In reviewing BP’s latest Statistic Review of World Energy, the big story for world oil last year was obvious: the USA’s third straight record-breaking increase in average annual production. Just over 75% of the net increase in world oil production during 2014 came from the USA; add in Canada and 90% of the total increase came from North America. Throw in Brazil’s first significant increase in three years and you have all the world’s net gain in world oil production accounted for by three non-OPEC players. Production from all other producers combined was flat. So the question for 2015 is straightforward: will we see a repeat of those gains…and the flat-liners?
Tom Whipple is the editor of ASPO-USA’s two flagship publications, Peak Oil News and Peak Oil Review. Tom is a former senior analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Since retiring from the CIA, Tom has become a well-known researcher and writer on energy and oil issues. Tom writes a weekly column on peak oil for the Falls Church News, a daily newspaper based in northern Virginia. Tom holds degrees from Rice University and the London School of Economics.
It was one of the wildest weeks for the oil markets in recent years. On Monday, another plunge in the Chinese stock markets sent New York oil futures below $38 a barrel and London down to $43, a six and one half year low. The markets bounced around on Tuesday and Wednesday and then surged upwards for two days on the news that the US’s GDP was doing better than previously thought and that the Chinese situation was stabilizing. By Friday afternoon New York futures were up 12 percent for the week, the largest one-week gain since February 2009, closing at $45.22 a barrel. London’s Brent gained 10 percent during the week, closing at $50.05.
The great oil price slide of 2014-15 is taking on epic proportions. US futures traded for a while below $40 a barrel on Friday while Brent closed out at $45.46. Last week the financial press struggled to find an historical comparison to what is taking place in the oil markets. Some papers finally settled on the price crash of 1986 which sent oil prices down to $10 a barrel and led to the demise of the Soviet Union as the most apt. The now familiar forces of too much oil in inventories with nobody moving to cut production; China’s exports, manufacturing, yuan, and stock markets continuing to drop with still more problems in sight; and the prospect for increased Iranian exports after the nuclear agreement is ratified; all contributed to the falling prices. Many sense a decisive shift in the oil markets overall appraisal of the situation with those expecting a price rebound at any minute throwing in the towel and acknowledging that those not expecting a substantial price increase until late 2016 or even 2017 are probably right.
Oil prices have now had a 7th consecutive weekly loss with New York futures closing Friday at $42.50 and London at $49.19. Last week Beijing’s devaluation of the yuan joined the 2 million b/d oil glut and an unplanned outage at a major US refinery to send oil prices lower. Traders now are talking about prices falling into the $30s. The week’s new data included: US crude stocks falling a bit, but not as much as expected; new forecasts from the IEA and EIA which predict that the glut will continue and US production will fall until late in 2016 at which time production and oil prices will rise; the monthly report from North Dakota saying that shale oil production continued to rise in June and that its well-head prices are now down to $28 a barrel; and that the US rig count was up slightly the week before last.
“Frack now and pay later.” Business is so tough for oilfield giants Schlumberger and Halliburton that they have come up with a new sales pitch for crude producers halting work in the worst downturn in years. It amounts to this: “frack now and pay later.” The moves by the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 oil services companies show how they are scrambling to book sales of new technologies to customers short of cash after a 60 percent slide in crude to $45 a barrel. In some cases, they are willing to take on the role of traditional lenders, like banks, which have grown reluctant to lend since the price drop that began last summer, or act like producers by taking what are essentially stakes in wells.
Terry Wade and Anna Driver, Reuters
Oil prices continue to fall with New York futures closing Friday at $43.87 and London at $48.61, both down 7 percent for the week. There was the now usual mid-week bounce as traders anticipated that US crude inventories would decline. This time they did fall for the third straight week, but record refining simply turned the crude into inventories of oil products leaving the total stockpiles of commercial crude oil and products largely unchanged at the time of year when it usually drops due to heavier summer demand.
“A steady supply of gas from Iran would not be a silver bullet for Pakistan’s energy crisis. Woeful energy sector governance is perhaps an even more debilitating factor than supply, with risks including rampant theft, poor maintenance, and transmission and distribution losses of around 20 percent.”
Oliver Coleman, deputy head of Asia programs at analytical firm Verisk Maplecroft [Note: Pakistan is the world’s sixth most populous nation with roughly 190 million inhabitants]
Last week started with the China’s stock markets suffering the biggest one-day loss in eight years. After that it was mostly down hill for the oil markets. There was a bounce after the Wednesday stocks report showed a larger-than-expected, 4.2 million barrel, drop in the US crude inventory, but by the end of the week prices were falling again. At the close Friday New York futures were down to $47.12, the lowest close since March 20th, and London was down to $52.26. The week’s losses left US oil futures down 21 percent during July and Brent down 18 percent, the largest one-month losses since last December. The price drop in July was the largest since the 2008 financial crisis.