WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Strong demand, despite ample supply

The logo of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) sits outside its headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo)
Updated 17 November 2019

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Strong demand, despite ample supply

Brent crude rose above $63 for the first time in more than seven weeks despite a bearish International Energy Agency (IEA) 2019 outlook that was published shortly before the monthly report from the IEA.

As usual, that highlighted weak demand and rising non-OPEC supply of some 2.3 million bpd in 2020, which is higher than the 1.8 million bpd this year.

The Paris-based organization opined that this would eat from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) market share and lead to a decline in OPEC’s crude oil output by around 1 million bpd.

However the IEA neglected to report that the US oil and gas rig count continued to fall for the 12th time in the past 13 weeks. 

According to Baker Hughes data, the total oil and gas rig count dropped to 806. 

Still, Brent crude still continued to hover in a narrow range most of the year trading sideways at around $60 per barrel both prior to and after the Sept.14 attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities. 

Year to date, Brent crude rose above $70 per barrel only for a short time during April and May and never made it above $80 per barrel, unlike last year.

Oil prices managed to edge higher despite the 2.2 million barrels build in US crude oil inventories, which makes it the 9th rise in US crude inventories for 8 weeks, that added a total of more than 40 million barrels of oil to US commercial inventories, as reported by the US EIA.

The IEA continues to push the thesis that higher US output will shrink the market share of OPEC members and Russia in total oil production. 

The timing of this conclusion is very questionable ahead of OPEC’s early December 2019 meeting, as it is premature to conclude that OPEC+ producers will face a major challenge in 2020 as demand for their crude is expected to fall sharply.

The IEA also irrationally emphasized that the market is currently well supplied not only from the US, but also from relatively new growth prospects like Brazil’s offshore fields, and even from older, mature Norwegian fields in the North Sea.

The IEA completely ignores the market’s strong fundamentals. For instance, China’s refining capacity remains historically high at 13.68 million bpd, jumped 9.2 percent, or around 1.15 million bpd year on year, according to data from the China National Bureau of Statistics. 

Consequently, China’s crude oil imports surged 1 percent year-on-year to hit a historical high of 10.76 million bpd in October. 

Higher demand is further expected as refineries in China will strive to maximize petrochemical yields ahead of the Christmas manufacturing season. 

Another market positive downplayed by the IEA is the strength in the physical sour crude oil market, representing tighter supply fundamentals.

Such factors suggest the market may be in better shape than the IEA suggests.

 

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

 

 

 

 


Beijing counter-strike over US sanctions list

Updated 20 September 2020

Beijing counter-strike over US sanctions list

  • Foreign enterprises in the firing line under planned punitive measures

BEIJING: China said on Saturday it had launched a mechanism enabling it to restrict foreign entities, a much-expected move seen as retaliation to US penalties against Chinese companies such as telecom giant Huawei.

An announcement by the Ministry of Commerce did not mention any specific foreign entities, but broadly spelled out the factors that could trigger punitive measures, which may include fines, restrictions on import export business or investment in China, and the entry of personnel or equipment into the country.

It covers “foreign enterprises, other organizations and individuals,” it said.

The launch of the “unreliable entities list” ups the ante in the escalating commercial fight with the Trump administration, which has used its own “entity list” to bar Huawei from the US market on national security grounds.

The announcement also came a day after the United States ordered a ban on downloads of popular video app TikTok and effectively blocked the use of the Chinese super-app WeChat on similar grounds, which prompted a threat by China to strike back.

Beijing would consider sanctions on entities whose activities “harm China’s national sovereignty, security, and development interests” or violate “internationally accepted economic and trade rules.”

That language closely tracks wording that Beijing has used to repeatedly denounce US actions against Chinese companies.

The ministry said that if an entity is suspected of violating the provisions, an investigation would be launched under China’s Cabinet, the State Council.

The foreign party in question would have an opportunity to defend its conduct to the Chinese investigators.

Chinese enterprises that rely on business with the targeted organizations also will be allowed to apply for exemptions from any ban on doing business with them, as the US system allows.

The US and China are engaged in an escalating trade battle centered on technology.  Huawei, the world’s leading supplier of telecoms networking equipment, has been a particular target.

Washington has used its own entity list to essentially ban Huawei from the US market and prevent American companies from doing any business with it or with Huawei-affiliated organizations.

The US says Huawei could be used by Chinese state security to infiltrate communications networks.

China’s government and Huawei deny that, saying the US has offered no evidence supporting the claim.

Under a US order on Friday, the Tencent-owned WeChat app would lose functionality in the US from Sunday. TikTok users will be banned from installing updates but could keep accessing the service through Nov. 12.

China has for years blocked or restricted leading US tech companies from operating in its market, including Facebook, Twitter and Google.