After a quick drop of $3-4 a barrel the week before last, oil prices steadied last week as the markets contemplated just how effective the OPEC/NOPEC production freeze will be in the short term. Speculators had enthusiastically embraced the production freeze when it was announced late last year and drove open interest in futures to record highs. The cuts, however, did not come fast enough or be deep enough to offset increasing oil production from other countries and lower demand. As one important trader put it, “The OPEC cuts were good enough to prevent a repeat of the glut of last year, but it’s a different story if you want to have oil at $60 or $70.” For now, the physical oil market continues to indicate an oversupply situation.
(Forbes) If you happen to be someone who is interested in the topic of “peak oil”, you know the name M. King Hubbert.
The history of the scientific study of peak oil dates to the 1950s, when Hubbert, a Shell geophysicist, reported on studies he had undertaken regarding the production rates of oil and gas fields.
(psmag.com) Talking about “peak oil” can feel very last decade. In fact, the question is still current. Petroleum markets are so glutted and prices are so low that most industry commenters think any worry about future oil supplies is pointless. The glut and price dip, however, are hardly indications of a healthy industry; instead, they are symptoms of an increasing inability to match production cost, supply, and demand in a way that’s profitable for producers but affordable for society. Is this what peak oil looks like?
(Project Syndicate) The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is dead. Saudi Arabia killed it. Now, OPEC is just a toothless zombie, attracting attention, but without having any impact on the living.
Few have noticed OPEC’s demise for a simple reason: it never really had the impact that it was widely perceived to have. It was never actually a cartel, possessing monopolistic market power. Anyone who thought otherwise was mistakenly attributing to it Saudi Arabia’s market power.
(technologyreview.com) Peak oil, if it even exists , is very much a moving target . But so, it turns out, is measuring how much oil is already above ground, sitting in the holds of ships and in storage facilities around the world.
It’s not that humanity is fundamentally incapable of measuring how much oil we are extracting—it’s that many countries don’t report their inventories.
(oilprice.com) Crude oil prices hit a 10-week low on Tuesday, but one piece of data from Saudi Arabia could provide a glimmer of hope for those longing for an oil price rally. Saudi Arabia is burning through some of its oil inventories as exports combined with scorching domestic demand exceed its total production. In 2015, Saudi Arabia built up crude storage levels to a record high, as the kingdom stepped up production in the face of a global supply surplus.
(oilprice.com) It’s a safe bet that investors are getting increasingly tired of all the conflicting forecasts about oil and gas prices. Some argue that oil is heading back to $20 thanks to the continuing excess supply. Others claim that the excess is overestimated and crude is well on its way to reach $80 or more by the end of the year. The likely truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle, at least for the time being.
(artberman.com) Two years into the global oil-price collapse, it seems unlikely that prices will return to sustained levels above $70 per barrel any time soon or perhaps, ever. That is because the global economy is exhausted.
The current oil-price rally is over as I predicted several months ago and prices are heading toward $40 per barrel.
Oil has been re-valued to affordable levels based on the real value of money. The market now accepts the erroneous producer claims of profitability below the cost of production and has adjusted expectations accordingly. Be careful of what you ask for.
Meanwhile, a global uprising is unfolding.
(fuelfix.com) HOUSTON – After the energy bust, the future of U.S. shale oil will depend greatly on how quickly drilling technology can evolve over the next 25 years, the Energy Information Administration says.
Rapid technological change and high energy prices could help domestic drillers push shale oil production to 12.9 million barrels a day by 2040, up from last year’s 4.9 million barrels a day, the EIA said Monday in an early look at some of its long-term projections due in a report later this month.
(artberman.com) Rig count matters. Saying that it doesn’t is like a realtor saying that location doesn’t matter.
Rigs Don’t Produce Oil
The holiest mystery of shale plays is that so much production is possible with ever-fewer rigs.
But if we look at the number of producing wells, the mystery evaporates. That’s because rigs don’t produce oil and gas. Wells do.
Horizontal wells in a few tight oil plays tell most of the story for U.S. production. Figure 1 shows the rig count and number of producing wells for the Bakken, Eagle Ford, Permian, Niobrara, Mississippi Lime and Granite Wash plays. Figure 1. Tight oil horizontal rig count and number of producing wells. Source: Baker Hughes and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. Although rig counts decreased dramatically beginning in late 2014, the number of producing wells continued to increase until very recently. This may be a technical triumph for the drilling industry but it is no cause for oil producers to celebrate.
