Best in Energy – 26 January 2023

Europe’s gas-fired generators reduced output

Indonesia coal exports hit record high in 2022

South Africa’s coal exports slumped last year

U.S. oil output growth set to slow in 2023/24

Microsoft warns about revenue outlook

Higher-earners reduce hours worked ($WSJ)

Tesla discounts vehicles to drive sales ($WSJ)

U.S./Iran nuclear talks near breakdown ($FT)

CHINA’s Lower Yangtze mega-region is being hit by a wave of intense of cold which will drive a significant increase in heating demand, though most factories are closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. Temperatures in Nanjing were more than -6°C below the long-term seasonal average on January 25. So far this winter heating demand (731 HDDs) has been lower than average (789 HDDs). But the recent run of cold weather has trimmed the cumulative deficit in heating demand to -7% down from -11% on January 13:  

U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES including the strategic reserve rose +4 million barrels to 1,606 million barrels in the seven days to January 20. But stocks were -170 million barrels below the level a year ago and -304 million barrels below the level before the pandemic in 2019. Commercial crude stocks have increased by +33 million barrels compared with the same point last year. But only because the strategic petroleum reserve has been depleted by -220 million barrels:

Best in Energy – 13 January 2023

Germany’s gas buying intensified price spike ¹

PJM probes generator unavailability in storm

EU economy boosted by drop in energy prices

EU seeks alternatives to Russian diesel ($BBG)

China’s epidemic moves to rural areas ($BBG)

Tesla discounts cars after missing sales target

¹ Germany’s government-directed gas buying in the spot market likely contributed to the spike in prices in summer 2022 and subsequent slump in winter 2022/23. Price spikes normally occur when a price-insensitive buyer is forced into the market to buy no matter the cost and no matter how much it moves prices higher against themselves.

Spikes are often characteristic of a short-seller forced to buy back their position (“short and caught” or “he who sells what isn’t his’n, must pay the price or go to prison”).

In this case Germany purchased gas for storage regardless of cost to increase inventories and improve energy security ahead of the winter, anticipating a disruption of Russian pipeline flows. Playing the role of “forced buyer”, Germany’s buying likely caused or at least accelerated the rise in prices to record levels in August 2022. Once the forced buying was completed, however, prices corrected lower.

Some EU policymakers have suggested the spike shows the futures market “failed” in the summer of 2022 and needs to be reformed or replaced with an alternative and more representative and liquid benchmark. But arguably the market was simply responding to the presence of a very large and completely price insensitive buyer.

U.S. SERVICE SECTOR inflation appears to have peaked. But prices are still rising at an annualised rate of 5.5-7.5%, two or three times faster than the central bank target of 2.0-2.5% per year. Inflation in the labour-intensive services sector tends to be stickier than for commodities and merchandise, which is why it tends to be a focus for policymakers:

Best in Energy – 20 December 2022

European Union approves gas price cap

France upgrades electric reliability forecast

China completes 16 GW Beihetan hydro project

Commercial buildings and energy efficiency ($FT)

U.S. Treasury delays battery subsidy rules ($WSJ)

EUROPEAN gas futures prices for deliveries in March 2023, the end of the heating season, have been falling since early December, as traders become more confident there will be enough to satisfy consumption this winter. Prices are currently trading around €106/MWh down from €150 on December 7:

U.S. CONTAINER trade through the nine most important container ports was equivalent to just 2.72 million TEUs in October, down from 2.94 million TEUs in October 2021, and the lowest for the time of year since 2017, as manufacturers and retailers attempted to reduce excess inventories by reducing new orders:

Best in Energy – 14 October 2022

U.S./Saudi relationship strained but not broken

U.S./Saudi recriminations over OPEC+ cut ($FT)

EU explores possible gas market interventions

U.S. electric vehicles stimulate battery boom

China tests electric-powered freighter (trans.)

U.S. winter fuels outlook (EIA)

U.S. SERVICES PRICES were rising at an annualised rate of +10.1% between August and September and were +7.4% higher than a year earlier, a sign inflation is proving persistent even as some energy and commodity prices have eased:

U.S. INTEREST RATE traders expect the central bank to increase its target federal funds rate to 4.75-5.00% by April 2023 up from just 3.00-3.25% at present as they try to bring inflation back under control:

U.S. DISTILLATE fuel oil shortages are worsening. Inventories fell -5 million bbl to just 106 million bbl last week and are now at the lowest level for the time of year for more than 40 years:

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Best in Energy – 5 October 2022

I want to feature a wider range of high-quality sources in Best in Energy. If you publish an academic research paper related to energy, in its broadest sense, and there is an open-access version, I would love to hear about it so I can consider highlighting it and helping it reach a broader audience. Please send a link to john@jkempenergy.com. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not want to receive press releases, public relations pitches or offers of interviews to this email address.

[MUST READ] Critical infrastructure protection ($BBG)

Germany plans more financial help for gas importers

Nord Stream sites off limits as authorities investigate

U.S. trade oil groups warn against banning exports

Europe accelerates deployment of electric vehicles

Bangladesh hit by widespread electricity blackout

U.S./Saudi relations strained by oil policy ($FT)

Iran’s social unrest is broadening ($WSJ)

EU28 GAS STOCKS were +158 TWh (+19%) higher on October 3 than on the same date in 2021, after one of the largest inventory accumulations on record this summer:

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Best in Energy – 21 September 2022

European energy trading hit by falling liquidity

Small modular reactors – deployment challenges

U.K. government caps energy prices for businesses

Coal miners seek ways to stay in future energy mix

Germany nationalises gas importer Uniper

Hertz orders 175,000 more electric vehicles ($WSJ)

CHINA’s railway hauled a record volume of freight in the first seven months of the year. Freight tonne-kilometres were up +9% compared with the same period in 2021 and +22% compared with before the pandemic in 2019. Coal is by far the largest item on the network. The system is moving record quantities of coal from the northern mining areas in Shanxi, Shaanxi and Inner Mongolia to the major consuming centres in the eastern, central and southern provinces:

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Best in Energy – 20 July 2022

EU asks member countries to cut gas consumption

EU countries most vulnerable to Russian gas cut off

(see also IMF working paper on gas shut off impact)

EU/Russia sanctions eased on food-related exports

Electric-vehicle charger market is growing rapidly

Bangladesh to start rationing electricity and gasoline

China boosts oil imports from Russia at Saudi expense

LONDON’s brief but exceptional heatwave has already ended, but 24-hour temperatures on both July 18 (27.3°C) and July 19 (27.4°C) were more than +8°C above the long-term seasonal average, straining transportation infrastructure and the electrical network.

In a normal year, London temperatures peak between July 20 and August 5, the result of seasonal lag. But weather conditions this year coincided with and compounded the normal seasonal peak pushing daily temperatures far above normal. Temperatures on both days were 2.2-2.6 standard deviations above the 2013-2021 average:

U.S REAL AVERAGE WEEKLY EARNINGS were down by almost -4.5% in June 2022 compared with June 2021, as inflation outstripped wage increases, underscoring the intensity of the squeeze on incomes and spending power:

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