It was a big, and historic, week in this country as the 46th President of the United States, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., was ushered into the White House. It was also a week that rocked the oil and gas industry. On his first day in office, Biden signed a series of executive orders that underscored his Clean Energy Revolution — rejoining the Paris Climate Accord; revoking approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada; blocking drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge; and telling agencies to immediately review dozens of Trump-era rules on science, the environment, and public health. In addition, on his second day in office, the Biden administration announced a 60-day suspension of new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters. Ironically, Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL project comes just days after the owners of the pipeline, TC Energy, announced their commitment to become the first pipeline to be fully powered by renewable energy; delivering affordable, reliable energy resources we all rely upon.
Progress towards global decarbonization is quickly becoming one of the hottest topics in 2021 following the momentum experienced in 2020. Dozens of countries, multitudes of cities, and countless companies have announced their goals to achieve net-zero emissions on their path towards decarbonization by mid-century. The problem is, most of these announcements lack any specific path forward. As a part of this movement, the International Energy Agency announced that it will produce the world’s first comprehensive roadmap for the energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 as it further strengthens its leadership role in global clean energy transitions. But is the world prepared for such a transition as the clean energy infrastructure is clearly not yet capable of supplying reliable energy on a global scale as seen in the recent blackouts in China and California?
After failing to come to a consensus Monday, Tuesday’s extension of the OPEC+ meeting ended at long last with a solution. The meeting saw members of the OPEC+ group agree to lift oil production by 75,000 barrels per day over January levels. But there was also a surprise twist that sent oil prices soaring. Saudi Arabia announced they would voluntarily cut an additional 1 million barrels per day in February and March above its current cuts while its OPEC+ allies get to ramp up production. “We are the guardian of this industry,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said as he gleefully announced the cut on Tuesday. He emphasized that the decision was made unilaterally by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman himself. Such actions caused crude prices to jump to a 10-month high and adds stability to an ever imbalanced market.
An iconic brand known for cold weather gear is finding itself in the hot seat after refusing to serve West Texas based Innovex Downhole Solutions. Innovex wanted to get its employees The North Face jackets with the company logo on them for Christmas. When the company reached out to The North Face, however, their request was denied based on their industry. Now, the clothing brand is in the hot seat after Innovex CEO Adam Anderson wisely pointed out to a North Face representative how essential the products of the oil and gas industry are for their business.
Last Friday, Baker Hughes reported that the number of oil rigs in the United States rose by 5 to 246 which is the highest number of rigs since mid-May. While this is welcome news for many E&P companies, the news that U.S. petroleum refining capacity has fallen to its lowest level since May 2016 has the markets in a bit of a pickle; and for good reason. With these two metrics moving in opposite directions, crude and product inventories in the United States have begun to rise at a rapid rate once again. Luckily, global demand hit a two month high after wobbling in November when several European nations imposed fresh lockdowns and experts expect this trend to continue as demand for gasoline and diesel is accelerating once again.
After much debate, the OPEC+ group finally reached an agreement on oil production for next year. Or at least for January. On Thursday, OPEC and its allies agreed to slightly ease their deep oil output cuts from January by 500,000 barrels per day but failed to find a compromise on a broader and longer term policy for the rest of next year. The increase means the group would move to cutting production by 7.2 million bpd, or 7% of global demand from January, compared with current cuts of 7.7 million bpd. While this is not quite the result the world was looking for, at least it is steps in the right direction.
Despite boasting the lowest lifting costs in the world at $2.80, even Saudi Arabia is struggling in this low price environment. In fact, Saudi Aramco was forced to raise $8 billion from the sale of U.S. dollar-denominated bonds to meet a dividend pledge to their shareholders. Earlier this month, the company posted a 45% fall in net income for the third quarter, generating free cash flow of only $12.4 billion, compared with the roughly $18.75 billion it requires each three months to meet its dividend pledge.
For yet another month, OPEC revised its expectations for global oil demand as the renewed spike in coronavirus cases in major economies is slowing down demand recovery. The group now sees global oil demand at slightly above 90.0 million barrels per day this year, down by 9.8 million bpd compared to 2019. As a result, talks between OPEC and its allies are zeroing in on a delay to next year’s planned oil-output increase of three to six months, according to several delegates as they think twice about easing cuts in January.
The energy sector has emerged as the worst-performing of the United States eleven market sectors in the current year, dropping to its lowest point relative to the S&P 500 since 1931. In fact, not only is the oil and gas industry the biggest market loser of 2020, but it has also now become the worst performer on the market ever. Over the past 20 years, the S&P 500 has risen more than 130% while the XLE energy ETF has fallen 3%. Things need to start changing quickly if there is any hope for the energy sector.
