Best in Energy – 4 August 2022

OPEC+ raises output  by de minimis amount¹

Electricity transmission links undervalued

Freeport LNG to restart partially in October

Autos/semiconductors relationship

Automakers see weakening demand

¹ Higher oil production by Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies was briefed as one of the benefits from U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to the region and “reset” of the relationship with Saudi Arabia last month. The tiny output increase of +100,000 b/d was the smallest that could be announced without appearing to snub the president completely. But it raises the question of what diplomatic benefits the president achieved from the trip – if not higher oil output did he secure some other objectives? Who advised the president to make this trip, within the administration and outside? Does the president ultimately see it as a success or a disappointment?

BRENT spot prices and calendar spreads have weakened consistently in recent weeks, a sign the recent upward price cycle has begun to break down. Prices and spreads are softening in response to the increased probability of a recession dampening oil consumption:

BRENT’s calendar spread from December 2022 to December 2023 has softened to a backwardation of $7.20 per barrel, down from $16.50 in early June, and close to its lowest levels since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Traders are anticipating an imminent business cycle slowdown will relieve under-production in the oil market and stabilise inventory levels:

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Best in Energy – 25 July 2022

EU softens oil-trading related sanctions on Russia

China’s biggest coal miner boosts output (trans.)

U.K. transmission grid hits capacity limit ($BBG)

Dark tanker market grows competitive

Urban centres and heatwaves ($FT)

Oil exploration accelerates ($BBG)

China’s lessons from Russia’s war

U.S. INITIAL CLAIMS for unemployment insurance benefits have been trending upwards since the start of April, albeit from an exceptionally low base, indicating the labour market may be starting to cool:

BRENT futures for September delivery are showing characteristics of a squeeze, trading in a backwardation of almost $5 per barrel compared with October. But further forward, spreads have softened significantly in recent weeks, as traders anticipate an increased probability a recession will dampen oil consumption:

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Best in Energy – 19 July 2022

Crude’s physical tightness contrasts with recession fears¹

Germany’s chemical makers cannot cut gas further

Japan buys its most expensive ever LNG ($BBG)

China’s LNG imports set to drop in 2022 ($BBG)

China’s power generation at record high ($BBG)

U.S. labour market indicators are diverging ($WSJ)

EU calls for immediate gas consumption cut ($FT)

U.S. gasoline consumption fell in second quarter

¹ Physical crude markets are prompt cash markets and reflect the balance of production, consumption and inventories now. Financial markets reflect expectations about how production, consumption and inventories will evolve over the next 6-12 months or so and are anticipating a recession in future. There is only one price of oil. But near-term shortages are consistent with anticipating future surpluses as a result of an economic slowdown. The current strongly backwardated market structure implies oil is in very short supply right now (which has been evident from large and persistent inventory draw downs) but is expected to be more plentiful in 6-12 months time (as a result of an economic slowdown dampening oil consumption). The price structure embodies the cyclical behaviour of production, consumption, inventories and price levels:

LONDON temperatures continue to rise with the temperature at Heathrow reaching 36.3°C on July 18 up from a high of 30.6°C on July 17, with a further build in heat expected today:

U.K. POWER GRID is relying heavily on gas-fired generation to meet demand during the heatwave. Combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) have been supplying around 50% of total domestic generation in recent days:

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Best in Energy – 13 July 2022

Baltic grids prepare to synchronise to EU rapidly

OPEC predicts oil consumption to rise in 2023

Russia’s fuel exports to Middle East surge ($BBG)

China hydropower generation hits record high

U.S. homes with electric-only energy systems

China hesitates to mandate vaccination ($BBG)

Rapid inflation and its many discontents ($FT)

BRENT’s calendar spread from December 2022 to December 2023 has softened to a backwardation of $8 per barrel from $16 in early June as traders anticipate a cyclical economic slowdown will relieve some of the shortage in oil supply next year:

TEXAS electricity consumption increased at a compound annual rate of +1.5% over the last 20 years, reaching 427 billion kWh in 2021, up from 318 billion kWh in 2001:

U.K. REAL GDP rose by +0.51% in May from April, the fastest increase for four months, with particularly large increases in manufacturing (+0.87%) and construction (+1.54%):

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Best in Energy – 14 June 2022

Pakistan hit by long blackouts as EU diverts LNG ($BBG)

Northeast Asia’s tepid LNG imports offset Freeport blast

U.S. shale producers opt not to accelerate drilling

U.S. finances construction of rare earths plant

Yang/Sullivan hold another round of talks (trans.)

