Tag Archives: oil price

Real Motive Behind Saudi Royal Flush Emerges: $800 Billion In Confiscated Assets

From the very beginning, there was something off about Sunday’s unprecedented countercoup purge unleashed by Mohammad bin Salman on alleged political enemies, including some of Saudi Arabia’s richest and most powerful royals and government officials: it was just too brazen to be a simple “power consolidation” move; in fact most commentators were shocked by the sheer audacity, with one question outstanding: why take such a huge gamble? After all, there was little chatter of an imminent coup threat against either the senile Saudi King or the crown prince, MbS, and a crackdown of such proportions would only boost animosity against the current ruling royals further.

Things gradually started to make sense when it emerged that some $33 billion in oligarch net worth was “at risk” among just the 4 wealthiest arrested Saudis, which included the media-friendly prince Alwaleed.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2017/10/21/rich%20saudis%20confiscated.jpg

One day later, a Reuters source reported that in a just as dramatic expansion of the original crackdown, bank accounts of over 1,200 individuals had been frozen, a number which was growing by the minute. Commenting on this land cashgrab, we rhetorically asked “So when could the confiscatory process end? As we jokingly suggested yesterday, the ruling Saudi royal family has realized that not only can it crush any potential dissent by arresting dozens of potential coup-plotters, it can also replenish the country’s foreign reserves, which in the past 3 years have declined by over $250 billion, by confiscating some or all of their generous wealth, which is in the tens if not hundreds of billions. If MbS continues going down the list, he just may recoup a substantial enough amount to what it makes a difference on the sovereign account.”

https://i1.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2017/10/21/saudi%20reserves.jpg

Then an article overnight from the WSJ confirmed that fundamentally, the purge may be nothing more than a forced extortion scheme, as the Saudi government – already suffering from soaring budget deficits, sliding oil revenues and plunging reserves – was “aiming to confiscate cash and other assets worth as much as $800 billion in its broadening crackdown on alleged corruption among the kingdom’s elite.

As we reported yesterday, the WSJ writes that the country’s central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, said late Tuesday that it has frozen the bank accounts of “persons of interest” and said the move is “in response to the Attorney General’s request pending the legal cases against them.” But what is more notable, is that while we first suggested – jokingly – on Monday that the ulterior Saudi motive would be to simply “nationalize” the net worth of some of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest individuals, now the WSJ confirms that this is precisely the case, and what’s more notably is that the amount in question is absolutely staggering: nearly 2x Saudi Arabia’s total foreign reserves!

As the WSJ alleges, “the crackdown could also help replenish state coffers. The government has said that assets accumulated through corruption will become state property, and people familiar with the matter say the government estimates the value of assets it can reclaim at up to 3 trillion Saudi riyal, or $800 billion.”

While much of that money remains abroad – and invested in various assets from bonds to stocks to precious metals and real estate – which will complicate efforts to reclaim it, even a portion of that amount would help shore up Saudi Arabia’s finances.

However, this is problematic: first, not only is the list of names of detained and “frozen” accounts growing by the day…

The government earlier this week vowed that it would arrest more people as part of the corruption investigation, which began around three years ago. As a precautionary measure, authorities have banned a large number of people from traveling outside the country, among them hundreds of royals and people connected to those arrested, according to people familiar with the matter. The government hasn’t officially named the people who were detained.

… but the mere shock of a move that would be more appropriate for the 1950s USSR has prompted crushed any faith and confidence the international community may have had in Saudi governance and business practices.

The biggest irony would be if from this flagrant attempt to shore up the Kingdom’s deteriorating finances, a domestic and international bank run emerged, with locals and foreign individuals and companies quietly, or not so quietly, pulling their assets and capital from confiscation ground zero, in the process precipitating the very economic collapse that the move was meant to avoid.

Judging by the market reaction, which has sent Riyal forward tumbling on rising bets of either a recession, or devaluation, or both, this unorthodox attempt to inject up to $800 billion in assets into the struggling local economy, could soon backfire spectacularly.

A prolonged period of low oil prices forced the government to borrow money on the international bond market and to draw extensively from the country’s foreign reserves, which dropped from $730 billion at their peak in 2014 to $487.6 billion in August, the latest available government data.

Confirming our speculation was advisory firm Eurasia Group, which in a note said that the crown prince “needs cash to fund the government’s investment plans” adding that “It was becoming increasingly clear that additional revenue is needed to improve the economy’s performance. The government will also strike deals with businessmen and royals to avoid arrest, but only as part of a greater commitment to the local economy.”

Of course, there is a major danger that such a draconian cash grab would result in a violent blow back by everyone who has funds parked in the Kingdom. To assuage fears, Saudi Arabia’s minister of commerce, Majid al Qasabi, on Tuesday sought to reassure the private sector that the corruption investigation wouldn’t interfere with normal business operations. The procedures and investigations undertaken by the anti-corruption agency won’t affect ongoing business or projects, he said. Furthermore, the Saudi central bank said that individual accounts had been frozen, not corporate accounts. “It is business as usual for both banks and corporates,” the central bank said.

https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2017/11/07/2017-11-08.jpg

Meanwhile, for those still confused about the current political scene in Saudi Arabia, here is an infographic courtesy of the WSJ which explains “Who Has Been Promoted, Who Has Been Detained in Saudi Arabia

https://i1.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2017/11/07/arrested%20saudi.jpgSource: ZeroHedge

The Stock Market Decline Is Gaining Momentum

Summary:

  • The current stock market decline began with transportation stocks and small capitalization stocks severely under-performing the market.
  • Weakness then spread to the energy complex and high-yield bonds.
  • Yield focused stocks were the next to fall, with Kinder Morgan being the most prominent example.
  • Stalwarts like Apple and Gilead lost their momentum with the August 2015 decline and never regained their mojo.
  • In 2016, a slow motion crash is occurring in the stock market, and the price action has finally impacted the leading FANG stocks.

“Hysteria is impossible without an audience. Panicking by yourself is the same as laughing alone in an empty room. You feel really silly.” – Chuck Palahniuk

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” – Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

Introduction:

The stock market decline has gained momentum in 2016, and much like a runaway train, the current decline will be hard to stop, until the persistent overvaluations plaguing the stock market over this current bull market are corrected.

The correction that has caused the average stock in the United States to correct over 25%, thus far, started as an innocuous move down in global equities, outside of the depression enveloping the downtrodden emerging markets and commodities stocks, and then spread from transportation stocks to market leaders like biotechnology companies. The first wave down culminated in a gut-wrenching August 2015 sell-off that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) fall 1000 points at the open on August 24th, 2015. The panic was quickly brushed aside, but not forgotten, as market leading stocks made new highs in the fall of 2015.

That optimism, has given way to the reality that global quantitative easing has not provided the boost that its biggest supporters claimed. Now, everything is falling in tandem, and there is not much hope with the Fed nearly out of bullets, other than perhaps lower energy prices, to spark a true recovery.

The financial markets have taken notice, and are repricing assets accordingly. Just like forays to the upside are not one way affairs, the move down will not be a one-way adjustment, and investors should be prepared for sharp counter-trend rallies, and the price action yesterday, Thursday, January 14th, 2016 is a perfect example. To close, with leading stocks now suffering sizable declines that suggest institutional liquidation, investors should have their respective defensive teams on the field, and be looking for opportunistic, out-of-favor investments that have already been discounted.

Thesis:

The market correction is gaining steam and will not be completed until leading stocks and market capitalization indexes correct materially.

Small-Caps & Transports Led The Downturn:

While U.S. stocks have outperformed international markets since 2011, 2014 and 2015 saw the development of material divergences. Specifically, smaller capitalization stocks, measured by the Russell 2000 Index, and represented by the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (NYSEARCA:IWM), began under performing in 2014. Importantly, small-caps went on to make a new high in 2015, but their negative divergence all the way back in 2014, planted the seeds for the current decline, as illustrated in the chart below.

