David Fuller and Eoin Treacy's Comment of the Day
Category - Energy

    New study rips into cobalt, lithium price bulls

    This article by Frik Els for Mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Prominent commodities research house Wood Mackenzie this week released a report on battery materials that forecasts a decline in the price of cobalt and lithium this year which would turn into a rout from 2019 onwards.

    Woodmac is not lowballing demand growth for lithium and the authors expect demand to grow from 233 kilotonnes (kt) in 2017 to 330kt of lithium carbonate equivalent in 2020 and 405kt in 2022, but:

    … the supply response is under way. Yet it will take some time for this new capacity to materialise as battery-grade chemicals. As such, we expect relatively high price levels to be maintained over 2018. However, for 2019 and beyond, supply will start to outpace demand more aggressively and price levels will decline in turn.

    According to Woodmac data, spot lithium carbonate prices on the domestic market in China are already down 6% from December levels to around $24,500 a tonne while international market prices have remained robust rising to $16,000 at the end of February.

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    Pipeline Stocks Sink as FERC Kills Key Income-Tax Allowance

    This article by Stephen Cunningham, Tim Loh and Jim Polson for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Wells Fargo & Co. analyst Michael Blum said the broad selling was an overreaction, because the effects would be felt only on partnerships with a large amount of interstate pipelines.

    "It’s definitely a negative, but it’s not Armageddon for MLPs," Jay Hatfield, a New York-based portfolio manager at the InfraCap MLP exchange-traded fund, said by telephone. "And it’s not as if it affects every asset in every single MLP."

    Even among interstate pipelines, it’s unclear how much the ruling will impact different assets, Selman Akyol, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. wrote in a note Thursday. That’s because these pipelines can charge rates based on a different agreements -- there are "cost of service" rates, which will be affected, as well as market-based rates or negotiated ones, which won’t be impacted. What’s more, "cost of service" rates are partly built on aspects that have nothing to do with taxes -- including maintenance and depreciation costs for the pipeline.

    "This adds a layer of uncertainty to the group, and we do not expect it to be cleared soon," Akyol said in the note. “We anticipate companies will provide disclosures around cost of service exposure and potential impact to cash flow.”

    The decision could further the trend of MLPs converting into corporations -- or simply selling interstate pipelines affected by this change in policy to existing corporations such as Kinder Morgan Inc., Hatfield said.

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    Commodities Daily

    Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Commerzbank which may be of interest. Here is a section:

    The cocoa price has soared by 33% in New York and by 28% in London since the beginning of the year. Thus cocoa has achieved the best price performance of all the commodities we track this year – with the exception of carbon. The Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) of Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, apparently wishes to curtail its cocoa production. The first step is to count the plantations. Depending on the result, the distribution of higher-quality seeds and plants for the 2018/19 season is then to be temporarily suspended. The aim is to combat the overproduction that saw cocoa prices forced to multi-year lows at the end of last year. According to the International Cocoa Organization, global supply exceeded demand by 300,000 tons in the 2016/17 crop year. The surplus is set to decline to a good 100,000 tons in the current crop year 2017/18. Deficits are needed to reduce the cumulative surplus, as was the case on the oil market a good year ago. OPEC brought this about by cutting production, and Ivory Coast appears to want to follow a similar strategy for cocoa. If the CCC has its way, Ivorian cocoa production will be lowered from 2 million tons now to 1.7-1.8 million tons within two years. Ivory Coast has a good 40% share of the cocoa market, which is even somewhat higher than OPEC’s share of the oil market.

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    Volkswagen Steps Up Tesla Rivalry in $25 Billion Battery Buy

    This article by Chris Reiter and Christoph Rauwald for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:


    Volkswagen AG secured 20 billion euros ($25 billion) in battery supplies to underpin an aggressive push into electric cars in the coming years, ramping up pressure on Tesla Inc. as it struggles with production issues for the mainstream Model 3.

