Fine: Oil speculation and natural gas/LNG in New England and Russia
American oil production is poised to reach upward to 11 million barrels of oil per day if the price of West Texas Crude reaches $75 a barrel.
Saudi Arabia or Saudi Aramco believes it will, and commodity speculators are following. It is similar to 2008 in June when Goldman Sachs forecast $250 per barrel as the price approached $150.
What events are running through computer modelling to trigger speculative buying? First, the effort of Saudi Arabia to sell shares in Saudi Aramco to the world – at least 5 percent.
The price of oil is the key for the price per share at an initial public offering. It must be high enough to overcome doubts about the company in terms of ultimate economic value and size of its reserves as well as potential legal action based on the 9/11 Saudi Arabian operatives in the destruction of the World Trade Centers and the death of nearly 3,000 and related family injuries.
Second, chemical warfare in Syria and Western military reaction. This is a momentary reflux in trading behavior which dates back to 1973. After 2010 and the appearance of shale and tight oil, buying oil as commodity tight on supply is self-initiated by speculators with no basis in reality. America’s three oil basins now supply oil to replace Middle East shortages in world export flows. Continental North American production adds to a self-sufficient mix.
This event can no longer deprive the United States of physical barrels resulting in shortage of supply. Prices outside of trading pits or online bids and asks are now determined by West Texas Intermediate, which reflects self-sufficiency against non-North American sourced oil. The Persian Gulf against the Permian Basin?
Demand for oil in producer estimates, such as, Saudi Aramco or total range between 1.2 percent and less than 1.0 percent growth per year. Supply of oil from American unconventional sources is increasing, with high prices at 8 percent.
The two year low of downturn prices did not create conditions for a supply crunch. Super-giant oil fields are few and far between even at higher prices. Supply shortage talk on the social and commercial media is promoted by Saudi Arabian interest in higher oil prices to support its potential IPO share price. Offshore Norway has applied shale recovery technology from New Mexico, Texas and North Dakota and can be profitable at $35 per barrel against $80 breakeven in 2013.
Third, reaction to OPEC-Russia announcements of production reductions – oil off the world market — are not likely signals for commodity traders to buy. How much oil can OPEC members and Russia take off the market? How long can they lower production in terms of fiscal requirements?
One last event in production denial would be the imposition of sanctions against Iranian oil exports, which would follow the decision to void the nuclear weapons treaty by President Trump. The North American market for Iranian is almost non-existent.
As before, this Energy Magazine column warns of a downturn next year. How bad? If the buzz around the Permian is that its “health” no longer depends on the price of oil has been taken seriously, the downturn will be serious.
Exxon-Mobil/XTO is preparing to enter the world market of LNG (liquid natural gas) with a plant in Louisiana. Its natural gas feedstock would be from its Delaware Basin production (New Mexico’s Permian).
The scale and size of its LNG facility will place American production and export as a world leader next to Qatar, which is reacting to Saudi Arabian hostility by expanding investment in American oil and gas.
Turning to Europe, the opportunity of geopolitical deployment of American gas to Europe to offset Russian supply promoted by the State Departments of Bush through Obama and now of Trump has been set back.
Germany has approved the Russian natural gas pipeline under the North Sea despite efforts to isolate Russia because of the Crimea annexation.
This means ongoing European natural gas dependence on Russia without transit pipelines through the Ukraine. And indirectly it keeps demand and prices for San Juan natural gas lower.
As long as Marcellus natural gas is semi-stranded by New England’s opposition to building pipelines for its markets, based on environmentalist politics, American natural gas is unable to replace residential reliance on heating oil imported from high-risk Venezuela.
Russian LNG appeared in Boston harbor during the worst of a New England winter as an alternative to low- cost pipeline gas from Pennsylvania. This partially keeps San Juan Basin gas at low prices.
Dr. Daniel Fine is the associate director of New Mexico Tech’s Center for Energy Policy and the State of New Mexico Natural Gas Export Coordinator. The opinions expressed are his own.