(CFA Institute) Back in 2005, investors heard an endless chorus in the financial media around two memes: the end of oil, and the growth of China.
Oil production was supposedly hitting its upper limits. In 2005, the US Department of Energy published a study on the peaking of world oil production (.PDF) that stated:
Because oil prices have been relatively high for the past decade, oil companies have conducted extensive exploration over that period, but their results have been disappointing [….] This is but one of a number of trends that suggest the world is fast approaching the inevitable peaking of conventional world oil production [….] The world has never faced a problem like this [….] Previous energy transitions (wood to coal and coal to oil) were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary.
(Forbes) As the Brent front-month futures contract stabilizes either side of the $40 per barrel level, and WTI lurks within that range too, a comment by the International Energy Agency that the “oil price may have bottomed out” has triggered a lot of market interest.
In its monthly oil forecast for March, the IEA, which advises on energy policy matters of industrialized nations, noted that non-OPEC oil production would fall by 750,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2016, compared with its previous estimate of 600,000 bpd. Specifically, US production is forecast to decline by 530,000 bpd this year.
(greentechmedia.com) Peak oil is the point at which global oil production peaks and can only go down. M. King Hubbert developed the theory of peak oil after observing this pattern in individual oil fields and then extrapolating these trends to the U.S., accurately predicting a peak in U.S. production by 1970.
But in the last few years, as U.S. oil production has dramatically ramped up, many peak oil believers have been left looking a bit silly.
(artberman.com) The oil-price rally that began in mid-February will almost certainly collapse.
It is similar to the false March-June 2015 rally. In both cases, prices increased largely because of sentiment. As in the earlier rally, current storage volumes are too large and demand is too weak to sustain higher prices for long.
(Bloomberg) In January 2012, I traveled to Oklahoma City for the first time to report on what was considered a surprising development: a U.S. oil boom. Until then, hydraulic fracturing—aka fracking—was best known for boosting U.S. natural gas production. It was just starting to be used to unlock oil trapped in deep underground layers of rock like the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, the Eagle Ford in Texas, and the Mississippi Lime in Oklahoma.
(Forbes) Every week, the EIA proclaims a new record for natural gas production. But their own forecasts show that the U.S. will be short on supply by October of this year. A price increase is inevitable beginning later in 2016.
The popular myth is that gas production will continue to increase and that prices will remain low for years. In the myth, price has no effect on production. The reality is that price matters and production is down 1.2 bcfd1 since September 2015 (Figure 1)
(Bloomberg) Oil’s collapse to $27 a barrel last week spurred concern that, on top of the existing oversupply, the market is facing a demand crisis. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. thinks that’s wrong.
Over the past six weeks, long-term oil futures — for deliveries in five years’ time — have fallen even harder than prices for immediate supplies.
(Resilience.org) My favorite Texas oilman Jeffrey Brown is at it again. In a recent email he’s pointing out to everyone who will listen that the supposed oversupply of crude oil isn’t quite what it seems.
(PeakProsperity.com) Geologist Art Berman explains why today’s low oil prices are not here to stay, something investors and consumers alike should be very aware of.
(The National Interest) In the middle of 2014, oil traded for more than $100 a barrel . Today, it is below $35. Traditionally, there would be numerous positives from low oil prices, but many of these have yet to materialize or may no longer be relevant at all.
(Forbes) Congress ended the U.S. crude oil export ban last week. There is apparently no longer a strategic reason to conserve oil because shale production has made American great again. At least, that’s narrative that reality-averse politicians and their bases prefer.
(Forbes) I have seen the handwriting on the wall for the coal industry for more than a decade. Not only is coal the most carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, it is also the fuel that has the greatest number of potential replacements. Renewables may ultimately scale to displace a substantial fraction of our coal consumption, but it’s natural gas and nuclear power that spell the beginning of coal’s demise.
(OurFiniteWorld.com) This past week, I gave a presentation to a group interested in a particular type of renewable energy–solar energy that is deployed in space, so it would provide electricity 24 hours per day. Their question was: how low does the production cost of electricity really need to be?