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China’s Unorthodox Intervention in the Global Oil Market

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Apparently, China has been the talk of the town for quite some time. While the entire yesteryear passed in a flurry of blame game over the pandemic, this year has been nothing short of a blessing for Xi’s regime. However, while China rapidly compensated for the drastic slump last year, the bustling economy has now cooled down – though a bit prematurely. Due to the expansive outbreak of the delta variant, China – like most countries around the world – now faces surging inflation and a crippling shortage of raw materials. However, while one might get a bolder vibe from China’s recent crackdown on industrial giants, the supposed Second Cultural Revolution’ seems on a divergent path from the government’s latest aspirations for the domestic industry.

China seems to be on a path to harness growth that appears to be slowing down as the global economy battles uncertainty. However, while many expected China to take orthodox measures to prolong growth, hardly anyone expected a drastic change of strategy: intervening in a close-knitted global market like never before.

China recently posted its most robust trade surplus in history, with a record rise in exports jumping 25.6% from last year to stand at $294.3; $10 billion more than any previous month. However, while the glowing figures imply sturdiness, the underlying fragility of the Chinese economy is not disguised. In the past few months, China’s production engine has taken a toll as surging energy costs have inhibited production capacity. The factory-gate inflation stands at a 13-year-high which has forced factories to cut output. Amid declining domestic demand due to covid restrictions, manufacturing surveys show that China’s export orders are eroding as supply bottlenecks coupled with energy costs have weighed heavily on the production function. To counter the problem, China recently supplied its reserves into the domestic market; undercutting the surging global price tag dictated by the petroleum giants.

Last Thursday, China’s National Food and Strategic Reserves Administrator made a press release, confirming that the world’s second-largest economy tapped into its crude reserves – estimated at 220 million barrels – to “ease the pressure of rising raw material prices.” While China is known to intervene in commodity markets by using its strategic reserves, for example, Copper, Aluminium, or even grains.

Recently, China tapped into its national reserves to intervene in the global commodity market of industrial metals for the first time since 2010. The intervention was situated as a release to normalize surging metal prices and retain domestic manufacturers’ margins. However,  it is a novelty that a national agency confirmed an active supply of petroleum buffer via an official press conference. And while no additional details were offered, it is presumed by global strategists that the press release referred to the 20-30 million barrels allegedly poured into the domestic industry around mid-July: when Xi’s government offered to supply crude to the OPEC.

Furthermore, China’s Stockpile Agency claimed that through open auctions, China’s reserve crude was intended to “better stabilize the domestic demand and supply.” It was apparent that as China ventured through a supply crunch when Brent Crude – Global Crude Index/Benchmark – breached the $76 bpd mark, the country instead resorted to utilizing its own stockpile instead of relying on expensive imported petroleum. Thus, it shapes a clear picture of how China managed to clock a phenomenal trade surplus despite not importing its usual crude quota.

While it is common knowledge that economies like the US and Europe maintain strategic petroleum reserves, the buffers held by China were utilized to actively manipulate the price in a ‘normalized’ oil market instead of their designated usage in supply crunches or wars. The situation today is anything but critical for the oil market to warrant such an intervention. As OPEC+ has boosted its output by 400,000 bpd starting August, output has bloomed beyond its peak since the price war back in April 2020. While the oil market is still well below the output capacity, mutually curbed by the OPEC+ alliance, the demand is still shaky and an equilibrium seems set. Yet, when we observe China – the world’s largest oil importer – we extricate reason that despite a growing economy, China continues to experience massive shortages: primarily in terms of oil, gas, coal, and electricity.

Furthermore, with the ensue of Hurricane Ida, massive US crude reserves have been wiped which has majorly impacted China as well. The US and China rarely stand on the same page on any front. However, even the White House recently asked OPEC to pump more crude into the market due to the rising gasoline prices in America. The same scenario is panning in China as energy shortages have led to surging costs while domestic demand is diminishing. The brunt is thus falling on the national exchequer: something China is not willing to haggle. While it is highly unorthodox of China to explicitly announce its intervention, many economists believe that it was a deliberate move on part of China’s communist brass to amplify the impact on the market. The plan seemingly worked as Brent fell by $1.36 to stand at $71.24 on Thursday.

