WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Strength in adversity

Damage at Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing plant. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2019

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Strength in adversity

  • Saudi Aramco was able to continue with its deliveries which reassured the market

The week started with the largest “force majeure” in the history of the oil industry following the attacks on Saudi Aramco oil and gas facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais. 

It represented a supply disruption of some 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd). 

Still, Saudi crude oil exports were suspended for only 36 hours before resuming. Brent crude’s price started the week on levels not seen since late April, above $70.

The market calmed down after Saudi Aramco customers confirmed that their near-term crude oil term allocations were not affected by the attacks and that there was sufficient stockpiles to cover for lost production.

This clearly demonstrated the robust and resilient infrastructure of Saudi Aramco oil and gas facilities.

The immediate risk management response greatly mitigated the losses despite suggestions from parts of the oil industry media that the attacks highlighted the vulnerability of Saudi oil supplies.

Saudi Aramco was able to continue with its deliveries which reassured the market and was the main factor in the gradual retreat of the oil price over the week.

Brent softened to $64.28 per barrel and WTI fell to $58.09 — but that was still up almost $4 from a week earlier.

That represented the biggest weekly gain this year since, with prices moving mostly in a very narrow band until this week.

Elsewhere, the US EIA reported that Cushing oil stocks were at their lowest level since October 2018. 

Storms in Texas also triggered the shutdown of some pipeline and terminal capacity, but the impact on the market is not yet clear as it coincides with a period of extensive refinery turnarounds in the region.

Softening crude oil futures show that the physical market is more concerned than the paper market as Arabian Gulf sour crude grades continue to strengthen. 

Platts reported that the backwardation (where the spot price of oil is higher than the future price) in the Dubai forward price structure rose to a six-year high of $2.90 per barrel. 

• Faisal Faeq is an energy and oil marketing adviser. He was formerly with OPEC and Saudi Aramco. Twitter:@faisalfaeq

EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

Updated 29 May 2020

EU pledges to stay green in virus recovery

  • To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible

BRUSSELS: The European Commission pledged on Thursday to stay away from fossil-fueled projects in its coronavirus recovery strategy, and to stick to its target of making Europe the first climate neutral continent by the middle of the century, but environmental groups said they were unimpressed.

To weather the deep recession triggered by the pandemic, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed a €1.85 trillion ($2 trillion) package consisting of a revised long-term budget and a recovery fund, with 25 percent of the funding set aside for climate action.

To help economies from the 27-nation bloc bounce back as quick as possible, the EU’s executive arm wants to increase a €7.5-billion ($8.25 billion) fund presented earlier this year that was part of an investment plan aiming at making the continent more environmentally friendly.

Under the commission’s new plan, which requires the approval of member states, the mechanism will be expanded to €40 billion ($44 billion) and is expected to generate another €150 billion in public and private investment. The money is designed to help coal-dependent countries weather the costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

Environmental group WWF acknowledged the commission’s efforts but expressed fears the money could go to “harmful activities such as fossil fuels or building new airports and motorways.”

“It can’t be used to move from coal to coal,” Frans Timmermans, the commission executive vice president in charge the European Green Deal, responded on Thursday. “It is unthinkable that support will be given to go from coal to coal. That is how we are going to approach the issue. That’s the only way you can ensure you actually do not harm.”

Timmermans conceded, however, that projects involving fossil fuels could sometimes be necessary, especially the use of natural gas to help move away from coal.

The commission also wants to dedicate an extra €15 billion ($16.5 billion) to an agricultural fund supporting rural areas in their transition toward a greener model.

Von der Leyen, who took office last year, has made the fight against climate change the priority of her term. Timmermans insisted that her goal to make Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050 remained unchanged, confirming that upgraded targets for the 2030 horizon would be presented by September.

Reacting to the executive arm’s recovery plans, Greenpeace lashed out at a project it described as “contradictory at best and damaging at worst,” accusing the commission of sticking to a growth-driven mentality detrimental to the environment.

“The plan includes several eye-catching green `options,’ including home renovation schemes, taxes on single-use plastic waste and the revenues of digital giants like Google and Facebook. But it does not solve the problem of existing support for gas, oil, coal, and industrial farming — some of the main drivers of a mounting climate and environmental emergency,” Greenpeace said.

“The plan also fails to set strict social or green conditions on access to funding for polluters like airlines or carmakers.”

Timmermans said the EU would keep investing in the development of emission-free public transportation, and promoting clean private transport through the EU budget.