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

    Russia's Other War of Attrition Is Against Europe

    This article by John Authers for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

    In a provocative but persuasive column for the New York Times, Bret Stephens suggests that Russia’s war aim is not preventing NATO enlargement, or rebuilding the Soviet empire, but cementing its status as an energy superpower:

    Suppose for a moment that Putin never intended to conquer all of Ukraine: that, from the beginning, his real targets were the energy riches of Ukraine’s east, which contain Europe’s second-largest known reserves of natural gas (after Norway’s). Combine that with Russia’s previous territorial seizures in Crimea (which has huge offshore energy fields) and the eastern provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk (which contain part of an enormous shale-gas field), as well as Putin’s bid to control most or all of Ukraine’s coastline, and the shape of Putin’s ambitions become clear. He’s less interested in reuniting the Russian-speaking world than he is in securing Russia’s energy dominance.

    Even if this is not the aim, the possibility of entrenching Russia’s energy power is now at the center of the broader conflict between Putin’s Russia and the West. 

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    Biden Says Wait and See on a Russian Pullback

    This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    Ukraine and Russia failed to clinch a cease-fire in talks that ended in Istanbul on Tuesday, with Moscow saying it will reduce military operations in areas where its forces are being pushed back and Kyiv calling for security guarantees from European Union and NATO members.

    U.S. President Joe Biden said he’ll see how Russia acts on a pullback and “see what they have to offer” in further talks with Ukraine.

    A Ukrainian negotiator said his country is seeking guarantees for territory that doesn’t include Russian-controlled areas and that Kyiv is willing to discuss the status of occupied Crimea. Russia indicated a meeting was possible between President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

    Russia’s delegation left Istanbul, and no date or time was set for any potential future talks, according to a person close to the Moscow delegation. European nations expelled more Russian diplomats from their capitals, even as stocks rose and oil fell on optimism for progress in the negotiations.

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    Barclays VIX ETN Turmoil Looks Linked to $591 Million Note Error

    This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    While the issuance halt initially triggered outsize moves for VXX -- including a 45% jump then reversal in a single session -- the ETN has been calmer as volatility across U.S. stocks retreated, helping prevent a potentially vicious short squeeze in the product. 

    All the same, since new cash can’t be added to either note the distortions can be significant. VXX closed at a record 24% premium on Friday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. OIL has swung between a premium and discount amid major moves in the crude market in the past two weeks. It closed Friday at a 1.1% discount to assets.  

    VXX gained 2.4% in early trading as of 9:02 a.m. in New York. OIL was 3.2% lower.

    “This is a rare case of an exchange-traded product issuer dropping the ball and mismanaging their products,” said Todd Rosenbluth, head of research at ETF Trends. “Although it is no more likely to occur again this is another red flag for trading ETNs and not ETFs.”

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    The Oil Crisis is Unfolding in Slow Motion

    This article from Goehring & Rozencwajg which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    If an EROEI of 10:1 resulted in de minimis economic growth, what can we use this 10:1 number to infer about how high oil prices can go today? An EROEI of 10:1 means that 10% of all energy goes to sustain the energy supply. If energy is a good proxy for general economic activity, then an economy should stagnate once 10% of its GDP goes towards producing (and by extension consuming) energy. Evidence backs this up. Many academic studies suggest an economy will fall into recession once energy takes up 10% of total GDP – an empirical result that agrees with our theory.

    In 2008, energy prices were approximately 10% of GDP right before the global financial crisis. If oil represents about half of all energy consumed, this means an economy will stall when oil represent about 5% of GDP. In 2008, the US consumed 18.8 m b/d. At $120 per barrel that equated to $823 bn or 5.6% of the $14.7 tr US GDP. The economy fell into recession shortly thereafter. In 2012-14, oil consumption never exceeded 3.5% of US GDP and prices stayed between $90 and $100 per barrel with no impact on either demand or economic activity.

