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Possibilities of Global Oil Supply Volatility due to Khashoggi’s Mysterious Death

Dr. Hiranmoy Roy

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Owing to the decrease in spare oil capacity worldwide, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo advised the oil-producing companies to enhance their production capacities and investments to meet the future demand.

Oil producers have reassembled this year on expectation that US sanction on Iran will strain supplies due to lowering consignments from OPEC’s third largest oil producer.

Brent crude breached four year high to reach $ 76 a barrel earlier this month, the highest since 2014.

Barkindo has stated that countries possessing additional capacity are now dwindling due to reduced investment in explorations. He also asserted that global oil sector requires about 11 trillion in terms of investment to meet future oil demand in the period up to 2040.

The import dependent countries including India are concerned about future oil supply. OPEC in its September 2018 report said that crude oil demand is expected to shoot up from 14.5 million barrels per day in 2017 to 111.7 million B/D by 2040. Saudi Arabia, the de facto leader of OPEC, is the only oil producer with substantial extra capacity on hand, which can be supplied to the market when needed and the Saudi plans to invest $20 billion in the next few years for possible expansion of its auxiliary oil capacity. Currently oil markets are adequately supplied and well-adjusted, said Barkindo but he has also warned against a potential imbalance in 2019 due to increased additional capacity created through heavy investments which subsequently might lead to higher supply.

However, OPEC is willing to maintain the balance that has been achieved after four years. Members of OPEC and Non- OPEC countries are planning for a supply reduction agreement that is now on course to reach 100 % compliance.  OPEC and allied producers excluding US agreed in June to return to 100 % compliance with output cut that began in January 2017. This was after months of under production by Venezuela and other suppliers which pushed the adherence above 160 %.

Most interestingly, India is expected to account for 40 % of the overall increase in global demand during the 2040 forecast period as revealed by OPEC. Demand for oil in the world’s third largest oil importer is expected to rise by 5.8 million barrels per day by 2040. India is projected to witness the largest additional oil demand of 3.7 % per annum and the fastest growth in the period up to 2040.

Death of Saudi Arabia’s dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul Consulate and the country’s admittance of the same after two weeks of denial has adversely affected the western relations of the powerful kingdom.

Riyadh provided no evidence to support its account of the circumstances that led to Khashoggi’s death and it was still unclear whether other governments would be satisfied with it. A Saudi – owned media outlet warned that the country will face disruption in oil production and a sharp rise in world oil prices.

Oil prices rose as traders assessed a threat by Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, to retaliate against any punishment over the disappearance of Khashoggi – the government critic. Futures climbed as much as 1.9 % in New York as the market viewed the Saudi Foreign Ministry statement as a warning that the kingdom could use oil supplies as a political weapon. However, gains subsided amidst doubts that OPEC’s most powerful member would take such an extreme course and its energy minister promised that the Saudi will remain responsible supplier. US President Donald Trump has promised severe punishment, should Saudi Arabia be proved responsible for the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If Saudi uses their oil resources to hit back, it would be a break from their old policy of putting petroleum above politics.

“The market will price in some risk premium,” said Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS group AG in Zurich. “While Saudi Arabia has not used politics in recent years to deal with US however, prince Salman is not an ordinary politician and it is unclear how he will react going for forward. However, if Saudi Crude exports remain unchanged, this risk premium will disappear again.

Crude has retreated about 6 % after reaching a four-year high earlier this month as a darkening demand outlook, coupled with global stock market roots, which spurs investors to shun risky assets including commodities. Still traders continue to speculate whether OPEC and its partners can offset potential supply losses from Iran as US sanctions are set to curb oil exports from the Persian Gulf state.

West Texas Intermediate for November delivery rose delivery as much as $72.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange $71.89. The contract slid to 4 % last week. Brent for December settlement climbed as much as $1.49 or 1.9% to $81.92 a barrel on the London based ICE futures Europe Exchange. Prices declined 4.4% last week, the biggest weekly drop since early April. The global benchmark crude traded at $9.44 premium to WTI for the same month. Khashoggi has not been seen since entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd. The US administration is said to increasingly regard the Kingdom’s denial of any involvement in his disappearance as untenable. Turks officials say they have audio and video recordings showing Saudi security team detaining the journalist before killing him and dismembering his body, according to the Washington Post.