Building on the negative divergences, transportation stocks began severely under performing the broader markets in 2015. To illustrate this, I have used the charts of two leading transportation stocks, American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) and Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP), which are depicted below. For the record, I have taken a fundamental interest in both companies as I believe they are leading operators in their industries.

 

The Next Dominoes – Oil Prices & High Yield Bonds:

Oil prices, as measured by the United States Oil Fund (NYSEARCA:USO) in the chart below, were actually one of the first shoes to drop, even prior to small-cap stocks, starting a sizable move down in June of 2014.

Industry stalwart Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) peaked in July of 2014, and despite tremendous volatility since then, has been in a confirmed downtrend.

As the energy complex fell apart with declining oil prices, high-yield bonds, as measured by the iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (NYSEARCA:HYG), and by the SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (NYSEARCA:JNK), made material new lows.

Yield Focused Stocks Take It On The Chin

As the energy downturn intensified, many companies that had focused on providing attractive yields, to their yield starved investors, saw their business models questioned at best, and implode at worst. The most prominent example was shares of Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI).

 

The fallout did not stop with KMI, as many MLP s and other yield oriented stocks continue to see declines as 2015 has rolled into 2016. Williams Companies (NYSE:WMB) has been especially hard hit, showing extreme volatility over the past several weeks.

Leading GARP Stocks Never Recovered:

Even though I have been bearish on the markets for some time, I was not sure if the markets would melt-up or meltdown in December of 2015, as I articulated in a Seeking Alpha article at the time.

In hindsight, the under performance of growth-at-a-reasonable-price stocks, like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD), which had struggled ever since the August 2015 sell-off, should have been an ominous sign.

FANG Stocks, The Last Shoe To Drop:

Even as many divergences developed in the financial markets over the last year, many leading stocks made substantial new highs in the fall of 2015, led by the FANG stocks. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), along with NASDAQ stalwarts Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), attracted global capital as growth became an increasingly scarce commodity. The last two weeks have challenged the assumption that these companies are a safe-haven, immune from declines impacting the rest of the stock market, as the following charts show.

 

The PowerShares QQQ ETF (NASDAQ:QQQ), which is designed to track the performance of the NASDAQ 100 Index, and counts five of the world’s ten largest market capitalization companies among its largest holdings, Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, has outperformed the S&P 500 Index, as measured by the SPDRs S&P 500 ETF (NYSEARCA:SPY), for a majority of the current bull market, with a notable exception being the last week of 2015, and the first two weeks of 2016. Wholesale, sustained selling is now starting to grip the markets.

 

Conclusion – The Market Downturn Is Gaining Momentum:

The developing market correction is gaining momentum. Like an avalanche coming down a mountain, it is impacting everything it touches, and no sectors or companies, even the previously exalted FANG stocks, are immune from its reaches. Investors should have their respective defensive teams on the field, while looking for opportunities in undervalued, out-of-favor assets, as many stocks have been in their own bear markets for years.

by William Koldus in Seeking Alpha

The Biggest Threat To Oil Prices: 2-Mile Long Stretch Of Iraq Oil Tankers Headed For The U.S.

https://s17-us2.ixquick.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=http%3A%2F%2Fens-newswire.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F07%2F20130705_shipssingapore.jpg&sp=88dd9c2a647d73922d4d13126517cc68

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.

Source: Zero Hedge


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…


But for Cushing it was massive…

The reaction was quick and on heavy volume…

Source: Zero Hedge


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.”

Source: Zero Hedge


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.”

The storage glut is unprecedented:
 
 
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.
And unlike the last oil price collapse during the financial crisis only half of the oil held on the water has been put there specifically by traders looking to cash in by storing the fuel until prices recover. Instead, sky-high supertanker rates have prevented them from putting more oil into so-called floating storage, shutting off one of the safety valves that could prevent oil prices from falling further.
 
 
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.
JBC Energy, a consultancy, said in many regions onshore oil storage is approaching capacity, arguing oil prices may have to fall to allow more to be stored profitably at sea.
 
 
“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 a result of all this, something very unusual going on off the coast of Galveston, where more than 39 crude tankers w/ combined cargo capacity of 28.4 million bbls wait near Galveston (Galveston is area where tankers can anchor before taking cargoes to refineries at Houston and other nearby plants), vessel tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show, which compares w/ 30 vessels, 21 million bbls of capacity in May. Vessels wait avg of 5 days, compared w/ 3 days May.

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.
And here, courtesy of MarineTraffic is the interactive snapshot (readers can recreate it here):

All of which explains why this is happening:


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…

As we noted earlier,

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.”

Source: Zero Hedge

Why U.S. Oil Production Remains High While Prices Tank – Bakken Update

Summary

  • US production remains high due to high-grading, well design, cost efficiencies, and lower oil service contracts.
  • High-grading from marginal to core areas can increase per well production from 200% to 500% depending on area, which means one core well can equate to several marginal producers.
  • Shorter stages, increased proppant and frac fluids increase production and flatten the depletion curve.
  • EOG’s work in Antelope field provides a framework for other operators to increase production while completing fewer wells.
  • Few operators are currently developing Mega-fracs, this provides significant upside to US shale production as others start producing more resource per foot.
by Michael Filloon, Split Rock Private Trading and Wealth Management

US Oil production remains at volumes seen when WTI was at $100/bbl. Many analysts believed operators couldn’t survive, but $60/bbl may be good enough for operators to drill economic wells. Oil prices have decreased significantly, and the US Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:USO) with it. Many were wrong about US production, and the belief $60/bbl oil would decrease US production. Although completions have been deferred, high-grading and mega-fracs have made up for fewer producing wells. When calculating US production going forward, it is important to account for the number of new completions. If more wells are completed, the higher the influx of production should be. We are finding the quality of geology and well design have a greater effect on total production than originally thought.

(click to enlarge)

(Source: Shaletrader.com)

There are several factors influencing US production. Operators have moved existing rigs to core areas. This decreases its ability getting acreage held by production. In the Bakken, rigs have moved near the Nesson Anticline.

In the Eagle Ford, Karnes seems to be the area of interest. Midland County in the Permian has also been attractive. Operators have decided to complete wells with better geology. When an operator completes wells in core acreage versus marginal leasehold, we see increased production per location. This is just part of the reason US production remains high.

The average investor does not understand the significance. Most think wells have like production, but areas are much different. When oil was at a $100/bbl, it allowed operators to get acreage held by production, although payback times were not as good. Marginal acreage was more attractive, even at lower IRRs. Operators have a significant investment in acreage, and do not want to lose it. Because of this, many would operate in the red expecting future rewards. Just because E&Ps lose money, does not mean the business isn’t economic. It is the way business is done in the short term as oil is an income stream. Wells produce for 35 to 40 years, and once well costs are paid back there are steady revenues. Changes in oil prices have changed this, as now operators will have to focus on better acreage.

Re-fracs are starting to influence production. Although most operators have not begun programs, interest is high. Re-fracs may not be a game changer, but could be an excellent way to increase production at a lower cost. This is not as significant with well designs of today, but older designs left a significant amount of resource. More importantly, when operators began, it was drilling the best acreage. Archaic well designs could leave some stages completely untouched. Current seismic can now identify this, and provide for a better re-frac. We expect to see some very good results in 2016. In conjunction with high-grading, well design continues to be the main reason production has maintained. Changes to well design have been significant, and the resulting production increases much better than anticipated.

No operator is better than EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) at well design. From the Bakken, to the Eagle Ford and Permian it continues to outperform the competition.

The following map courtesy of ShaleMapsPro.com does a good job of illustrating EOG’s exposure in the Eagle Ford.

