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December 01 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

OPEC Meeting Review

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

OPEC has just decided a headline cut of 1.2 million b/d

We calculate that compared with October secondary sources in the OPEC report, the net OPEC cut from the 11 participating countries in the deal is 0.982 million b/d

Angola was allowed to use September output as the base instead of October

The cartel will use secondary sources to monitor output reductions
Indonesia, Libya and Nigeria is not part of the deal

Since the cartel has distributed quotas to the different countries, have organized a monitoring committee and are using secondary sources, the deal is very bullish to the oil price

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subcsriber's Area.

Brent crude oil hit a new recovery high today and upside follow through tomorrow would confirm a return to demand dominance beyond what has been an impressive two-day rally. Considering the fact that the price has been rangebound for the last six months the potential for a breakout that is outsized relative to the amplitude of the congestion area cannot be discounted. 



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August 16 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gas Glut Upends Global Trade Flows as Buyers Find Leverage

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

Historically, LNG has been sold on long-term contracts that guaranteed buyers supply and helped producers finance liquefaction plants at a time when less of the product was shipped. Now, a gas glut is causing LNG importing countries to support renegotiating existing deals that can run 20 years or more while suppliers offer more flexible terms to lock up customers spoiled for choice.

India already is encouraging importers to rework long-term accords to better align costs with spot market prices. Japan, the world’s largest LNG importer, may soon join them. That country’s Fair Trade Commission is in the process of probing resale restrictions in longer deals in an effort that could mean the renegotiation of more than $600 billion in contracts and boost the number of shorter-term agreements.

“There will be 40 million to 50 million tons of homeless LNG by 2020, which can go anywhere or doesn’t have any fixed customers,” said Hiroki Sato, a senior executive vice president with Jera Co., a fuel buyer that plans to increase spot and short-term LNG deals. “Homeless LNG will provide a great opportunity to improve liquidity in Asian and global markets.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The evolution of a global transportation network for natural gas is creating the impetus to divorce pricing from long-term oil contracts. While Russia floated the idea of creating a natural gas equivalent of OPEC a few years back, as a way of preserving it pricing power, it was unable to reach critical mass. 

The reality today is that a substantial number of new entrants to the market, not least Australia, the USA and developing east Africa, all have a vested interest in capturing market share. Meanwhile major consumers like Japan, India and China would understandably like to avail of lower prices. The expansion of the Panama Canal also boosts the viability of US exports to Asia. 

 



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June 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

California's Last Nuclear Plant Is Closing, Edged Out by Renewables

This article by Jim Polson and Jonathan Crawford for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Economics have achieved what environmentalists have sought for years: the shutdown of California’s nuclear power plants.

PG&E Corp. is proposing to close two reactors at Diablo Canyon in a decade that would end up costing more to keep alive as California expands its use of renewable Energy, Chief Executive Officer Tony Earley said Tuesday. They won’t be needed after 2025 as wind and solar costs decline and electricity from the reactors becomes increasingly expensive, he said.

Diablo Canyon became California’s only operating nuclear power plant after Edison International three years ago shut its San Onofre plant north of San Diego after a leak. Tuesday’s announcement follows decisions this month to retire three other U.S. nuclear plants struggling to make money amid historically low power prices and cheap natural gas.

“It’s going to cost less overall as a total package than if you just continued to operate Diablo Canyon,” Earley said. “It’s going to operate less because of the Energy policies that are in place.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Nuclear in North America and Europe suffers from a boy who cried wolf problem. By over promising on cost and production and under delivering, particularly on safety, public ambivalence has grown substantially. That’s an unfortunate development because new nuclear technologies really do hold the potential to fulfil earlier promises, but they are unlikely to be built in either North America or Europe. China is now the primary bastion of support for developing nuclear technology and is already exporting its designs to other countries. 



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June 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musk's Solar Lifestyle Idea Has One Big Flaw

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

The commercial success of Musk's vertical integration idea hinges -- in terms of turning a profit rather than generating a high market capitalization -- on battery technology that would have mass rather than niche appeal. The assumption upon which Musks' concept -- and Tesla's $32.3 billion market capitalization -- is built is that Tesla is betting on the right battery technology and no one will come up with a much better one. That is the big hole in the donut: The assumption is far from safe.

Cheap and reliable Energy storage is central to the idea of an off-the-grid, solar-powered household. Such a home needs Energy at night, when the sun isn't shining: It has fridges, air conditioners and other appliances running, and a Tesla charging in the garage. So it needs a good battery, and Tesla's Powerwall doesn't necessarily fit the bill -- if only because the cost of the Energy it supplies, including amortization, is higher than grid prices. Because of this, and given the high price of Tesla cars, the lifestyle on offer is an expensive statement. In terms of cost and convenience, it's not competitive with the traditional grid-and-fossil fuel model.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Let’s call Tesla Motor’s acquisition of SolarCity what it is; a bailout. The tide of highly attractive subsidies for solar has turned. NV Energy, Warren Buffett’s Nevada utility, successfully argued that it should not have to bear the full cost of the electrical grid when solar producers get to use it for free and get preferential rates on the electricity they supply. That represented a major upset for SolarCity in particular but also highlighted a deeper challenge for the solar leasing business model which has contributed to increased scepticism among investors about the prospects for related companies. The big question is whether other states, particularly in the sun-belt will announce similar charging structures. 



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June 15 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Circular Reference: Ushering In A New Era For Natural Gas

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

Previously a commodity with volatile price swings due to a domestic market that was short supply, the outlook for natural gas through 2020 shows a well supplied market capable of delivering to growing demand sources. There will be s-t dislocations (weather / infrastructure constraints) and the introduction of LNG exports will re-couple the U.S. to the global economy, but we see an emerging theme of natural gas entering a range bound period of $3-3.50/mmbtu. The 5 year build up in demand (2013-18) now looks to be meeting up with the 10 year buildup in supply (2005-15), creating a period of price equilibrium with upward and downward pressures on both sides.

Demand – Focus On The Known Drivers
After a 15 year period of stagnant consumption (1995-2009), demand for natural gas has enjoyed consistent growth over the past 5 years (2-3Bcfpd annually), a trend we expect to pick up through 2020. The drivers of growth are visible – power generation, industrial use, and Mexico exports – and will provide a base level of consumption growth. The reemergence of natural gas on the global scene via LNG exports has also long been a theme and will be additive to demand, though the quantifiable impact is tough to point to as capacity utilization will vary based on global prices and supply. We estimate ~6Bcfpd of export demand in 2020 in our base case, which is needed to balance the S/D outlook. In total, we see demand growth approaching ~98Bcfpd by 2020 (ex pipeline imports) up from ~78Bcfpd in 2015.

Supply – Filling Demand Needs…Just Need More Pipeline Capacity
U.S. supply has increased ~50% over the last 10 years to ~75Bcfpd, a rate of growth not witnessed since the 1960-1970s and following a brief pause in 2016/17, we anticipate growth to resume in 2018. We see four key trends from our supply forecast: 1) Supply is ~2Bcfpd below demand (weather normalized) in 2016/17 but ~3Bcfpd oversupplied in 2018, 2) Northeast supply growth increases by ~9Bcfpd in 2018, driven by the pipeline build out, 3) The bull case for supply by 2H18 is based on demand as the Northeast has excess pipeline capacity, and 4) The Northeast isn’t the only source of growth as we anticipate the Haynesville and Associated Gas Basins to return to growth by 2018, and implementing new technology could support growth elsewhere. Our forecast grows to meet demand and fills storage with enough deliverability in 2018, creating a more range bound environment with equal s/d pressures.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The natural gas market was the original recipient of the innovations that led to the boom in unconventional supply. Since then it has offered an object lesson in the ramifications of how that is likely to play out for other commodities where supply is surging not least oil. The greatest beneficiaries have been consumers who have seen prices for essential Energy commodities decline to levels not preciously imaginable. That has also resulted in demand increasing not least from substitution which has also benefitted consumers in other sectors. 



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May 26 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oil Erases Gains After Exceeding $50 for First Time This Year

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

Brent for July settlement decreased 12 cents to $49.62 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe after. The contract earlier climbed as much as 1.6 percent to $50.51. The global benchmark crude was at a 15-cent premium to WTI.

"We’re seeing a steady decline in U.S. production, which is going to continue, and outages around the world," said Bill O’Grady, chief market strategist at Confluence Investment Management in St. Louis, which oversees $4.3 billion. "This doesn’t mean we’re going to continue going higher; a lot may be priced in. It was a lot easier being bullish oil with sub-$40 prices than it is near $50."

U.S. crude production dropped for an 11th week to 8.77 million barrels a day, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday. Crude inventories slid by 4.23 million barrels last week, exceeding an expected drop of 2 million. Stockpiles at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for WTI and the nation’s biggest oil-storage hub, fell by 649,000 barrels.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Brent Crude Oil has posted an orderly rebound from its January low and has almost doubled in the process. A progression of higher reaction lows is evident with reactions of between $5 and $6 constituting entry opportunities along the way. A reaction of greater than $7 would be required to question the consistency of the advance. Nevertheless the round $50 area represents a psychological level for many investors so it would not be surprising to see prices pause in this area. 



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April 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of day on the long-term outlook for energy resources

Yer man, while I often feel like I am part of the new old economy. I am not concerned in the near term that electric vehicles will have mass adoption. I am puzzled how the electrical grid will power all these new super cars? Coal which is the worst emitter of GHG's is the primary source of electrical generation in North America and that is being phased out for natural gas as you know. The environmental movement is flawed with hypocrisy and makes no economic sense. In Canada the govt has chosen to demonize the oil and gas industry which funds the majority of our social services and yet we bail out Bombardier and the auto industry. I sound like a grumpy old man.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thanks for this topical comment to a piece I posted on Friday. It’s been a long time since we shared an apartment in London; when we were both new to London, and I’m glad you’re still in the heat of the action in Calgary. I think everyone finds it hard not to be grumpy when things are not going one’s way at any age. 