In a spooky week in oil, Third Quarter results were released for some of the worlds largest and most powerful oil and gas companies and there were some surprising results. Low prices, reduced production, and slashed operating costs forced companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron to report massive losses while others like Shell and BP surprised investors and the world by turning a profit during a tumultuous third quarter.
This week, two major U.S. shale acquisitions were officially announced when ConocoPhillips announced their acquisition of Concho Resources and Pioneer Natural Resources announced their agreement to acquire Parsley Energy. The Pioneer all-stock transaction valued at $4.5 Billion (inclusive of Parsley’s debt increases the value to $7.6 Billion) is significantly less than the all-stock transaction of the ConocoPhillips deal valued at $9.7 Billion (inclusive of Concho’s debt increases the value to $13.3 Billion) but is significant nonetheless. Major moves in the U.S. oil and gas sector indicate that consolidation is the future.
A wild week in oil news saw some of the world’s top analytics firms’ predictions on the future of the oil and gas industry in the United States be overshadowed by the possibility of a massive merger between two shale powerhouses and approval of an expansion for the Dakota Access Pipeline. As temperatures begin to cool off into the winter season, election season is causing the oil industry to heat up.
Chevron Corporation overtook Exxon Mobil Corporation as the largest oil company in America by market value, the first time the Texas-based giant has been dethroned since it began as Standard Oil more than a century ago. But neither are any match for a Hurricane as both majors have evacuated production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Hurricane Delta. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement estimated about 80% of the Gulf’s oil production and 49% of natural gas production has been shut-in, including over 180 production platforms. Hurricane season has chronically caused trouble in the gulf region and a historic 2020 is no different.
On Thursday, news headlines read “Oil Prices Slide As OPEC Opens The Valves” which referenced the overall increase in OPEC production for the month of September. Yet only 3 of the past 14 weeks has the EIA reported domestic crude oil inventory builds. In the month of September alone, there was a total of 10.989 million barrels of crude oil drained from domestic inventories and yet when news breaks that OPEC increased production during September, when global inventories fell at historic rates, current prices dropped. Seriously?!? Market participants are reacting to something that happened in the past without paying attention to the actual supply/demand picture.
This week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced California will phase out the sale of all gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035 in a bid to lead the U.S. in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the state’s drivers to switch to electric cars. As California pushes to phase out hydrocarbons and make the switch to renewable energy sources, they have experienced electricity shortages that have left hundreds of thousands of customers without power. So, how does the state expect to power all the homes AND vehicles in the state within the next 15 years without reliable power?
On September 5th, Saudi Arabia cut its official crude selling price to Asia and U.S. buyers in an attempt to “boost global demand” all while U.S. crude oil inventories are seeing drawdowns at historic rates. In addition, the Russian Oil Minister announced on September 18th that global oil inventories are in decline and yet the world’s main oil forecasting agencies, analysts, and companies are pessimistic about oversupply creating a grim oil demand outlook. Clearly forecasting oil demand in 2020 is becoming a seemingly impossible task and has the world’s best scratching their heads.
Today we remember the heroes lost in the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Today we remember how we came together as a nation to rebuild, reunite, and move forward. Today we remember how those terrible events brought us together. But most importantly, today we recognize we must once again come together as a nation to overcome these current events to build a better tomorrow. #NeverForget
The world’s largest oilfield services provider, Schlumberger, is selling its North American fracking business to Liberty Oilfield Services for a minority stake (37%) in the new combined company after the oil price crash crushed the U.S. shale patch’s fracking activity. The news comes just days after Schlumberger announced a partnership with Thermal Energy Partners to create STEP Energy, a geothermal project development company. Is Schlumberger getting out of oil?
Ahead of Hurricane Laura’s landfall, Gulf of Mexico Operators were forced to evacuate nearly 300 platforms and shut-in more than 84% of oil production and more than half of their natural gas production. In addition, after one of the strongest hurricanes in years made landfall near the heart of the U.S. refining industry, around 3 million barrels a day of U.S. refining capacity was closed or reduced. These facilities are built to withstand such events but a temporary shutdown is about how 2020 is going. So, thanks Laura.
In a relatively quiet week in the industry, a family owned oil and gas company made a major discovery in West Texas. While the 74.2 Million Barrel discovery would not seem like a big deal to some of the major oil and gas companies in the area, the exploration venture more resembles that of a development project for a small company that can hopefully bring back their workers lost during the downturn. It is the kind of bright news the world needs in times where there seems to be nothing but negativity all around.