OPEC’s top producer Saudi Arabia has taken on an even more crucial role as the market from key producers to make up for lost barrels from Iran to Venezuela. Although the kingdom did use energy as a weapon when it led an oil embargo in 1973 to 1974, its current threats mark a surprising turn in an otherwise warm relationship with the US. Although it would be premature to comment on sanctions and on any issue until US get further down the investigation and find the underlying cause of Khashoggi’ s death. Trump’s comment about the Khashoggi’s incident in recent days have ranged from threatening Saudi Arabia with “very severe” consequences and warning of economic sanctions, to more conciliatory remarks in which he has played up the country’s role as a US ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of US arms. On Tuesday 23rdOctober, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the person who ordered the death of the prominent Saudi journalist must be brought in to account. He said the case that has sparked outrage around the globe; Turkey would not complete the investigation into Khashoggi’s death until all questions are answered. The White house and the US department of State did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Erdogan’s remarks. US President Trump has repeatedly played down any suggestion that the crown prince was involved in the killing but also warned of possible economic sanctions. Thus, Khashoggi’s mysterious disappearance may affect the geo-politics of oil market and dynamics of global oil supply.

* I am grateful to my student Purva Rathore of the department of Economics for support to compile this article

Dr. Hiranmoy Roy (Ph.D. in Economics) has been engaged in teaching and research since last seventeen years. He has written four books and published thirtyfive research papers in national and international peer reviewed journals.Dr. Roy has completed three research project sanctioned by UGC and UCO- Bank in the year 2001-04, 2003-04 and 2007-08. Also completed two Energy Policy Related Projects of NITI Aayog in the year 2016 – 2017.He has developed one ELECTIVE COURSE ON: GREEN ECONOMICS for World Bank programme on Special Concentration on “Green Management” Under the World Bank Program of capacity Building in South Asia.

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Energy

Driving a Smarter Future

MD Staff

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Today the average car runs on fossil fuels, but growing pressure for climate action, falling battery costs, and concerns about air pollution in cities, has given life to the once “over-priced” and neglected electric vehicle.

With many new electric vehicles (EV) now out-performing their fossil-powered counterparts’ capabilities on the road, energy planners are looking to bring innovation to the garage — 95% of a car’s time is spent parked. The result is that with careful planning and the right infrastructure in place, parked and plugged-in EVs could be the battery banks of the future, stabilising electric grids powered by wind and solar energy.

Today the average car runs on fossil fuels, but growing pressure for climate action, falling battery costs, and concerns about air pollution in cities, has given life to the once “over-priced” and neglected electric vehicle.

With many new electric vehicles (EV) now out-performing their fossil-powered counterparts’ capabilities on the road, energy planners are looking to bring innovation to the garage — 95% of a car’s time is spent parked. The result is that with careful planning and the right infrastructure in place, parked and plugged-in EVs could be the battery banks of the future, stabilising electric grids powered by wind and solar energy.

Advanced forms of smart charging

An advanced smart charging approach, called Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G), allows EVs not to just withdraw electricity from the grid, but to also inject electricity back to the grid. V2G technology may create a business case for car owners, via aggregators (PDF), to provide ancillary services to the grid. However, to be attractive for car owners, smart charging must satisfy the mobility needs, meaning cars should be charged when needed, at the lowest cost, and owners should possibly be remunerated for providing services to the grid. Policy instruments, such as rebates for the installation of smart charging points as well as time-of-use tariffs (PDF), may incentivise a wide deployment of smart charging.

“We’ve seen this tested in the UK, Netherlands and Denmark,” Boshell says. “For example, since 2016, Nissan, Enel and Nuvve have partnered and worked on an energy management solution that allows vehicle owners and energy users to operate as individual energy hubs. Their two pilot projects in Denmark and the UK have allowed owners of Nissan EVs to earn money by sending power to the grid through Enel’s bidirectional chargers.”

Perfect solution?

While EVs have a lot to offer towards accelerating variable renewable energy deployment, their uptake also brings technical challenges that need to be overcome.

IRENA analysis suggests uncontrolled and simultaneous charging of EVs could significantly increase congestion in power systems and peak load. Resulting in limitations to increase the share of solar PV and wind in power systems, and the need for additional investment costs in electrical infrastructure in form of replacing and additional cables, transformers, switchgears, etc., respectively.

An increase in autonomous and ‘mobility-as-a-service’ driving — i.e. innovations for car-sharing or those that would allow your car to taxi strangers when you are not using it — could disrupt the potential availability of grid-stabilising plugged-in EVs, as batteries will be connected and available to the grid less often.

Impact of charging according to type

It has also become clear that fast and ultra-fast charging are a priority for the mobility sector, however, slow charging is actually better suited for smart charging, as batteries are connected and available to the grid longer. For slow charging, locating charging infrastructure at home and at the workplace is critical, an aspect to be considered during infrastructure planning. Fast and ultra-fast charging may increase the peak demand stress on local grids. Solutions such as battery swapping, charging stations with buffer storage, and night EV fleet charging, might become necessary, in combination with fast and ultra-fast charging, to avoid high infrastructure investments.

