Best in Energy – 8 August 2022

Russia oil discounts narrow on China/India demand

Germany’s river freight restricted by low water level

Bangladesh explores rotating factory closure ($BBG)

Asia’s emissions market prices are still low ($BBG)

China’s navy and air force practices Taiwan blockade

China forecasts flooding in major coal areas (trans.)

U.S. shale producers focus on higher oil prices ($FT)

U.S./China navy competition and Northern Sea Route

EUROPEAN GAS OIL calendar spreads between December 2022 and December 2023 have fallen into a backwardation of less than $11 per barrel from almost $33 in mid-June, as traders anticipate the onset of a recession depressing consumption:

JAPAN LNG STOCKS at the end of May had risen to 2.36 million tonnes, the highest for the time of year for at least seven years, as the country’s utilities accumulate inventories to protect against possible supply disruptions in winter 2022/23:

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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 – 18 July 2022

[MUST READ] Europe must reduce gas consumption now, warns IEA

Russia/Europe locked in economic war of attrition ($WSJ)

Texas deploys power grid emergency measures ($BBG)¹

U.S./GCC summit ends with more oil output uncertain

Hebei’s efforts to reverse groundwater depletion (trans.)

¹ Power grid managers in Texas and elsewhere have a variety of tools to cope with an imminent emergency caused by insufficient generation, including orders to generators for “maximum generation” (mandating output from individual units above their normal recommended operating levels); “no touch” (prohibiting all but critical maintenance and repairs to enable maximum generation and transmission); “reliability must-run” (requiring and paying units to run regardless of their normal economics); and “system-to-system” mutual aid (requesting maximum imports from neighbouring networks). The isolated nature of the Texas grid restricts STS opportunities for ERCOT but it is frequently used in other networks. On the demand side, grid managers can invoke voluntary demand reduction contracts, issue public appeals for conservation, order voltage reductions (usually in two stages), and in the final resort use forcible disconnection, loading shedding and rotating blackouts.

LONDON temperatures have started to ramp towards a likely record on Monday and Tuesday, as the heat builds over southeast England, with each day’s temperature profile hotter the last:

U.S. CRUDE oil inventories around the NYMEX WTI delivery point at Cushing in Oklahoma stand at just 21.6 million bbl, the lowest seasonal level since 2014 and before that 2008, when front-month WTI prices were at $122 and $170 respectively adjusted for inflation:

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Best in Energy – 12 July 2022

Computer shipments tumble on inflation (WSJ)

Iran/Israel war is emerging from the shadows

Texas averts blackouts with voluntary conservation

U.K. utility bills on course for winter crisis

U.K. retail sales fall rapidly as inflation surges

U.S. Treasury lobbies for oil price cap

Chartbook – what causes an energy crisis?*

* I will update this chartbook from September 2021 to illustrate the gas, electricity and oil crisis in 2022 triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but which was building long before as spare capacity eroded. The current energy crisis has all the four classic elements; (1) pre-crisis erosion of spare production capacity and inventories; (2) failure to appreciate increasing risk and take timely preventive action; (3) a short-term trigger that turns a potential shortage into an actual shortage; and (4) panicked reaction.  

U.S. TREASURY yield curve has continued to invert and is now trading at a premium of 9 basis points between the two-year and ten-year maturities. The yield spread is in 96th percentile for all months since 1980 and implies traders believe a significant economic slowdown is inevitable. The last occasions on which the spread had tightened this much were in January 2007, February 2006, November 2000 and September 1989:

LONDON’s temperatures have climbed sharply since the start of July and are currently +5°C above the long-term average. In contrast to the United States, peak electric load occurs in midwinter rather than midsummer. Solar and wind output is currently favourable. But distribution transformers are vulnerable to the heat:

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Best in Energy – 23 May 2022

U.S. president ends strategic ambiguity on Taiwan

India cuts fuel taxes and boosts subsidies

Russia ends gas deliveries to Finland on pay dispute

Global refiners in dilemma whether to boost capacity

Electricity supplies are stretched worldwide ($BBG)

Saudi Arabia reiterates commitment to OPEC+ ($FT)

Fuel tax cuts are poor response to high prices ($BBG)

BRENT’s six-month calendar spread has increased to a backwardation of more than $13 per barrel, up from just $3 in early April, as traders anticipate planned EU sanctions on Russia’s petroleum exports will intensify the global shortage of crude oil and refined products:

U.S. RIG COUNT rose by +14 to 728 last week, with the addition of +13 rigs targeting oil-rich rock formations and +1 rig targeting predominantly gas-rich rock. The number of rigs drilling for oil has risen by +404 from its cyclical low in August 2020 but is still -107 below the pre-pandemic level:

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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 – 29 March 2022

EU reviews link between electricity and gas prices

U.S./EU and the idea of a new Marshall Plan for energy

Rhine’s low water levels threaten diesel flows ($BBG)

Fertiliser prices surge as a result of war ($BBG)

Austin airport issues jet fuel alert ($BBG)*

* During the Second World War, Britain ordered inbound shipping to bunker overseas to conserve oil and coal for the war effort and reduce the number of tankers that needed to run the gauntlet of German submarine attacks in the Atlantic.

EU+UK GAS inventories hit a post-winter low of 291 TWh on March 19 according to preliminary estimates from Gas Infrastructure Europe. Stocks have since risen by around 8 TWh. The provisional post-winter low occurred on the earliest date since 2012 and fell 11-12 days earlier than the median for the last decade as a result of mild temperatures and exceptionally high prices discouraging consumption and attracting maximum imports:

EU+UK GAS inventories have depleted by 578 TWh over winter 2021/22. The drawdown compares with averages of 651 TWh over the previous five years and 561 TWh over the previous ten years. The post-winter minimum is the lowest since the winter of 2017/18. But it is only 81 TWh below the five-year average and 57 TWh below the ten-year average. Stocks have ended this winter low but not exceptionally so owing to mild weather and exceptionally high prices:

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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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