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Prospect Of War Pushes Oil To Seven Month High

Tom Kool

Oil prices spiked immediately after the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Thursday. Soleimani, as head of the Quds force of the Revolutionary Guard, was a very powerful Iranian official, often likened to a shadow foreign minister. Iran promised “severe retaliation,” and many analysts fear a broader regional war. At a minimum, attacks on U.S. military installations in the Middle East are expected. Brent prices shot up by more than 3 percent.

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Friday, January 3rd, 2020

U.S. oil workers leaving Iraq. Dozens of workers in the southern oil fields in Iraq are leaving the country and the American embassy urged all U.S. citizens to leave the country immediately. Iraqi officials said production would not be affected.

Supply risks? The big question at this point is how Iran might respond. Rapidan Energy said that the vessels and oil facilities are at risk. “[T]he risk of another major attack against Gulf oil vessels or facilities is now above 50%,” the firm said.

Equity markets sink on attack. Equity markets fell after the attack on Soleimani, interrupting the bullish mood for stocks. The conflict could “dash market hopes for a rebound of the global economy that is still to emerge from under the cloud of the U.S.-China trade war,” Valentin Marinov, head of G-10 currency research at Credit Agricole SA, told Bloomberg. “Risk sentiment should remain fragile also because central banks may be slow to respond or simply no longer have the arsenal to respond in an adequate way.”

$200 billion in shale debt due in next four years. Roughly $200 billion in North American oil and gas debt will mature in the next four years, according to the Wall Street Journal, which includes $41 billion due this year. More than 200 companies have already filed for bankruptcy since 2015, but that number will continue to rise as drillers struggle amid the crushing weight of debt. The huge obligations will force drillers to cut spending, potentially bringing the shale boom to a halt.

Russia’s oil production hits post-Soviet record. Russia appears to be defying the OPEC+ deal, ramping up production to a new post-Soviet record high last year. According to Bloomberg, output exceeded its agreed upon limit in 9 out of 12 months in 2019.

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OPEC production declines. OPEC production declined in December to 29.55 mb/d, according to Bloomberg, down 90,000 bpd from a month earlier.

Greece, Israel and Cyprus agree on gas pipeline. Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a deal to build a 1,180-mile subsea pipeline that will move natural gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe. The agreement aims to have a final investment decision by 2022, with the pipeline aiming for completion by 2025. The project is opposed by Turkey, however. 

Problems with new IMO compliant fuel. Reuters reports that some routine tests have turned up problems with new low-sulfur fuels. The new IMO rules took effect on January 1, requiring lower sulfur concentrations. The rules are expected to cut 77 percent of sulfur oxide emissions from the sector. But the implementation could be a bit rocky at first. Marine fuel suppliers “are struggling with sediments,” a specialist told Reuters.

India to import 90 U.S. LNG cargoes. India’s state-owned utility GAIL plans on importing 90 LNG cargoes in FY 2020-2021, double the volumes from the current fiscal year, according to S&P Global Platts.

Tullow Oil falls again on bad Guyana result. Tullow Oil (LON: TLW) briefly plunged by 20 percent after it reported disappointing drilling results in Guyana, before seeing its share price rebound to post just a 6 percent loss on Thursday. “Expectations were high going into this,” David Round, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, told Bloomberg. “There will be a level of disappointment about the size.” The bad result comes just weeks after Tullow lowered its forecast for its Ghana operations, sending its share price careening down. Tullow is now trading at about $60 per share, down by more than two-thirds from over $200 per share as recently as November.

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Hess best 2019 performer. Hess (NYSE: HES) was the best performer in the S&P 5000 Energy Index last year, rising by 65 percent. This is largely due to its success as a partner of ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) in Guyana. The first phase of production came online in December.

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EVs in Norway reach 42 percent. EVs captured 42 percent of the market in Norway last year, up from 31 percent the year before. Norway was already the world’s largest EV market per capita, and the country aims to have zero emissions cars make up all new sales by 2025.

Permian pipeline glut. Five new oil pipelines are set to open in the Permian in the next two years, which could add as much as 3.5 mb/d in midstream capacity on top of the current 6 mb/d, way above upstream production, which currently stands at 4.72 mb/d. Pipeline companies are in cutthroat competition, cutting rates to attract interest. “There is a chance that some of the projects would get canceled or consolidated and that would depend on shipper commitment,” Sandy Fielden, director of research for Morningstar Inc., told Bloomberg.

Tesla delivers record 112,000 cars, meets sales goal. Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) delivered 112,000 vehicles globally in the fourth quarter, topping Wall Street estimates. That allowed the company to meet its sales goal of 360,000-400,000 for the year.

By Tom Kool for Oilprice.com

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