Category Archives: High technology

An Oil-Price War´s Surprise Ending -My BPJ article on OPEC, Shale, Trump, Market & Geopolitics

bpj-oil-price-war-end-29nov16Here`s my latest at Berlin Policy Journal:  about  OPEC`s 30 Novermber meeting, US shale and the geopolitics from the  Trump Administration towards Iran and the Saudis. – Tom O`D.

An Oil-Price War’s Surprise Ending

No one expected shale producers to survive extended low oil prices.
, NOVEMBER 29, 2016 
The oil market’s oversupply – and the low prices that followed – was supposed to drive shale producers out of business. Instead, the economies of several large national producers have been upended, and the next act could prove even more destabilizing.

OPEC’s 171st meeting in Vienna on November 30 reflects the new paradigm of the global oil market. After two years, the Saudi-led price war to drive American shale and other “high cost” producers from the market has ended. However, to the surprise of many – not least the Saudis – shale has survived. What now?

The United States Energy Information Agency (EIA) expects persistent market oversupply to have been quenched by the second half of 2017. The Saudis view the diminishing oversupply as an opportunity to cut production by 600,000 or more barrels per day – although about twice this amount would be optimal – boosting prices from under $50 per barrel to $60 or more. The Saudis have worked intensely to reach an agreement at the OPEC summit to coordinate this production cut with Russia; any failure to achieve this highly anticipated deal would sink market confidence, pushing prices into the $30s.

The key obstacle to the Saudi plan is that Iran has refused to participate in any cut, insisting it should first be allowed to re-establish production it lost under years of sanctions. In response, the Saudis have threatened to boost their own production, punishing Iran by collapsing prices and by denying them market share. The Financial Times’ Nick Butler correctly characterizes this as “playing with fire,” and not only because of the severe pain this would impose on weaker OPEC states, but also for the geopolitical retaliation it might provoke from the new US administration as the Saudis would also bankrupt numerous shale producers in the US.

However, even if Russia, Iran, and the rest of OPEC agree to the Saudis’ cuts, US shale is widely expected to expand into the void, re-depressing prices by later next year. In all these scenarios, the future remains extremely difficult for OPEC, for Russia, and for other oil-dependent states.

A Price War Backfires

The prolonged high price of oil, starting to rise in 2002 and then dipping during the financial crisis before rising again till mid-2014, encouraged the emergence of new unconventional shale production. Driven by technical innovations in hydraulic fracturing plus abundant venture capital, by 2014 the US had added more new oil to the global market than what was lost in the Arab Spring and subsequent wars in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. By mid-2014, some two million excess barrels-per-day (bpd) were flowing into storage, and the price collapsed. Continue reading

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Saudi & Russia seek oil deal as OPEC fight v US shale fails [My RTRadio Interview]

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RT Radio-Edinburgh’s Jack Foster interviewed me on the upcoming 30 November OPEC summit where the Saudis hope to set a cap on OPEC and Russian production. Here’s the interview:   Listen from time-stamp 9:00-to-17:30 (Streaming MP3) 

This would  mark the first-ever Russian cooperation with OPEC. However, market realities look bleak for OPEC and Russia whether they reach an agreement or not. The reason is the unprecedented continuing challenge from US shale, which has dramatically cut its costs via tech and operational innovations to stay profitable at low prices. Continue reading

New US tech squeezing oilfields & rivals [IBD quotes me]

U.S. oil companies are developing new technologies and techniques to produce oil cheaper and faster.Gillian Rich at Investors’ Business Daily News (17 June 2016) writes a quite informative survey of the many new technological methods pushing the cost of US shale production ever downward. Here’s Gillian’s article. She asked me about the impact on OPEC producers and my central point (my quotes are below) was that it will be the high-tech, most-efficient producers (such as US shale) and NOT necessarily those with the largest and easiest-to-access proven reserves (e.g., countries such as Venezuela and much of OPEC, many corrupt Russian and Chinese state-dominated firms, etc.)  that will set the pace in the new oil order

If the latter actors can’t find ways to innovate in technology and operational methods they will be at a disadvantage because shale production looks more like manufacturing than  traditional oil extraction.  Many OPEC and other state-owned firms never had to think like a combination of Henry Ford and Silicon Valley, but could instead count on huge, low-cost reserves, inefficient exploration and production and cheap local labor.

Eventually, the new shale methods will of course spread to promising shale fields in Argentina, China, Eastern/Central Europe and elsewhere; but this will require big advances in local infrastructure, training and government regulatory capacity. Again, things those countries must think about very seriously. Here are my quotes (from near the end of her long article).

