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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Best in Energy –4 April 2022

[MUST READ] Sanctions and a long conflict

[MUST READ] Wars and settlements ($BBG)

SPR sale – formal announcement and details

France’s electricity grid calls for conservation

China to buy Russia LNG via middlemen ($BBG)

Australia’s export earnings boosted by conflict

EU/Russia standoff over gas payments

U.S. jet fuel prices surge on East Coast

Aviation recovery at risk from fuel prices ($FT)

Sri Lanka leader imposes state of emergency

United Kingdom takes Russian diesel delivery

U.S. MANUFACTURERS reported a less-widespread increase in business activity last month. The ISM composite index fell to 57.1 in March from 58.6 in February and the lowest reading since Sep 2020 as the expansion decelerates. There was also a sharp deceleration in new orders growth in March. The ISM new orders index slipped to 53.8 from 61.7 the month before, consistent with a slowdown in the business cycle ahead:

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Best in Energy – 30 March 2022

Germany issues early warning of possible gas rationing

Russia tells Europe to find roubles for export payments

Russia’s oil export system handles third-country crude

EU gas oil storage rates fall to record low as stocks drop

U.S. recession inevitable says former Fed official ($BBG)

Russia’s alternative domestic payments system ($WSJ)

U.S. consumers switch brands to offset inflation ($WSJ)

Spain’s inflation rate nears 10% ($BBG)

India’s coal inventories under pressure

CHINA’s Lower Yangtze mega-region, home to more than 225 million people, has experienced an exceptionally mild winter, especially since late February. Cumulative heating demand at Nanjing has been 14.5% below normal so far, implying large savings in gas, coal and electricity consumption, and limiting upward pressure on international LNG and coal prices:

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Best in Energy – 28 March 2022

Commodity traders keep Russian exports flowing

OPEC+ officials call for increased understanding

EU carbon market operations – regulator review

IEA defers decision on energy data subscriptions

Germany’s dependence on Russian oil ($BBG)

Japan nuclear restarts win more support ($BBG)

Russia sanctions threaten LNG ship orders ($FT)

U.S. shale output limited by supply chain ($FT)

Freight costs rise in response to diesel ($WSJ)

Middle East diplomatic negotiations ($WSJ)

Shanghai financial district in lockdown (trans.)

Shenzhen relaxes coronavirus controls (trans.)

Battery storage: grid-service and load-shifting

Hedge funds position for yield curve inversion

RECESSION signals are intensifying with the two-to-ten year segment of the U.S. Treasury yield curve within 12 basis points of inverting and in the 88th percentile for all months since 1990. The U.S. economy has been in a formal end-of-cycle recession as defined by the National Bureau for Economic Research for just over 9% of the time since 1990:

U.S. OIL producers have added drilling rigs at a rate of just over 4 per week since the start of the year, essentially the same rate since August 2020, but slower than during the previous recoveries after price slumps in 2015/16 and 2008/09:

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Best in Energy – 25 March 2022

Brent futures margin requirements raised further

Europe’s diesel shortage threatens output growth

U.S. refiners source more fuel oil from Middle East

EU diesel supply vulnerable to Russia ban ($BBG)

EU faces high costs for filling gas storage ($BBG)

China economy disrupted by new epidemic ($BBG)

Russia/Ukraine war cuts fertiliser supply ($WSJ)

Mexico follows Fed in raising interest rates

UAE/Saudi seek to reset U.S. relationship ($FT)

EUROPEAN gas oil and Brent twelve-month calendar spreads are both trading in the 99.9th percentile for all trading days since 2000 as traders anticipate possible severe shortages of both crude and products stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and U.S./EU sanctions imposed in response:

EUROZONE manufacturers reported a less widespread expansion this month as war in Ukraine and inflation pushes the region’s economy towards a cyclical slowdown. Preliminary readings put the purchasing managers’ index at 57.0, down from 58.2 in February, and the lowest since January 2021, when economy was still gripped by pandemic:

GERMANY’s IFO business expectations index fell to 85.1 in March from 98.4 in February, a level only normally seen during a recession, as employers prepare for the impact of the war and sanctions to be felt on the domestic economy:

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Best in Energy –  24 March 2022

[MUST READ] U.S. shale firms and production limits

Germany warns against immediate oil embargo ($FT)

Russia’s oil flows redirected to China and India ($BBG)

Oil shocks and impact on equity valuations

Australia’s domestic gas industry and higher prices

China port congestion worsens amid lockdowns ($BBG)

U.S. PETROLEUM inventories outside the strategic petroleum reserve fell last week by another -7 million bbl to 1,137 million bbl. Commercial stocks have declined in 65 of the last 90 weeks by a total of 325 million bbl since the start of July 2020. Inventories are at the lowest level for the time of year since 2014:

U.S. SHALE firms cite pressure from investors to return cash to shareholders as the main reason for not increasing output, with almost 30% of respondents to the Dallas Fed survey saying they would not increase output faster at any price:

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Best in Energy – 23 March 2022

Fed’s narrow path to a soft-landing*

Russia sanctions risk diesel shortage

U.S. imports of petroleum from Russia

Russia’s oil exports and global economy

China’s plan for hydrogen development

White House options to cut fuel prices

Russia cuts pipeline oil flows after storm

U.K. inflation rate accelerates to 6.2%

* The Fed’s aggressive rate rises in 1994 helped create a government debt funding crisis in Mexico forcing a devaluation of the peso at the end of the year (the “tequila crisis”). The U.S. central bank was caught unaware (see Fed minutes from an emergency conference call held on Dec. 30, 1994). Rapid interest rate rises in the United States tend to induce extreme stress in the more peripheral and obscure parts of the international system. In 1994, it was the Mexican government’s increasingly heavy reliance on funding its operations with short-duration dollar-linked bills known as “tesobonos” that had to be constantly rolled forward. The causes of the peso crisis was my first semi-serious piece of research when I had to write a 15,000-word thesis on it for my university finals in 1996.

