01/17/17

The Top 5 Places To Work In U.S. Oil And Gas

Anadarko Petroleum and Chevron have emerged as the top two employers in U.S. oil and gas, according to a survey conducted by the job site Indeed. The top five for the industry was completed by Plains All American at #3, Occidental Petroleum at #4, and Noble Energy at #5.

Indeed said that it ranked companies based on a number of factors but generally speaking, the better the site visitor ratings and reviews a company had, the higher it ranked on the “Best Places to Work” list.

The site has 200 million unique visitors monthly, lending credibility to its findings. The reviews and ratings it collected to compile the rankings included postings from current and former employees.

These, in the case of Anadarko, Chevron, and the rest of the best, praised the companies for their corporate culture, the compensation they received, the attractive work/life balance offered by the employer, and the good working environment, including additional training opportunities.

Besides praise, however, there was also criticism. For Anadarko, the reviews quoted by Oil and Gas 360 in the release of the survey seemed to focus on the management style that the employees were not particularly happy with. For Chevron, unsurprisingly, the “Cons” side of the reviews referred to the massive layoffs – 8,000 as of last April.

According to Indeed data, the number of new oil and gas job postings had inched up at the end of 2016, after taking a dive for most of the year, with sector players struggling to adjust to the new oil price environment and focusing on cost cuts, which are more often than not incompatible with new hiring or even employee retention.

This may change if the adjustment proves successful, and it seems there is a ready pool of former workers that are ready to return. A study by the University of Houston has found that about 60 percent of laid off oil and gas employees – out of 720 respondents – are still out of work. The study is ongoing, so the figures are not final, but for the time being they look promising for those who may want to start hiring again.

Others, however, have found new employment outside the energy industry, the study’s authors said, with just 13 percent of the sample finding new jobs in oil and gas. Those that defected to other industries may not return to oil and gas when the hiring environment changes, and one of the authors notes that this could turn into a problem for oil and gas employers.

The problem, Christiane Spitzmuller goes on to say, would translate into higher recruitment and training costs. These will need to be added to higher drilling and maintenance costs as oilfield service providers get to call the shots now that oil is a bit higher and E&Ps are ramping up production.

The potential hiring problem is aggravated by sentiment among former employees. According to the University of Houston study, over 70 percent of respondents said they were nervous about the future of the industry, with some 55 percent planning to leave oil and gas for good.

This is perfectly understandable in the context of some 215,000 layoffs in U.S. oil and gas – the same could occur during the next price crash. Still, energy companies could still lure at least some employees back, if they can keep up the benefits that made Anadarko, Chevron and Plains All American “Best Places to Work.”

Link to original article: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/The-Top-5-Places-To-Work-In-US-Oil-And-Gas.html

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

12/8/16

Trump Could Fuel A Nuclear Energy Boom In 2017

With Trump at the helm, sentiment gives way to practicality in the energy industry. For the vast untapped potential of the nuclear energy industry and the uranium that feeds it, this could contribute to a market-disrupting revival that no longer bows to fear and the politics of economy.

While there have been some oversupply issues keeping uranium prices down, the bigger problem has been negative sentiment rather than real fundamentals, but the Trump presidency will see through that.

Trump’s take on nuclear energy is quite simple. As he noted after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan: “If a plane goes down, people keep flying. If you get into an auto crash, people keep driving.

Now more than ever, demand for uranium appears to be assured. But more than that, it’s about to truly explode as a number of situations combine to form the new era of nuclear power.

If you are going to acquire uranium assets, now is the right time,” IsoEnergy Ltd. CEO and President Craig Parry told Oilprice.com. “If it’s not the bottom yet, you can certainly see it. And on that front we see the market at the early stage of what will become a roaring bull market.”

Parry might be onto something, and IsoEnergy is indeed in high acquisition mode, targeting the discovery and development of high-grade uranium deposits in and around the Athabasca Basin in Saskatchewan—home to some of the world’s biggest high-grade deposits.

Getting Ready for Uranium to Become an Irresistibly Hot Commodity

While Trump might inject a major boost of energy into the U.S. nuclear industry and the uranium market through deregulation, there are other factors coalescing around the world to make this a stellar new beginning for uranium and nuclear energy.

We’re already seeing the biggest uranium producers stocks reacting, including Cameco Corporation (NYSE:CCJ), AREVA (EPA:AREVA), BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), and Uranium One (TSE:UUU). Canadian Cameco’s stock was up 25 percent in November, and while the spot prices are low and set to rise, Parry points out that spot prices are all but irrelevant in this market, as almost all uranium is sold at long-term contract prices, which are presently coming in upwards of US$40 per pound, significantly higher than the current spot prices.