New Oil Order

…. OPEC countries like Nigeria and Venezuela that haven’t invested in newer technology will be hurt by advances in the U.S., said Thomas O’Donnell, a senior energy analyst at the consulting firm Wikistrat. Russia also can’t exploit shale and Arctic assets because of economic sanctions that limit Westerners from helping develop the new fields.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has low-cost production fields, and state-run oil company Saudi Aramco can bring in foreign experts knowledgeable about fracking and new technologies, he added.

Still, OPEC must now grapple with U.S. shale producers on the rebound, which could lead to volatility, O’Donnell said. “The oil order has changed. It’s conventional oil on one side, and new shale oil on the other.”

Don’t write off American oil boom despite OPEC – CNNMoney cites my analysis

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I was interviewed today by CNNMoney’s Matt Egan on what  OPEC should expect from US shale as they hold their 169th “Ordinary Meeting” in Vienna tomorrow (2 June).  Indeed, at some point oil production and demand will balance (likely in 2017), and then the Saudis and OPEC will have to cautiously test the presently unknown dynamics of high-tech US shale on the rebound. -Egan cites my point  of view in his article. Read on … – Tom O’D.

Don’t bet against the resilience of U.S. oil companies

by Matt Egan @mattmegan5 CNNMoney (New York) June 1, 2016: 12:23 PM ET

Many expected U.S. oil output would collapse under the weight of a lengthy price war with the mighty OPEC, the fractured oil cartel that’s meeting in Vienna Thursday.

The U.S. oil boom, fueled by the shale revolution, has obviously taken a few punches from OPEC’s strategy of all-out pumping. But the latest numbers show that American production continues to remain stubbornly high in recent months despite the crash in crude to as low as $26 a barrel in February.

The U.S. pumped 9.13 million barrels per day in March, down by a miniscule 6,000 barrels from the prior month, according to stats released this week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That represents a deceleration from recent monthly declines. By comparison, daily U.S. output dropped by 58,000 barrels in February and by 83,000 barrels in December.

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Wikistrat Report “Saudi Arabia & the Future of Oil” cites my views

Wikistrat - my quote on US continued interestThis Wikistrat Report on the Saudi kingdom’s “reform” plans and the future of oil is from a press webinar I did on 17 May together with Dr. Ariel Cohen (Atlantic Council, Washington) and Prof. Shaul Mishal (Middle East Division, IDC Herzliya & Tel Aviv U.).  A nicely done report on oil market and geopolitical hot topics.

30May16 note: A couple typos I had found have been fixed by Wikistrat since I initially posted this Report.  The latest version is now linked here. – T.O’D.

Estoy citado en “Dinero”: La caída en la acción de Ecopetrol de Colombia no se debe únicamente a los ataques guerrilleros

Javier Gutiérrez Presidente de Ecopetrol  - La compañía tiene la meta de alcanzar el millón de barriles diarios de producción en 2015. Es claro que esa cifra está lejos de ser cumplida.

Javier Gutiérrez Presidente de Ecopetrol – La compañía tiene la meta de alcanzar el millón de barriles diarios de producción en 2015. Es claro que esa cifra está lejos de ser cumplida. (Dinero)

English Summary (Resumen en Inglés): I am quoted at length by Dinero  (Publicaciones Semana,  Bogotá) on the steep fall in value of the stocks of Colombia’s national oil company and largest corporation, Ecopetrol.  This had been blamed on FARC and ELN guerrilla attacks on pipelines this year. However, while attacks are up versus 2013, they are significantly below the numbers in several prior years.  Others blame the fall on a failure to expand reserves. Indeed, Ecopetrol has a very low exploration-drilling success rate. However,  I stressed that discovery of new reserves is not so much the problem as is the need to begin employing enhanced oil production (EOP) methods to Ecopetrol’s existing fields.  The percentage of oil Ecopetrol extracts is low.  To get more oil out of existing reserves, Ecopetrol needs to learn how to do EOP.  And, in certain formations, it has to learn how to drill much deeper.  Here is the article …

DINERO | 8/21/2014:   No solo violencia

La caída en la acción de Ecopetrol no se debe únicamente a los ataques guerrilleros. El principal problema de la compañía es operativo: no ha podido encontrar nuevas reservas.

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Competing with China in Latin America: Is Germany losing its high-tech advantage?

Wilfredo R. Rodriguez H., CC BYAn article I wrote for the IP Journal of the German Council on Foreign Relations is online today. It examines data on China, the EU and Germany’s trade with Latin America and the Caribbean, including in energy. Here’s a quote from near the end:

…  China’s exports to Latin America in the low-, medium-, and  high-tech categories were below those of Germany and the EU in 2003; but in 2012 [China’s exports] exceeded the combined totals of the EU15 in the medium-tech and even in the high-tech categories. The only place the EU15 surpasses China is, rather oddly, in the low-tech manufactured goods …

-> READ THE ARTICLE at GCFP’s IP Journal or at a link from … Continue reading