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The Real Existential Threat To America’s Oil Industry Isn’t What You Think

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

Mark P. Mills published an excellent piece on Feb. 28 detailing why the “Green New Deal” proposed by New York Cong. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and other Democrats does not represent any sort of existential threat to the oil and gas industry, now or in the future. If you haven’t read this highly-informative piece, you should.

But the reality that “green energy” tech is too limited by the laws of physics to ever hope to displace the internal combustion engine or fossil-fuel-powered baseload electricity generation does not mean that the U.S. industry is free from existential threats. Such threats originate mainly from failures by the industry to universally and effectively address issues that chronically impact and irritate a variety of stakeholders over time.

One of the characteristics that makes the domestic industry so great is the fact that it is not a nationalized, single entity like Mexico’s Pemex or PDVSA in Venezuela. But its status as a business made up of thousands of highly-competitive, private and corporate entities also makes it less able to develop and adopt truly effective, universal solutions to ongoing, chronic issues.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “Fracking”, is a great example. Fracking is literally a technological miracle that has transformed the United States from a country that seemed hopelessly reliant on foreign imports at the turn of the century into one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of both oil and natural gas today. But the industry’s inability to find and adopt ways to make the process less impactful on individual stakeholders and local communities has also led several states – including New York, New Jersey and Vermont – to enact either outright or de facto bans on fracking within their borders.

Read the Rest Here

 

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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Rising Gasoline Prices: 3 More Things To Know

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

 

After the price for gasoline at the pump had risen over much of the first month of this year, I published a piece in late January detailing seven key factors that go into determining what those prices will be in the United States. Given that gas prices have gone up again in the past two weeks after the first half of February was relatively stable, now is a good time to discuss the reasons why that has taken place.

There are three main reasons for this recent uptick of 13-15 cents per gallon across the country, as follows:

The deteriorating situation in Venezuela – That late January piece in part had this to say about the possible impact on U.S. gas prices due to the looming collapse of the Maduro regime: “Venezuela has been a fairly significant exporter to the U.S. but its volumes have steadily fallen in recent years as its economy has collapsed. U.S. refiners will have to find another source of crude to replace the lost Venezuelan volumes, and to the extent they must pay higher prices to obtain that feedstock, the higher costs will be passed through to the consumer.” This appears to have impacted gas prices to some extent, although no one really seems to have a good handle on how much of the recent price climb is attributable to Venezuela.

Routine refinery maintenance season has begun. – Late February is typically the time of year when many refiners begin taking their facilities temporarily offline for routine maintenance purposes. Refineries are very complex facilities with a high number of moving parts that operate under high temperatures and pressures, in good weather and bad. All of these factors and more require require that the facilities be shut down for a few weeks once or twice each year for routine maintenance.

 

Read the Rest Here

 

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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While Politics Dominates The News, Big Oil Invests In Global Energy Reality

One of the big concerns during the depths of the oil price bust of 2014-2016 was the fact that so many big, integrated and state-run oil companies were delaying or taking a full pass on investing in major and highly-costly international projects. During the financial retrenchment of this dark period, exploration for major new resources consistently took a back seat to finding ways to pay the bills and service the company’s debt.

This lack of investment in new exploration and infrastructure projects led to concerns among many energy analysts that we could be facing a shortage of global supply early in the next decade as decline rates caused existing reserves to play out without the needed new production coming on line to replace them.  The surge in new supply from U.S. shale plays has served to alleviate those concerns for the near-term, and a new report issued by the Norwegian research firm Rystad Energy documents a similar surge in new international investments that should help avoid supply shortages further down the road.

“We expect global FID volumes in 2019 to triple over last year, and 2019’s megaproject awards could lead to billions of subcontracting dollars in coming years,” said Rystad Energy upstream research analyst Readul Islam, “The only supply segment likely to shrink this year is the oil sands, whereas deepwater, offshore shelf and other conventional onshore developments are all poised to show substantial growth. From a geographical perspective, all regions are headed for robust growth except Europe and North America, still bearing in mind that shale plays are not included in these numbers.”

That last point – that shale plays are not included in this report – is key. As I pointed out last week, the Permian Basin has become a focal point for major development not just for big independents like Pioneer Natural Resources, Noble Energy, Apache Corporation and others, but also for major, integrated companies like ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Chevron. These U.S. shale plays are likely to sustain significant production growth for years to come, giving the big investments documented by Rystad in its report the running room they need to move from final investment decisions to first production, which can easily consume five-to-seven years.

So, if you’ve been wondering why all those stories about concerns of a looming supply crunch on the horizon have disappeared from your daily news clips, this is the reason.

Read the Rest Here

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The Fierce And Controversial Competition To Export Permian Crude

Tuesday Energy Update

(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

The booming Permian Basin has been one of the most amazing creators of competition the oil industry has seen in modern times. Every oil boom inevitably creates conflict, as individuals and businesses race to be the first to get in the various “games” that surround oilfield development. But the Permian is so vast, its available resource so gigantic, that it often seems to have created more races than NASCAR .

Examples of the races that have developed in and around the Permian in just the last few years include:

  • The race to acquire leases and proved reserves that has driven the cost of acquisition in the region to as high as $95,000 per acre;
  • The race to reserve drilling rigs and frac crews;
  • The race to hire qualified workers, which continues to grow increasingly fierce over time;
  • The race to provide frac sand;
  • The race to develop and install water recycling technologies;
  • The race to permit and build-out new pipeline capacity as a shortage developed in recent years;
  • The race among producers to reserve capacity on those new pipelines;
  • The race among refiners to finance and build new capacity to refine the light, sweet crude coming out of the Permian and other shale basins in ever-rising volumes;

As the competition to accommodate the Permian has moved ever-further downstream, it has now resulted in a growing conflict on the southern Texas Gulf Coast to be the first facility to build out new capacity to land and load the largest classes of oil tankers – so-called Very Large Crude Carriers, or VLCCs – and send them back out to sea.