If China’s commitment to normalize domestic energy prices is this significant, it is highly likely that another intervention could be pegged later in the fourth quarter. Primarily to counteract the contraction in export orders by cutting imports further to maintain a healthy trade surplus. In my opinion, it is clear that both the US and China are not willing to let Brent (and WTI) breach the $70-$75 bracket as key industries are at stake. However, while one takes a passive approach, the other is touted to go as far as pouring another 10-15 million barrels of crude by the end of 2021. Yet revered global commodity strategists believe that the downturn in prices is “short-lived” just like any other Chinese intervention in a variety of other commodity markets globally. And thus, experts believe that the pump is simply “not enough physical supply” to quite strike a permanent dent in an inherently flawed market mechanism.

The author is a political and economic analyst. He focuses on geopolitical policymaking and international affairs. Syed has written extensively on fintech economy, foreign policy, and economic decision making of the Indo-Pacific and Asian region.

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Azerbaijan seeks to become the green energy supplier of the EU

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image source: azernews

Recently, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Hungary and Romania signed an agreement to build a strategic partnership regarding green energy.   According to the document of the text, these four countries will be working together to develop a 1,195 kilometer submarine power cable underneath the Black Sea, thus effectively creating an energy transmission corridor from Azerbaijan via Georgia to Romania and Hungary.   For Europe, this is a golden opportunity that must be seized upon.

According to the International Monetary Fund, “Europe’s energy systems face an unprecedented crisis. Supplies of Russian gas—critical for heating, industrial processes and power—have been cut by more than 80 percent this year.  Wholesale prices of electricity and gas have surged as much as 15-fold since early 2021, with severe effects for households and businesses.  The problem could well worsen.” 

For this reason, Europe should switch as soon as possible to green energy supplies, so that they will rely less upon Russian gas and oil in the wake of the Ukraine crisis.   This will enable Europe to be energy independent and to fulfill its energy needs by relying upon better strategic partners, such as Azerbaijan, who are not hostile to Europe’s national security and the West more generally.  

By having this submarine power cable underneath the Black Sea, Azerbaijan can supply not only Hungary and Romania with green energy, but the rest of Europe as well if the project is expanded.   Israel, as a world leader in renewable energy, can also play a role in helping Azerbaijan become the green energy supplier of the EU, as the whole project requires Azerbaijan to obtain increased energy transmission infrastructure.  Israel can help Azerbaijan obtain this energy transmission infrastructure, so that Azerbaijan can become Europe’s green energy supplier.    

According to the Arava Institute of the Environment, “Israel, with its abundant renewable energy potential, in particular wind and solar, has excellent preconditions to embark on the pathway towards a 100% renewable energy system. Accordingly, Israel has already made considerable progress with regard to the development of renewable energy capacities.”   The Israeli government has been pushing hard for a clean Israeli energy sector by 2030.   Thus, Israel has the technical know-how needed to help Azerbaijan obtain the infrastructure that it needs to become the green energy supplier of Europe following the crisis in the Ukraine.

Given the environmental conditions present in Azerbaijan, which has an abundance of access to both solar and wind power, with Israeli technical assistance, Azerbaijan can help green energy be transported through pipelines and tankers throughout all of Europe, thus helping to end the energy crisis in the continent.   In recent years, Europe has sought to shift away from oil and gas towards more sustainable energy.     

With this recent agreement alongside other European policies, these efforts are starting to bear fruits.   In 2021, more than 22% of the gross final energy consumed in Europe came from renewable energy.   However, different parts of Europe have varying levels of success.   For example, Sweden meets 60% of its energy needs via renewable energy, but Hungary only manages to utilize renewable energy between 10% and 15% of the time.    Nevertheless, it is hoped that with this new submarine power cable underneath the Black Sea, these statistics will start to improve across the European Union and this will enable Europe to obtain true energy independence, free of Russian hegemony.  

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Energy Technology Perspectives 2023: Opportunities and emerging risks

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The energy world is at the dawn of a new industrial age – the age of clean energy technology manufacturing – that is creating major new markets and millions of jobs but also raising new risks, prompting countries across the globe to devise industrial strategies to secure their place in the new global energy economy, according to a major new IEA report.

