Best in Energy – 16 November 2022

India’s refiners prepare for price cap from early December

China’s refiners request state aid on Russian crude ($BBG)

Europe’s energy crisis and supply security lessons ($BBG)

U.K. households and the increase in energy debts ($BBG) ¹

California ports report drop in container volumes ($WSJ)

Freeport LNG – root cause report on explosion

¹ Food and energy shortages have always been about prices and affordability rather than physical supplies and availability. Higher-income and wealthier households will always find ways to put food on the table and heat their homes, it is lower-income and poorer households that lack financial resources that are unable to cope and hit hardest (“Corn supply of ancient Rome”, Rickman, 1980).

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’s ports are experiencing a sharp drop in container traffic reflecting contentious labour negotiations and the threat of a strike as well as the slowdown in global merchandise trade and efforts by U.S. manufacturers and distributors to cut excess inventories. Combined container traffic through the neighbouring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was just 0.84 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in October, down from 1.07 million TEUs in the same month in 2021, and the lowest for the time of year since the recession of 2009:

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 – 11 November 2022

China’s leaders reiterate and adapt covid strategy (trans.) ¹

China trims coronavirus quarantine and contact tracing

China’s commentators question covid strategy ($BBG)

Pakistan to ration gas supplies as EU absorbs more LNG

U.S. diesel prices climb as inventories dwindle ($NYT)

U.S. diesel prices rise with stocks low ahead of winter

Global insurers press for more details on oil price cap

¹ The Politburo Standing Committee special study session on epidemic control is top news across all government-controlled media. Reverse engineering the official commentary, top leaders seem anxious to counter political and social fatigue with repeated lockdowns, reinforcing the current zero-covid strategy in the short term despite its rising costs, while also searching for a way out via improved vaccination rates and the development of new vaccines and therapeutic drugs.

U.S. SERVICE SECTOR prices increased at an annualised rate of +7.8% in the three months to October, more than three times faster than the central bank’s target, ensuring that interest rates are likely to continue rising:

BRITAIN’s economy entered a recession during the third quarter with real gross domestic product declining in three out of four months between June and September. So far the downturn has been led by manufacturing but is likely to spread to construction and services:

Best in Energy – 8 November 2022

Europe squeezes LNG supply for emerging markets ($BBG)

Russia sends tanker to China via northern sea route ($BBG)

China to boost diesel exports as new refineries start up

China’s oil imports rise as new refineries build stocks

Nvidia downgrades semiconductors for China ($WSJ)

U.S. coal-fired generators scheduled to retire by 2029

Renewable diesel output grows rapidly from low base

Fusion firms target commercial models by 2030s ($FT)

China explores gradual retreat from lockdowns ($WSJ)

ATMOSPHERIC concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii rose to 415 parts per million (ppm) in October 2022 up from 404 ppm in October 2017 and 391 ppm in October 2012. CO2 concentrations have increased at a compound annual rate of +0.57% per year between 2017 and 2022. On the current trajectory, concentrations are likely to reach 430 ppm, the maximum scientists say is consistent with +1.5°C of average global warming, in 2027:

Best in Energy – 7 November 2022

U.S./Russia communicate to cut escalation risk ($WSJ)

Global LNG prices slide as storage fills ahead of winter

U.S. electricity generators add more gas-fired capacity

G7⁺ price cap for Russian oil to have low impact ($BBG)

German economist sues OPEC for illegal cartel ($BBG)

U.S. shale gas promotes itself as cleaner than coal ($FT)

China’s exports fall as global trade slows ($BBG)

WESTERN EUROPE’s temperatures are expected to be above average for the time of year through December, according to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting, which would reduce heating demand and ease pressure on gas and electricity supplies:

U.S. EMPLOYMENT has been growing faster than would have been expected based on output growth alone. The discrepancy between rapid job gains and slower growth in real gross domestic product is evident whether jobs are measured from the employer side (payrolls) or employee side (household surveys). If historical relationships reassert themselves, job gains are likely to slow or output growth will accelerate:  

U.S. EMPLOYMENT in the transportation and warehousing super-sector has been flat since June  after growing rapidly for two years following the first wave of the pandemic. The number of jobs in the sector has levelled off around 6.5 million up from 5.8 million before the arrival of the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020:

Best in Energy – 4 November 2022

G7⁺ agree to set fixed price cap for Russia oil exports ¹

Netherlands regulator supports TTF gas benchmark

Global coal consumption set for new record ($BBG)

U.S. tech firms enter downturn with layoffs ($WSJ)

Europe’s floating LNG storage queue ($FT)

¹ A fixed price cap that will be reviewed regularly in the light of market conditions sounds a lot like creating an “Organization of Petroleum Importing Countries” (OPIC) with all the resulting problems of information collection, analysis, forecasting and decision-making. OPEC has struggled to be an effective market manager; there is no reason to think OPIC will be any more successful.