To learn more about smart charging, read IRENA’s Innovation Outlook: smart charging for electric vehicles. The report explores the degree of complementarity potential between variable renewable energy sources and EVs, and considers how this potential could be tapped through smart charging between now and mid-century, and the possible impact of the expected mobility disruptions in the coming two to three decades.

IRENA

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Energy

What may cause Oil prices to fall?

Osama Rizvi

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Oil prices have rallied a whopping 30 percent this year. Among other factors, OPEC’s commitment to reduce output, geopolitical flash-points like the brewing war in Libya, slowdown in shale production and optimism in U.S. and China trade war have all added to the increase. The recent rally being sparked by cancellation of waivers granted to countries importing oil form Iran has taken prices to new highs.

However, one might question the sustainability of this rally by pointing out few bearish factors that might cause a correction, or possibly, a fall in oil prices. The recent sharp slide shows the presence of tail-risks!

Libya produces just over 1 percent of world oil output at 1.1 million barrels, which is indeed not of such a magnitude as to dramatically affect global oil supplies. What is important is the market reaction to every geopolitical event that occurs in the Middle East given the intricate alliances and therefore the increasing chances of other countries jumping in with a national event climaxing into a regional affair.

Matters in Libya got serious as an airstrike was carried out on the only functioning airport in the country a few days ago. Khalifa Haftar who heads Libyan National Army has assumed responsibility for the strike. However, UN and G7 have urged to restore peace in Tripoli. Russia has categorically said to use “all available means” while U.S.’ Pompeo called for “an immediate halt” of atrocities in Libya.

The fighting has been far from locations that hold oil but the overall sentiment is that of fear which is understandable as this happens in parallel to a steep decline in Venezuelan production, touching multi-year low of 740,000 bpd.  However, as international forces play their part we might expect a de-escalation in the Libyan war — as it has happened before.

Besides the chances of an alleviation of hostilities in Libya, concerns pertaining to global economic growth, and thereof demand for oil, have still not disappeared. The U.S. treasury yield, one of the best measures to predict a future slowdown (recession),  inverted last month; first time since 2007. If this does not raise doubts over the global economic health then the very recent announcement by International Monetary Fund (IMF) who has slashed its outlook for world economic growth to its lowest since the last financial crisis. According to the Fund the global economy will grow 3.3 percent this year down from 3.5 percent that predicted three months ago.

image: Bloomberg

Then there is Trump, whose declaration of Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization might increase the likelihoods of yet another spate of heated rhetoric between the arch-rivals. But if he is genuinely irked by higher oil prices as his tweets at times show and if he thinks that higher gasoline prices can hurt his political capital then this will certainly have a bearish effect on the markets as observers take a sigh regarding the mounting, yet unsubstantiated,  concern over supply.

One of the factors that contributed most to the recent rally was OPEC’s unwavering commitment to its production cuts. The organization’s output fell to its lowest in a year at 30.23 million barrels per day in February 2019, its lowest in four years. But the question remains for how long can these cuts go on? Last month it was reported the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had admitted that they need oil at $70 for a balanced budget while estimates from IMF claims that the level for a budget break-even are even higher: $80-$85. We should not forget Trump and his tweets in this regard as well. Whenever prices have inched up from a certain threshold POTUS’ tweet forced the market to correct themselves (save the last time). One of the key Russian officials who made the deal with OPEC possible recently signaled that Russia may urge others to increase production as they meet in the last week of June this year. While this is not a confirmation that others will agree but it certainly shows that one of the three largest oil producers in the world does feel that markets are now almost balanced and the cuts are not needed further.

Now with the recent cancellation of waivers we should expect U.S. to press KSA to increase production to offset the lost barrels and stabilize the prices.

Finally stoking fears of an impending supply crunch (a bullish factor) is the supposed slowdown in U.S. Shale production. But the facts might be a tad different. Few weeks ago U.S. added 15 oil rigs in one day, a very strong number indeed-this comes after a decline of streak of six consecutive weeks. According to different estimates the shale producers are fine with prices anywhere between $48 to $54 and the recent rise in prices has certainly helped. Well Fargo Investment Institute Laforge said that higher prices will result in “extra U.S. oil production in coming months”. Albeit, U.S.’ average daily production has decreased a bit but it doesn’t mean that the shale producers cannot bring back production online again. Prices are very conducive for it.

So if you think that prices will continue to head higher, think again. Following graph shows that oil had entered the overbought territory few days back–hence the recent slide.

