The United States Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy announced last Friday that contracts have been awarded for the sale of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). The sale is for 10.1 million barrels of fuel to be sold during the fiscal year 2021. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve was established in the 1970s as a response to the Arab Oil Embargo that caused a fuel crisis in the United States. It was recently determined the SPR held 637.8 million barrels of crude oil, which makes it the world’s largest supply of emergency crude oil.
Over the past few months, there has been a lot of negativity in the global fuels market. The price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic are at the top of the list when it comes to driving crude oil prices to historic lows. However, recently there has been some small and simple actions that show signs of turnaround in a positive direction in the crude market. The Texas Railroad commission, production cuts, relaxing of local travel restrictions, and construction resuming, will all have a positive influence on the oil market.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies agreed yesterday to cut production of crude oil by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) in May and June, 7.6 million bpd July – December, and 5.6 million bpd January 2021 – April 2022. The 9.7 million bpd is roughly 10% of the global supply. Reuters reports, “The cut by OPEC+ may be more than four times deeper than the previous record set in 2008 and overall oil supply may shrink by twice that with other measures, but the reduction remains dwarfed by a demand drop predicted by some forecasters to be as much as 30 million bpd in April.” It was not long ago in early January that Brent crude was trading above $70/barrel but with the relentless Coronavirus pandemic, that number dropped to a 20-year low of $21.65/barrel on March 30th.
Recent drone attacks have wreaked havoc on the Saudi Aramco oil facilities along with imposed sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. These events should all be pointing one direction for the crude prices…..up. Instead of the anticipated price increase, the recent fear of recession has helped keep the market in check.
President Trump recently threatened to tax, nearly $300 billion dollars of Chinese products, by 10%. The already volatile oil market, seems to have room for some extra volatility. The volatility would largely cycle around China’s response to the U.S. tariffs. If China responds by purchasing oil from Iran, analysts speculate crude could rapidly approach $30 per barrel. Trump could impose the sanctions on the Chinese imports as soon as September 1st. Trump also threatened that he could raise the tariff, if no progress has been made towards a trade deal.
As we head into the month of August, the New York Mercantile Exchange front month futures shifts to September. When we think of September we think of the fall and the seasonal changes to gasoline specifications. While the price spread between the expiring August contract (summer grade) and the October contract (reflecting higher reid vapor pressure) is over $0.20 per gallon. Will the market prices go down as the spread suggests?
According to reports, Iran is quickly going to breach the Uranium-stockpile limit set by the current nuclear deal. President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has already warned that a new deal needed to be in action by Sunday June 7, 2019 or the Islamic Republic will increase enrichment of Uranium. Globally, there is much concern with the growth rate of Iran’s uranium cache, because they are just a step away from weapon-grade levels of uranium.
Alternative energy is certainly an interesting concept in many aspects. Often referred to as “Clean Energy,” alternatives can also include solar, wind and water based production. As our current world tries to push for a change on how power is sourced, there has been an effort and an investment to change from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gasses towards alternatives to create sustainable and inexpensive options for energy production.
China and India have had considered on creating a “club” which will negotiate better prices with oil exporting countries and will be looking to import more U.S. crude oil in order to reduce OPEC’s sway. Two of the world’s largest oil importers, second and third respectfully, have exchanged senior level visits several times to discuss the premiums placed on oil sold to Asian nations. India, which imports more than 80% of its oil requirements, has seen oil prices increase to more than $75 a barrel.
The U.S. and China conclude their two-day trade talks in Beijing today with President Trump tweeting this morning “Talks with China are going very well!” This tweet and word that China had their top trade official, Liu He, attend the talks early this week have boosted equity and oil markets along with it as February WTI trades higher today to $49.42/barrel despite growing U.S. oil production.