After some initial excitement, November has seen crude oil prices collapse back towards cycle lows amid demand doubts (e.g. slumping China oil imports, overflowing Chinese oil capacity, plunging China Industrial Production) and supply concerns (e.g. inventories soaring). However, an even bigger problem looms that few are talking about. As Iraq – the fastest-growing member of OPEC – has unleashed a two-mile long, 3 million metric ton barrage of 19 million barrel excess supply directly to US ports in November.
Crude prices are already falling:
But OPEC has another trick up its sleeve to crush US Shale oil producers. As Bloomberg reports,
Iraq, the fastest-growing producer within the 12-nation group, loaded as many as 10 tankers in the past several weeks to deliver crude to U.S. ports in November, ship-tracking and charters compiled by Bloomberg show.
Assuming they arrive as scheduled, the 19 million barrels being hauled would mark the biggest monthly influx from Iraq since June 2012, according to Energy Information Administration figures.
The cargoes show how competition for sales among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is spilling out into global markets, intensifying competition with U.S. producers whose own output has retreated since summer. For tanker owners, it means rates for their ships are headed for the best quarter in seven years, fueled partly by the surge in one of the industry’s longest trade routes.
Worst still, they are slashing prices…
Iraq, pumping the most since at least 1962 amid competition among OPEC nations to find buyers, is discounting prices to woo customers.
The Middle East country sells its crude at premiums or discounts to global benchmarks, competing for buyers with suppliers such as Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest exporter. Iraq sold its Heavy grade at a discount of $5.85 a barrel to the appropriate benchmark for November, the biggest discount since it split the grade from Iraqi Light in May. Saudi Arabia sold at $1.25 below benchmark for November, cutting by a further 20 cents in December.
“It’s being priced much more aggressively,” said Dominic Haywood, an oil analyst at Energy Aspects Ltd. in London. “It’s being discounted so U.S. Gulf Coast refiners are more incentivized to take it.”
So when does The Obama Administration ban crude imports?
And now, we get more news from Iraq:
- *IRAQ CUTS DECEMBER CRUDE OIL OSPS TO EUROPE: TRADERS
So taking on the Russians?
* * *
Finally, as we noted previously, it appears Iraq (and Russia) are more than happy to compete on price.. and have been successful – for now – at gaining significant market share…
Even as both Iran and Saudi Arabia are losing Asian market share to Russia and Iraq, Tehran is closely allied with Baghdad and Moscow while Riyadh is not. That certainly seems to suggest that in the long run, the Saudis are going to end up with the short end of the stick.
Once again, it’s the intersection of geopolitics and energy, and you’re reminded that at the end of the day, that’s what it usually comes down to.
WTI Tumbles To $43 Handle After API Confirms Huge Inventory Build
API reported a huge 6.3 million barrel inventory build (notably larger than expected) extending the series of build to seven weeks. Even more worrying was the massive 2.5 million barrel build at Cushing, even as gasoline inventories fell 3.2mm. WTI immediately dropped 35c, breaking back to a $43 handle after-hours.
A huge build…
The reaction was quick and on heavy volume…
Four US Firms With $4.8 Billion In Debt Warned This Week They May Default Any Minute
The last 3 days have seen the biggest surge in US energy credit risk since December 2014, blasting back above 1000bps. This should not be a total surprise since underlying oil prices continue to languish in “not cash-flow positive” territory for many shale producers, but, as Bloomberg reports, the industry is bracing for a wave of failures as investors that were stung by bets on an improving market earlier this year try to stay away from the sector. “It’s been eerily silent,” in energy credit markets, warns one bond manager, “no one is putting up new capital here.”
The market is starting to reprice dramatically for a surge in defaults...
Eleven months of depressed oil prices are threatening to topple more companies in the energy industry. As Bloomberg details,
Four firms owing a combined $4.8 billion warned this week that they may be at the brink, with Penn Virginia Corp., Paragon Offshore Plc, Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. and Emerald Oil Inc. saying their auditors have expressed doubts that they can continue as going concerns. Falling oil prices are squeezing access to credit, they said. And everyone from Morgan Stanley to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is predicting that energy prices won’t rebound anytime soon.
The industry is bracing for a wave of failures as investors that were stung by bets on an improving market earlier this year try to stay away from the sector. Barclays Plc analysts say that will cause the default rate among speculative-grade companies to double in the next year. Marathon Asset Management is predicting default rates among high-yield energy companies will balloon to as high as 25 percent cumulatively in the next two to three years if oil remains below $60 a barrel.
“No one is putting up new capital here,” said Bruce Richards, co-founder of Marathon, which manages $12.5 billion of assets. “It’s been eerily silent in the whole high-yield energy sector, including oil, gas, services and coal.”