This article from the state.com from 2014 estimates that if every car in America was an electric vehicle it would represent only about a 30% increase in electricity demand because electric vehicles are more efficient. 



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February 29 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Electric car war sends lithium prices sky high

This article by James Stafford for Mineweb may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

That’s why Goldman Sachs calls lithium the “new gasoline”. It’s also why The Economist calls it “the world’s hottest commodity”, and talks about a “global scramble to secure supplies of lithium by the world’s largest battery producers, and by end-users such as carmakers.”

In fact, as the Economist notes, the price of 99%-pure lithium carbonate imported to China more than doubled in the two months to the end of December—putting it at a whopping $13,000 per ton.

But what you might not know is that this playing field is fast becoming a battlefield that has huge names such as Apple, Google and start-up Faraday Future throwing down for electric car market share and even reportedly gaming to see who can steal the best engineers.

Apple has now come out of the closet with plans for its own electric car by 2019, putting it on a direct collision course with Tesla. And Google, too, is pushing fast into this arena with its self-driving car project through its Alphabet holding company.

Then we have the Faraday Future start-up—backed by Chinese billionaire Jia Yueting–which has charged onto this scene with plans for a new $1-billion factory in Las Vegas, and is hoping to produce its first car next year already.

Ensuring the best engineers for all these rival projects opens up a second front line in the war. They’ve all been at each other’s recruitment throats for months, stealing each other’s prized staff.

And when the wave of megafactories starts pumping out batteries—with the first slated to come online as soon as next year–we could need up to 100,000 tons of new lithium carbonate by 2021. It’s an amount of lithium we just don’t have right now.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Describing lithium as the “new gasoline” is an interesting take on the projected demand for electric cars. Last week’s Bloomberg article proclaiming batteries would cause the next oil crisis would appear to be in the same vein. These estimates are based on the fact that large battery factories are going to come on line in the next 18 months and not just Tesla’s giga-factory in Nevada. With additional supply, prices can be expected to decline and demand should rise. Home batteries and home charging stations are likely to become much more visible and utilities are already installing industrial scale batteries to tackle intermittency of renewables and to become more efficient with fossil fuel use. 



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February 24 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch February 23rd 2016

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report which this month highlights the toll low prices are taking on Texas oil companies. Here is a lengthy section: 

For example, the surprise decision by Southwestern Energy (SWN-NYSE) to lay off 40% of its staff, or more than 1,100 employees, and shut down all its drilling rigs after having recently moved into a massive new headquarters building shocked the industry. Likewise, ConocoPhillips (COP-NYSE), after defending its dividend through the first year of this downturn even at the cost of laying off staff, finally caved and cut its quarterly dividend by two-thirds from 74-cents to 25-cents per share. ExxonMobil (XOM-NYSE), after reporting weak earnings results for its fourth quarter, followed up last Friday by announcing it had failed to replace its production last year for the first time in 22 years, announced a 25% cut in its 2016 capital spending plans and the suspension of its share repurchase program. These steps are designed to reduce the drain in the company’s cash balances. Another optimist, Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD-NYSE), after signaling late last year that it might actually increase its 2016 capital spending by 20%-30% as a result of the multiple attractive exploration opportunities it has in its Permian Basin acreage, announced a 10% capex cut this year, which means it will be forced to cut in half the number of drilling rigs it operates, going from 24 at year-end 2015 to 12 by mid-year 2016. The latest industry bombshell was Devon Energy’s (DVN-NYSE) announcement just last week that it was slashing its 2016 capital spending by 75% and laying off 1,000 employees, or about 20% of its staff. The shock from this announcement had barely been digested when Devon announced the sale of up to 69 million shares of stock and raising potentially $1.6 billion in cash to shore up its balance sheet. The cash infusion also helps the company by reducing the pressure to depend partially on selling assets to help fund capital spending. 

The sale of stock by Devon is another example of the continuing ability of Energy companies to tap capital markets, something a growing number of observers believe is prolonging the needed spending reduction that will cause oil output to fall off materially and set the stage for a recovery in prices. According to Bloomberg, the Energy industry has announced plans to raise $4.6 billion in new equity, accounting for nearly 30% of all new equity raised so far this year. The amount of equity being raised is almost evenly split among three deals – Pioneer Natural Resources, Hess Corporation (HES-NYSE) and Devon. Each of these deals was upsized from their original announcement reflecting high levels of demand from investors betting not only the individual companies surviving but that their share prices will soar when the oil price rises and Energy industry fortunes improve. 

The $4.6 billion equity raise so far this year compares with the $7.8 billion raised by exploration and production companies during the first two months of 2015, the fastest pace in raising new equity in over a decade. An interesting question is whether the capital raised in early 2015 has been wasted? If we consider what has been happening to companies within the E&P and oilfield service sectors, the oil price collapse is finally ending the corporate and investor strategy of “pretend and extend.” That strategy means that company executives have been selling lenders and investors on the view that a turnaround is just around the corner, so if they will just give them a little more time (and money?) the companies will be fine. As this strategy evaporates, the battle lines are drawn between managements and their owners. A change in the past is that many of the owners of the companies are investors who specialize in distressed securities. As a result, the struggle over how to redo the capital structure of Energy companies becomes more intense as debt-owners, who have legal claims against the assets of the company, fight to gain the most ownership and thus stand to benefit the most whenever the share price recovers. 

Many of these recapitalization struggles are being fought in the esoteric world of corporate bankruptcy law. The last great boom for the local bankruptcy industry occurred in the period of the 2008 financial crisis and the recession that followed. For Energy, the greatest bankruptcy boom was the demise of the industry in the 1980s bust. A recent article about the state of the bankruptcy business, in response to the collapse in oil prices, was in The Houston Chronicle. The article included a graphic showing the number of Chapter 11 (the section of the bankruptcy law that provides for restructuring of financially distressed companies rather than liquidations of companies that is conducted under Chapter 8 of the code) filed in the Southern District and the State of Texas. In 2015, the number of bankruptcies filed in the Southern District approached close to those filed in 2008, the start of the financial crisis. The article cited a survey of 18 bankruptcy legal experts by The Texas Lawbook calling for a doubling of filings this year. 

The fallout from the low oil prices and the hefty cash outlays producers have been making to play the shale revolution and/or to continue to generate cash flows is showing up in the growing number of exploration and production companies filing for bankruptcy. The Houston Energy practice of the law firm Haynes & Boone is tracking those filings for both E&P and oilfield service companies in the United States and Canada. As of the listings on their web site, as of early February, 48 E&P companies and 44 oilfield service companies have filed since the start of 2015. The total of secured and unsecured debt involved in these bankruptcy filings totals $25.1 billion, split $17.3 billion for E&P companies and $7.8 billion for oilfield service companies.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

This is the most comprehensive reporting of the measures taken by Texas Energy companies to preserve capital I have seen. I chose to reproduce it because it should serve as a useful record for subscribers look as this transition unfolds. 



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February 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Credit Market Risk Surges to Four-Year High Amid Global Selloff

This article by Aleksandra Gjorgievska and Tom Beardsworth for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Exchange-traded funds that hold U.S. junk bonds slid to their lowest levels in almost seven years. BlackRock’s iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond exchange-traded fund and SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF both fell to the lowest levels since 2009.

Financials and Energy were the two investment-grade sectors that added the most risk in the U.S., Markit CDX North American Indexes show. In high yield, Energy, communications and health care fared the worst.

Chesapeake Energy Corp., the U.S. natural gas driller that’s been cutting jobs and investor payouts to conserve dwindling cash flows, lost more than half it stock market value Monday after a report that it hired a restructuring law firm.

The company’s bonds led losses among high-yield debt on Monday. Chesapeake’s notes due March 2016 tumbled to a record to 74.5 cents, from 95 cents last week, while its bonds maturing in 2017 fell to an all-time low at 34 cents.

“Broad oil weakness has now turned into distressed Energy cases, which investors view as possibilities of higher risk of restructuring or debt exchanges," Ben Emons, a money manager at Leader Capital Corporation. “Nothing has been announced of that matter but markets move quicker ahead of such possibility happening."

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Regardless of the answer, when someone asks whether a default is imminent one has to conclude that the situation is troubling. This is as true of Chesapeake today as it was of Greece, Portugal et al a few years ago. 

Chesapeake’s 2017 6.25% Senior UnSecured bullet bond now yields 150% suggesting very few people think it will make its last coupon payment due in July.   

 



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January 18 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brent Trades Near 12-Year Low as Iran Comeback to Swell Glut

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

“The likely increase of Iranian oil production could not have come at a more unfavorable point in time, with the oil market being oversupplied and renewed economic concerns,”

Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS Group AG in Zurich, said in a report. “It is not worth holding a direct exposure to crude oil at present, before more clarity sets in.”

Brent capped a third annual loss in 2015 as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries effectively abandoned output limits. Iran, which was OPEC’s second-biggest producer before sanctions were intensified in 2012, is trying to regain its lost market share and doesn’t intend to pressure prices, officials from its petroleum ministry and national oil company said this month.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Iran has been stockpiling crude ahead of anticipated end of sanctions and this has been a factor in the swift decline of prices over the last month. If we put some numbers on that, it is now January 18th and Brent Crude has fallen 40% from peak to trough so far this year. That’s an accelerating downtrend by any definition one might choose to use. 

Iran’s newfound unrestricted ability to sell oil is a potential bonus for the oil services sector since it is going to have to spend billions on upgrading infrastructure atrophied by sanctions. However let’s not also forget that Iran has been selling oil to China for more than a decade and that aside from what it has in storage for sale, the country’s ability to rapidly increase supply is relatively low.  