Energy Technology Perspectives 2023, the latest instalment in one of the IEA’s flagship series, serves as the world’s first global guidebook for the clean technology industries of the future. It provides a comprehensive analysis of global manufacturing of clean energy technologies today – such as solar panels, wind turbines, EV batteries, electrolysers for hydrogen and heat pumps – and their supply chains around the world, as well as mapping out how they are likely to evolve as the clean energy transition advances in the years ahead.

The analysis shows the global market for key mass-manufactured clean energy technologies will be worth around USD 650 billion a year by 2030 – more than three times today’s level – if countries worldwide fully implement their announced energy and climate pledges. The related clean energy manufacturing jobs would more than double from 6 million today to nearly 14 million by 2030 – and further rapid industrial and employment growth is expected in the following decades as transitions progress.

At the same time, the current supply chains of clean energy technologies present risks in the form of high geographic concentrations of resource mining and processing as well as technology manufacturing. For technologies like solar panels, wind, EV batteries, electrolysers and heat pumps, the three largest producer countries account for at least 70% of manufacturing capacity for each technology – with China dominant in all of them. Meanwhile, a great deal of the mining for critical minerals is concentrated in a small number of countries. For example, the Democratic Republic of Congo produces over 70% of the world’s cobalt, and just three countries – Australia, Chile and China – account for more than 90% of global lithium production.

The world is already seeing the risks of tight supply chains, which have pushed up clean energy technology prices in recent years, making countries’ clean energy transitions more difficult and costly. Increasing prices for cobalt, lithium and nickel led to the first ever rise in EV battery prices, which jumped by nearly 10% globally in 2022. The cost of wind turbines outside China has also been rising after years of declines, and similar trends can be seen in solar PV.

“The IEA highlighted almost two years ago that a new global energy economy was emerging rapidly. Today, it has become a central pillar of economic strategy and every country needs to identify how it can benefit from the opportunities and navigate the challenges. We’re talking about new clean energy technology markets worth hundreds of billions of dollars as well as millions of new jobs,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “The encouraging news is the global project pipeline for clean energy technology manufacturing is large and growing. If everything announced as of today gets built, the investment flowing into manufacturing clean energy technologies would provide two-thirds of what is needed in a pathway to net zero emissions. The current momentum is moving us closer to meeting our international energy and climate goals – and there is almost certainly more to come.”

“At the same time, the world would benefit from more diversified clean technology supply chains,” Dr Birol added. “As we have seen with Europe’s reliance on Russian gas, when you depend too much on one company, one country or one trade route – you risk paying a heavy price if there is disruption. So, I’m pleased to see many economies around the world competing today to be leaders in the new energy economy and drive an expansion of clean technology manufacturing in the race to net zero. It’s important, though, that this competition is fair – and that there is a healthy degree of international collaboration, since no country is an energy island and energy transitions will be more costly and slow if countries do not work together.”

The report notes that major economies are acting to combine their climate, energy security and industrial policies into broader strategies for their economies. The Inflation Reduction Act in the United States is a clear example of this, but there is also the Fit for 55 package and REPowerEU plan in the European Union, Japan’s Green Transformation programme, and the Production Linked Incentive scheme in India that encourages manufacturing of solar PV and batteries – and China is working to meet and even exceed the goals of its latest Five-Year Plan.

Meanwhile, clean energy project developers and investors are watching closely for the policies that can give them a competitive edge. Relatively short lead times of around 1-3 years on average to bring manufacturing facilities online mean that the project pipeline can expand rapidly in an environment that is conducive to investment. Only 25% of the announced manufacturing projects globally for solar PV are under construction or beginning construction imminently, according to the report. The number is around 35% for EV batteries and less than 10% for electrolysers. Government policies and market developments can have a significant effect on where the rest of these projects end up.

Amid the regional ambitions for scaling up manufacturing, ETP-2023 underscores the important role of international trade in clean energy technology supply chains. It shows that nearly 60% of solar PV modules produced worldwide are traded across borders. Trade is also important for EV batteries and wind turbine components, despite their bulkiness, with China the main net exporter today.

The report also highlights the specific challenges related to the critical minerals needed for many clean energy technologies, noting the long lead times for developing new mines and the need for strong environmental, social and governance standards. Given the uneven geographic distribution of critical mineral resources, international collaboration and strategic partnerships will be crucial for ensuring security of supply.