    Today, oil represents less than 3.3% of US GDP and would have to rise to $140 per barrel before approaching the critical 5% threshold. Why do we focus only on the US? Demand is the most elastic in wealthy countries with high energy intensities and the least elastic in developing countries that need energy to fuel their ongoing development. In 2008, prices spiked as high as $145 per barrel albeit temporarily. In this cycle, we believe oil prices will at some point reach, and potentially significantly exceed the previous $145 per barrel peak before we begin to see evidence of demand destruction.

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    Putin Demands Ruble Payment for Gas, Escalating Energy Conflict

    This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    “Gazprom would need to ask buyers to agree to change the payment terms in contracts,” said Trevor Sikorski, head of natural gas, coal and carbon at Energy Aspects Ltd. “It reopens the contracts, and buyers could ask for shorter-terms for instance.”

    Some 58% of Gazprom’s gross gas sales abroad were in euros as of the third quarter of last year, according to the producer’s most recent bond prospectus. Another 39% were in U.S. dollars. The press office of gas giant Gazprom PJSC declined to comment on whether its long-term supply agreements allow a switch to ruble payments.

    Russia announced earlier this month a list of 48 states deemed hostile. They included the U.S., Japan, all European Union members, Switzerland and Norway. As a result, the bulk of Russian gas exports now go to “unfriendly” nations.

    “At the same time, I want to emphasize that Russia will definitely continue to supply natural gas in line with the volumes and prices and pricing mechanisms set forth in the existing contracts,” Putin said.

    In the first 15 days of March, Gazprom exported an average of 500 million cubic meters per day to countries outside the former Soviet Union, including those in the EU, China and Turkey. Of the total, flows toward Europe averaged 384 million cubic meters per day, the producer’s data showed.

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    Oil Surges With Growing Supply Fears as EU Considers Russian Ban

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

    In weeks prior, the EU sanctioning Russian oil “seemed unrealistic given their reliance on Russian energy supply,” said Rohan Reddy, a research analyst at Global X Management, a firm that manages $2 billion in energy-related assets. If sanctions were instilled, “it would basically shave off a full 4-5% of global oil supply,” as “Europe bought up around 40-45% of Russia’s total oil production in 2021.”

    The global oil market has been thrown into turmoil by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the U.S. and Europe imposing sanctions on Moscow and crude buyers shunning the country’s cargoes. Brent neared $140 a barrel earlier this month to hit the highest since 2008, before seeing a massive pullback that briefly put the market into bear territory. Prices have seen unprecedented volatility, with frequent intraday swings of about $10 and broader commodity markets seizing up amid a widespread liquidity crunch.

    The rally in oil prices has spurred importing nations to pressure other producers to step up supply, including members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. During the weekend, Japan urged the United Arab Emirates to increase exports. Meanwhile, oil giant Saudi Aramco plans to raise spending as it seeks to boost output.

    Saudi Arabia said it cannot be held responsible for any drop in oil output if it doesn’t get more help to deter attacks from Yemen. Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacked at least six sites across Saudi Arabia late Saturday and early Sunday, including some run by Aramco. Saudi Arabia has been facing calls from oil-consuming nations such as the U.S. to increase supply output.

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    Saudi Arabia Considers Accepting Yuan Instead of Dollars for Chinese Oil Sales

    This article from the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

    Saudi Arabia is in active talks with Beijing to price its some of its oil sales to China in yuan, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would dent the U.S. dollar's dominance of the global petroleum market and mark another shift by the world's top crude exporter toward Asia.

    The talks with China over yuan-priced oil contracts have been off and on for six years but have accelerated this year as the Saudis have grown increasingly unhappy with decades-old U.S. security commitments to defend the kingdom, the people said.

    The Saudis are angry over the U.S.'s lack of support for their intervention in the Yemen civil war, and over the Biden administration's attempt to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Saudi officials have said they were shocked by the precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.

    China buys more than 25% of the oil that Saudi Arabia exports. If priced in yuan, those sales would boost the standing of China's currency.