EagleFord.SeekingAlpha

(Source: Shalemapspro.com)

EOG’s focusing of frac jobs closer to the well bore has provided for much better source rock stimulation (fraccing). Since more fractures are created, there is a greater void in the shale. This means more producing rock has contact with the well. EOG continues to push more sand and fluids in the attempt to recover more resource per foot. To evaluate production, it must be broken into days over 6 to 12 months. To evaluate well design, locations must be close to one another and by the same operator. This consistency allows us to see advantages to well design changes. Lastly, we compare marginal acreage it is no longer working to the high-grading program. This is how operators are spending less and producing more.

EOG is working in the Antelope field of northeast McKenzie County. This is Bakken core acreage and considered excellent in both the middle Bakken and upper Three Forks.

(click to enlarge)
(Source: Welldatabase.com)

The center of the above map is the location of both its Riverview and Hawkeye wells. These six wells are located in two adjacent sections. The pad is just west of New Town in North Dakota. Riverview 100-3031H was completed in 6/12. It is an upper Three Forks well. 39 stages were used on an approximate 9000 foot lateral. 5.7 million pounds of sand were used with 85000 barrels of fluids.

(click to enlarge)
(Source: Welldatabase.com)

Date Oil (BBL) Gas ((NYSEMKT:MCF)) BOE
6/1/2012 4,384.00 3,972.00 3972
7/1/2012 27,133.00 15,337.00 15337
8/1/2012 24,465.00 17,223.00 17223
9/1/2012 21,457.00 9,190.00 9190
10/1/2012 18,040.00 12,601.00 12601
11/1/2012 19,924.00 13,366.00 13366
12/1/2012 28,134.00 22,259.00 22259
1/1/2013 15,382.00 12,661.00 12661
2/1/2013 3,429.00 2,451.00 2451
3/1/2013 15,242.00 22,774.00 22774
4/1/2013 15,761.00 8,479.00 8479
5/1/2013 13,786.00 18,372.00 18372
6/1/2013 14,485.00 18,555.00 18555
7/1/2013 15,668.00 27,250.00 27250
8/1/2013 12,084.00 23,876.00 23876
9/1/2013 13,841.00 46,815.00 46815
10/1/2013 11,388.00 45,800.00 45800
11/1/2013 2,711.00 10,533.00 10533
12/1/2013 0 0 0
1/1/2014 5,953.00 35 35
2/1/2014 11,368.00 20,851.00 20851
3/1/2014 8,784.00 11,179.00 11179
4/1/2014 5,607.00 8,479.00 8479
5/1/2014 4,727.00 5,663.00 5663
6/1/2014 8,359.00 12,726.00 12726
7/1/2014 8,799.00 22,957.00 22957
8/1/2014 7,958.00 31,621.00 31621
9/1/2014 7,218.00 44,318.00 44318
10/1/2014 3,778.00 14,058.00 14058
11/1/2014 3,701.00 9,951.00 9951
12/1/2014 6,612.00 18,435.00 18435
1/1/2015 6,181.00 24,142.00 24142
2/1/2015 3,517.00 10,722.00 10722
3/1/2015 5,218.00 24,175.00 24175
4/1/2015 4,275.00 24,233.00 24233

(Source: Welldatabase.com)

Riverview 100-3031H was a progressive well design for 2012. It produced well. To date it has produced 379 thousand bbls of crude and 615 thousand Mcf of natural gas. This equates to $24 million in revenues. Over the first 360 days (using the true number of production days) it produced 240,036 bbls of crude. The month of December 2013, this well was shut in for the completion of an adjacent well. There was a return to production but no significant jump in production from pressure generated by the new locations. This well declined 42% over 12 months. This is much lower than estimates shown through other well models. The next year we see a 35% decline. 10 months later we see an additional decline of approximately 55%. The decline curve of a well is very specific to geology and well design. Keep in mind averages are just that, and do not provide specific data. These averages should not be used to evaluation acreage and operator as there are wide average swings. Also, averages are generally over a long time frame. Production in the Bakken began in 2004 (first horizontal well completed). Wells in 2004 produce nothing like wells today. Updated averages based on year (IP 360) are more useful. Riverview 100-3031H was part of a two well pad. A middle Bakken well was also completed.

Riverview 4-3031H began producing a month after Riverview 100-3031H. It was a 38 stage 9000 foot lateral. 4.3 million lbs of sand were used and 69000 bbls of fluids.

(click to enlarge)
(Source: Welldatabase.com)

The Riverview and Hawkeye wells analyzed in this article were drilled in a southern fashion.

Date Oil Gas BOE
7/1/2012 20,529.00 12,537.00 12537
8/1/2012 16,553.00 16,903.00 16903
9/1/2012 17,096.00 10,148.00 10148
10/1/2012 23,197.00 17,914.00 17914
11/1/2012 20,122.00 14,402.00 14402
12/1/2012 27,340.00 33,217.00 33217
1/1/2013 16,044.00 24,394.00 24394
2/1/2013 4,267.00 4,946.00 4946
3/1/2013 27,516.00 26,219.00 26219
4/1/2013 20,792.00 7,940.00 7940
5/1/2013 17,516.00 35,948.00 35948
6/1/2013 15,457.00 50,500.00 50500
7/1/2013 13,480.00 50,807.00 50807
8/1/2013 11,254.00 42,300.00 42300
9/1/2013 9,319.00 40,341.00 40341
10/1/2013 8,559.00 33,116.00 33116
11/1/2013 2,190.00 40 40
12/1/2013 0 0 0
1/1/2014 1,124.00 11 11
2/1/2014 5,271.00 81 81
3/1/2014 8,931.00 9,827.00 9827
4/1/2014 5,469.00 7,940.00 7940
5/1/2014 4,807.00 5,748.00 5748
6/1/2014 8,522.00 13,819.00 13819
7/1/2014 7,982.00 17,983.00 17983
8/1/2014 7,169.00 26,755.00 26755
9/1/2014 5,750.00 22,586.00 22586
10/1/2014 1,349.00 3,194.00 3194
11/1/2014 6,495.00 15,947.00 15947
12/1/2014 6,442.00 18,806.00 18806
1/1/2015 5,840.00 22,126.00 22126
2/1/2015 4,171.00 18,682.00 18682
3/1/2015 4,221.00 18,539.00 18539
4/1/2015 3,878.00 19,725.00 19725

(Source: Welldatabase.com)

Riverview 4-3031H has produced 361 thousand bbls of crude and 657 thousand Mcf of natural gas. It under produced Riverview 100-3031H, but this is consistent with well design. 360 day production totaled 237,735 bbls of oil. We do not know if the Three Forks is a better pay zone than the middle Bakken as the well design was not consistent. Most operators have reported better results from the middle Bakken. The Three Forks well used one more stage (less feet per stage should mean better fracturing). It also used significantly more sand and fluids. Either way both wells were good results. Riverview 4-3031H only declined approximately 36% in a comparison of the first month to month 12. This was 7% better than 100-3031H. It declined another 41% in year two on a month to month comparison. This was 6% greater. 56% was seen when compared to adjusted production for 5/15. The Three Forks well declines slower in later production than 4-3031H. This may be due to well design. The well with more stages, proppant and fluids continues to out produce the Bakken well. It is possible the source rock is better. There are many other variables to look at, but this data provides why EOG continues to push ahead with more complex locations.

In September of 2012, EOG drilled its next well in this area. Hawkeye 100-2501H is a 13700 foot lateral targeting the upper Three Forks. It is a 47 stage frac. 14 million pounds of sand were used with 158000 bbls of fluids.

(click to enlarge)
(Source: Welldatabase.com)

Of the three pads, this well is located in the center. It was an interesting design, given the length of the lateral.

Date Oil Gas BOE
9/1/2012 21,959.00 444 444
10/1/2012 54,927.00 155 155
11/1/2012 47,557.00 57,300.00 57300
12/1/2012 55,367.00 92,144.00 92144
1/1/2013 33,396.00 55,877.00 55877
2/1/2013 22,100.00 32,810.00 32810
3/1/2013 36,631.00 57,544.00 57544
4/1/2013 29,075.00 32,696.00 32696
5/1/2013 22,210.00 33,351.00 33351
6/1/2013 17,544.00 25,794.00 25794
7/1/2013 15,872.00 23,600.00 23600
8/1/2013 19,647.00 28,746.00 28746
9/1/2013 15,486.00 22,352.00 22352
10/1/2013 21,325.00 31,678.00 31678
11/1/2013 6,418.00 9,214.00 9214
12/1/2013 0 0 0
1/1/2014 0 0 0
2/1/2014 0 0 0
3/1/2014 29,699.00 23,822.00 23822
4/1/2014 39,782.00 32,696.00 32696
5/1/2014 35,267.00 61,543.00 61543
6/1/2014 27,554.00 49,551.00 49551
7/1/2014 7,229.00 12,565.00 12565
8/1/2014 31,155.00 98,086.00 98086
9/1/2014 12,617.00 32,742.00 32742
10/1/2014 2 4 4
11/1/2014 7,769.00 15,996.00 15996
12/1/2014 15,487.00 49,147.00 49147
1/1/2015 4,427.00 9,918.00 9918
2/1/2015 9,344.00 20,654.00 20654
3/1/2015 8,459.00 25,171.00 25171
4/1/2015 7,235.00 24,752.00 24752

(Source: Welldatabase.com)

Hawkeye 100-2501H had some excellent early production numbers. From that perspective, it is one of the best wells to date in the Bakken. It has already produced 655,000 bbls of crude and 960,000 Mcf of natural gas. It has revenues in excess of $42 million to date. This includes roughly four non-producing or unproductive months. Crude production over the first 360 days was 389,835 bbls. Over the first 12 months, this well produced crude revenues in excess of $23 million. Decline rates were higher, as the first full month of production declined 65% over the first year. This isn’t important as early production rates were some of the highest seen in North Dakota. It is important to note, decline rates are emphasized but higher pressured wells may deplete faster depending on choke and how quickly production is propelled up and out of the wellbore. Any well that produces very well initially will have higher decline rates, but this does not lessen the value of the well. This specific well is depleting faster, but no one is complaining about payback times well under a year. Decline rates decrease significantly in year two at 11%. This well saw a marked increase in production when adjacent wells were turned to sales. The additional pressure associated with well communication increased production from 20,000 bbls/month to 35,000 bbls/month on average. This occurred over a 6 month period.

(click to enlarge)
(Source: Welldatabase.com)

Hawkeye 102-2501H was the fourth completion. This 14,000 foot 62 stage lateral targeted the upper Three Forks. It used 14.5 million pounds of sand and 164,000 bbls of fluids.

Date Oil Gas BOE
1/1/2013 18,486.00 41 41
2/1/2013 27,120.00 8,705.00 8705
3/1/2013 39,702.00 15,748.00 15748
4/1/2013 17,714.00 30,501.00 30501
5/1/2013 41,368.00 57,489.00 57489
6/1/2013 26,602.00 34,399.00 34399
7/1/2013 0 0 0
8/1/2013 133 0 0
9/1/2013 0 0 0
10/1/2013 0 0 0
11/1/2013 0 0 0
12/1/2013 0 0 0
1/1/2014 5,163.00 6,403.00 6403
2/1/2014 41,917.00 74,353.00 74353
3/1/2014 36,439.00 18,111.00 18111
4/1/2014 19,477.00 30,501.00 30501
5/1/2014 26,388.00 43,071.00 43071
6/1/2014 27,480.00 49,456.00 49456
7/1/2014 14,529.00 33,072.00 33072
8/1/2014 24,542.00 62,753.00 62753
9/1/2014 17,613.00 53,460.00 53460
10/1/2014 17,451.00 66,544.00 66544
11/1/2014 9,634.00 33,366.00 33366
12/1/2014 16,338.00 76,547.00 76547
1/1/2015 11,450.00 65,277.00 65277
2/1/2015 8,971.00 50,919.00 50919
3/1/2015 3,177.00 14,820.00 14820
4/1/2015 6,495.00 13,616.00 13616

(Source: Welldatabase.com)

It has produced 458,000 bbls of crude and 839,000 Mcf to date. This equates to roughly $30 million over well life. 360 day production was 394,673 bbls of crude. Production was interesting as initial production was outstanding. The big production numbers were hindered as many of the early months had missed production days. We don’t know if there were production problems, but do know the well was shut when adjacent wells were turned to sales. Production was over 1000 bbls/d over the first six months. It was shut in for another six months. After this production jumped, but this is misleading. Given the fewer days of production per month, there wasn’t much of an increase when the new wells were turned to sales. The decline over the first year on a monthly basis is 20%. The second year is much greater at 80%. We have seen recent production decrease significantly, and is something to watch. Lower decline rates initially are more important. This is because production rates are higher. It equates to greater total production.

Hawkeye 01-2501H was completed in January of 2013.

(click to enlarge)
(Source: Welldatabase.com)

It is a 64 stage, 15000 foot lateral targeting the middle Bakken. This well used 172,000 bbls of fluids and 15 million pounds of sand.

Date Oil Gas BOE
1/1/2013 18,792.00 43 43
2/1/2013 30,211.00 13,879.00 13879
3/1/2013 42,037.00 17,648.00 17648
4/1/2013 17,433.00 36,881.00 36881
5/1/2013 38,754.00 63,501.00 63501
6/1/2013 28,602.00 48,817.00 48817
7/1/2013 0 0 0
8/1/2013 134 1 1
9/1/2013 0 0 0
10/1/2013 0 0 0
11/1/2013 0 0 0
12/1/2013 0 0 0
1/1/2014 6,311.00 7,186.00 7186
2/1/2014 43,713.00 74,099.00 74099
3/1/2014 39,156.00 18,492.00 18492
4/1/2014 23,408.00 36,881.00 36881
5/1/2014 21,681.00 33,498.00 33498
6/1/2014 28,502.00 51,543.00 51543
7/1/2014 18,795.00 45,017.00 45017
8/1/2014 25,512.00 58,837.00 58837
9/1/2014 20,522.00 60,662.00 60662
10/1/2014 19,137.00 68,576.00 68576
11/1/2014 12,093.00 37,043.00 37043
12/1/2014 16,587.00 45,980.00 45980
1/1/2015 14,246.00 62,819.00 62819
2/1/2015 9,220.00 35,931.00 35931
3/1/2015 3,617.00 6,634.00 6634
4/1/2015 13,702.00 42,551.00 42551

(Source: Welldatabase.com)

It has produced 492,170 bbls of crude and 866,520 Mcf of natural gas. 360 day production was 412,072 bbls of oil.

(click to enlarge)
(Source: Welldatabase.com)

This is an excellent well, but the location of focus is Hawkeye 02-2501H. It was completed last in this group. This well provides the link between changes in well design to production improvements.

Date Oil Gas BOE
12/1/2013 3,022.00 6,533.00 6533
1/1/2014 37,385.00 75,940.00 75940
2/1/2014 30,066.00 58,949.00 58949
3/1/2014 22,876.00 50,690.00 50690
4/1/2014 26,703.00 43,926.00 43926
5/1/2014 31,987.00 55,124.00 55124
6/1/2014 27,777.00 47,166.00 47166
7/1/2014 31,500.00 50,279.00 50279
8/1/2014 51,709.00 99,583.00 99583
9/1/2014 43,292.00 98,069.00 98069
10/1/2014 40,143.00 98,927.00 98927
11/1/2014 24,064.00 50,495.00 50495
12/1/2014 31,488.00 99,684.00 99684
1/1/2015 27,087.00 94,621.00 94621
2/1/2015 22,207.00 94,490.00 94490
3/1/2015 22,590.00 125,634.00 125634
4/1/2015 17,707.00 94,910.00 94910

(Source: Welldatabase.com)

The production numbers are significant. In less than a year and a half, it has produced 490,000 bbls of crude and 1.25 Bcf of natural gas. Revenues to date are $33.2 million. Its 360 day crude production was 427,663 bbls. The production is impressive but the decline curve is more important. This Hawkeye well has a steady production rate with only a slight decline. This is where the analysts may be getting it wrong, as decline curves change significantly by area and well design. What EOG has done is not only increased production significantly, but also flattened the curve. Initial production is interesting as we don’t see peak production until nine months. This means our best month is August of 2014, and not the first full month. When we analyze the production after one full year of production, there is no drop off.

This 12800 foot 69 stage lateral is a very good middle Bakken design. EOG decided to pull back some of the lateral length. There are several possible reasons for this. We think it is possible EOG has discovered it was having difficulty in getting proppant to the toe of the well. But this is why operators test the length. More importantly, the increase in stages in conjunction with a shorter lateral provides for shorter stages. This means the operator will probably do a better job of stimulating the source rock. This well also used massive volumes of fluids and sand. 460,000 bbls of fluids were used with over 27 million lbs of proppant. I don’t normally break down the types of sand, as it can be trivial to some but in this case I have as the design seems somewhat unique. This well used approximately 16 million lbs of 100 mesh sand, 7 million lbs of 30/70 and 4 million 40/70. The large volumes of mesh sand are interesting. It would seem EOG is trying to push the finest sand deep into the fractures to maintain deeper shale production.

Well Date Lateral Ft. Stages Proppant Lbs. Fluids Bbls. 12 mo. Oil Production Bbls. Production/Ft.
Riverview 100-3031H 6/12 9,000 39 5.7M 85,000 240,036 26.67
Riverview 4-3031H 7/12 9,000 38 4.3M 69,000 237,735 26.42
Hawkeye 100-2501H 9/12 13,700 47 14M 158,000 389,835 28.46
Hawkeye 102-2501H 1/13 14,000 62 14.5M 164,000 394,673 28.19
Hawkeye 01-2501H 1/13 15,000 64 15M 172,000 412,072 27.47
Hawkeye 02-2501H 12/13 12,800 69 27M 460,000 427,663 33.41

I completed the above table for several reasons. The first was to show well design’s effect on one year total production. We used 360 days as a base. We didn’t use 12 months as that will skew data, as some wells don’t produce every day of every month. Wells are shut in for service or more importantly when new production from adjacent locations are turned to sales. So these are a specific number of days and not estimates. We also broke down production per foot of lateral. This may be more important than any other factor. Production per well is important, but lateral length is a key as it shows how well the source rock was stimulated. In reality, production per foot matters more at longer lateral lengths. Many operators don’t like to do laterals longer than 10,000 feet, as production per foot decreases sharply. When looking at well production data, it is obvious that production per foot suffers as the toe of the lateral gets farther from the vertical.

There are several other ETFs that focus on U.S. and world crude prices:

  • iPath S&P Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN (NYSEARCA:OIL)
  • ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Crude Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:UCO)
  • VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN (NYSEARCA:UWTI)
  • ProShares Ultrashort Bloomberg Crude Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:SCO)
  • U.S. Brent Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:BNO)
  • PowerShares DB Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:DBO)
  • VelocityShares 3x Inverse Crude Oil ETN (NYSEARCA:DWTI)
  • PowerShares DB Crude Oil Double Short ETN (NYSEARCA:DTO)
  • U.S. 12 Month Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:USL)
  • U.S. Short Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:DNO)
  • PowerShares DB Crude Oil Long ETN (NYSEARCA:OLO)
  • PowerShares DB Crude Oil Short ETN (NYSEARCA:SZO)
  • iPath Pure Beta Crude Oil ETN (NYSEARCA:OLEM)

All six wells had fantastic results. The first two Riverview wells are still considered sand heavy fracs and produced almost a quarter of a million barrels of oil. This does not include natural gas in the estimates, but EURs for these wells are approximately 1200 MBo. We don’t put much emphasis on EURs other than an indicator of how good production is in comparison. Since locations will produce from 35 to 40 years, we are more inclined to emphasize one year production. Although the Hawkeye wells drilled on 9/12 and 1/13 didn’t show a large uptick in production per foot, it is still quite impressive considering the lateral length. Overall production uplift was exceptional, and these wells produce decent payback times at current oil price realizations.

There is no doubt this area has superior geology. It is definitely a core area, but may not be as good as Parshall field. Because of this, we know other areas would not produce as well, but still it provides a decent comparison for the upside to well design. Geology is still key and this is probably why EOG recently drilled a 15 well pad in the same general area. These wells are still in confidential status, so we do not know the outcome. Given the results in this area, these wells could be very interesting. The most important reason to focus on these Mega-Fracs is repeatability. If EOG can do this, so can other operators. Our expectations are many operators will be able to complete wells this good within the next 12 to 24 months. If this occurs we could see production maintained at much lower prices and fewer completions.

Energy Companies Face “Come-To-Jesus” Point As Bankruptcies Loom

Last week, amid a renewed bout of crude carnage, Morgan Stanley made a rather disconcerting call on oil. 

“On current trajectory, this downturn could become worse than 1986: An additional +1.5 mb/d [of OPEC supply] is roughly one year of oil demand growth. If sustained, this could delay the rebalancing of oil markets by a year as well. The forward curve has started to price this in: as the chart shows, the forward curve currently points towards a recovery in prices that is far worse than in 1986. This means the industrial downturn could also be worse. In that case, there would be little in analysable history that could be a guide to this cycle,” the bank wrote, presaging even tougher times ahead for the O&G space.

If Morgan Stanley is correct, we’re likely to see tremendous pressure on the sector’s highly indebted names, many of whom have been kept afloat thus far by easy access to capital markets courtesy of ZIRP.

With a rate hike cycle on the horizon, with hedges set to roll off, and with investors less willing to throw good money after bad on secondaries and new HY issuance, banks are likely to rein in credit lines in October when the next assessment is due. At that point, it will be game over in the absence of a sharp recovery in crude prices. 

https://s15-us2.ixquick.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=http%3A%2F%2Fts1.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DJN.ZLR3KYf8IWnQf4RM8n3EFg%26pid%3D15.1%26f%3D1&sp=357f055eb112ef212bb5189aeccf6ad8

Against this challenging backdrop, we bring you the following commentary from Emanuel Grillo, partner at Baker Botts’s bankruptcy and restructuring practice who spoke to Bloomberg Brief last week.  

*  *  *

Via Bloomberg Brief

How does the second half of this year look when it comes to energy bankruptcies?

A: People are coming to realize that the market is not likely to improve. At the end of September, companies will know about their bank loan redeterminations and you’ll see a bunch of restructurings. And, as the last of the hedges start to burn off and you can’t buy them for $80 a barrel any longer, then you’re in a tough place.

The bottom line is that if oil prices don’t increase, it could very well be that the next six months to nine months will be worse than the last six months. Some had an ability to borrow, and you saw other people go out and restructure. But the options are going to become fewer and smaller the longer you wait.

Are there good deals on the horizon for distressed investors?

