Best in Energy – 15 November 2022

OPEC trims oil consumption forecast for 2023

Northeast Asia LNG prices fall on high stocks

Indonesia to get loans to cut coal generation

U.S./China summit – U.S. version

U.S./China summit – China’s version

U.S. electric service reliability in 2021

FedEx furloughs workers as freight falls ($BBG)

EUROPE’s gas inventories have continued to accumulate later into the start of the traditional winter heating season than any other year in records dating back to 2011. Gas inventories in the European Union and the United Kingdom (EU28) were still rising on November 13, later than the previous record of November 12 in 2011 and far past the median peak occurring on October 26. The late fill is attributable to a combination of warmer-than-normal temperatures and high prices rationing consumption. Late fill is lifting inventories close to a record high and reducing the probability stocks will fall critically low before the end of winter:

GREAT BRITAIN’s maximum winter loads on the transmission system since 1990/91 are illustrated in the chart below (loads exclude Northern Ireland which has its own electricity network). Loads shown are “triads” – the three highest half-hourly loads separated by at least 10 days occurring each winter between November and February. Triads are used to set transmission network use of system (TNUoS) charges for large electricity consumers who are metered on a half-hourly basis. Triads are declared retrospectively after the end of each winter in March (“What are electricity triads?” National Grid, 2018).

Half-hourly (HH) customers are billed for TNUoS based on the amount of electricity they use during the three triad half-hours. Triads set charges for the entire year. In the limit, if a HH consumer uses no electricity from the grid during those three half hour periods, their TNUoS is set at zero for the entire year. The possibility a triad might be declared gives HH customers a strong incentive to minimise electricity use and/or generate their own power during periods when the total load on the network is expected to be very high.

Triad charging helps reduce strain on the grid during the winter peak, usually between 1630 GMT and 1800 GMT, when street lighting comes on, families start preparing the evening meal, but many shops and offices are still open and occupied. Several consultancies offer triad forecasting services – alerting HH consumers when there is an elevated risk that a triad could occur so they can reduce their net load temporarily.

In winter 2021/22, triads occurred on Thursday December 2 (43.7 GW at 1630-1700 GMT); Wednesday January 5 (42.8 GW at 1700-1730 GMT); and Thursday January 20 (43.5 GW at 1700-1730 GMT) (“Triads 2021/22”, National Grid, March 29, 2022).

Triad loads have been declining since 2007/08, and especially since 2010/11, as a result of improvements in energy efficiency, sluggish economic growth, changes in the industrial mix, and an increase in self-generation by HH consumers as well as embedded generation from solar panels added to homes, offices and local distribution networks:

Best in Energy – 14 November 2022

Saudi Arabia widens diplomatic relationships ($BBG)

U.S. retailers push back against price increases ($BBG)

China says pre-winter coal stocks comfortable (trans.)

China underground gas storage for Jīng-Jīn-Jì (trans.)

Indonesia explores early retirement of coal-fired plant

China’s iron ore prices bounce on non-residential use

Western Interconnection’s rising reliability challenge

U.S/China presidents try to stabilise poor relationship

U.S./China leaders to meet at G20 ($FT)

OPEC⁺  and the stabilisation of oil prices

U.S. OIL PRODUCERS increased the number of rigs drilling for oil to 622 on November 10 up from 610 two weeks earlier. Drilling increased significantly for the first time since July. The number of active rigs has rebounded from a pandemic low of just 172 in August 2020 and is nearing the pre-pandemic level of 683 in early March 2020.

But the resumption has been much slower than after the two previous downturns. The rig count has risen by a total of +450 (+3.8 per week) over the 117 weeks since August 2020 compared with an increase of +544 (+4.6 per week) at the same point after the last cyclical low in 2016 and +885 (+7.6 per week) after the cyclical low in 2009:

Best in Energy – 2 November 2022

[MUST READ] South Africa’s transition from coal ($FT)

Maersk predicts container volume down 2-4% in 2022

UAE advised against cutting OPEC⁺ output target ($WSJ)

Russia oil exports predicted to fall by 0.5-1.0m b/d ($FT)

Europe’s industrial base at risk from high energy prices

U.S./Europe compete to attract investment ($FT)

United Kingdom tests plan to restart power grid ¹

Black start – planning for a complete grid failure

China’s coal production situation (trans.)

China’s updated city classification list (trans.)

California plans to repurpose gas network ($WSJ)

¹ This article seems to be merging the related but separate concepts of rotating power cuts to cope with possible electricity shortages caused by insufficient gas-fired and renewable generation this winter with restarting the grid after a total failure such as might be caused by an accident or sabotage.