 



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December 23 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Worst performers of 2015

Eoin Treacy's view -

With the exception of a small number of outliers the worst performing shares this year have been in the Energy sector. This is particularly true of the S&P 500 where 11 of the 15 shares down more than 50% are Energy related. Those are pretty scary declines and sentiment is about as bearish as I have seen with news flow compounding that view as one would expect. 



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December 22 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Soaring Debt Yields Suggest Oil M&A Could Happen in 2016

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

Mergers haven't taken off in the oil patch this year largely because potential targets have been banking on a rebound and potential buyers have been expecting further falls. The spike in yields for borrowers in the Energy sector, along with the growing acceptance that oil and gas prices likely face another year on their back, should mean those opposing views finally converge in 2016, prompting some deals.

What's more, this chart suggests the advantage should lie with large, strategic buyers like the oil majors for two reasons.

First, one way potential targets have been shoring up balance sheets is to sell assets rather than the entire company.

But a thriving asset market requires buyers being able to raise capital at reasonable rates, be they other E&P companies or private equity firms looking to snap up bargains. Asset sales have slowed already this year, with just $29 billion worth in North America, compared with $107 billion in 2014, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Second, with the cost of capital rising and cash harder to come by, any deals struck will require at least the promise of synergies and will favor those buyers able to use their own stock as a credible acquisition currency. One reason Anadarko's approach to Apache met with such scorn was that it scattered rather than tightened the company's focus. The majors, diversified anyway, bring the benefit of bigger balance sheets, which both alleviate any credit pressures weighing on the target and provide a clearer path to developing a smaller E&P company's reserves. Paying with shares also means that selling shareholders get to participate to some degree in the eventual recovery in oil and gas prices.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Major oil companies have slashed exploration budgets with the result they have more capital to pick up promising assets as prices decline. Private Equity firms have amassed sizable war chests to invest in troubled Energy companies but have so far been slow to make large purchases. Meanwhile sellers are hoping for a rebound so they can get a better price. With everyone appearing to bide their time a catalyst is required to encourage deal making. 



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December 17 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Shale Drillers Are Now Free to Export U.S. Oil Into Global Glut

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

U.S. shale drillers will soon be able to sell their oil all over the world. Too bad no one needs it right now.

A congressional deal to lift the 1970s-era prohibition on shipping crude overseas has the potential to unleash a flood of oil from Texas and North Dakota shale fields into markets already flush with cheap supplies from the Persian Gulf, Russia and Africa.

The arrival of U.S. barrels in trading hubs from Rotterdam to Singapore will intensify competition for market share between oil-rich nations, publicly traded producers and trading houses, adding pressure to prices that have tumbled 67 percent in the past 18 months. In the longer term, it may also extend a lifeline to shale drillers strapped for cash after amassing huge debt loads during the boom years.

“The winners in all of this are the U.S. oil producers who now have a bigger market for their shale” output, said Gianna Bern, founder of Brookshire Advisory and Research Inc. in Chicago and a former BP Plc oil trader. “Unfortunately, it’s coming at a time when there’s already way too much crude on the global market.”

U.S. oil explorers from Exxon Mobil Corp. to Continental Resources Inc. have been agitating for an end to the export ban for most of this decade as technological advances in drilling and fracking opened up vast, untapped reserves of crude. The so- called shale revolution has lifted U.S. oil output for seven straight years, making the nation the world’s third-biggest producer behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

2016 is going to be an important year for US Energy producers. One way to look at it is that they are going to be running slimmer operations since they had to cancel so much spending amid a collapse in prices. Another way to look at it is they will have the ability to export both crude oil and natural gas for the first time in decades and that will contribute to increasing fungibility between international contracts. 



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December 11 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

High Yield and Energy

Eoin Treacy's view -

When interest rates are low there is an incentive to issue debt over equity. The low interest rate environment also contributes to spreads tightening as yield hungry investors move further out the risk curve to capture the return they require. The unexpectedly long length of time that interest rates have been low has created a situation where business models were framed around the situation continuing and now that the Fed is set to change tack an adjustment is underway. 



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December 07 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Statoil Is Offered Oil Assets Daily as Slump Hits Rivals

This note by Francois de Beaupuy and Mikael Holter for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Statoil is flooded w/ offers of assets for sale from rivals squeezed by drop in crude prices, CFO Hans Jakob Hegge says in interview in Paris.

Co. not biting yet because valuations still too high; there are “a lot of unrealistic price assumptions from the sellers”

Statoil is cutting capex, opex, but not planning large-scale asset sales

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Statoil is not the only company cutting capex. However it is one of the first to throw some light on just how many companies are seeking to dispose of assets in order to reduce debt burdens, in realisation they are no longer in a position to develop them and/or because they are in financially unsound condition following the collapse in oil prices. 



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December 01 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings From The Oil Patch December 1st 2015

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report for PPHB which may be of interest. Here is a section on oil shares:

A final batch of questions focused on how important major oil company dividends were to holding up their share prices? We believe it is an important consideration, but the question of dividends and the major oil companies may actually foreshadow a discussion of their future business models. If a company is stuck in a low-growth industry, which oil certainly is, then spending inordinate sums of money to lift the growth rate may not be worth it. For oil companies, the cost for finding and developing new oil production to boost a company’s output growth rate from 2% to 3% to say 5% to 6%, without the company having any control over the price it receives for the product, should raise questions about their long-term business strategy. Maybe it is better to develop a steady, albeit low, production growth profile while using the surplus cash flow to maintain, and potentially increase, the dividend to shareholders. That might be a way to sustain a company’s stock market valuation and secure stable shareholder support. This strategy implies that capital spending would always be at risk in low commodity price environments, but the strategy could lead to stable employment, which is critical for securing and sustaining the technical talent required in the petroleum business. This strategy, however, wouldn’t work for smaller E&P companies needing capital to grow as their ability to tap the capital markets likely requires that they demonstrate rapid production growth. As we are learning, that strategy can be deadly in a period of low commodity prices. So if major oil companies were to adopt slow-growth production goals while defending and increasing their dividends, their share prices might not decline.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

Capital Expenditure budgets have evaporated as companies deal with the revised economics of oil and gas development. On the plus side they have already taken significant write downs so any production that comes online as a result of previous investment can be considered already funded. Companies like Exxon Mobil, at a rating of AAA, are considered better credits than many sovereigns and the removal of the burden of capital expenditure leaves them in a better position to sustain their businesses into the medium term.



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November 19 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Time to add wind developers

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

After years of efforts, China achieved breakthroughs in nuclear export this year with two mega-size contracts signed with Britain and Argentina, respectively. In October 2015, China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) reached an agreement with state-owned EDF Energy to co-invest in a Hinkley Point C nuclear project in England with respective 33.5% and 66.5% stakes in a deal worth GBP18bn. It is also worth mentioning that China will be able to bring its own Generation III nuclear technology of Hualong One to a subsequent project Bradwell B.

In November 2015, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) sealed a USD6bn deal with Argentina to build the country’s fourth nuclear plant. According to media reports, CNNC also reached a framework agreement with Argentina on a fifth plant, which will use Hualong One technology if the deal is finalized. 

China’s first nuclear project based on Hualong One, Fuqing 5, achieved FCD in May. Its construction and operation, together with the recognition of developed countries with advanced nuclear tech and experience such as Britain, will help open doors to more markets for Hualong One. However, all these projects will take at least seven to eight years to complete, which suggests limited near-term upside potential for nuclear equipment exports. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The current low price of oil is a benefit to China. However the fact it has to import such large quantities of Energy means building domestic capacity that does not depend on fossil fuel will remain a priority for the foreseeable future regardless of slowing infrastructure investment in other sectors. 

Such concerted investment in nuclear technology has also enhanced China’s ability to compete internationally in what is among the most complex technology fields. This is even more important for the future because so few countries are willing to commit the capital necessary to fund development of new nuclear. 

 



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October 08 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

SolarCity Unveils World's Most Efficient Rooftop Solar Panel, To Be Made in America

This press release from SolarCity may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

SolarCity will begin producing the first modules in small quantities this month at its 100 MW pilot facility, but the majority of the new solar panels will ultimately be produced at SolarCity’s 1 GW facility in Buffalo, New York. SolarCity expects to be producing between 9,000 - 10,000 solar panels each day with similar efficiency when the Buffalo facility reaches full capacity.

SolarCity’s panel was measured with 22.04 percent module-level efficiency by Renewable Energy Test Center, a third-party certification testing provider for photovoltaic and renewable Energy products. SolarCity’s new panel—created via a proprietary process that significantly reduces the manufacturing cost relative to other high-efficiency technologies—is the same size as standard efficiency solar panels, but produces 30-40 percent more power. SolarCity’s panel also performs better than other modules in high temperatures, which allows it to produce even more Energy on an annual basis than other solar panels of comparable size.

SolarCity initially expects to install the new, record-setting solar panel on rooftops and carports for homes, businesses, schools and other organizations, but it will also be excellent for utility-scale solar fields and other large-scale, ground level installations.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The low price of oil and other Energy commodities has taken a toll on the moveable feast of solar power breakeven calculations. The sector simply has to continually introduce more efficient products and there is good reason to expect it will. Solarcity’s announcement of a production-ready panel sporting 22% efficiency is great news provided the final announced price is competitive. In the lab efficiency rates of over 40% are achievable but it’s a big leap from a sterile environment to rooftops. This is the primary reason SolarCity’s announcement is important. 



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September 22 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch September 22nd 2015

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

Other than public debt and equity, the E&P industry has also been seeking other sources of capital. Drawing down bank credit lines has been one avenue, but lower oil prices will mean reduced asset values, especially as some of the assets will be redlined because they have been in the undeveloped category for too long so will be considered uneconomic. With the upcoming bank loan redeterminations, we expect to see increased E&P sector financial stress. In March, the last time loan redeterminations were conducted, oil averaged $71 per barrel. Now, the average is $57 a barrel; helped by the spring run-up in oil prices. By the fourth quarter, it is possible the average oil price will be in the $40s. A 40% haircut in the borrowing base will impact 2016 E&P spending.

