U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES including the strategic reserve surged by +19 million barrels in the seven days ending on February 10. There was a huge accumulation in reported stocks of crude (+16 million barrels) with smaller increases in gasoline (+2 million) and jet fuel (+1 million) partly offset by a drawdown in distillate fuel oil (-1 million).
Total inventories were still -243 million barrels (-13% or -2.26 standard deviations) below the prior ten-year seasonal average. But stocks have been trending higher since late December and the deficit to the seasonal average is staring to narrow:
EUROPE’s gas prices continue to slide as traders anticipate a record carry over of inventories at the end of winter 2022/23. Futures prices for deliveries in March 2023 fell to just €55 per megawatt-hour on January 26 from €110 on December 19 and €177 at the start of the winter season on October 3. Prices are falling to encourage more consumption, principally from energy-intensive industrial users and power generators, to ensure there is more storage space left to absorb excess production in summer 2023:
U.S. GROWTH stalled in the fourth quarter of 2022. Real final sales to private domestic purchasers (FSPDP), a measure excluding volatile changes in inventories, trade and government spending, increased at an annualised rate of just +0.2% in the fourth quarter, slowing from +1.1% growth in the third quarter, and +2.6% a year earlier. Real FSPDP advanced at the slowest rate since the first wave of the pandemic in 2020 and before that the recession in 2009.
Business inventories increased rapidly between October and December contributing +1.46 percentage points to reported output growth in the fourth quarter of 2022. Inventory accumulation was probably unplanned as sales were lower than expected. Large inventory changes are normally reversed within one or two quarters. The accumulation during the fourth quarter of 2022 is likely to be followed by efforts at depletion which will make a negative contribution to reported output growth in the first and second quarters of 2023:
EUROPE’s gas inventories are rapidly nearing a record high for the time of year following warmer than normal temperatures and reductions in industrial consumption. EU28 inventories were 937 TWh on January 9 closing in on the seasonal record of 944 TWh set in winter 2019/20.
Stocks were +247 TWh (+36% or +2.37 standard deviations) above the prior ten-year seasonal average up from a surplus of +92 TWh (+10% or +0.86 standard deviations) at the start of the winter season on October 1. The storage surplus is still increasing.
Inventories are projected to reach a post-winter low of 591 TWh with a probable range of 460 TWh to 749 TWh. If that proves correct, storage facilities would end the winter 52% full, with a likely range from 41% to as much as 66%:
U.S. WELL DRILLING shows signs of having hit a peak and starting to fall as the sector responds to lower prices. The number of active rigs targeting oil or gas has fallen in the most recent two weeks and is no higher than at the end of October. As a result, the rig count has increased by an average of just +1.0 per week in the last 13 weeks:
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:
U.S. INTEREST RATE TRADERS expect the Federal Reserve to raise its federal funds target for longer to peak at a higher level and sustain them at a higher rate than before, following a warning by the central bank’s chief. Policy-controlled interest rates are expected to continue rising until they peak at 5.00-5.25% in May 2023, up from 3.75-4.00% at present, and still be at 4.00-4.25% at the end of 2024:
U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES including the strategic reserve fell by -3 million barrels in the week to October 28. Stocks have depleted in 90 of the last 122 weeks by a total of -494 million barrels since the start of July 2020:
¹ This briefing paper is the best overview of the strategic relationship and tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) sets the benchmark for non-partisan, fact-driven, insightful and well-written policy research. CRS has always been a major inspiration for best in energy and my own research notes. The late CRS defense specialist Stephen Daggett has been one of the three biggest influences on my own writing.
EU28 GAS INVENTORIES are accumulating at a record rate for such a late date in the refill season. Gas storage increased by almost +3 TWh per day in the seven days ending on October 10, the fastest seasonal increase on record. Total stocks have risen to 1,027 TWh compared with 865 TWh at the same point in 2021 and a prior ten-year average of 919 TWh.
In response to government mandates and exceptionally high prices, the refill season is on course to persist later into October or even November than usual, boosting the volume of gas in storage, and delaying the onset of drawdowns later than usual:
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¹ Fixed line telephone systems carried their own electricity supply so the network would remain operational during power cuts. From this story it appears cell towers rely on the public distribution system and have not (yet) been prioritised in the same way as hospitals and other essential customers to ensure they remain operational during rotating power cuts. It is a classic example of how complexity and the unplanned evolutionary growth of networks can lead to the fusion or “coupling” of formerly separate systems, unintentionally creating a single point of failure (“Normal accidents”, Perrow, 1999). It is also an example of how the failure of the petroleum, gas or electricity networks can result in the failure of other systems critical to the functioning of a modern economy and society (“Brittle power”, Lovins and Lovins, 1982).
² If a government or a business or any other organisation has to say publicly everything is okay, or some variant, that’s an important sign of problems and stresses. If it really was okay, there would be no need to say it. Do don’t say. So statements such as this are important markers thought not in the way policymakers intend.
U.S. PETROLEUM inventories depleted by -13 million barrels last week, the largest decline this year. Drawdowns included crude (-5 million barrels), gasoline (-2 million), jet fuel (-2 million) and distillate fuel oil (-3 million). Petroleum inventories have depleted in 86 out of the last 117 weeks by a total of -464 million barrels since the start of July 2020. Distillate inventories are just 114 million barrels, the lowest for the time of year since 1996:
China calls for elderly to get vaccinated (trans.)
U.K. REAL GDP declined in both February and March, a sign growth was stalling even before the rise in utility prices and payroll taxes took effect in April:
TEXAS power consumption has surged to a near-record as the state is hit by a sustained period of much higher than normal temperatures for the time of year:
U.S. PETROLEUM inventories increased by +3 million bbl to 1,699 million bbl last week (SPR crude -7 million; commercial crude +8 million; gasoline -4 million; distillate -1 million; and jet +2 million):
U.S. DISTILLATE inventories fell -1 million bbl to 104 million bbl. Distillate availability shows no improvement but it is not deteriorating either at present:
U.S. GASOLINE inventories depleted by -4 million bbl to 225 million bbl last week, the lowest for the time of year since 2014, as distillate shortages bleed across into gasoline: