of 2017 were 69 MMst, 68% (28 MMst) higher than exports for the same period in 2016. This total for the first three quarters of 2017 is already 14% (8 MMst) higher than total annual coal exports in 2016. EIA expects that exports will total 89 MMst in 2017 and 74 MMst in 2018.
· U.S. wind electricity generating capacity at the end of 2016 totaled 81 gigawatts (GW). EIA expects wind capacity additions in the forecast to raise total wind capacity to 88 GW by the end of 2017 and to 96 GW by the end of 2018.
· Total U.S. utility-scale solar electricity generating capacity at the end of 2016 was 22 GW. EIA expects solar capacity additions will bring total utility-scale solar capacity to 27 GW by the end of 2017 and to 30 GW by the end of 2018.
· After declining by 1.7% in 2016, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are projected to decrease by 0.8% in 2017 and then to increase by 1.8% in 2018. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, and energy prices.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 February 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
Global liquid fuels
Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
2018 was a year that started with crude prices at US$62/b and ended at US$46/b. In between those two points, prices had gently risen up to peak of US$80/b as the oil world worried about the impact of new American sanctions on Iran in September before crashing down in the last two months on a rising tide of American production. What did that mean for the financial health of the industry over the last quarter and last year?
Nothing negative, it appears. With the last of the financial results from supermajors released, the world’s largest oil firms reported strong profits for Q418 and blockbuster profits for the full year 2018. Despite the blip in prices, the efforts of the supermajors – along with the rest of the industry – to keep costs in check after being burnt by the 2015 crash has paid off.
ExxonMobil, for example, may have missed analyst expectations for 4Q18 revenue at US$71.9 billion, but reported a better-than-expected net profit of US$6 billion. The latter was down 28% y-o-y, but the Q417 figure included a one-off benefit related to then-implemented US tax reform. Full year net profit was even better – up 5.7% to US$20.8 billion as upstream production rose to 4.01 mmboe/d – allowing ExxonMobil to come close to reclaiming its title of the world’s most profitable oil company.
But for now, that title is still held by Shell, which managed to eclipse ExxonMobil with full year net profits of US$21.4 billion. That’s the best annual results for the Anglo-Dutch firm since 2014; product of the deep and painful cost-cutting measures implemented after. Shell’s gamble in purchasing the BG Group for US$53 billion – which sparked a spat of asset sales to pare down debt – has paid off, with contributions from LNG trading named as a strong contributor to financial performance. Shell’s upstream output for 2018 came in at 3.78 mmb/d and the company is also looking to follow in the footsteps of ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP in the Permian, where it admits its footprint is currently ‘a bit small’.
Shell’s fellow British firm BP also reported its highest profits since 2014, doubling its net profits for the full year 2018 on a 65% jump in 4Q18 profits. It completes a long recovery for the firm, which has struggled since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, allowing it to focus on the future – specifically US shale through the recent US$10.5 billion purchase of BHP’s Permian assets. Chevron, too, is focusing on onshore shale, as surging Permian output drove full year net profit up by 60.8% and 4Q18 net profit up by 19.9%. Chevron is also increasingly focusing on vertical integration again – to capture the full value of surging Texas crude by expanding its refining facilities in Texas, just as ExxonMobil is doing in Beaumont. French major Total’s figures may have been less impressive in percentage terms – but that it is coming from a higher 2017 base, when it outperformed its bigger supermajor cousins.
So, despite the year ending with crude prices in the doldrums, 2018 seems to be proof of Big Oil’s ability to better weather price downturns after years of discipline. Some of the control is loosening – major upstream investments have either been sanctioned or planned since 2018 – but there is still enough restraint left over to keep the oil industry in the black when trends turn sour.
Supermajor Net Profits for 4Q18 and 2018
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$6 billion (-28%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$20.8 (+5.7%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$5.69 billion (+32.3%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$21.4 billion (+36%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.73 billion (+19.9%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$14.8 billion (+60.8%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.48 billion (+65%);
- 2018 - Net profit US$12.7 billion (+105%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.88 billion (+16%);
- 2018 - Net profit US$13.6 billion (+28%)