The E&P industry has also lived off its earlier production hedges. As a result, some companies were being paid in the $90s a barrel for their output, but most of those high-priced hedges are running out. An analysis by investment banker Simmons & Company International and quoted by The Wall Street Journal, cited 36 U.S. oil producers with hedges covering 33% of their 2015 output at an average of $80 a barrel. Next year, those companies only have 18% of their output hedged, and at an average price of only $67 per barrel. Those high-valued hedges during the first half of this year was a reason why layoffs and G&A cuts were not severe, if at all. Management teams’ days of living in a world of unreality is rapidly coming to an end, and the pain will be severe.

Another source of capital for the Energy business has been private equity - pools of capital that can be used to start new companies, buy companies on which to build much larger companies, and to provide capital for companies to grow. Data for the past three years (Exhibit 10) shows that private equity invested $43 billion in 2012, $36 billion in 2013, but only $11 billion in 2014. Private equity deals this year have been sparse as fund managers struggle to find attractive deals in an environment in which it is difficult to assess what companies are worth. That also explains why deal-making in 2014 was down sharply from the prior two years. 

As a result of the 2010-2014 period of high oil prices and expectations that these prices would only go higher in the future, private equity targeted the Energy business due to its large capital needs. Virtually every major private equity firm raised one or more Energy-focused funds. Those private equity firms who have ploughed the oil patch for years were easily able to raise large new funds off their successful track records. With billions of dollars sitting in these Energy-focused private equity funds, finding and executing deals has become a high-pressure effort. 

Increasingly, private equity managers are recognizing that this potential avalanche of capital seeking Energy deals is their biggest problem. It has, and is, leading to overvalued deals. As long as this money has to be put to work due to the mandates of the funds, the pain in the industry is likely to continue. The Energy business truly needs to have the capital flow turned off, not merely turned down. Only then can the industry washout occur and the healing begin. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The Energy sector remains in a state of flux and the stress some of the more overleveraged companies are coming under has seen yields almost double in the last two years. BBB Energy 5-year yields are not at high absolute levels relative to history but the trend remains clear. 



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September 17 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pure Energy Minerals drops the next lithium bombshell As Tesla seeks supply for its Gigafactory

This article by Peter Epstein for Mineweb may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Stepping back for a moment, on September 3rd, Tesla’s Founder Elon Musk reiterated his commitment to source materials from Nevada. However, that pledge did not necessarily mean another sourcing deal, announced so soon, or that it would be for lithium. Other materials besides lithium will be required. Cobalt and graphite, (among others), will also be needed to feed Tesla’s massive giga-factory in Nevada. I find this agreement to be highly noteworthy in the sense that Tesla’s growing need for lithium, perhaps more so than that for cobalt and graphite, represents the single most important raw material need. I imagine that other lithium agreements will be signed in coming months. Without question, Nevada wants further lithium deals to come from Nevada.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The fall in oil prices has had a knock-on effect on most Energy related sectors as the relative economics of various alternatives have changed. Lithium miners have been no exception and this has been despite the fact lithium prices have not fallen. Demand for lithium-ion batteries in everything from consumer goods to cars and planes has helped fuel major investment and a large number of explorers are now listed. However securing an agreement to supply Tesla’s factory is a major coup for Pure Energy.



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September 16 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

We are nowhere near peak coal use in India and China

This article by Frank Holmes appeared in Mineweb and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section

It’s possible that if China’s coal consumption dramatically declines, India will be there to fill the hole. Macquarie estimates that by 2025, India’s Energy demand will rise 71 percent, with coal taking the lead among oil, gas, hydro, nuclear and others. The south Asian country is already the second-largest importer of thermal coal, and it might very well surpass China in the coming years. Macquarie writes:

Although all Energy use will rise [in India], coal is the major theme as consumption and local production are both set to almost double by 2025 on the back of large-scale coal power plant construction plans.

The group adds that, unlike China, India has no present interest in reigning in its use of coal. Most emerging markets, India included, recognize that coal is an extremely affordable and reliable source of Energy, necessary to drive economic growth.

Even if these predictions don’t come to fruition, the consensus is that we haven’t yet seen peak coal use in Asia. Estimates vary depending on the agency, but everyone seems to agree that demand in the medium-term will rise before it retreats. A 2014 MIT study even suggests that Chinese coal consumption could rise more than 70 percent between 2012 and 2040.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

North America and Europe engage in a great deal of navel gazing when it comes to climate change and yet US emissions have been falling because of natural gas boom and the EU has seen aggregate emissions decline not least because of its sluggish economic recovery. The main future contributors to carbon emissions are the up and coming developing economies. If governments are truly interested in tackling the issue, doing everything possible to help China and India migrate from coal is in everyone’s interest. This is no small task because above all else coal is cheaper now than it has been in a decade. 



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August 31 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Oil Jumps to One-Month High as OPEC Ready to Talk to Producers

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

“The market turned around on two pieces of news,” Phil Flynn, senior market analyst for Price Futures Group Inc. in Chicago, said by phone. "The EIA cut its U.S. output estimates and OPEC says its ready to talk to others about cutting output."

Eoin Treacy's view -

$40 represents an important psychological Rubicon for crude oil prices. Last week’s upside weekly key reversal and upside follow through this week suggest a low of at least near-term significant. A clear downward dynamic would now be required to question current scope for additional mean reversion. 



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August 12 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings From the Oil Patch August 12th 2015

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ report for PPHB which may be of interest. Here is a section: 

We are not convinced that the stock market needs higher commodity and oil prices in order to continue to rise. In our view, the shift in the direction of commodity prices since 2010 reflects a transfer of the benefits of higher commodity production from producers to consumers. That means basic industries and consumers should be the beneficiaries of falling commodity prices. Long-term, commodity prices should climb in response to increased consumption, which will drive up corporate earnings that are necessary to support higher share prices. A higher stock market can come without oil prices reaching new all-time highs, but they need to be higher than current levels for Energy company earnings to rebound, that is unless substantial operating costs can be removed from the Energy business. The Energy business may get both, and investors will benefit from increased share prices. Unfortunately, this isn’t likely until sometime in 2016.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

It strikes me as odd that anyone thinks you need a high oil price to support a bull market in equities outside the Energy sector. The stock market does not need high oil prices to rally but it does need the perception that the future will be better than the past to justify progressively higher prices. Admittedly this is often associated with higher Energy demand.

The concentration of revenues in the Energy sector that occurred as a result of the high Energy price environment is over. This has acted as an incentive for mergers. Consumers will be medium-term beneficiaries as Energy savings accrue and spending power improves. But what about the short term?

 



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July 13 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on oil prices and Canadian producers

I'm looking for your view again on the Canadian Energy sector.  I obviously am aware of the effect technology has had on the shale boom etc...I do disagree with most assertions that there is a flood of supply in oil at these price levels.  Anyway, aside from that- how do we go into this massive global GDP growth phase and not require an abundance of resources of all kinds?  Technology has brought on supply but they require much higher prices to break even.  Help me reconcile how we have this huge growth backdrop and yet the market is pricing in disaster levels in Canada?  Is the Energy sector forever dead or is this a tremendous buying opportunity?   Thanks as always. Hope you and your family are well.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for a question sure to be of interest to the Collective. My family are all in rude health thank you. The oil sector has a lot of moving parts so let’s try to pick it apart. 

Saudi Arabia is pumping oil like it is going out of fashion and in a sense it is. The evolution of solar in particular, but also other renewables, batteries, electric cars, hydrogen fuel cells and the migration of work onto the cloud mean that oil now has challengers both as a transport fuel and for heating. 

 



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June 29 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Coal Shares Jump After Supreme Court Strikes Down Mercury Rule

This article by Tim Loh for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

U.S. coal shares jumped after the Supreme Court struck down the Obama administration’s mercury and acid gases power plant rule, saying it hadn’t considered the billions of dollars in costs before issuing the rule.

Arch Coal Inc. jumped as much as 19 percent, Peabody Energy Corp. climbed 15 percent and Alpha Natural Resources Inc. was up 14 percent in intraday trading after the ruling was announced Monday.

The court’s decision calls into question an Environmental Protection Agency rule that targets mercury and acid gases. The rule has led to the closing of dozens of coal-fired power plants over the last two years.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It’s been a long time since coal caught a break and a great deal of bad news is already in the price. Coal is dirty, antiquarian, low tech and contributes to pollution but is cheap and abundant.  Over the last few years investors and regulators have concentrated on the former points and forgot the latter ones. Coal is the feed stock for a substantial portion of electricity production and today’s decision will mean that fewer power stations in the USA will need to be closed as a result of stringent regulations. 



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May 19 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings From the Oil Patch May 19th 2015

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

It is possible that what is happening in China with respect to EVs and hybrid vehicles is a precursor of how America’s vehicle sales and distribution models will work. In response to air pollution and vehicle congestion in major cities, China has begun a strategic initiative to build EVs and is encouraging foreign manufacturers and their partners to join the effort. China expects as many as 40 new EV models go on sale in the country this year, triple the number of new EV models available two years ago. As described in an article in Business Week, Toyota Motors (TM-NYSE) will only market an EV in China as it is committed to hydrogen-powered vehicles as a better alternative to EVs elsewhere. In fact, its dedication to hydrogen-powered vehicles is why Toyota ended its all-electric Rav4 EV crossover partnership with Tesla Motors, Inc. (TSLA-Nasdaq).

China has new emission guidelines that call for a 28% improvement in average per vehicle fuel consumption by 2020, something that likely requires manufacturers to embrace plug-in EVs. Since China controls the permitting of new manufacturing facilities, automakers are almost forced to embrace EVs if they want to have plants capable of manufacturing new vehicles. According to an analyst with A.T. Kearney in Shanghai, China, all the new EV models coming to market may enable the industry to get 1-2 million EVs and other new Energy vehicles on the country’s roads by 2020. That achievement, however, will still fall well short of the government’s target of five million EVs being on the road.

