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

    Musings from the Oil Patch September 12th 2017

    Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section: 

    If a homeowner installs a charging station in his garage, there may not be much impact on the grid.  However, if all his neighbors do the same thing, there could be a problem.  Transformers are necessary to regulate the power flowing into a home, and they usually service multiple homes, generally four at a time.  A problem is that utility companies do not know exactly how much power is being used by a particular home relative to its neighbors until a transformer fails.  Upgrading transformers can be expensive and limited by weight limits for units mounted on power poles.  One estimate suggests moving from a 50KVA pad-mounted transformer serving four homes to a 75KVA unit costs about $3,000.   

    For underground power installations, upgrading the transformer units may be easier, but not necessarily less costly.  One study by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers says that the problem is at the local level.  If multiple Level 2 chargers that fully recharge a car in 2-3 hours, are plugged in at the same time at night, they may prevent transformers from cooling as they are designed.  Sustained excess current will eventually ‘cook’ a transformer’s copper windings, causing a short and blacking out of the homes attached to the device.  This problem was observed from a study of the habits of EV owners in an Austin, Texas suburb.  Over a two-month period, the residents tended to recharge their EVs at the same time – when returning from work – that coincided with air conditioning loads increasing along with the use of other appliances. 

    A similar study was conducted in the UK, which conducted an 18month study of resident habits when 100% were using EVs.  The study’s result show that at least a third of the UK’s power grid will need to be upgraded to support an EV sales rate of 40% of new car sales by 2023.  That doesn’t address the load issue if 40% of the entire UK vehicle fleet were plug-in EVs. 

     

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Email of the day on the ground experience from the Texas panhandle

    I had the pleasure of spending several days with a friend who is an executive in a drilling company. He indicated that the recovery had brought a boom in drilling, but that customers were demanding the latest high-tech drilling rigs (faster, more efficient, much bigger pumps, able to drill longer laterals). This requires very large capital investments with uncertain payback times. Older, lower tech rigs are left unused, which creates dramatically lower rig utilization rates for drillers. Unfortunately, the past month has seen a bit of a slowdown, with some new tech rigs coming off of pads with no new contract (meaning the rig goes to the yard and sits, and the crew have no jobs). While this may be a short-term issue, it could alternatively be a sickly-looking canary.

    Unlike last year, when vast numbers of pump jacks were idle (indicating the well is not producing at that moment), this year more than 75% of the pump jacks I saw were pumping, and most looked well-maintained. Pump jacks do not normally pump full-time, as they shut down for maintenance, and when their storage tanks are full, etc. A lot of the oil in the area is pumped into tanks and then picked up by trucks. 

    The beef, pork, chicken, and nuclear weapon businesses all appeared to be thriving.

    Probably needless to say, but the Texas Panhandle is about 700 miles from the flooding.

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    How a Bird Charity's Battle Against a Wind Farm Backfired

    This article by Jess Shankleman for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

    When plans for Neart na Gaoithe started being developed in 2008, Siemens AG’s 3.6 megawatt turbine was the most popular among developers. Now manufacturers are working on machines that could be four times bigger, helping companies like Dong Energy A/S build projects cheaply enough to make money at market prices. The collapse in oil prices has also helped lower offshore wind costs, by making the sea vessels needed to install projects cheaper to hire.

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Hurricane Irma Strengthens to a Category 5 Storm

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

     

    Beyond the threat to people and property in the Caribbean, the focus so far is on agriculture with the storm, "being a case of being long orange Juice futures rather than gasoline futures," Jakob said.

    Irma will probably cross the northern Leeward Islands Tuesday into Wednesday, according to the NHC, which said it’s still too early to determine what impact it might have on the U.S. Hurricane warnings have been issued for the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. Tropical-storm-force winds could arrive in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico by early Wednesday.

    About two-thirds of Florida’s citrus crop is located in the lower two-thirds of the peninsula. Frozen concentrated orange juice futures in New York already rose last week on speculation the storm could strike, though prices are down almost 30 percent since January.

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Email of the day on cobalt

    Nickel is an important metal in itself for battery technology, but 2/3 of nickel goes into stainless steel, so from this perspective nickel isn't a very highly leveraged play on battery advances. Whilst Cobalt is a by-product of nickel mining, it is my understanding that this is mainly the case from lateritic nickel deposits, and there is a much lower % of cobalt by-product from deep mines. 