That’s partly because investors who plowed about $14 billion into high-yield energy bonds sold in the past six months are sitting on about $2 billion of losses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
And the energy sector accounts for more than a quarter of high-yield bonds that are trading at distressed levels, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Barclays said in a Nov. 6 research note that the market is anticipating “a near-term wave of defaults” among energy companies. Those can’t be avoided unless commodity prices make “a very large” and “unexpected” resurgence.
“Everybody’s liquidity is worse than it was at this time last year,” said Jason Mudrick, founder of Mudrick Capital Management. “It’s a much more dire situation than it was 12 months ago.”
Something Very Strange Is Taking Place Off The Coast Of Galveston, TX
Having exposed the world yesterday to the 2-mile long line of tankers-full’o’crude heading from Iraq to the US, several weeks after reporting that China has run out of oil storage space we can now confirm that the global crude “in transit” glut is becoming gargantuan and is starting to have adverse consequences on the price of oil.
While the crude oil tanker backlog in Houston reaches an almost unprecedented 39 (with combined capacity of 28.4 million barrels), as The FT reports that from China to the Gulf of Mexico, the growing flotilla of stationary supertankers is evidence that the oil price crash may still have further to run, as more than 100m barrels of crude oil and heavy fuels are being held on ships at sea (as the year-long supply glut fills up available storage on land). The storage problems are so severe in fact, that traders asking ships to go slow, and that is where we see something very strange occurring off the coast near Galveston, TX.
FT reports that “the amount of oil at sea is at least double the levels of earlier this year and is equivalent to more than a day of global oil supply. The numbers of vessels has been compiled by the Financial Times from satellite tracking data and industry sources.”
Off Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, Asia’s main oil hub, around 35m barrels of crude and shipping fuel are being stored on 14 VLCCs.“A lot of the storage off Singapore is fuel oil as the contango is stronger,” said Petromatrix analyst Olivier Jakob. Fuel oil is mainly used in shipping and power generation.Off China, which is on course to overtake the US as the world’s largest crude importer, five heavily laden VLCCs — each capable of carrying more than 2m barrels of oil — are parked near the ports of Qingdao, Dalian and Tianjin.In Europe, a number of smaller tankers are facing short-term delays at Rotterdam and in the North Sea, where output is near a two-year high. In the Mediterranean a VLCC has been parked off Malta since September.On the US Gulf Coast, tankers carrying around 20m barrels of oil are waiting to unload, Reuters reported. Crude inventories on the US Gulf Coast are at record levels.A further 8m barrels of oil are being held off the UAE, while Iran — awaiting the end of sanctions to ramp up exports — has almost 40m barrels of fuel on its fleet of supertankers near the Strait of Hormuz. Much of this is believed to be condensate, a type of ultralight oil.
A widening oil market structure known as contango — where future prices are higher than spot prices — could make floating storage possible.The difference between Brent for delivery in six months’ time and now rose to $4.50 last week, up from $1.50 in May. Traders estimate it may need to reach $6 to make sea storage viable.
“Onshore storage is not quite full but it is at historically high levels globally,” said David Wech, managing director of JBC Energy.“As we move closer to capacity that is creating more infrastructure hiccups and delays in the oil market, leading to more oil being backed out on to the water.”Patrick Rodgers, the chief executive of Euronav, one of the world’s biggest listed tanker companies, said oil glut was so severe traders were asking ships to go slow to help them manage storage levels.“We are being kept at relatively low speeds. The owners of the oil are not in a hurry to get their cargoes. They are managing their storage capacity by keeping ships at a certain speed.”
As AP puts it, “a traffic jam of oil tankers is the latest sign of an unyielding global supply glut.”
More than 50 commercial vessels were anchored outside ports in the Houston area at the end of last week, of which 41 were tankers, according to Houston Pilots, an organization that assists in navigation of larger vessels. Normally, there are 30 to 40 vessels, of which two-thirds are tankers, according to the group.Although the channel has been shut intermittently in recent weeks because of fog or flooding, oil traders pointed to everything from capacity constraints to a lack of buyers.“It appears that the glut of supply in the global market is only getting worse,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData. Several traders said some ships might have arrived without a buyer, which can be hard to find as ample supply and end-of-year taxes push refiners to draw down inventories.
Crude Jumps After API Reports Modest Inventory Draw (First In 8 Weeks) Despite Another Big Build At Cushing
11/17/2015: After seven straight weeks of significant inventory builds, API reported a modest 482k draw. That was all the algos needed and WTI immediately ramped back above $41.00. However, what they likely missed was the 2nd weekly (huge) build in Cushing (1.5mm barrels) as we warned earlier on land storage starting to really fill…
Cushing saw another big build…
And crude reacted…
In short: “The US is the last place with significant onshore crude storage space left.”
Which leads directly to Citi’s conclusion: “‘Sell the rally’ near-term as fundamentals remain very sloppy and inventory constraints are becoming increasingly more binding.”