Some operational and policy questions for OPIC:

  • How will the organisation estimate current production and consumption?
  • How will the organisation forecast future production, consumption, inventories and prices?
  • Will OPIC seek input from oil traders and refiners?
  • Will OPIC hold regular meetings to decide policy?
  • How often will the organisation review and revise the price cap?
  • Will OPIC coordinate with OPEC and OPEC⁺ ?
  • What is the relationship between OPIC and the IEA?
  • How will OPIC respond if Russia cuts production and exports?
  • Will the U.S./IEA release more crude and product stocks to counter any interruption of Russia’s oil exports?
  • Will G7⁺ set policy unilaterally or will it take into account the interests of third-country importers (e.g. China and India)?

U.S. GAS INVENTORIES rose by +107 billion cubic feet (bcf) in the week to October 28. Inventories have increased by a total of +2,119 bcf since the start of April, the fastest seasonal rise since 2019 and before that 2015. Stocks are still -203 bcf (-5%) below the pre-pandemic average for 2015-2019 but the deficit has narrowed from -401 bcf (-14%) since mid-August:

Best in Energy – 31 October 2022

EU LNG offshore queue is depressing gas prices

EU diesel prices at record relative to jet and crude

U.S. road freight faces ‘muted’ peak season ($WSJ)

U.S. gas prices fall as inventories swell ($WSJ)

Copper production is falling short of consumption

Copper shortage threatens energy transition ($FT)

EU/Russia gas conflict, inventory and prices ($FT)

Europe’s consumers cut discretionary spend ($FT)

China builds coal-fired back to renewables ($BBG)

China’s internal news reporting system

China’s ever-normal granaries ($JSTOR)

CHINA’s manufacturers reported a decline in activity last month as the economy struggled with repeated lockdowns. The official purchasing managers’ index slipped to 49.2 in October (4th percentile for all months since 2011) from 50.1 in September (24th percentile). Manufacturing activity has contracted in seven of ten months so far in 2022:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’s ports handled the lowest volume of containers in the month of September since 2009, as spending on merchandise slowed and retailers struggled to reduce excess inventories:

Best in Energy – 28 October 2022

EU gas consumption down by 14-15% in Aug-Sep

China coal production disrupted by covid controls

U.K. gas storage site re-opens at reduced capacity

U.S. electric and gas reliability for winter 2022/23

U.S. coal-fired generation limited by fuel shortage

Caterpillar reports strong equipment sales ($WSJ)

Intel cuts jobs as semiconductor sales drop ($WSJ)

U.S./China hostage diplomacy ($WSJ)

NORTHWEST EUROPE’s gas futures prices for deliveries in December, the first part of winter, are still above those for Northeast Asia, continuing to divert cargoes. But the premium has narrowed to around €30/MWh from €60-75 two months ago as Europe’s gas supply has improved and storage has neared maximum capacity. Europe’s lower gas prices are steadily filtering through to lower prices in East and South Asia for spot cargoes, though prices remain exceptionally high compared with before 2022:

Best in Energy – 27 October 2022

LNG stocks in floating storage off coast of Spain ¹

U.S. trucking firms report mixed demand ($BBG)

U.S. officials try to finalise Russia oil price cap

U.S. officials water down price cap plan ($BBG)

U.S. uranium indigenisation strategy  planned

U.S. uncompleted oil wells at lowest since 2013

¹ Floating storage is more expensive than storing on land. Storing LNG is especially expensive because it needs to be kept super-chilled. But the extreme contango in European futures for nearby delivery months has made relatively long duration floating storage commercially viable. As a result, Europe’s available inventories are even higher than shown in the daily storage reports from Gas Infrastructure Europe.

U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES including the strategic reserve fell by -5 million bbl in the week to October 21. Stocks have depleted by a total of -491 million bbl since the start of July 2020 and are at the lowest seasonal level since 2004. Oil inventories are on an unsustainable trajectory. “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,” according to the aphorism popularised by Herbert Stein, chief economic adviser to U.S. President Richard Nixon. Global production must grow faster. Consumption must grow more slowly. Or both:

Best in Energy – 18 October 2022

LNG cargoes stranded off Spain

EU backs away from gas price caps

China LNG buying to stay subdued

CHINA’s LNG imports have run significantly below prior-year rates every month so far in 2022. The country imported 40.9 million tonnes in the first eight months of the year compared with 52.5 million tonnes in the same period in 2021, leaving more cargoes for Europe and helping ensure the global shortage has not been even worse: