Oil gained for a second day in a row on Tuesday, pushed up by a trade war truce, pending OPEC+ production cuts, and surprise mandatory output reductions in Canada.
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- Western Canada Select (WCS) prices crashed close to $10 per barrel over the last few weeks, the result of inadequate pipeline capacity out of Alberta. Refinery maintenance in the Midwest added to the region’s woes.
- The provincial government of Alberta took the extraordinary step of requiring mandatory production cuts to narrow the discount.
- Alberta producers will be required to cut output by roughly 8 percent beginning in January, which will last until the inventory overhang is erased.
• Cenovus Energy (NYSE: CEO) said that it would stick to its capex plan of C$1.5 billion in 2019 after Alberta issued mandatory production cuts. The company said it would have slashed spending if the cuts weren’t issued in light of low prices.
• Groningen natural gas production will fall by at least 75 percent to below 5 billion cubic meters per year over the next five years. The Dutch government has been trying to ratchet down output because of seismic activity.
• ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) announced its tenth discovery in offshore Guyana on Monday. Its total resource estimate for the Stabroek Block now rises to more than 5 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Tuesday December 4, 2018
Trump and Xi agree to truce. The U.S. and China agreed to delay their trade war, although both sides have sold the temporary agreement differently to their home audiences. Trump played up a lowering of Chinese tariffs on U.S. autos, something that China did not confirm they agreed to. Still, global markets welcomed the ceasefire, even if it only kicks the can down the road. The U.S. will hold off on the scheduled increase in tariffs from 10 to 25 percent that was set to take effect in January. The two sides now have 90 days to reach an agreement.
OPEC production steady in November. OPEC’s production was flat in November at 33.13 million barrels per day, down a slight 10,000 bpd from the month before. Saudi output exceeded 11 mb/d for the first time in history, but those gains were offset by a declines elsewhere, including 230,000 bpd from Iran and 160,000 bpd from Iraq.
OPEC+ gears up for production cut. Russian President Vladimir Putin said over the weekend at the G20 summit that Russia has agreed to go along with a production cut in Vienna. The size of the cut is undecided at this point. Saudi Arabia wants something more aggressive, but is also wary of angering Washington. Most analysts predict a middle-of-the-road production cut. “Given Saudi Arabia’s need to balance a host of conflicting interests, our basecase scenario is a de-facto Saudi-led cut with Russian participation, but a flexible agreement that shies away from specific targets,” Verisk Maplecroft said in a note to clients. Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih said on Tuesday that it was still “premature” to lay out the specifics of the deal.
Alberta issues mandatory production cuts. Alberta required its oil industry to lower output by 325,000 bpd beginning in January to erase the stockpile glut and ease the strain on the region’s takeaway capacity. The move is intended to boost WCS prices – and by all accounts, the move seems to have worked. WCS jumped this week. According to Scotiabank, WCS discounts could average just $20 per barrel in the first quarter of 2019, down sharply from a more painful $29-per-barrel discount had the policy not been enacted.
Qatar quits OPEC. Qatar announced its withdrawal from OPEC on Monday, after nearly six decades inside the group. The Qatari government said it was for “technical” reasons; mainly to focus on natural gas production. But a member of the ruling family also criticized OPEC, which seemed to undercut the official reason for the country’s exit. “The withdrawal of Qatar from OPEC is a wise decision, as this organization has become useless and does not bring us anything,” said former prime minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. “It is just being used for purposes that harm our national interest.” Saudi Arabia launched an economic blockade against Qatar last year, and most analysts believe the intense rivalry between the two countries drove Qatar to exit.
Libyan warlord finds international support. The Wall Street Journal profiled Khalifa Haftar, the warlord that controls the eastern half of Libya and stands in opposition to the internationally-recognized government in the western half of the country. Haftar has a bloody record of torture, extrajudicial killings and disappearances, but he has found growing support from Europe and elsewhere as his control has grown. “Some Western officials now regard Mr. Haftar as indispensable to any future Libyan peace pact,” the Wall Street Journal wrote. Many oil companies have investments in territory controlled by Haftar.
Iran threatens to blockade Strait of Hormuz if U.S. tightens sanctions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to block all oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if Washington follows through on tighter sanctions intended to zero out Iranian oil exports. “The US should know that we are selling our oil ... and it is not able to stop Iran's oil exports,” Rouhani said. “And it should know if it intends to block our oil someday, no oil will be exported through the Persian Gulf.” It’s not the first time that Tehran has issued such a threat.
U.S. State Department to conduct environmental review of Keystone XL. In response to a court order, the State Department will conduct an additional environmental review of the Keystone XL project, after its route was been altered. The review will add further delays.
Shell to tie executive compensation to carbon reductions. In response to pressure from investors, Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A) will implement carbon emissions targets and tie them to executive pay.
AMLO criticizes energy reform. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office on December 1, and in his inaugural speech he lambasted the energy reform instituted under his predecessor. “They told us it was going to save us but it has only meant the fall in oil production and the excessive increase in gasoline, diesel, gas and electricity prices,” he said of the reforms. Still, he vowed his government would “respect the [energy] contracts already signed and ensure that investments will be secure.” He also promised major investments in Mexico’s refineries.
French government to delay fuel tax hike. After crippling protests, the French government has backed down on a planned hike in diesel taxes. “After hearing (the) anger I am suspending for six months three fiscal measures including fuel tax increases,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
Exxon and Chevron to sell stakes in Azeri oil field. ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX) are looking to sell their stakes in Azerbaijan’s largest oil field, the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) field in the Caspian Sea. Exxon is hoping to raise $2 billion in the sale, according to Reuters. Both companies have been involved in the field for a quarter century, and the original deal was once nicknamed “the contract of the century.”
By Tom Kool for Oilprice.com
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