BRENT spot prices and calendar spreads are ratcheting higher again as traders anticipate a prolonged conflict in Ukraine and therefore a prolonged disruption of Russia’s petroleum exports, coupled with the lack of spare capacity in the global oil supply system, leaving it increasingly vulnerable to any more shocks:

U.S. GASOLINE prices have started to converge with Brent after the supply chain was shocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But retail prices are still rising at one of the fastest rates for 30 years, increasing by around 20% over the last four weeks, which is in the 99th percentile for all four-week periods since 1993:

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Best in Energy – 22 March 2022

EU divided over response to high gas and power prices

Japan calls for electricity saving after earlier earthquake

Japan’s power supplies stretched after earthquake ($BBG)

Australia/Russia alumina embargo boosts end metal prices

China orders coal stocks replenished immediately ($BBG)

Vitol warns of volatility and margining challenges ($FT)

Jilin hit by widespread coronavirus outbreak (trans.)

Russia’s role as a uranium fuel exporter ($WSJ)

Global uranium supply dominated by Russia

U.S. energy-related CO2  projections through 2050

JAPAN called for electricity conservation as temperatures plunged and stretched power supplies after an earthquake damaged generation last week:

EU+UK GAS inventories are on course to an expected post-winter low of 272 TWh with a likely range of 238-292 TWh. Mild temperatures and ultra-high prices have reduced gas consumption while the region has continued to attract imports. As a result, the post-winter projection has improved significantly from just 215 TWh on Dec. 26. The region still needs to accumulate much higher-than-normal inventories over the next six months but every TWh saved now is one TWh of inventory that will not be needed later:

EU GAS prices have fallen as the inventory outlook has become more comfortable and the likelihood of an immediate cessation of pipeline imports from Russia has appeared to recede. Front-month futures prices have fallen to €96/MWh from a record €227 on March 7. The summer July 2022 to winter January 2023 calendar spread has shrunk to a backwardation of less than €9 from almost €72 on March 7. The market is still signalling the need for a large and urgent refill of inventories but is no longer trading at the crisis levels of two weeks ago:

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Best in Energy – 21 March 2022

EU divided on whether to embargo Russian oil

India experiences run on retail diesel outlets

EU’s plan to refill gas storage risks price surge

EU’s short-term reliance on Russian gas ($FT)

Saudi Aramco says global oil market is very tight

U.K./Saudi summit and wider political relations

China civilian aircraft crashes with 132 on board

Economic sanctions – measuring effectiveness

Russia/Ukraine war enters attrition phase ($FT)

Russia/Ukraine war enters attrition phase ($WSJ)

China’s epidemic control in rural areas (trans.)

Sri Lanka’s rising energy bill risks default ($BBG)

BRENT futures open interest fell by a record 352 million barrels over the three weeks spanning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from February 22 to March 15, tumbling to the lowest level since August 2015, as prices spiked higher, volatility increased, margins rose and liquidity dried up:

COAL went from a marginal fuel used in a handful of local areas to become an essential part of England’s pre-industrial economy between 1500 and 1700 – well before the commonly accepted start of the industrial revolution in the later 18th century. By 1700, coal had replaced wood as the dominant fuel for domestic heating in London and most urban centres, and was the main fuel for all manufacturing, including glass-making, salt production, brewing, dyeing, and nonferrous smelting, with the notable exception of iron making:

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Best in Energy – 18 March 2022

[MUST READ] Russia’s military failure ($WSJ)

IEA plan to restrain oil use by 2.7 million b/d

EU plan to replace Russian gas lacks realism

Oil market liquidity falls as volatility rises

Traders hit by rising margin calls ($BBG)

Russia’s oil exporters switch to private sales

IEA/EIA/OPEC divide on war impact ($BBG)

China holds epidemic policy meeting (trans.)*

U.S. shale smaller firms boost output ($WSJ)

Andurand’s path for oil to reach $200 ($BBG)

* The fact China’s top policymaking group held a meeting dedicated to coronavirus control and its impact on daily life and the economy, and chose to publicise it as the top item on all state-controlled websites, suggests the country’s leaders are deeply concerned about the extent and impact of the latest outbreaks.

BRENT’s six-month calendar spread has become highly volatile as traders try to assess whether or not sanctions will disrupt Russia’s exports and how much impact that will have on global oil supplies. In recent weeks, the spread in dollars per barrel has seen 5-10 standard deviation movements on multiple days, which is generating large P&L swings and margin calls:

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