Therefore, If the war in Libya settles down (and there is a strong possibility that it will); rumors of a production increase making its way into investors’ and traders’ mind (as it already have) and global economy continue to struggle in order to gain a strong footing — the chances are oil will fall again. The current rally might last for some-time but, like always, beware not to buy too high.

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Energy

No One Understands the Weaponization of Energy better than Russia and Iran

Todd Royal

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One of the most important lessons from World War II (WWII) is this: integrated economic growth is always better than a global war that engulfed all seven continents and killed over 100 million people. Since oil, natural gas and coal is now intertwined with geopolitics, international relations, foreign policy, realist balancing that pits nation against nation, and macroeconomic monetary policy; energy and electricity are now coupled with national security.  Russia and Iran use fossil fuel, nuclear power plants and renewable energy as weapons – hence the term – the weaponization of energy.

Confronting both countries using alliances like NATO to hem Russia and Iran into their respective regions of influence while also using soft power to coax them into using their energy resources in a positive direction is where the world is now and into the future. What’s disconcerting about the weaponization of energy is how Russia and Iran use energy as a foreign policy and national security weapon. The same way a nuclear arsenal is exploited to deter enemies and project national power and pride.

The largest problem with Russia are both state-run and influenced energy firms – Rosneft and Gazprom – seemingly are beyond balancing, containing or deterring since they are incredibly profitable. Alexei Bolshakov, general director of Citigroup Global Markets stated in late November 2018:

“They [Russian oil and gas companies] are having an absolutely fabulous year (2018 into 2019). They earn more per barrel than they did even during $100 barrel oil prices.”

Another Russian senior analyst echoed the same sentiments: “Russian oil and gas companies are flooded with cash, they don’t know what to do with it.”This allows Vladimir Putin the ability to engage in geopolitical adventures in Syria, Ukraine, Crimea, the United States, Europe, the Arctic Circle and his own country. Oil and natural gas profits from each firm is a never-ending source of money and financial power that translate into hard, military resources used for projecting Russian power. It’s like the Cold War never ended.

To the Obama administration’s credit they attempted exhaustive diplomacy with Iran, but it failed. The counter to diplomacy and a helping hand in energy and nuclear weaponry is that under former President Obama:

“Iran was closer than ever to nuclear weapons, received hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, and had billions in cash flown over to them in jets (illegally).”

Whichever perspective is correct, and history will be the judge, nothing was deterred from the Iranian or Middle East’s perspective. Iran and there use of energy for their military, paramilitary organizations and Hezbollah is more powerful than ever before. Iran is now entrenched in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon and has created an arc of influence from their homeland over multiple countries to the Mediterranean Sea. It can be argued the Iranian regime is in the best position to counter the US-led global order and can use energy with Islamic terrorism to remake the liberal world order in place for over seventy years.

While western countries and environmentalists such as Al Gore, well-known Hollywood actors, and overly environmental sensitive political parties (the Greens in Germany or the US Democratic Party)tout their green virtue, Iran on the other hand is going against the US-negotiated Iran nuclear agreement and is building two new nuclear plants There isn’t a solid reason behind building nuclear power plants when Iran is blessed with one of the largest supplies of natural gas, oil, and petroleum plays in the world. Iran is moving forward with nuclear plants under the guise of energy to electricity, because they are still trying to build or acquire nuclear weapons to use against Israel, the EU, the US, and Sunni Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Iran building two new nuclear reactors has elicited outrage in Washington and the Trump administration. This a major cause – the Iran problem – why Trump has allowed and encouraged US oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) firms to “drill baby drill” without pause. According to Rystad Energy, they believe:

“The United States will surpass Saudi Arabia later this year (2019) in exports of oil, natural gas liquids and petroleum products like gasoline.”

This exploding E&P has caused a complete overhaul in rising US natural gas consumption and the all-time highs keep breaking records. The only thing stopping the US from drilling and using oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear as natural security buffers against Russia and Iran are legislative fiats coming from federal benches that have zero basis in judicial accountability. But the world has to begin “getting real about Iran,” its murderous intentions, brutality against women, gays, Christians and anyone not fully supporting the revolutionary Iranian regime and government.

Since Iran is a leading member of OPEC, and has massive reserves of oil and natural gas, Iran like Russia uses their deep earth minerals and energy deposits as weapons the way NATO uses their military divisions to deter Russia. Energy is the soft economic power weapon of choice for Russia and Iran. Unless each is confronted, deterred, destroyed or regime change occurs these problems will only fester and grow worse. Then the continued weaponization of energy will become a regional, international or global war with oil, petroleum, aviation fuel, nuclear energy and natural gas being at the forefront of who wins and who loses once shots are fired and bombs are dropped.

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