While China may be the model, the technology still is short of delivering a reasonably-priced EV with a traveling range similar to that of an ICE vehicle, or roughly 200 miles on a single charge. There is also the issue with fast charging of EVs, as drivers will measure charging times against the length of time they must spend at the gas pump filling up their ICE vehicle. Environmental concerns are an important consideration for EVs, but they were largely bought by people more interested in impressing their neighbors with their statement about environmental concern than their economics. The fact these clean-fuel vehicles are now being traded in for conventionally-fueled vehicles at an accelerating rate suggests that economics are clearly trumping environmental considerations. Whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen, but the fact it is happening tells us how powerful the pocketbook is for consumer purchasing decisions. It also tells us that auto manufacturers need to address the shortcomings of EVs and hybrids if they want them to become a competitive auto market segment. Then again, those manufacturers may just elect to let the draconian U.S. fuel-efficiency standards force consumers to buy these less desirable vehicles.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

As the world’s largest car market, China’s regulatory structure will make waves around the world. If China is insisting on electric vehicles in order to contain pollution then car manufacturers will have little choice but to build them. 

An additional thought with regard to range anxiety: A large number of people, at least in Southern California lease they vehicles. In order to get the best price for the vehicle at the end of the lease, mileage has to be kept low. This means that many people rent a car for long trips and use their own car for commuting. I wonder if it is conceivable that the same model will expand beyond SoCal with the advent of electric vehicles which may or may not have overcome their range issues within the next decade. 

 



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May 12 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on a name change:

New Energy Technologies Inc (WNDW US Equity) 2.0240  has recently changed their name  to SOLAR WINDOW TECHNOLOGIES.(WNDW US Equity) 2.0240   They are closer to production than  Ubiquitous Energy

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for pointing out this name change which has a more marketable ring to it than New Energy Technologies. I've been watching the company for a number of years. If I recall correctly T.Boone Pickens was an early investor and I learned of the company following an interview he gave on CNBC 

I've been watching the share since in the hope they would come through with a marketable product. 



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May 01 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Elon Musk Challengers Jostle to Solve Riddle of Energy Storage

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

If the storage breakthrough is coming, it seems obvious it would happen in California, which has long led the U.S. in supporting alternative Energy. The state has the most demanding fuel-efficiency standards for cars, as well as incentives that have made it the biggest market for solar power in the U.S.

California “is often a lab” for the rest of the country, said Brian Warshay, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It will “continue to be so on the storage front.”

Older methods of trying to store power have existed for decades, including pumped hydropower facilities in which water is sent to higher elevation reservoirs and released through lower turbines to produce electricity when demand is high.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Here is a link to Tesla’s website where they highlight some of the key features of the Powerwall battery. Perhaps the most important consideration today is that almost no one has a battery in their home and that in a decade it could be commonplace. I reviewed the residential battery sector on April 23rd

As much as smoothing out supply and demand curves for electricity use in the home are interesting, the industrial and utility sectors are just as exciting. 

 



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March 31 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Carlyle Dives Into Energy Industry LBOs as Apollo Lies in Wait

This article by Kiel Porter and Devin Banerjee for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The four biggest private-equity firms have raised about $30 billion to invest in Energy deals. They don’t all agree on how to spend that money.

Carlyle Group LP is prepared to bet that oil prices have bottomed out and sees now as the best time to deploy its money, co-founder David Rubenstein said last week. Apollo Global Management LLC says the sell-off in oil isn’t over yet and the highest-returning deals are still on the horizon.

“There will be attractive opportunities to buy now,” Rubenstein said March 23 at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington. Greg Beard, who leads Energy investing at Apollo, sees a different timeline: “The worst, the problems, are yet to come,” he said in an interview last month.

Private-equity firms are trying to take advantage of crude’s 54 percent plunge since June, which has made targets cheaper. Carlyle, Apollo, Blackstone Group LP and KKR & Co. raised about $30 billion in the past 18 months for Energy- related deals.

How and when they spend that money depends on their view on the future direction of oil. Apollo, led by Leon Black, has recently bought debt of companies struggling to meet their repayments because the firm expects oil will remain at multiyear lows, potentially allowing it to take control later. Carlyle has raised billions to acquire companies in leveraged buyouts because it expects oil to start rising, allowing it to sell its holdings at a profit later.

“Oil prices will come back a bit,” Rubenstein said. “If you can buy now at relatively low prices and hold on for a few years, you’re going to do quite well.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The speed with which the major private equity firms have been able to raise large pools of capital to invest in the Energy sector is a testament to just how much liquidity is still sloshing around the system. There are plenty of opportunities to acquire attractive assets as overleveraged players are squeezed by lower than expected prices for both oil and gas. The fact that private equity has already become so active suggests they will aid in base formation development. However base formation development and recovery are not the same thing. 



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March 25 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Beijing to Shut All Major Coal Power Plants to Cut Pollution

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

The facilities will be replaced by four gas-fired stations with capacity to supply 2.6 times more electricity than the coal plants.

The closures are part of a broader trend in China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter. Facing pressure at home and abroad, policy makers are racing to address the environmental damage seen as a byproduct of breakneck economic growth. Beijing plans to cut annual coal consumption by 13 million metric tons by 2017 from the 2012 level in a bid to slash the concentration of pollutants.

And

Nationally, China planned to close more than 2,000 smaller coal mines from 2013 to the end of this year, Song Yuanming, vice chief of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, said at a news conference in July.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

I’ll be stopping off in Beijing on my way to Singapore next week and I’m looking forward to seeing first-hand what measures, if any,  have been taken to tackle the pollution problem. Replacing coal fired power stations with natural gas plants is a hugely positive development which is likely to have some far reaching repercussions. 



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February 16 2015

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Is That All There Is? A Fresh Look At U.S. Gas/LNG Export Potential

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Housley Carr for RBN Energy. Here is a section:  

Exports of U.S.-sourced natural gas as liquefied natural gas (LNG) will likely begin within a year’s time, and will ramp up through the 2016-19 period. That much seems certain. What’s less clear is whether the capacity of U.S. liquefaction/export projects will plateau at the roughly 6 Bcf/d in the “First Four” projects now under construction or continue rising higher. Yesterday’s decision by the BG Group to delay its commitment to the 2 Bcf/d capacity of the Lake Charles LNG terminal until 2016 certainly casts doubts on those further expansions. Prospects for additional export projects hinge on a few interrelated factors, including the higher capital costs associated with some next-round projects; the costs and challenges of shipping LNG through the expanded Panama Canal; and the possibility of competing LNG export projects being developed elsewhere, including western Canada. Today we consider these factors and handicap the handful of export projects on the cusp of advancing.

Making a final investment decision (FID) on multibillion-dollar liquefaction and export projects is not for the faint of heart. Once that FID trigger is pulled, there’s really no turning back. But the decision to build a project is in many ways easier than the decision by a Japanese utility or global LNG trader to commit to 15 or 20 years of LNG purchases. After all, if (as has been the case with all U.S. liquefaction/export projects so far) the project’s economics are based largely on long-term take-or-pay liquefaction commitments, the developer is basically assured of recovering the costs of its investment (and making at least some profit) once it has the necessary Sales and Purchase Agreements (SPAs), even if the LNG buyer elects not to use all the liquefaction capacity it has lined up.

An LNG buyer, on the other hand, is committing to pay up to $3.50/MMBTU for liquefaction capacity and—if, as is likely, it uses that capacity--115% of the Henry Hub price of natural gas for the gas that is liquefied. As a result, prospective LNG buyers need to be very sure that any SPA they enter into will work to their benefit over a wide range of possible scenarios, including the possibility (and current reality) of low oil prices that make once-onerous oil-indexed LNG contracts look not so bad anymore.  As we said in Episode 1, the first liquefaction “train” at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass facility in southwestern Louisiana by early 2016 will be supercooling natural gas and loading LNG onto ships for export to Asia and other markets. Three more trains at Sabine Pass will start operating later in 2016 and in 2017, and soon thereafter the Cameron LNG, Freeport LNG and Cove Point LNG liquefaction/export facilities (a total of six more trains) will be up and running too. The LNG production capacity of what we call the First Four (four trains at Sabine Pass, three at Cameron, two at Freeport and one at Cove Point) totals 45 million tons per annum (MTPA)—enough to consume just over 6 Bcf/d of U.S.-sourced natural gas, or about one-twelfth of current U.S. gas production.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

As a result of the fall in oil prices investment in Energy infrastructure is on hold at best. The decline has upended the growth assumptions of major oil and gas companies with the result they will likely need to see evidence of bottoming before they commit to major expenditure once more.  For Asia the fall in Energy prices is good news for some of the world’s largest importers i.e. China, Japan and India while it is a mixed blessing for countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. 
 

 



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November 18 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings From the Oil Patch November 18th 2014

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

Temasek, Singapore’s state investment company, has joined with RRJ, a private equity firm founded by Richard Ong, a Malaysian dealmaker, to purchase $1 billion in convertible bonds to be issued by Cheniere Energy (LNG-NYSE) for financing the construction of its liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal. The bonds have a 6 ½ year maturity and carry an annual interest rate of 4.87% and will be convertible into Cheniere’s common stock in a year’s time. RRJ already had an equity investment in Cheniere. This move comes at the same time Asian buyers appear less interested in buying U.S. LNG. We don’t know why they are turning down what is supposed to be cheaper LNG, but we wonder whether they have less confidence that U.S. LNG supplies will be available in the volumes projected, and especially at the current low price that is projected to remain so for many years. It is also possible that Asian gas demand will not grow as much as projected due to slow growing economies, increased conservation and efficiency that trim demand growth, and  other alternative gas supplies being available with long-term, fixed price terms that prove cheaper than U.S. gas volumes. We continue wondering whether the U.S. LNG export terminals will become white elephants just as the LNG import terminals did.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Natural gas prices are characterised by volatility not least because the demand component of the market is so heavily influenced by weather. This is more important now than in the decade prior to 2012 because in many respects the market has returned to a balance between new gas coming on line, displacement of coal in the power sector and a focus on profitability among drillers. This season’s injection pace is now being put to the test as winter weather arrives early and demand for heating rises. 



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November 07 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Transocean Takes $2.76 Billion Charge Amid Glut in Drilling Rigs

This article by Will Kennedy and David Wethe for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Transocean Ltd., owner of the biggest fleet of deep-water drilling rigs, is feeling the effect of an oncoming glut in the expensive vessels just as crude prices tumble.

The company will delay posting third-quarter results after saying earnings would be hit by $2.76 billion in charges from a decline in the value of its contracts drilling business and a drop in rig-use fees, the Vernier, Switzerland-based company said in a statement today. Transocean, which had been scheduled to report earnings today, fell 7.9 percent to $27.55 at 8:10 a.m. in New York before regular trading began.

Oil’s decline to a four-year low in recent months has caused companies to consider spending cuts, reducing demand for rigs and the rates it can get for leasing them to explorers. Rig contractors had responded to rising demand during the past few years with the biggest batch of construction orders for rigs since the advent of deep-water drilling in the 1970s. Almost 100 floating vessels are on order for delivery by the end of 2017, according to a June estimate from IHS Energy Inc.

“Ouch,” analysts from Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. wrote in a note to investors. The announcement “reflects the reality of this oversupplied floater rig market globally.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A topic of conversation at The Chart Seminar is “How do the majority of market participants predict how a market is likely to trade?” The short answer is that people predict what they see. When prices have been static for a period of time, expectations go down and people assume that the situation will persist. When oil prices were ranging above $100 oil companies and those that service them made decisions based on the situation persisting. 



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November 07 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Uranium Miners Jump as Japan Moves to Restart Reactors

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

Kyushu Electric Power Co. today received final local approval to resume power generation at its Sendai nuclear plant in northern Japan, according to a prefecture statement. All reactors in Japan have been shut since a March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to a meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 

“We have been waiting for this moment for a long time,” David Sadowski, a Vancouver-based analyst at Raymond James Financial Inc., wrote today in a note to clients. “Restarts in Japan will reduce the threat that Japan’s utilities will dump their uranium inventories into the market.”
Sendai’s two reactors are in position to be the first nuclear plants in Japan to resume operations under more stringent safety rules set by the country’s nuclear regulator. 

Officials in Satsumasendai city, the closest community to the reactors, last month voted in favor of allowing restart. Final reviews of construction and safety rules must still be completed.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Increased geopolitical tensions with Russia and the prospect of Japan restarting more of its stalled nuclear reactors have both contributed to a firmer tone for uranium prices. The spot index rallied to break a more than three-year progression of lower rally highs by September and spent much of the subsequent month consolidating, before breaking out once more. A sustained move below $35 would now be required to begin to question medium-term recovery potential. 

 



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November 06 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Confident U.S. Shale Producers Think They Can Outlast OPEC Moves

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

The U.S. companies believe they have a lot more staying power than many of Saudi Arabia’s partners in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC. Several producers plan on increasing production.

“Saudi Arabia is really taking a big gamble here,” Archie Dunham, chairman of shale producer Chesapeake Energy Corp., said during a telephone interview. “If they take the price down to $60 or $70 a barrel, you will see a slowdown in the U.S. But you’re not going to see it stop. The consequences for other OPEC countries are far more dire.” 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques coupled with advanced geophysics make exploiting shale oil and gas possible but it is not a low cost production method. Despite oil price weakness, the benefits to the US economy of Energy independence suggest the question is more of at what price the balance between profit and loss exists rather than whether these resources are going to be developed. 

A number of companies have spent a great deal of money in securing acreage, leaving them at risk as oil prices decline. This would suggest that larger, better capitalised companies have an advantage in a weak price environment. 

EOG Resources dropped by a third between June and October but has held a progression of higher reaction lows since as it closes the overextension relative to the trend mean.
Conoco Philips and Marathon Oil share similar patterns. 

Chesapeake Energy retested its 2012 lows in October and continues to bounce. It will need to the hold the low near $16 on the next pullback to demonstrate a return to demand dominance beyond the short term. 

 



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November 04 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch November 4th 2014

Thanks to a subscriber for this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever interesting report. Here is a section on Canadian efforts to export its Alberta production: 

The other factor in play now is TransCanada’s plan to ship Canadian oil sands output east from Alberta to the Irving Company refinery and its oil export port in Saint John, New Brunswick. TransCanada formally submitted its 30,000-page application for the 1.1 million-barrel-a-day project, labeled Energy East, to Canada’s regulator, National Energy Board. Once in place, oil sands output could move from Alberta to the East Coast and then be loaded on ships and transported to the U.S. Gulf Coast refining complex for only a couple of dollars more than the proposed tariff to ship it to Texas on Keystone. In a low oil price environment, that cost might be considered an impediment to oil sands export, but it doesn’t appear to represent a significant economic hurdle. As a result, the environmental movement’s argument that by preventing Keystone from being built would prevent Canada from expanding its oil sands business and stepping up its exports would be severely weakened. Energy East requires no U.S. approvals, although it does need Canadian federal government ok and approvals from various provinces. Our understanding is that TransCanada has worked hard to win over those people with rational objections to the pipeline route by relocating the route and adding spurs to refineries in the provinces and export ports. We anticipate Energy East having an easier time winning approval than Keystone has experienced.

We have learned several things from watching the battle over Keystone. The view that environmental politics overwhelms Energy economics when the country is governed by the left was reinforced. Additionally, while pipelines represent the safest mode of oil transportation, the recent string of oil leaks from old pipelines has battered that safety image. The spills strengthened the hand of the environmentalists battling Keystone and the images of black oil oozing through people’s backyards, neighborhood streets and bubbling streams is a powerful weapon against the Energy business, and the Energy companies have not been proactive in trying to change their image. The environmentalists have demonstrated that they have learned how to fight Energy projects more effectively through the regulatory and legal systems. Lastly, low oil prices, should they continue for any duration, will disrupt the pace of development of the oil sands – just how much and exactly when remain uncertain – and possibly change the impetus for either or both Keystone and Energy East. In the end, oil sands output will reach markets, but where those markets are may be different

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

It is in Canada’s national interest to develop an export avenue for its crude oil. Since it has met with such stiff resistance to the Keystone pipeline, exporting via its Eastern border represents the next best thing. With Russian supplies now representing a risk for European refineries there is the possibility that Canadian supply will have more than one market rather than having to depend on demand from the US gulf coast. This may be part of the reason Saudi Arabia has been so keen to preserve its European market share by offering discounts. 



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September 24 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch September 24th 2014

Thanks to a subscriber for kindly forwarding this edition of Allen Brooks’ ever informative Energy report for PPHB. Here are two important sections: 

The IEA’s comment about how remarkable the decline is, suggests that it did not have a grasp of the magnitude of the impact on oil demand from China’s ending the filling of its oil storage tanks during the past few months in response to the country’s growing economic weakness and financial stress. It would appear that the additional cost of this storage oil was too expensive for the Chinese economy and banking system to bear. Additionally, we believe the IEA’s model assumed too generous an estimate for economic growth in Western Europe and North America during the second half of 2014.

And

Besides the accelerating demand growth against limited non-OPEC supply increase case, the bulls point to the growing cost to find additional oil supplies. They also point to the new dynamic for OPEC, which is the high fiscal cost of their oil output. By “fiscal cost” they mean the price for a barrel of oil that multiplied by the number of annual barrels produced yields income sufficient to cover the cost of running the country’s government. That cost has risen sharply in a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries due to rapidly growing populations (these countries have some of the highest birth rates in the world) and the cost to mitigate social tensions associated with the ethnic struggles (Arab Spring) ongoing within most of these countries – what some of us might call political insurance. A number of analysts have crunched the budget numbers for these countries and created charts such as that below.

What this chart demonstrates is that only Qatar and Kuwait among the OPEC members have fiscal breakeven prices of around $75 a barrel. A substantial volume of OPEC production needs a price somewhere around $100 a barrel for the country to breakeven, while another substantial amount requires prices in the $125 per barrel neighborhood.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

There have been a number of headlines pondering the response of oil prices when geopolitical tensions have been so taut. China’s decision that its strategic reserve is large enough represents the withdrawal of a significant source of demand from the market at a time when supplies have been reasonably steady regardless of geopolitical tensions. 



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September 18 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Uranium officially enters bull market

This article from Bloomberg on the 16th may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The U.S. on Sept. 12 expanded sanctions against Russia to include OAO Sberbank, the country’s largest bank, because of the fighting in eastern Ukraine. The EU added 15 companies such as Gazprom Neft and OAO Rosneft, and 24 people to its own list of those affected by its restrictions.

In Canada, voting on Cameco’s new labor agreement will happen once workers are back on the job, the United Steelworkers said Sept. 12. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based producer said Aug. 27 it had started shutting down the mine after receiving a strike notice from the union.

An agreement to end the strike will be negative for the uranium sector, Rob Chang, the head of metals and mining at Cantor Fitzgerald in Toronto, said in a Sept. 12 note. The brief shutdown may affect about 900,000 pounds of supply, he said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The repercussions of the sanctions on Russia continue to be felt across an increasing number of sectors. Locking Sberbank out of large international capital markets is a major impediment to Russia accessing the working capital necessary to fund normal financial markets operations. By comparison, the ban on salmon exports from Europe and Norway has been a boon for the Faroe Islands but in the wider scale of things a pretty small consideration. Russia’s tactical advantages lie in the Energy sector and potentially in the cyber sector. 