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    Powering Up

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

    For the grid to work, supply must match demand – all the time. “There are already times when we produce so much green electricity, we don’t know what to do with it,” says Hartman. “That can be in the middle of the day when the sun is shining, or in the middle of the night when we are not using so much electricity, but we are producing a lot from wind turbines.” At certain times, energy goes to waste; producers are paid to take capacity offline.

    On the other hand, the vagaries of the weather mean generation can fall short of expectations as well. For instance, on rare occasions both Germany and the UK have experienced ‘not much sun’ and ‘not much wind’, so respective energy outputs slumped at the same time. Hence the hive of research activity around energy storage. Behind it is a key idea: if storage can be made cheap enough, dense enough and extensive enough, it becomes viable to operate an energy mix with a much higher percentage of renewables.

    This is driving deployment of grid-scale storage; something companies like Tesla, LG Chem and Samsung are anticipating as they construct battery megafactories around the world15 (see Figure 4). Combining renewables with large, preassembled battery units to store excess power, with energy fed back into the grid when demand requires it, has taken off.

    The relative attractiveness of this has shifted “seismically” recently, according to energy consultancy Wood MacKenzie.17 Producing energy using solar and wind power already undercuts natural gas on a levelised cost basis (see Figure 5) and recent discoveries suggest further efficiency gains are possible.

    Henry Snaith, professor of physics at the University of Oxford, describes solar “being in 1965 in silicon technology terms,” for example, with “lots of room to improve”. (In Search of Wild Solutions has more details.) Now battery costs have fallen rapidly as well, so ‘solar PV + large-scale battery storage’ are cheaper than ‘solar PV + natural gas’ as back-up to meet peak demand.

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    Apple Supplier Foxconn in Talks to Build $9 Billion Factory in Saudi Arabia

    This article from the Wall Street journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    The Saudis are conducting due diligence and benchmarking the offer against others that Foxconn has made for similar projects globally, one of the people said.

    Besides Saudi Arabia, Foxconn is also talking with the United Arab Emirates about potentially siting the project there, one of the people said.

    The Taiwan-based company has looked to diversify its manufacturing sites amid rising tensions between China and the U.S. that put it in a potentially vulnerable spot.

    Riyadh wants the company to guarantee that it would direct at least two-thirds of the foundry's production into Foxconn's existing supply chain, one of the people said, to ensure there are buyers for its products and the project is ultimately profitable.

    Foxconn is seeking large incentives including financing, tax holidays and subsidies for power and water in exchange for helping set up a high-tech manufacturing sector in the kingdom, the people said, as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its economy away from oil.

    The Saudis could offer direct equity co-investment, industrial development loans, low-interest debt from local banks and export credits to compete with other jurisdictions that Foxconn might consider, said another person familiar with the talks.

    Saudi authorities and Foxconn didn't respond to requests for comment.

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    Biden's Demands for Oil Collide With Drillers Reining In Output

    This article from Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

    U.S. shale producers expect the oil price spike to be short-term, and shareholders don’t want companies investing capital in robust drilling programs delivering new production in 18 months, Pioneer Natural Resources Co. Chief Executive Officer Scott Sheffield said Wednesday. Oil futures indicate companies would get lower prices for crude that begins flowing in 12 to 18 months. 

    The administration’s approach assumes oil producers will turn on a dime in response to pleas from the same people “telling everybody that they are going to be obsolete in 30 or 40 years,” said Benjamin Salisbury, director of research at Height Capital Markets. 

    Investors in shale also have brushed aside arguments that drillers should crank up production because it’s their patriotic duty. Many still bear scars from the last boom-and-bust cycle, when companies chased production growth, ultimately contributing to a glut that drive down prices. 

    “The upstream industry is not a public service industry,” said Ben Dell, founder of Kimmeridge Energy Management. “For 10 years we made no money. The industry is profitable for two months, and the argument is that we’re supposed to price down the product or give away margins to support the consumer.”

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