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4 Big Ways the Permian Basin Drives U.S. Energy Growth

Tuesday Energy Update

(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

Despite recent low crude prices and a significant drop in the DrillingInfo rig count during January, the giant Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico continues to expand its role as the main driver of energy growth in North America. In just the past week, we have seen the following significant events that are attributable all or in part to what has become the world’s second most-productive oil and gas resource:

A driver of upstream and midstream profits – Both ExxonMobil and Chevron beat analyst expectations with their 4th quarter earnings announcements, driven mostly by their upstream and midstream developments in the Permian. Exxon beat forecasts by almost one-third, with its full-year 2018 earnings coming in at the highest level since 2014. Driven by its Permian drilling, Chevron’s oil and natural gas production rose to an all-time high as the company produced a record 3 million barrels of oil per day (bopd) during the 4th quarter.

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The Oil And Gas Situation: 7 Key Things To Know About Oil and Gasoline

During the course of a radio appearance I made on January 29 (BYU Radio’s “Top of Mind” program hosted by Julie Rose) I was reminded of just how little most Americans really understand about oil and gas in general, and how the gasoline or diesel they use in their cars is manufactured and delivered to their local gas stations.

That’s not a criticism of ordinary Americans, because 98% of them have no real need to understand such things in the course of their lives, and our system of education does almost nothing to educate them about this particular topic. Nor is it a criticism of Ms. Rose, who herself is extremely knowledgeable, but poses questions she knows most of her listeners are wondering about.

Given all of that, I have endeavored here to put together seven key things to know about oil and gasoline that might help the average person better understand this key element in their daily lives:

  1. Where does Gasoline come from? – Gasoline is one of many products derived from crude oil at oil refineries. One good way to think of crude oil is as a complex soup with all kinds of ingredients floating around in it. The refining process basically takes the crude oil soup that comes up out of the ground through oil wells and separates all those ingredients out of it. Gasoline is like the noodles in your chicken vegetable soup.

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Peak Oil Theory’s No Good Terrible Very Bad Week

Just when you thought continued belief in any of the various brands of “Peak Oil” theory could hardly become less sustainable, you get a week like this one. No matter whether you come at Peak Oil from the supply side or the demand side, several events this week would have had to put you in a definitively sour mood.

Starting off this “No Good Terrible Very Bad” week for the Peak Oilers, UN International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol debunked a popular piece of the demand side of the theory.  Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 22, Birol told the delegates that “To say that the electric car is the end of oil is definitely misleading.” Oh.

Birol expanded on that theme by adding emphatically that “Cars are not the driver of oil demand growth. Full stop.” Birol made things even more problematic for those who wish to dramatically accelerate the displacement of internal combustion cars with EVs via massive subsidies for environmental reasons by pointing to the fact that EVs in fact do little to reduce emissions, pointing to the fact that most of the electricity globally is still generated using coal and other fossil fuels. “Where does the electricity come from, to say that electric cars are a solution to our climate change problem? It is not,” he said.

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Reports Of OPEC’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

And just like that, everybody stopped talking about the possibility of $30 oil.

Remember those gaudy days, all of two weeks ago, when the price for WTI had dropped to $42 per barrel and fears were rising that the OPEC+ countries had somehow lost all control over the market and prices would continue to fall? Yeah, those were some good times, huh?

Today, January 15, the WTI price has recovered to over $51/bbl, a rise of 25% in two weeks. That did not happen because of suddenly higher global demand, because no such thing has taken place; nor did it happen due to a dramatically lower U.S. rig count, since the DrillingInfo domestic rig counthas dropped by just 15 rigs since January 1; and it didn’t happen due to the much-publicized recent curtailments in Canadian crude production, which have thus far taken about 140,000 barrels of oil per day off of the market.

So, why did the price go right back up the last two weeks after tanking so dramatically towards the end of December? The answer has largely to do with recent actions taken by OPEC+ nations.

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The Oil And Gas Situation: Eight Predictions For 2019

Well, that all escalated – or rather, de-escalated – quickly, huh? During the course of a six-day vacation around Christmas, the WTI price for crude dropped from $50/bbl down to $42/bbl. That takes a situation on oil prices that was already troubling for most domestic producers into the potentially-calamitous range for companies saddled with heavy debt loads and high lifting costs.

This latest collapse in crude prices comes on the heels of a longer-term drop that lasted throughout October and November. From October 2 through November 30, WTI fell from $76.41/bbl to $50.93, a decline of about 33%, as it became obvious to traders and investors that the market had become significantly over-supplied despite the re-implementation of U.S. sanctions on Iran by the Trump Administration.

This overall 45% drop in the domestic benchmark price for crude took place during the same period when producers were setting their capital drilling budgets for 2019. While one might think that reality would cause a significant curtailment of drilling activity during the first half of 2019, consider that only about a third of that price drop had come about by November 1, by which time most of these companies were finalizing those budgets. With WTI sitting at $63/bbl at that time, few were anticipating a further drop of this magnitude by the end of December.

Here’s the thing: Thousands of domestic drilling projects that are economic to drill at $63/bbl are uneconomic to drill at $42/bbl. So right now we are already beginning to see reports that some companies are going back and reconsidering some budgeting decisions that were made just a month ago. Others are likely still in wait-and-see mode as they try to assess whether the December price drop is a temporary result of panic-selling or a more long-term phenomenon related to a weakening global economy.

Given all of this, my first prediction is that we will see a gradual fall in the domestic U.S. rig count throughout the first half of 2019.

 

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