Best in Energy – 18 January 2023

Europe’s gas supply gets lucky with warm winter ($BBG)

IEA forecasts global oil use to rise +1.9 million b/d

France electric grid cites improved reserve margin

Texas needs more progress on electricity reliability

Europe’s coal prices slump in competition with gas

U.S. airlines report strong passenger demand ($FT)

LONDON’s Heathrow airport handled 109,151 metric tonnes of air cargo in December 2022 down by -14% compared with 127,188 metric tonnes in December 2021. Air freight volumes are slackening as the global manufacturing sector enters a downturn, with the United Kingdom one of the hardest-hit economies:

Best in Energy – 16 December 2022

Lithium prices double on output deficit

Global coal consumption hits record high

China braces for impact of rural epidemic

ICE warns it could relocate TTF gas futures

Russia crude sold to India under $60 ($FT)

China experiences intense cold snap (trans.)

Texas oil production hit by seismicity limits

EUROPE’s seven-largest gas consuming countries (excluding the United Kingdom) reported consumption was down -21% in October compared with the same month a year earlier, and down by a similar percentage compared with the ten-year average, as a result of high prices, conservation, and milder-than-normal temperatures in the second half of the month:

U.S. MANUFACTURING output shows signs of peaking. Production was up by just +1.4% in November compared with the same month a year earlier, the smallest increase for almost two years, and the growth rate has been decelerating progressively since February:

Best in Energy – 12 December 2022

U.S. official berates shale firms and investors ($FT)¹

U.K. grid orders coal-fired units to start warming up²

France ramps up nuclear generation, easing shortages

China’s shipbuilders move into LNG tanker market

India’s coal mine production rises, with spot auctions

U.S. container trade moves to east coast ports ($WSJ)

Open source tests traditional spying agencies ($WSJ)

U.S./EU diplomacy on price cap reconstructed ($WSJ)

U.S. officials claim fusion power breakthrough ($FT)

Texas crypto-mining boom turns into bust ($BBG)

Thurrock council’s $500 million loss on solar ($BBG)

G7/Russia oil price cap introduced smoothly ($WSJ)

Anti-oil protests and theory of social change ($FT)

¹ When policymakers appeal to “patriotism,” or decry its absence, it usually means they have run out of good arguments. When I hear arguments based on patriotism and its variants, I am instinctively suspicious about the speaker’s motivations, and try to work out how someone is trying to mislead or distract attention from their own failures.

² Coal-fired units need roughly four hours to reach full generation from a warm start and 10-12 hours from a cold start. The grid’s instruction to start warming up ensures the two massive coal-fired units at Drax will be available to help meet electricity consumption during the evening peak on December 12. Before privatisation of the U.K. electricity industry, the state-owned Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) would often keep at least one coal-fired power station warmed up but not generating so it could be brought into service at relatively short notice. Long ramping times for coal-fired units, and the enormous quantity of fuel burned before commercial generation starts, are one reason gas-fired units are more efficient and have largely supplanted them.

CHINA’s semiconductor (integrated circuits) trade – export earnings have grown rapidly, but the cost of imports has risen even faster, so the country’s trade balance has become increasingly adverse:

Best in Energy – 17 November 2022

U.S. hydrogen – funding and technology deployment

Aramco plans downstream investment in South Korea

U.S. diesel inventories at 70-year seasonal low ($FT)

Texas tries to prepare better for extreme winter cold

U.K. inflation accelerates to 11.1% in October

France’s nuclear generation starts to recover

China/Taiwan bilateral communications cease

U.S. PETROLEUM INVENTORIES depleted by -11 million barrels in the week to November 11. Large drawdowns in commercial crude (-5 million bbl), crude in the strategic petroleum reserve (-4 million) and other oils (-3 million) were partially offset by increased stocks of gasoline (+2 million), distillate fuel oil (+1 million) and jet fuel (+0.3 million). Total inventories have depleted by -509 million barrels since early July 2020, the largest drawdown on record and a symptom of persistent under-supply:

Best in Energy – 7 October 2022

U.K. electricity winter reliability forecast

U.S./Saudi standoff over oil policy ($FT)

White House fury with oil output cut ($BBG)

France outlines plan for “energy sobriety”

Nord Stream inquiry confirms sabotage

Texas electricity market and volatility

Houston and energy system transition

Luck more important than talent ($WSJ)¹

¹ Luck plays a more important role in determining individual success than talent, according to the study authors. But individuals have to be ready and open to grasp opportunities. The best strategy to maximise the probability of success is therefore “expose, explore, exploit,” which seems sound advice.