    The world’s largest carmaker will equip 16 factories to produce electric vehicles by the end of 2022, compared with three currently, Volkswagen said Tuesday in Berlin. The German manufacturer’s plans to build as many as 3 million of the cars a year by 2025 is backstopped by deals with suppliers including Samsung SDI Co., LG Chem Ltd. and Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. for batteries in Europe and China.

    With the powerpack deliveries secured for its two biggest markets, a deal for North America will follow shortly, Volkswagen said. In total, the Wolfsburg-based automaker has said it plans to purchase about 50 billion euros in batteries as part of its electric-car push, which includes three new models in 2018 with dozens more following. 

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    OPEC Must Rethink Plans as $60 Oil Brings New Glut, IEA Says

    This article by Javier Blas and Grant Smith for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    "Established producers need to reconsider their production plans quickly and substantially in light of the huge production increase from U.S. shale," the agency’s Executive Director Fatih Birol said Monday on the sidelines of the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston. Asked whether he was referring to OPEC nations, Birol said: "All OPEC producers are established producers."

    The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, Mexico and Kazakhstan agreed to cut production in late 2016 in an effort to clear a glut in crude inventories. They defied the skeptics by going deeper than their pledged curbs and maintaining them for long enough to deplete the bloated stockpiles.

    Yet the strategy has also backfired by unleashing “a new wave of growth from the U.S.” that leaves little space for OPEC to increase output once the cuts expire at the end of the year, according to the agency’s report.

    The U.S. will dominate global oil markets for years to come, satisfying 80 percent of global demand growth to 2020, the IEA said. Supplies from other non-OPEC nations will make up the rest.

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    Email of the day on the potential for downtrends

    Your recent assessments of the markets appear to be that a period of ranging is likely to be followed by markets going up again. Of course, whilst no one knows what the future will be, I wonder why you don't see the greater likelihood of markets turning down after some consolidation. With the amount of US debt increasing, interest rates increasing, and stock market levels already high by historical standards, are you not more concerned that markets, being forwards looking, might be more likely to head down than up? Esp. since markets struggle when interest rates go above 3%? I appreciate your talk of share rotation, but a rising tide lifts all boats and surely the opposite is true when markets tank?

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    Musings from the Oil Patch February 20th 2018

    Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever informative report for PPHB. Here is a section on methane hydrates:

    The attacks on the oil and gas industry in the U.S. for its methane emissions have been based on reports and estimates of the volume of leaks from its drilling and transportation activities.  Fighting these leaks is in the companies’ best interests because it will help the bottom lines as less natural gas will be lost to the atmosphere and income will be enhanced.  Fixing the leaks on their own is also a way the oil and gas industry can hope to stave off further debilitating regulations.  Now, however, the industry is hopeful of an easing of the methane containment rules for companies drilling and producing natural gas from federal lands by the Trump administration.  


    While the discussion about methane leak control for the oil and gas industry is dominating the headlines, there remains a huge untapped source of natural gas in the form of methane hydrates under the ocean that some governments are working to exploit.  These hydrates are where molecules of methane gas are entrapped within an ice lattice.  They form under very low temperatures or high pressures, or a combination of the two.  They are usually found on the outer continental shelves around the world.  (They have been found in the pink areas of the global map in Exhibit 18.)  The challenge is that they have been difficult (risky) to mine, as well as costly.  They have the potential to blow up any vessel attempting to extract the hydrates from the sea floor.  The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that the U.S. has 51,338 trillion cubic feet of methane hydrate gas resources.  If only half of BOEM’s estimate is realized, there are 1,000 years of supply based on the current consumption rate of natural gas in the United States.


    Last year, China, a country with significant needs for more natural gas but lacking success in finding and developing meaningful reserves, has been experimenting with tapping methane hydrates.  The country’s focus is on hydrates situated in the South China Sea, which helps explain China’s attempt to claim territorial rights to that area of the Pacific Ocean.  At the same time, Japan, another nation lacking adequate energy resources, has successfully extracted methane hydrates from an area offshore the Shima Peninsula.  The implications of successful development of methane hydrate mining by either or both countries would be significant for the future of the global liquefied natural gas (LNG) business.

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