A: The markets are awash in capital, but you still have a disconnect between buyers and sellers. Sellers, the guys who operate these companies, are hoping they can hang on. Buyers want to pay bargain-basement prices. There’s not enough pressure on the sellers yet. But I think that’s coming. 

https://s16-us2.ixquick.com/cgi-bin/serveimage?url=http%3A%2F%2Fts4.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DJN.WRi8a7AqdL7XZWEYpZehUA%26pid%3D15.1%26f%3D1&sp=65edb29198ceb6054d44a4f53685920c

Banks will be redetermining their borrowing bases again in October. Will they be as lenient this time around as they were in April?

A: I don’t know if you’ll get the same slack in October as in April, absent a turnaround in the market price for oil. It’s going to be that ‘come-to-Jesus’ point in time where it’s about how much longer can they let it play. If the banks get too aggressive, they’re going to hurt the value for themselves and their ability to exit. So they’re playing a balancing act.

They know what pressure they’re facing from a regulatory perspective. At the same time, if they push too far in that direction, toward complying with the regulatory side and getting out, then they’re going to hurt themselves in terms of what their own recovery is going to be. All of the banks have these loans under very close scrutiny right now. They’d all get out tomorrow if they could. That’s the sense they’re giving off to the marketplace, because the numbers are just not supporting what they need to have from a regulatory perspective.

Source: Zero Hedge

Crude Oil Remains A ‘Sell’ After Rising Imports Fuel Surprise Inventory Build

Summary

  • Crude oil prices closed down 4% yesterday, breaking through a 2-month support level at $57/barrel, after an EIA report showed an unexpected build in inventories.
  • I argue that the domestic supply/demand balance has not improved and is just as bearish now as it was last winter when oil was in free fall.
  • Based on my analysis of supply/demand data presented in this article, I believe crude oil has further to fall.
  • My trading strategy, including holdings, price targets, and entry/exit points are discussed in detail.
 

By Force Majeure

After trading tightly range-bound between $58/barrel and $61/barrel since mid-April, crude oil finally broke down yesterday, after an EIA Petroleum report showed that crude oil inventories increased more than expected. The commodity slid 4.2% – its largest single-day loss since April 8 – to a 9-week low closing price of $56.92/barrel. The commodity is down 6.6% since recording a peak of $61/barrel one week ago on Tuesday. Further weighing on prices were unclear reports of a draft of an Iranian nuclear deal that would relax sanctions and permit a resumption of exports, as well as continued fears over Greece’s exit from the eurozone. This article will discuss yesterday’s EIA inventory report and use this data to support my argument that crude oil supply and demand remain just as unbalanced presently as when oil was trading at $45 per share, justifying my continued bearish position on the commodity.

In yesterday’s Petroleum Report for the week ending June 26, the EIA announced that crude oil inventories increased by 2.4 million barrels, versus the analyst consensus for a 2-million barrel storage withdrawal. The storage build was also markedly bearish compared to last week’s 4.9 million barrel withdrawal, last year’s 3.2 million barrel withdrawal and the 5-year average 4.1 million barrel withdrawal. It was the first storage injection in 9 weeks since the week ending April 24. Storage injections during the final week of June are highly unusual, and last week’s build was the first storage injection during the last week of June since the week ending June 29, 2007, and only the third this millennium.

At 480 million barrels, total crude oil storage is 90 million barrels above the five-year average inventory level and 80 million barrels above last year’s level, versus a 84 and 75 million barrel surplus last week, respectively. The increase in crude oil surplus is a sharp departure from the past two months which had seen surpluses, versus the five-year average decline in 8 of the past 9 weeks from a peak of over 113 million barrels. Figure 1 below shows the storage surplus versus the five-year average and 2014 over the past year.

(click to enlarge)

Figure 1: Crude oil storage surplus versus 2014 and the 5-year average showing an increase in the surplus after several weeks of decline. [Source: Chart is my own, data from the EIA.]

What happened over the past week that led to such an abrupt change in crude oil supply/demand balance?

Not much, I argue. And that is the problem.

There are three components of US supply/demand balance – domestic production, demand (measured by refinery inputs), and imports.

Domestic production was largely unchanged last week, declining by 9,000 barrels per day, from 9.604 million barrels per day the previous week to 9.595 million barrels last week. Domestic production remains at record highs, despite an oil rig count that has fallen 60% since October. Production is up 1.2 million barrels year-over-year.

Crude oil demand was likewise flat week-over-week, declining a negligible 1,000 barrels per day last week to 16.531 million barrels per day. Demand is up 313,000 barrels per day year-over-year. Note that this is well shy of the 1.2 million barrel per day year-over-year increase in production. As a result, the purely domestic supply/demand picture – demand minus US production – is markedly loose compared to last year. Figure 2 below compares the purely domestic supply/demand picture for 2015 versus 2014.

(click to enlarge)

Figure 2: Purely domestic crude oil supply/demand balance equal to demand minus domestic production. Supply/demand remains loose to 2014 and has been flat over the past 2 months, indicating minimal tightening of the market. [Source: Chart is my own, data from the EIA.]

Note that last year at this time, demand exceeded domestic production by 7.8 million barrels per day, while last week, this spread was just 6.9 million barrels. Further, despite all of the hullabaloo over record demand and declining domestic production, this spread is sitting near the 2015-to-date average of 6.6 million barrels, and has been essentially flat since late April.

It is the third component of the US supply/demand picture – imports – that drove last week’s bearish storage build and had been masking the persistent supply/demand mismatch shown above in Figure 2 that allowed crude oil to rally more than 30% off the March lows. Imports increased by 748,000 barrels per day last week to 7.513 million barrels per day. It was the largest week-over-week increase since the week ending April 3rd and the largest daily average since the week of April 17th. Nevertheless, the 7.5 million barrel per day tally was a mere 170,000 barrels per day above the 1-year average import level. Figure 3 below plots crude oil imports versus the 1-year average over the last 12 months.

(click to enlarge)

Figure 3: Crude oil imports versus the 1-year average. After 2 months well below the 1-year average, crude oil demand rebounded last week. [Source: Chart is my own, data from the EIA.]

Note that after hovering in the 6.75-7.25 million barrel per day range since late April, last week’s imports were merely a return to the baseline. Furthermore, imports have room to go even higher. Figure 4 below shows the week-over-week change and the departure from 2015-to-date average imports by country.

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Figure 4: Crude oil imports by nation with week-over-week and departure versus the 2015 average included. While imports from Canada rebounded last week, large deficits versus the 2015 average remain in Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico. [Source: Chart is my own, data from the EIA.]

Note that the second-largest weekly increase in imports last week came from our biggest oil trading partner, Canada, where imports increased by 142,000 barrels per day. However, thanks to persistent wildfires in Alberta’s prolific oil sands, imports are still 187,000 barrels per day below their 2015 average. As these wildfires have largely diminished, I expect Canadian imports will continue to increase, from 2.8 million barrels per day last week back to their 3.0 million barrel per day 2015 average in coming weeks. An even more impressive departure versus the 2015 average was seen in Saudi Arabia, where imports remained flat at 700,000 barrels per day last week, more than 250,000 barrels below their 2015 average of 992,000 barrels per day. Saudi Arabia is a country whose rig count is at record highs and which is spearheading the effort to destroy the US shale oil industry, so I expect these imports will recover rapidly over the next month. Finally, our third-largest trading partner, Mexico, saw its imports slide 290,000 barrels per day last week, and currently sit 215,000 barrels per day below its 2015 average – likely another short-term anomaly. Were just these three countries to have had their imports at 2015 baseline levels, last week’s storage build would have been a massive 7.1 million barrels. The gains seen in Venezuela, Kuwait, and other smaller trading partners that sent tallies above their 2015 averages may be at least partially attributable to a surge in Gulf Coast imports following delays caused by Tropical Storm Bill, and therefore, may decline in coming weeks. However, I expect the net change in imports to be upwards over the next month, putting further pressure on the supply/demand balance.