(see also far briefer statement from White House)

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders expect the federal funds rate to reach 3.50-3.75% by January 2023 up from 0.75-1.00% at present as the central bank attempts to bring inflation under control. If they prove necessary, increases on this scale would result in a significant slowdown in the business cycle:

DATED BRENT calendar spreads are signalling exceptional tightness over the next two months. The extreme backwardation is consistent with the disruption of Russia’s exports and the maintenance season for platforms, pipelines and fields in the North Sea. But it could also be a sign the market is being squeezed. Strong fundamentals create ideal conditions for a squeeze. “Always squeeze with the grain of the market not against it,” as a veteran trader told me over lunch many years ago:

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Best in Energy – 31 May 2022

EU/Russia oil embargo agreed in principle

(see also press statement from the EU)

EU/Russia oil ban on seaborne imports ($FT)

(see also background on negotiations ($FT))

Global refiners cannot keep up with demand

India boosts discounted oil imports from Russia

Greece advises tankers to avoid Iran waters ($FT)

Russia/Ukraine war focuses on rail system ($WSJ)

China plans big increase in wind and solar (trans.)

BRENT spot prices and calendar spreads have surged as traders anticipate EU sanctions on Russia’s exports will increase the shortage of oil.  Both have returned to levels last seen in March in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The six-month calendar spread is at a near-record backwardation of $16 per barrel, signalling inventories are expected to fall further in the rest of the year, leaving the market critically tight:

BRENT’s inter-month spreads for the rest of 2022 and 2023 have moved into an increasingly large backwardation over the last two months as the prospect of EU sanctions is expected to tighten the market and leave it short of both crude and fuels:

CHINA’s manufacturers reported a continued contraction in business activity in May but the downturn was less widespread than in April. The official purchasing managers’ index increased to 49.6 (10th percentile) up from 47.4 (1st percentile) the previous month:

CHINA’shydro-electric generation increased to a record 313 TWh in the first four months of the year, surpassing the previous peak of 299 TWh in 2019, and sharply reducing coal consumption:

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Best in Energy – 5 April 2022

Germany takes control of local Gazprom unit

Aramco raises crude prices to refiners in Asia

India faces coal crisis for a second year ($BBG)

U.S. intelligence sharing sets precedent ($WSJ)

China’s rail freight rose +2.8% yoy in Q1 (trans.)

U.S. TREASURY yield curve is now flat between two-year and ten-year maturities, which puts it in the 94th percentile for all months since 1990, and is a strong signal the business cycle is on course for a mid-cycle slowdown or end-of-cycle recession inside the next 12-18 months as the central bank is forced to lift interest rates to bring inflation back under control. Interest rate traders expect the Federal Reserve to boost its target overnight rate to 2.50% by the end of the year up from 0.25-0.50% currently:

BRENT’s calendar spread from Jun 2022 to Dec 2023 has narrowed sharply as the announced crude oil sales from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve depress nearby prices while the more vague promise to buy back the barrels later helps boost prices in 2023:

U.S. PETROLEUM inventories including the strategic petroleum reserve have depleted by -411 million bbl since the start of July 2020 after increasing by +225 million bbl during the first wave of pandemic and lockdowns. Inventories have fallen in 68 of the last 91 weeks. The drawdown confirms the global market has been persistently under-supplied for almost two years. Historically, market analysis has treated U.S. government-controlled stocks as purely strategic and passive and has therefore focused on inventory changes excluding the SPR. But as the SPR comes to be used more actively to manage prices, the focus will switch to inventories including the SPR as providing the best indicator of the balance between production and consumption:

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