GERMANY’s industrial production was down -4.5% in the three months from June to August compared with the same period in 2019 before the coronavirus epidemic. The economy is struggling with multiple shocks stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sanctions, gas shortages, higher energy and raw materials prices, and persistently sluggish growth in China:

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Best in Energy – 3 October 2022

[MUST READ] Shipping lines cancel dozens of sailings ($WSJ)

United States cannot avert dollar’s rise ($WSJ)

Central banks and “fiscal dominance” ($WSJ)

OPEC+ discusses output cuts to support prices

Europe’s refiners plan extensive maintenance

Permian Basin oil well productivity still rising

Europe gas use still unsustainably high ($BBG)

Emerging markets hit by capital outflow ($FT)

NORTHWEST EUROPE faces the first test of whether it can lower energy consumption this winter. After warmer than normal temperatures in the first half of September, temperatures were below average in the second half, creating the first significant heating demand earlier than normal:

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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 – 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 – 15 July 2022

White House downplays hopes for more oil

Middle East imports more Russian fuel oil

Japan plans reactor restarts before the winter

United Kingdom heads for winter crisis ($BBG)

Germany is moving into a recession ($BBG)

ERCOT confident will avoid blackout ($BBG)

U.S. household finances and inflation ($WSJ)

Russia/NATO conflict is test of resolve ($BBG)

Central banks turn hawkish on inflation

U.S. CENTRAL BANK is expected to raise short-term interest rates to 3.50-3.75% by February 2023 up from 1.50-1.75% at present to curb inflation. From the second quarter of 2023, however, policymakers are expected to start reducing interest rates as the economy slows and inflation decelerates:

U.S INTEREST RATE traders anticipate a recession has become virtually certain following the continued acceleration of inflation. The yield curve spread between 2-year and 10-year maturities is now in the 98th percentile for all months since 1990:

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Best in Energy – 14 July 2022

Smart sanctions on Russia’s petroleum exports¹

EU prepares for gas shortages in winter 2022/23

Biden wants sanctions and lower oil price ($FT)

Berkshire Hathaway boosts Occidental ownership

China studies ending Australia coal ban ($BBG)²

ERCOT again appeals for electricity conservation

(see also ERCOT’s alert notice

Bolton boasts about helping plan coup attempts⁴

Urban heat islands and summer electricity ($BBG)

¹ This paper by Harvard’s Craig Kennedy published in April appears to be an early version of the price-cap plan the U.S. Treasury Department is advocating to the European Union, Japan, India and China.

² Bloomberg reports Chinese officials are preparing to recommend the lifting of the country’s ban on coal imports from Australia. The proposal is framed as a policy response to concerns about coal shortages stemming from sanctions on Russia. But China does not need Australian coal at the moment given the slowdown in the domestic economy, rapidly rising domestic coal production, and the huge increase in hydropower generation. The proposal therefore appears to be primarily diplomatic – part of détente between China and the new government in Canberra. The question is what China would hope to receive in return: de-escalation of the conflict, generalised goodwill and a reset in the relationship, or something more concrete?

³ Visible only to IP addresses in the United States or via a VPN

⁴ U.S. government involvement in the overthrow of foreign governments is widely known, including Iran (1953) and Chile (1973). But it is rare for a recently serving senior official to acknowledge the fact. There is always a large gap between what we “know” in the sense of being overwhelmingly probable and what we “know” in the sense of being able to prove to the satisfaction of audiences, editors and lawyers. Indiscretions by former officials are useful because they move topics from the known-suspected to the known-proven category which makes it much easier to analyse and write about them.

U.S. SERVICE SECTOR prices climbed at an annualised rate of almost +10% in the three months from April to June, a clear sign the economy is overheating. Services inflation is running at some of the fastest rates for 60 years. The three-month rate is in the 93rd percentile for all similar periods since 1960:

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