My rationale for emphasizing imports compared to US production and demand is that I believe that they have been artificially creating the appearance of a tightening supply/demand balance. Thanks to wildfires in Canada, Tropical Storm Bill interrupting shipments in the Gulf of Mexico, and unrest in the Middle East, imports during April, May, and early June (as shown in Figure 3) were depressed below the five-year average. This correlated strongly with a transition to storage withdrawals that helped to fuel the back-end of crude oil’s 30% rally from the March low of $43/barrel to $61/barrel. Figure 5 below compares crude oil weekly storage injections/withdrawals to imports.

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Figure 5: Crude oil storage changes versus imports. There is a strong correlation between storage withdrawals between May and late June and a decline in imports. Storage injections resumed last week, following a surge in imports. This supports imports being the major driver of the domestic supply/demand balance over the past few months. [Source: Chart is my own, data from the EIA.]

During this same period (as shown in Figure 2), domestic production and demand remained relatively unchanged. As a result, I firmly believe that the decline in imports hoodwinked many investors into thinking that the supply/demand balance was permanently tightening, due either to increasing demand from cheap oil or declining production from the declining rig count, when it was really a temporary drop in imports. Now that imports have returned to a baseline level, this “masking” of the supply/demand balance has been lifted, and the result was a bearish injection similar to those seen during oil’s springtime free fall – but during a time when the market expects withdrawals. It is therefore unsurprising that oil retreated to the tune of 4% yesterday.

What I believe to be even more concerning is that there is little room to go higher on the demand front. Refinery utilization – the percentage of US refinery capacity that is being utilized to convert crude oil to gasoline and other finished products – was at 95.0% last week. This is the highest refinery utilization during the final week of June over the last 10 years. Figure 6 below shows refinery utilization for the last week of June from 2006 to the present.

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Figure 6: Refinery utilization during the final week of June for the past 10 years showing that, at 95%, 2015’s utilization is the highest of the decade. [Source: Chart is my own, data from the EIA.]

Furthermore, the maximum refinery utilization during any week in the last 10 years was 95.4%, recorded several times, most recently last December. As a result, at 95.0% refinery, utilization is nearly at its maximum capacity. The fact that we saw a 2.4 million barrel storage injection, with demand near its maximal level pulling hard at crude oil inventories and with imports still with room to run higher, suggests to me that oil still has room to fall.

Oil’s 4% decline to under $57/barrel represented a major breakdown not only from a fundamental level, as discussed above, but from a technical level. During the 44-day period from April 29 to June 30, crude oil had traded within a tight $4.17 range between $61.43/barrel and $57.26/barrel, the narrowest range since March 2004. Oil broke out of that range yesterday. Figure 7 plots the price of crude oil over the last 3 months, showing the rally, range-bound action, and the breakdown yesterday.

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Figure 7: Crude oil prices over the last 2 months showing range-bound trading largely between $58/barrel and $61/barrel. followed by a breakdown yesterday. [Source: Chart is my own, data from the EIA.]

Now that oil has fallen below its 2-month support level, I would not be surprised if more investors head for the exits.

I continue to hold three positions betting on a continued downtrend in crude oil prices. I own a 10% short position in the popular United States Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:USO) – increased from 5% last week – a large 15% short position in the leveraged VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN (NYSEARCA:UWTI), and a 5% short position in the Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEARCA:RSX). The latter provides short exposure to an oil-driven economy, as well as the turmoil encompassing Europe. The short UWTI position is a higher-risk play on leverage-induced decay due to choppy trading. USO, of course, is a safer direct play on declining oil prices.

Should oil drop to $55/barrel – which has long been my short-term price target – I will begin to aggressively cover my UWTI short position to protect profits in a highly volatile trade, which is currently up 20% and would likely be pushing 35% if oil reaches $55/barrel. I will likewise plan to close out my RSX short around the same level to lock in profits, should the European crisis appear to be resolving.

However, I plan to hold USO for the foreseeable future. Following yesterday’s decline, contango in the oil futures market is again rising, with the 4-month spread up to $1.21, or 2.2%, after bottoming out at $0.86 last week. Should oil continue to fall, the contango will likely widen further, and I could easily see contango-generated returns topping 5% on a position held through the Fall. I feel USO is a safer, less volatile long-term hold than UWTI (despite the fact that UWTI triples the contango-generated gains and also benefits from leverage-induced decay). My price target to close out my USO position is currently $50/barrel. Factors that would likely cause me to cover sooner would include any socioeconomic forces that look like they would suppress imports for an extended period, or if US production (finally) begins declining in a meaningful way. As a result, my “stop” is a fundamental stop, and I do not have a specific stop price. Should oil rally in the face of the current bearish fundamentals, I will even consider adding to my USO short position up to 15%. If I had no crude oil short exposure, I would be reluctant to open a position here with oil down 7% in a week. Rather, I would wait for a bounce before initiating any position.

In conclusion, I believe that US crude oil demand and production remain in a stable, bearish pattern. Instead, the fundamental supply/demand picture is, and has been, dictated by fluctuations in crude oil imports. I do not believe that the underlying fundamental picture has changed since March, and that a return to baseline import levels last week following months of temporary suppression unmasked this persistent supply/demand imbalance. With crude oil demand unlikely to go higher with refineries near peak capacity, domestic production stable, and crude oil imports with room to go even higher, particularly from Canada and Saudi Arabia, I expect continued weakness in crude oil in the months to come. Once the summer driving season fades and demand declines, I would not be surprised to see the domestic oil surplus climb back above 100 million barrels over the next 1-3 months. Further exacerbating bearish sentiment are the possible resumption of Iranian exports and continued anxiety over Greece and the eurozone, although I believe these fears to be secondary to the ongoing domestic storage glut. My 1-3 month price target is $55/barrel, with a potential to drop as low as $50/barrel during this time. As a result, I plan to hold my large basket of crude oil short positions in USO, UWTI, and RSX.

Additional disclosure: As noted in the article, I am also short RSX and UWTI.

Is $50 “Hard Floor” Oil Price Already In?

Volte-Face Investments believes that it is …

https://martinhladyniuk.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/011bb-peak-oil-situation-31-jul-12.jpg

The Last Two Oil Crashes Show Peak Oil Is Real

Summary

  • Recent oil crashes show you the hard floor for gauging value oil company equities.
  • Properly understood, the crashes lend an insight into the concept of Peak Oil.
  • All oil equity investors should understand the overarching upward trend on display here.
 

Note: ALL prices used in this article are using current 2015 dollars, inflation adjusted using the
US BLS inflation calculator.

Generally, when I invest, I try to keep my thesis very simple. Find good companies, with good balance sheets and some kind of specific catalytic event on the horizon. But when one starts to concentrate their holdings in a sector, as I have recently in energy (see my recent articles on RMP Energy (OTCPK:OEXFF) and DeeThree Energy (OTCQX:DTHRF), you need to also get a good handle on the particular tail or headwinds that are affecting it. Sometimes a sector like oil (NYSEARCA:USO) can be subjected to such forces, like the recent oil price crash, where almost no company specific data mattered.

One of the biggest arguments, normally used by proponents of owning oil stocks as core holdings, in the energy sector is “Peak Oil.” For the unfamiliar, it is a theory forwarded first by M. King Hubbert in the 1950s regarding U.S. oil production. Essentially, the theory stated that the U.S. would reach a point where the oil reserves would become so depleted that it would be impossible to increase oil production further, or even maintain it at a given level, regardless of effort. This would inevitably lead to oil price rises of extreme magnitudes.

Since those early beginnings, the details have been argued over in an ever-evolving fashion. The argument has shifted with global events, technological developments, and grown to encompass nearly every basin in the world (even best-selling books have been written about peak oil like Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy by Matt Simmons about a decade ago) consuming endless bytes of the Internet in every kind of investment forum and medium of exchange.