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August 19 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tony Abbott expected to sign uranium deal with India on visit next month

This article by Daniel Hurst for the Guardian may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Tony Abbott is expected to sign a deal to sell uranium to India during a visit to the country next month.

The Australian prime minister’s scheduled visit follows the completion of negotiations surrounding arrangements for the export of uranium, according to multiple news reports.

Indian officials convinced their Australian counterparts that the uranium would not be used for nuclear weapons, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Monday.

The Times of India reported earlier this month that negotiations between the two countries had concluded and the deal was likely to be signed during Abbott’s visit to India in early September.

The Australian government would not confirm the reports on Monday, but the assistant minister for infrastructure, Jamie Briggs, told the ABC it would be a welcome development if true.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Despite the fact Australia has the world’s largest deposits of uranium, it has no nuclear power stations and has often had a difficult relationship with its uranium mining sector; with the result that some states and territories permit mining while others don’t. Signing a deal with India for exports is a welcome development for the sector which has been languishing in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

Uranium prices collapsed from their 2007 peak near $140 and, following a relatively brief rally in 2010, extended the downtrend to fresh lows. The recent three-week rally has closed the overextension relative to the 200-day MA but a sustained move above it will be required to begin to suggest a return to demand dominance beyond the short term. 



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August 18 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Musings from the Oil Patch August 18th 2014

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

As the EIA analysis pointed out, for the year ending March 31, 2014, 127 major oil and natural gas companies generated $568 billion of cash from operations, but their major uses of cash totaled $677 billion, leaving nearly a $110 billion shortfall. That shortfall was met by $106 billion increase in debt and $73 billion from sales of assets, leading to an overall increase in cash balances.

The oil and gas industry is facing a challenging future. Regardless of whether peace or war breaks out, the industry is likely looking at meaningful changes in its underlying fundamentals – commodity prices and Energy demand. Depending on which way prices go, companies might have more or less cash from operations. On the other hand, whichever way commodity prices go, demand will also change, either positively or negatively. Due to these scenarios, the Energy industry will either need to ramp up its spending to find and develop new supplies or it must cut back spending due to adequate supplies. Thrown into the mix is a more difficult and expensive environment for finding and developing new large oil and gas supplies.

For many in the Energy industry who are unconcerned about the above challenges, we worry that they may be looking over the horizon with a risk of falling into the near-term valley. When confronted with what are perceived as merely short-term interruptions to long-term industry trends, it is often easier to maintain one’s focus on these long-term trends to the exclusion of short-term conditions. If one studies the history of the Energy industry during the first half of the 1980s, the result of continued long-term focus over concern for short-term ills proved devastating. We certainly hope current conditions are not a precursor to a repeat of the early 1980s, but hopefully by raising this issue we are providing a service to the industry.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Unconventional shale and deep water oil might be abundant but they are not cheap sources of supply. Together with increasingly strident nationalisation trends across a number of jurisdictions, the cost of delivering additional supplies remains a challenge for oil companies. Over the last twenty years the response of companies such as Exxon and Shell has been to focus on natural gas but again new sources of supply are not cheap when compared with conventional supplies. 



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July 03 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Coal to Olefins Industry

Thanks to a subscriber for this fascinating heavyweight report from Deutsche Bank. Here is a section: 

In its most recent 5-Year Plan (2011-15), the Chinese government laid out an aggressive time table for development of its coal-to-olefins (CTO), coal-to syngas (CTG) and methanol-to-olefins (MTO) industries (Appendix 1-3). 

The economics of China coal-to-olefins (ethylene / propylene) is competitive relative to the world’s naphtha-to-olefins industry (Figure 2, Figure 20 & Figure 92-93). The world’s naphtha-to-olefins industry is Asia-based. Ninety percent (90%) of Asia’s olefin (ethylene) capacity uses naphtha as a feedstock (Appendix 6-10). Asia produces 34% of global ethylene. A fast-growing China CTO industry would displace its own naphtha to olefins industry (24% of global ethylene capacity). Somehow, this strategy does not make much sense; although it would produce short-term China GDP growth. 

The economics of China coal-to-olefins however is not competitive relative to a growing North American and Middle Eastern natural gas-to-olefins industry (Figure 2, Figure 20, and Figure 94). From a cost perspective, a fast-growing China CTO industry would displace its own naphtha to olefins industry but then be displaced itself by a lower-cost North American and Middle Eastern natural gas-to-olefins industry. Somehow, this strategy makes even less sense; except for the fact that it creates plenty of China GDP by both building and then dismantling multiple China industry chains. 

China’s coal-to-olefins and / or coal-to-urea do not make economic sense in a world awash in low-cost natural gas. Notwithstanding, China continues to grow its coal-to industries; maybe on the prospect that the world’s growing supplies of cheap natural gas could be short-lived.

The production of olefins from coal requires an abundance of water (Figure 98) and produces an abundance of CO2 emissions (Figure 102). The addition of one 600k tpa CTO facility in Beijing would increase provincial CO2 emissions by 14%. China’s abundant water resource (Figure 95) is located in the South and South West part of the country; its coal resources are located in the North and North West part of the country (Figure 11-12) – bad luck.  

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

China has a substantial coal sector which, in common with the global sector, has been under pressure from below trend global growth, increasingly stringent environment regulations and competition from lower cost alternatives (at least in some jurisdictions) such as natural gas. The green light for investment in coal to liquids development appears to be an attempt from some portions of the administration to provide the coal sector with an additional business line in order to preserve its viability.

Quite how viable that is when water and environmental concerns have not been addressed and when the country is also investing heavily in developing its own natural gas reserves raises some important questions about whether this will in fact pan out. 



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June 23 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China to accelerate nuclear power development

Thanks to a subscriber for this article from Xinhua which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

By the end of last year, 17 nuclear plants were in operation, with a total capacity of nearly 15,000 megawatts of electricity.

At a meeting of the National Energy Commission on April 18, Premier Li Keqiang announced the introduction of new nuclear power plants along the east coast "at a proper time".

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Environmental Protection released the environmental impact statements for two new nuclear power plants, one in Guangdong Province and another in Shandong, but this is still not enough in the longer term.

"China's nuclear power sector still has a long way to go before reaching the global average," said Ye Qizhen of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

A proportion of 10 percent of nuclear power is an ideal number for China, Ye said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

With a serious pollution problem and Energy consumption on a secular upward trajectory, China has little choice but to explore every avenue for electricity generation. The approval of new nuclear reactors suggests the period of contemplation that followed the Fukushima disaster has ended.  

Among Chinese companies related to the construction of nuclear reactors; Shanghai Electric Group (Est P/E 12.35, DY 3.04%) found support three weeks ago in the region of the 200-day MA. It will need to hold above the HK$2.80 area if potential for additional higher to lateral ranging is to be given the benefit of the doubt. 

 



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June 10 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on MLPs

I wonder if one of you can be tempted to have a look at some charts of the more successful Master Limited Partnership?  In particular ETE, MMP and TRGP have had rivetingly consistent charts for a number of years, and they have been my main money spinners recently. However they are doing so well that I have now got out of them fearing a pullback, but (as always with a bull market) wondering whether hanging on to a good thing would not have been best.

These three are either General Partners or (MMP) have no General Partner, which partly explains why their growth is so high, as I understand that a GP is in a way a leveraged play on the underlying LP.  But their charts are much more consistent than those of their LPs and indeed than those of most other MLPs.  The whole sector (AMJ) has also had an explosion recently, which does make me think the trend is actually likely to continue.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this informative email and question of general interest to the Collective. Pipeline MLPs have been among the greatest beneficiaries of the boom in US unconventional oil and gas production, not least because regardless of how profitable the drilling operation is, the product still needs to reach market. As volumes increased, so have the shares of the related MLPs. The companies’ attractive dividend streaming characteristics have been additionally compelling in what has been a low yield environment. 



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May 21 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Encana CEO Surprises With Makeover in One Year

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

Since taking over, the former BP Plc executive announced the sale of $2.3 billion of gas properties, the purchase of $3.1 billion of oil lands, planned a royalty spinoff and paid down debt. Suttles is shifting production toward more valuable oil and gas liquids to buffer Encana from the wave of North American supply unlocked by modern drilling techniques that reduced gas prices about 60 percent in the past six years.

“He’s done a better job than what I was originally anticipating,” Kyle Preston, an analyst at National Bank Financial in Calgary, said in a May 15 phone interview. “My original view, and it was probably shared by much of the market, was that Encana was this beast of a gas-focused company and it was going to be hard to turn that ship around.”

In November, Suttles laid out plans to fire almost 1,000 people, or about 20 percent of Encana’s workforce, and lower its dividend 35 percent to cut costs and boost profits.

“He took the hard medicine up front” and the company is now on a “good path,” Craig Bethune, a vice president and portfolio manager at TD Asset Management Inc. in Toronto who holds Encana shares, said in a May 15 phone interview. “The stock’s done well so that’s probably your biggest evidence.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Natural gas companies have been forced to evolve by the ongoing revolution in unconventional supply. This has been particularly challenging for Canadian producers since the USA represents their only export market of any size and US production has ballooned over the last decade. This has forced a migration to oil rich plays where possible and some drastic cost cutting in other parts of their businesses. 



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April 30 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Supreme Court upholds EPA rule limiting cross-state pollution

This article from the Washington Post may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the ruling “a resounding victory for public health and a key component” of the agency’s effort to “make sure all Americans have clean air to breathe.” She said the court’s decision underscored the importance of basing clean air rules “on strong legal foundations and sound science,” declaring it a big win and “a proud day for the agency.”

Richard Lazarus, an environmental law professor at Harvard, called the cross-state pollution rule “one of the most significant rules ever” promulgated by the EPA, and supporters said the cost of carrying it out would be more than offset by health benefits.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The last few years have represented a perfect storm for coal companies. Low natural gas prices took over market share among utilities. Stricter environmental standards have also increased the cost of using coal for the same utilities which has further bolstered the allure of natural gas. As a result a number of coal miners have run into financial difficulties. For example, James River Coal defaulted on its debt two weeks ago. 