“Yarrow” sounds like a plan for a “black start” of generation, transmission and distribution systems following complete failure. Electricity network managers in the United Kingdom and other countries have planned for a black start for decades. It is one of those remote “high impact low probability” risks commonly used in scenario planning.

The United Kingdom has never had to undertake a nationwide black start though a regional one was necessary in parts of the southeast following damage caused by the Great Storm of October 1987.

Black starts involve a complicated series of steps and would take several days to complete. Designated generating units would have to be started up autonomously, following by limited energisation of the transmission grid, first regionally and then nationally.

Black start sites often have auxiliary diesel-fired generators maintained at a high state of readiness that can restart without external power. The auxiliary generator is then used to start one or more main generators (usually oil, coal or gas-fired) on the same site which are then reconnected to the grid.

Progressively more generators would be started up and synchronised to the network, which would start to provide limited power to the local distribution systems. Protected sites would start to receive power and then more customers as sufficient power becomes available.

The process could take up to 5-7 days in the event of total failure. In the meantime most customers would receive no power or be subject to rotating power cuts to limit demand while generation is restored gradually.

The complexity and time needed for a full black start explains why grid managers attempt to avoid them at all costs. Temporary but controlled load-shedding directed by grid managers is preferable to uncontrolled cascading failure of the power grid leading to collapse and forcing a black start.

Black start should be a very remote risk in a well-run grid. But the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines has focused attention on the risks of deliberate attacks on energy infrastructure and will make black start a higher priority for emergency planners.

EUROZONE manufacturers reported an accelerating decline in activity last month as the region’s economy was hit by inflation, soaring energy prices, supply chain problems, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the EU sanctions imposed in response. The composite purchasing managers’ index slipped to 46.2 in October (12th percentile for all months since 2006) from 48.4 in September (24th percentile) and 58.3 in October 2021 (92nd percentile). The composite index has been below the 50-point threshold dividing expanding activity from a contraction for four months running, confirming the zone’s economy is entering a recession:

Best in Energy – 12 September 2022

German households stock up on electric heaters¹

Germany’s north benefits from wind resources

France appeals for grid-to-grid support ($FT)

Droughts and hydropower reliability ($WSJ)

Boreal forests and a warming climate ($FT)

HEDGE FUNDS and other money managers increased short positions in NYMEX WTI futures and options by +2 million bbl to 44 million bbl in the week to September 6, among the largest number of short positions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. Bearish sentiment has been gradually building since the start of June as the economy slows under the combined impact of supply chain problems, inflation and rising interest rates:

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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 – 28 July 2022

EU/Russia gas pipeline flows fall sharply

U.S. frackers warn of supply chain limits

China’s plan to centralise iron ore purchasing

U.S. leaders embrace subsidies, tariffs ($WSJ)

Grid-scale batteries used for price response

U.K. households face winter bill crisis ($FT)

West London’s local power constraint ($FT)

U.S. PETROLEUM inventories depleted by -9 million bbl in the week to July 22, with declines in commercial crude (-5 million), gasoline (-3 million), and distillate fuel oil (-1 million) as well as a drawdown in the SPR (-6 million), partially offset by increases in propane (+3 million) and other oils (+3 million). Petroleum inventories have depleted in 80 of the last 108 weeks by a total of -438 million bbl since the start of July 2020. Total stocks are at the lowest seasonal level since 2008 and show no signs of rebuilding:

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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 – 22 July 2022

Germany to cut energy use to resist blackmail

EU divided on compulsory gas demand cuts

Europe’s electricity generation under stress

Europe turns to Africa for more oil and gas

China’s semiconductor manufacturing ($BBG)

Texas power grid and bitcoin miners ($BBG)

RHINE RIVER water levels measured at Kaub are the lowest for the time of year for more than a quarter of a century and indicative of drought conditions across northwest Europe. Low rainfall is restricting river borne freight and is an indicator of the stress for thermal and nuclear power plants that rely on river water for their cooling systems. For coal and gas combustion plants, efficiency and maximum output is reduced. For nuclear plants, insufficient cooling capacity can force output limits or a precautionary safety shutdown:

EUROZONE manufacturers reported a decline in activity this month for the first time since the first wave of the pandemic in 2020. Preliminary data show the manufacturing sector purchasing managers index fell to 49.6 in July (28th percentile) down from 52.1 in June (47th percentile) and 54.6 in May (65th percentile). Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions the EU has imposed in response have pushed the region’s economy into recession:

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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 – 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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