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Musings from the Oil Patch August 29th 2017

    Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brook’s ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section on lithium and cobalt:

    We don’t know the details behind the Morgan Stanley electric vehicle forecast, but we know there are both more and less aggressive forecasts.  We wonder if those forecasters have considered the potential constraints from lithium carbonate supply.  There is a greater issue with cobalt, which accounts for 58% of a battery by weight, more than the lithium in a battery, and consumes 42% of all cobalt output.  The problem is that cobalt supplies are smaller and about 60% comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is controlled by war lords and relies on child labor for mining the ore.  The governments we will have to deal with to meet the demand for rare minerals to meet electric vehicle forecasts present many moral and financial question marks.  In fact, when we were in Tibet earlier this summer, we followed Chinese trucks hauling bags of lithium carbonate from mines to shipping depots.  That supply is likely committed to the Chinese electric vehicle industry, which needs it to meet its anticipated growth outlook.   

    As a result of the growing demand for lithium and other rare minerals, their prices are climbing, and in some cases at alarming rates.  Since 2015, lithium prices have quadrupled, while cobalt prices have doubled.  What will rising prices and limited availability mean for the forecasts of ever cheaper batteries?   

     

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Harvey Recharges Offshore as Crippled Houston Counts the Cost

    This article by Joe Carroll and Thomas Black for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

    Gasoline futures in New York extended gains a sixth session Tuesday as more than a million barrels of fuel-making capacity was knocked offline; and natural-gas fields and offshore-drilling rigs shut down. The motor fuel advanced 0.4 percent to $1.7183 a gallon at 5:09 a.m. New York time.

    Ports along a 250-mile stretch of Texas coast were closed to tankers. Twenty-two vessels laden with a combined 15.3 million barrels of crude from as far afield as Brazil and Colombia were drifting off the coastline, waiting for the all clear.

    Ten of the state’s 25 refineries are shut down, accounting for about half the 6 million barrels per day of capacity, said Christi Craddick, chairman of the three-member Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the industry. Companies will have to wait for floods to recede before they can evaluate damage, she said.

    “Hopefully within the next week to two weeks, we’ll see refineries back online,” Craddick said.  

     

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Harvey Likely to Be First Hurricane to Strike Texas Since 2008

    This article by Brian K Sullivan and Melissa Cheok for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

    “It could intensify right up to landfall on Friday,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “I expect a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, but I cannot rule out a Category 2.”

    Harvey is expected to bring multiple hazards including heavy rainfall, storm surge and possible hurricane conditions to parts of the Texas coast on Friday. Heavy rainfall is expected to spread across portions of south, central and eastern Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley from Friday through early next week and could cause life-threatening flooding, according to the advisory.

    The Gulf Coast from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana, is home to nearly 30 refineries -- making up about 7 million barrels a day of refining capacity, or one-third of the U.S. total. It’s in the path of expected heavy rainfall. Flooding poses risks to operations and may cause power failures.

     

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.

    Musings from the Oil Patch August 15th 2017

    Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB. Here is a section: 

    In total, between 2010 and 2040, the EIA expects energy demand to grow by 54.4%.  Liquids fuels are projected to grow over this period by 37.7%, while natural gas growth will soar 78.7%.  In physical terms, natural gas (93 QBtus increase) consumption will grow by nearly a third more than oil’s use (68 QBtus), while coal consumption (34 QBtus) will increase by barely over half of the growth in liquids’ consumption.  Nuclear power increases the least of all the fuels (19 QBtus), but posted one of the largest percentage gains (+67.9%) due to its small base in 2010.  Most interestingly, the Other category, which includes renewables, is predicted to increase consumption by 74 QBtus, or an impressive 128.5% gain.   

    A consideration that should not be overlooked is where this growth is happening.  Exhibit 3 (next page) shows energy consumption divided between the developed countries of the world (OECD) and the developing ones (non-OPEC).  The difference in energy demand growth between these two groups is astounding.  The OECD economies will increase their energy use by 15.8% compared to the 87.5% growth projected for non-OECD economies.  For a domestic exploration and production company, this may seem to be a worthless consideration, but now that the United States has become an oil exporter, the health of the global oil market should be of increased interest to the executives of these E&P companies.   
    What the EIA forecast demonstrates is that the portfolio shifts underway at several major integrated oil companies – BP, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A-NYSE) and TOTAL S.A. (TOTF.PA) – from crude oil to natural gas resource exploitation, are founded on the expectation that the world’s energy market has entered a new era that will be dominated by natural gas.

    The quest for cleaner fossil fuels, in response to global pressure to reduce carbon emissions, has focused on increased use of natural gas, which has considerably fewer carbon emissions than either crude oil or coal.  That explains why natural gas was initially embraced by environmentalists as the “bridge fuel” to a cleaner energy mix until renewable fuels could mature sufficiently to become the “carbonless fuel” for the future.  The double-digit price at that time may explain why the environmentalists loved natural gas as it provided a price umbrella over expensive renewables.   

     

    This section continues in the Subscriber's Area.