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How is Venezuela benefiting from the sale of Petroleum Coke to India

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Production and Supply of Venezuelan Oil

Venezuela, a nation on South America’s northern coast, has long been recognised for its oil output and demand; in 2016, Venezuela produced 2,355,423,55 barrels of oil per day, putting it 12th in the world. Venezuela, a nation where oil continues to have a dominating and fundamental role in fortunes. Oil sales account for more than 99% of export revenues and one-quarter of GDP. In 2013, the price of oil barrels sold by Venezuela was $100 per barrel, but it dropped to $30 per barrel in 2016. Venezuela has supplied oil to several nations, including the United States, China, and others. In 1959, India established diplomatic ties with the nation. Only a few nations, such as India and Venezuela, trade in a single commodity, and that is exactly what the relationship between India and Venezuela is. Although 75% of India’s oil imports come from the Middle East area, the Middle East has provided just 59% of oil since 2014, which is 16% less than in 2017 as the remainder was supplied exclusively by Venezuela, which can be seen as a result of the diversification strategy by the Indian government. Although the Indian market has been critical for the Northern country in Latin America because it is the second-largest cash-paying customer yet when the United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela in 2019, Venezuela was forced to look to other countries such as Russia and China when it ceased oil exports to India.

Venezuela, India, and Petroleum Coke

Petroleum coke which is a carbonaceous substance produced during the oil refining process. Venezuela has supplied petroleum coke to a number of nations, including China and Bolivia. Even before Covid19, the biggest exporter of Petroleum Coke from Venezuela was Bolivia, and by 2020, Venezuela was the world’s 107th largest exporter of Petroleum Coke. Although the Supreme Court has banned the use of Pet Coke in the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan in 2017, the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) directed for its use in all states, despite the fact that a tonne of Pet Coke is more expensive than coal and produces more energy when burned, and Pet Coke can also be used as a replacement for coal because when Pet Coke is turned into fuel, the calorific value is at 8000 Kcal/Kg, which is twice the Kg which is twice the value of average coal which is used in the generation of electricity, not only that but Pet Coke also has a low volatile matter and when evaporated there are no losses, it is also easy to transport when compared to the liquid fuels. For the first time, Indian companies started to import significant volumes of Petroleum coke from Venezuela since the beginning of 2022, as for the past couple of months and since March 2022, India has been suffering from electricity shortage due to coal crisis, as there has been a surge in coal prices globally to record high prices ever since the Russia-Ukraine war began, many countries such as India and even many of the developed countries in Europe have also been suffering because of the conflict as Russia which controls the Nord Stream which supplies gas to Europe has been shut down by Russia giving excuses such as “maintenance of the pipeline” this conflict could be disastrous for countries like UK, Germany and many other which directly depend on the Russian gas supply to not just run factories but which also helps to keep people homes warm enough, many countries are worried that this may lead to a winter recession in European countries and due to this many countries have started to open their coal plants, in times like these the supply of Pet Coke from countries like Venezuela to countries like India could be a major helping factor and for the past few months, Indian companies have been importing significant amounts of Pet Coke from Venezuela in massive quantities, as using Pet Coke can be beneficial for India as the Russia Ukraine war, which is affecting so many countries, with the supply of Pet Coke, India will not have to rely on the supply of coal to run its energy plants. Many cement factories in India got 1,60,000 tonnes of Pet Coke between April and July, with another shipment of at least 80,000 tonnes sent in August. Prior to buying from Venezuela, the Asian behemoth had to depend on nations such as the United States or Saudi Arabia.

Conclusion

Both countries understand that if Venezuela continues to export huge amounts of Pet Coke to India, it will benefit not only India but also the South American country because when India used to import oil from Venezuela, India was the second largest importer of oil for Venezuela, and now if India starts importing the same amount of Pet Coke from Venezuela, it could provide relief to the country that has been suffering for the past three years ever since the USA has pu The nation has been selling Pet Coke at a $50-$60 discount compared to the US stuff. Venezuela has been stockpiling Pet Coke for a long time because it may help the Latin American country solve its infrastructure woes and is making strides by supplying not only to the Indian market but if Venezuela could supply more to the global markets as it has been producing more than 25 million tonnes of Pet Coke on a daily basis. If the commerce between Petroleum Coke continues, India will not have to depend on any country such as the US or Russia, since the Russia-Ukraine conflict has made it difficult for countries such as India to side with any of the nations, and for Venezuela, it will assist the country to grow its economy again.

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