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February 27 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Short Term Oil Market Outlook report from DNB

Thanks to a subscriber for this interesting report from DNB which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section

In the US the refining margin based on domestic crudes as feedstock have stayed strong and hence justified refinery throughput at US refineries a massive 830 kbd higher than the prior year on a 4-week moving average basis. In Europe the throughput at refineries in EU was down 366 kbd vs the prior year in January and 836 kbd down in December. This is the flip side of the US shale story and shows how this has a global effect on oil prices. The last half a year the average refinery throughput in EU is down 900 kbd, while for US refiners the average throughput is up more than 600 kbd for the same period. This is the answer to why the lost Libyan barrels have not been able to send the Brent-price higher. We have not only lost a lot of crude supply to Europe, we have lost a lot of crude demand as well. This lost demand for crude in Europe is due to US refiners taking market share from European refiners and this is a direct consequence of the US shale revolution. US refiners have both cheaper feedstock and cheaper operating costs, so how can European refiners compete? One year ago Libya produced 1.4 million b/d but output started to decline in June and fell to almost nothing in November/December. Still the Brent price has continued to trend lower since August last year when it priced as high as 117 $/b at the highest. That is quite remarkable noting that Libyan production the last half a year is down 1.1 million b/d on average vs the year before and knowing that most of the Libyan crude normally feeds European refineries.

The US refineries are entering maintenance season which according to a survey by PIRA Energy should peak in March/April this year. US crude demand should drop by about 800 kbd from January to March, purely based on maintenance schedules. The important Padd 2 region (The Midwest, where Cushing Oklahoma belongs) is scheduled to lose 300 kbd of crude demand from January to March and this may halt the decline in Cushing crude stocks in the coming month as it is should be worth more than 2 million barrels stock build per week, all else being equal.

Refinery maintenance in Europe is set to peak in April at about 1 million b/d which is 0.6 million b/d higher than in February. On a global scale the refinery maintenance is set to increase by 2.5 million b/d from February to April, which looks to be the seasonal peak. What does it mean? It basically means less demand for crude oil in the coming month or two.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area. 

The USA may have a ban on crude oil exports but that does not apply to refined products. As a result of lower input costs and the spread between domestic and international pricing, the USA became a net exporter of refined products in the last few years which has been of substantial benefit to related companies. 



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February 25 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Natural Gas Heads for Biggest 2-Day Drop in 11 Years on Weather

This article by Naureen S. Malik for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

March gas traded 28 cents above the April contract, narrowing from 82.5 cents yesterday. Concern that stockpiles would tumble before the end of the heating season sent the March premium to a record $1.208 on Feb. 20.

The narrowing spread and support for April contracts shows “the fundamentals are still relatively constructive” for gas prices in the coming months, Viswanath said.

Gas consumers in the East can expect “unrelenting cold” in the north-central states over the next five days, said MDA in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The National Weather Service has issued wind-chill advisories from Montana to Minnesota and Indiana. The combination of cold air and wind may make temperatures feel like minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 37 Celsius).

Below-normal readings will sweep most of the lower 48 states through March 6 before moderating heading into mid-March, while the West Coast will be unusually mild, MDA said.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The surge in demand for natural gas exposed how tight the market had become following years of depressed pricing. An additional consideration anyone with a long position in futures will be aware of is that natural gas trades on monthly contracts. As the expiry approaches traders need to decide whether to roll the position forward or to take profits. 
 

 



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January 23 2014

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Winter storm Janus: Natural gas prices soar in Northeast

This report from the Christian Science monitor highlights the tight situation currently evident in the USA’s natural gas market. Here is a section:

"While supply is greatly increased because we have plenty of natural-gas production, right now we have a transportation and storage issue," Dennis Weinmann, a principal at Coquest Inc., a Dallas Energy brokerage and consulting firm, told The Wall Street Journal. "We don't have gas where we need it right this second." 

On a typical day, industry watchers say the Northeast's natural gas infrastructure is in need of an upgrade, particularly as natural gas production booms in the US. When extreme winter hits suddenly, and everyone stays home and turns up the heat, the strain on that pipeline system increases. Nearly all natural gas pipelines headed into New York and New England were constrained Wednesday, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Henry Hub is still very much a local market for North America. The boom in shale gas production saw prices plummet and it has taken a few years for the market to restore equilibrium. The fact that a short-term event such as a dramatic winter storm has caused a price spike suggests that the excess supply has been worked through and while prices can be expected to pull back once the weather improves, the $4 area is likely to represent a new floor.

 



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December 03 2013

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Asia Oil & Gas Positioning for 2014

Thanks to a subscriber for this interesting report from Deutsche Bank which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

DB Analyst John Hirjee sees no reason for change as his top pick for 2014 Oil Search was our best performer in 2013. John expects significant production and EPS growth (2014-15) due to the commissioning (2H14e) of the PNG-LNG project. DB Analyst Harshad Katkar similarly sees no reason to change as his top pick for 2014 Reliance Industries was also his top pick in 2013. Harshad is looking for an improving upstream gas business on KGD6 and chemical capacity expansions (FY14-16e) to drive ~15% EPS growth over the coming few years. DB Analyst Shawn Park has our call on Asia Chemicals and recently (01 Nov) upgraded the sector to overweight on the back of flat to down naphtha prices, tighter product supplies and higher spreads. Shawn¡¯s top pick for 2014 is LG Chemicals given its material exposure to ABS (25% revenues) and an improving EV battery business. DB Analyst, David Hurd continues to like Sinopec (SNP) as a top pick for 2014. David notes that soft to down oil prices support SNP¡¯s refining business and that there is material operating leverage in the company¡¯s chemical business.

Eoin Treacy's view -

While the revolution in US supply continues to garner investor attention, Asia¡¯s demand growth continues to represent one of the more promising avenues for major oil companies. One of the greatest challenges in the region from the perspective of an investor is represented by regional government policy to cap prices for consumers. As these policies are gradually liberalised, it should be positive for the sector and this is likely to continue to represent a catalyst to ignite interest in related shares. 



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November 29 2013

Commentary by David Fuller

Euro-Area Inflation Holds at Less Than Half ECB Ceiling

Here is the opening of this informative article from Bloomberg:

Euro-area inflation stayed below 1 percent for a second month, less than half the European Central Bank's ceiling, underscoring the weakness in parts of the euro region's economy.

The annual rate rose to 0.9 percent from 0.7 percent in October, the European Union's statistics office in Luxembourg said in a preliminary estimate today. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 44 economists was for 0.8 percent. Separately, unemployment unexpectedly dropped to 12.1 percent.

The increasing inflation rate "is largely coming through because of base effects in Energy," said Guillaume Menuet, an economist at Citigroup Inc. in London. "Once these start to fall out of the calculation, it's quite likely by the spring of next year we'll have again more evidence of weakening price pressures."

Today's data mark the 10th straight month that the rate has been less than the ECB's 2 percent goal. The central bank unexpectedly cut its key refinancing rate by a quarter point to 0.25 percent on Nov. 7 to prevent slowing inflation from taking hold in a still-fragile euro-area economy. ECB President Mario Draghi said at the time that the region needs record-low borrowing costs to combat a "prolonged" period of weak consumer-price growth and "very high" unemployment.

Euro-area unemployment unexpectedly fell to 12.1 percent in October from 12.2 percent a month earlier. Economists had predicted the rate would stay unchanged, according to the median of 34 estimates.

After this month's surprise rate cut, ECB officials have said they still have options for easing monetary policy. Bloomberg News reported last week that policy makers are considering a smaller-than-normal cut in the deposit rate, currently at zero, to minus 0.1 percent, if stimulus is required.

David Fuller's view -

It is no surprise that the Euro region's economic recovery remains weak. However, this does not detract from the ECB's considerable achievements since 'super' Mario Draghi was appointed president on 1st November 2011.

Unfortunately, there is little that he can do about Europe's high costs for Energy. Fracking would certainly reduce this problem but it is not happening, at least not yet. I expect money supply to remain very stimulative and Draghi may wish to engineer the Euro somewhat lower.



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November 27 2013

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day (1)

on "cheap" Energy:

"There was a good article on Fracking in the Economist Magazine (still the best business magazine with no close second choices).  It was the 16-22 November issue. Sorry life has been to busy to bring this to your notice earlier.

"I am not taking sides in the argument of social versus business arguments for fracking. I personally not convinced Fracking is a cheap source of oil although in the short term it is providing the US with cheap gas.

"What I observe is fracking has created a collar in the oil market. If oil prices drop the frackers respond quickly and fracking stops. If oil prices rise frackers drill a lot more to meet the demand. T Boon Pickens commented recently that fracking is not in his experience cheap oil. I think we agree Mr Pickens knows the oil business in particular the economics of fracking.

"As the Economists Magazine article points out the economics of fracking is a combination of gas prices, other liquids and oil prices. I will not go into the boring arguments of the relative merits of different sources of gas. Australia has lots of gas. We always knew about coal seam gas (CSG) however the petroleum engineers used to tell us CSG was very poor quality gas with low heat qualities and of no commercial significance. Not a argument you hear today. 

"I guess the economics of fracking will improve. BHP are hoping they do. But unless they do improve even the dumb money (i.e. BHP) will get the hint and stop funding what has been so far a stupid idea.

"Hopefully see you in February at the Chart seminar."

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this insightful email which brings us to the question of what exactly the term cheap Energy means. We have described the peak oil argument, for much of the last decade, in terms of the rising cost of production. As you point out, geologists have known about coal seam methane, shale oil and gas, tight gas, methane hydrates etc for almost as long as the fossil fuel industry has existed. The commercial viability of these resources has always been dependent on the application of technology and the marginal cost of production.



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