In general, I believe that the term “peak oil” is a highly flawed one. Some picture peak oil in a Mad Max fashion, with oil supplies running out like a science fiction disaster movie. Others simply dismiss peak oil as having failed to predict these so-called peaks repeatedly (the world is producing a record amount of oil right now, so all previous absolute “Peak Oil” calls below these amounts are obviously wrong). But what people should be stating when they use these terms is a Peak Oil Price.

Using my own thinking and phrasing, I believe civilization has probably passed $25 Peak Oil. This means that if you set the oil price to $25 a barrel, there is no method available to humanity to provide enough oil to meet demand over any period of time that’s really relevant. I also believe we are in the middle of proving that we have also passed $50 Peak Oil. My final conjecture here is that we will prove in the near-term future to have reached $75 Peak Oil. I don’t believe we are quite at $100 Peak Oil.

Notice that in my formulation the term Peak Oil is always stated as a peak price. Oil is not consumed in a vacuum. The price affects the demand the world has for the product and simultaneously changes the ability of all sorts of entities (businesses and governments) to retrieve deposits of it. This is what I hope to prove in this article.

So what data could I bring to this crowded table?

Well we have one thing we now have that previous entrants into the Peak Oil melee didn’t, which is the recent price crash in oil. Peak oil is often falsely portrayed as a failed idea since it hasn’t resulted in a super squeeze to ultra high prices. These spike prices are viewed as the really critical element by energy investors since they are trying to find the best case. After all, who doesn’t want to own an oil producer if they can identify a spot in which oil prices will rise to some enormous number.

But that is the wrong way to go about it for your oil investments over the long haul. Because what $50 Peak Oil really provides is a floor. In a world where we have passed $25 Peak Oil, it should be impossible, without exogenous events of enormous magnitude (world war, etc.), to press the price of the product below that price. If you could do so, you would immediately disprove the thesis. You would then know the floor provided by whichever peak oil price level you selected was wrong. The same idea seems to hold true for $50 Peak Oil now.

To prove this “floor” we need to choose times of extreme stress in the oil markets, and look at those oil prices and see what the bottoms were. For these examples, let’s select WTI oil, whose weekly average prices are reported all the way back to 1986 by the EIA.

Let’s take the three big crashes in the oil markets. I will use a full year’s average to try to smooth out the various difficulties presented by weather, seasonal effects, or various one-off events (outages, etc.). The first crash I will use as a benchmark is The 1986 Oil Crash. The 1986 breakdown was a supply crash, caused by supply swamping demand. How big a disaster was it for the oil industry?

In 1986, the Saudis opened the spigot and sparked a four-month, 67 percent plunge that left oil just above $10 a barrel. The U.S. industry collapsed, triggering almost a quarter-century of production declines, and the Saudis regained their leading role in the world’s oil market.

This was quite a crash obviously. Triggering a 25 year decline? Not going to find a lot worse than this. So in inflation adjusted dollars what was WTI oil at for the year of 1986? It sold for around $32 a barrel. Now let’s note that at this time WTI crude was actually at a higher price vs. Brent and other world prices. On a Brent basis, crude would have been just around $25 for the year. This will prove to be an important point in a short while.

The next crash we will use to benchmark was the 2008 Financial Crisis. On this website, I should hope that this world crisis will need no introduction and little explanation. This crash in oil prices (and just about every other thing priced by human beings) was a demand crash. The financial disintegration across the world led to massive drops in demand, as jobs were lost across the world by the millions. So with this demand crash what was the average price of WTI crude in the year 2009? It sold in that year for a little over $60.

The last crash I will add is the current drop, starting sometime around October by my reckoning. I would find it hard to imagine any reader of this article is unfamiliar with the current situation in North America or the world regarding oil, at least in a headline sense. This seems to be a supply crash again, where North American-led tight oil drillers have caused an increase in production that the world’s demand couldn’t handle at the $100 price level. Since then, prices have dropped down to a level that suppresses the production of oil and enhances demand.

In the first four months of 2015, the North American oil rig count has already dropped by more than 50% as compared to last year and the demand for oil has begun to increase according to EIA statistics. The current price of WTI oil has been just over $49 as an average for the year 2015. However, let us note that WTI oil now sells for a large discount to world prices, and during the previous two crashes, WTI sold for a premium.

Now we have three data points. Each one is a fairly long period of time, not just a single week. We know that the world in 1986 nearly ended for the oil industry, yet in current dollars, WTI oil was unable to trade for a year below $30 a barrel. Then we had in 2008 and 2009 an economic crisis which was widely described as being the most dire financial disaster since WWII. In 2009, WTI oil still ended up trading well over the 1986 low. In fact it was nearly double that price. This shows just how hard it can be using almost any technique to push oil prices below a true peak number.

Now we have another supply led crunch. One that is widely described as the worst oil crash since 1986, a nearly 30 year time gap. We are attacking the oil price from the supply side instead of 2008’s demand side. Yet thus far, in 2015, oil is still trading more than 50% higher than the 1986 year average, inflation adjusted. In fact, WTI, when adjusted for its current discount to world prices, is trading close to its 2009 average price. Again, nearly double the price of the 1986 crash.

What does this all mean for investing? It means to me that $25 Peak Oil is behind us. You couldn’t really hit and maintain that number in the 1986 crash when many more virgin conventional reservoirs of oil were available. Despite the last three oil crises, not one of them could get WTI oil to $25 and keep it there. Now, using much more expensive oil resources (shale fracing, deep water drilling, arctic development, etc.), it doesn’t seem like the last two disasters have been able to press WTI oil much below $50 for a material length of time. In this recent crash, the $50 floor was able to be reached only with several years of hyper-investment made possible by the twin forces of sustained high prices and access to ultra-cheap capital. Both of these forces are no longer present in the oil markets.

Therefore, I think using a $50 Peak Oil number is a very reasonable hard floor to use when stress testing your oil stocks. It means that when I am choosing a stock that produces oil, it can survive both from supply and the demand led crashes using the worst the world can throw at it.

Some will say this reasoning is simplistic. One could claim any number of variables in the future (technology, peace in the Middle East, etc.) could change all the points I am relying on here. But we have thrown everything at the oil complex between 2008 and now; both from the supply side and the demand sides; breakdowns of the whole world economy, wars, sanctions, natural disasters, hugely stupid governmental policies, OPEC’s seeming fade to irrelevance, biofuels, periods of ultra-high prices, technological progress, electric cars, etc. Yet, here we stand with these numbers staring us in the face.

In conclusion, I feel these price points prove the reality of $50 Peak Oil (WTI). If WTI oil averages more than $50 in 2015 (which I strongly feel the data shows will happen), then it will confirm my thesis that no matter what happens in the world, human beings cannot seem to produce the amount of oil they require for less than that number. Therefore, one will know what the hard floor for petroleum is provided by the hugely complex interplay of geology, politics, economics, and technology by simply measuring those effects on one easy-to-measure point of data, namely price. This version of peak oil also means I have a minimum to test my selections on. I can buy companies that can at least deal with that floor, then make large profits as the prices rise from that hard floor. All oil fields deplete, and for the past twenty years, the solution has universally been to add more expensive technological solutions, exploit smaller or more physically difficult deposits, or use more expensive alternatives. The oil market does not have the same options available to it like it did 1986. Large, cheap conventional oil deposits are no longer available in sufficient supply, which is likely what the oil price is telling us by having higher Peak Floors during crashes. Without the magic of sustained ultra high prices, the investment levels that made this run at the $50 Peak Oil level will not exist going into the future. This means that the Peak Oil floor price should be creeping higher as a sector tailwind, giving a patient and selective investor a tremendous advantage for themselves.

Read more: Volte-Face Investments: The Last Two Oil Crashes Show Peak Oil Is Real