The outlook for uranium looks even more bullish when you consider that these contracts are now coming to a close, and uranium is poised to become a very hot commodity once again. Major American and European nuclear reactors are coming off supply in 2017 and 2018, and will be looking for long-term contracts once again.

The biggest uranium producer in the world, Canadian Cameco, said earlier this month that some 500 million pounds of uranium will be needed for nuclear reactors in the next ten years, and it hasn’t been contracted out yet. Buyers of this uranium will have to hit the market sooner rather than later.

Analysts at Cantor Fitzgerald recently predicted that there would be a “violent increase” in uranium prices at some point, theorizing that as much as 80 percent of the uranium market might be uncovered in terms of supply by 2025, and that demand would by then outstrip supply.

The low-price environment has choked off exploration activity for uranium and we are at the point where there are not enough uranium projects in the pipeline that can adequately meet the coming demand,” the London Telegraph quoted Cantor as saying.

All of this coincides with a phenomenal number of new nuclear reactors being built, which will also enter the market at the same time.

(Click to enlarge)

The end result? We’re looking at the biggest deficit ever in the uranium market by 2018.

So we have over 20 Chinese nuclear reactors already under construction, plans from India to significantly increase its nuclear demand, and plans to restart over 20 Japanese reactors. These three things are major demand drivers that will wake the sleeping giant that is uranium.

And as demand soars, North America is sure to play a key role in the future of uranium supply.

In North America—and even from a global standpoint—there is no better place to explore for uranium than Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin, which is to uranium what Saudi Arabia is to oil.

(Click to enlarge)

Two of the largest producing uranium mines in the world—McArthur River and Cigar Lake–are in the Athabasca Basin. In and around this area, where Canada’s Cameco is the key player, junior IsoEnergy is focusing on new exploration and development at Thorburn Lake, Radio, North Thorburn and Madison.

Now that Trump is president-elect, the speculation is that Trump will make good on promises to reform the licensing and permitting processes for nuclear power plants. What this means is that we could be sitting right on the edge of a revolution in next generation nuclear technology.

This means a major push for next-generation nuclear projects such as PRISM, the brainchild of General Electric and Hitachi.

So not only does demand for uranium across the next two decades seem assured, it is poised to paint an attractively tight supply picture in the coming decades.

As the New Year is ushered in, falsely negative sentiment on uranium is likely to be ushered out the door and the real fundamentals will become more visible.

The bottom line is this: While uranium prices have been on a very long and gradual decline for some 13 years, analysts agree that they’ve reached their bottom and the climb back up is poised to be a lot faster than the decline.

Trump is all about harnessing untapped potential, and as atomic energy advocates are quick to point out: Nothing has more untapped potential on multiple fronts than nuclear energy, and right now is the time to buy into quality assets while uranium is at a multi-year low but at the early stage of a bull market.

Link to original article: http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Trump-Could-Fuel-A-Nuclear-Energy-Boom-In-2017.html

By James Stafford of Oilprice.com

12/5/16

Beware of the Patent Bubble

By: Scott Cooper, CEO and Creative Director, World Patent Marketing, [email protected]

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Does anybody even want to think about this?

I’m certainly not going to win any popularity contests for writing this article.  The last thing anybody wants to talk about after a presidential election is a patent bubble.  After all, most of us took a nice stock market beat down during the recent housing bubble and mortgage crisis.

For the past 40 years, intellectual property,  technology development, and invention ideas have been the driving force behind the United States and much of the world’s developed economy. Companies like Apple, Amazon and Amgen have been the leaders in wealth creation. Biotech, software, and communications systems have made fortunes for many and changed the world we live in.

It has resulted in a mad rush to capitalize on the “next big thing.” And that is creating a global patent bubble.  The chase of Intellectual Property (IP) has created the next “irrational exuberance.”  If the term rings a bell, it’s because it was the phrase that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan used when warning about stocks being overvalued during the DotCom Bubble of the 1990s.

Since Microsoft burst onto the scene, IP has been seen as the next gold rush. Companies, venture capitalists, private equity shops, and universities worldwide are searching for new patents and copyrights that will create killer returns.

Patent Bubble Numbers Don’t Lie

The prices being paid for patents are all over the place. In 1975, more than 80% of an S&P 500 company’s net worth was based on tangible assets (real estate, machinery, receivables, etc.). By 2010, that number has completely flipped to 80% of the net worth being based on intangible assets (patents, goodwill ,etc.).

The numbers are clear. Intellectual property  now accounts for over 38% of the U.S. economy, but interestingly only 12% of exports. If that’s not the start of a patent bubble forming, I don’t know what is.

It seems that the race to patent a product has overshadowed the product itself. I am not discounting the importance of patents, however, when almost 40% of the economy is about protecting the right to make a product (rather than the product itself), there is something wrong.

95% of Patents Don’t Make a Dime

The common perception is that patents are a path to riches. If an inventor or entrepreneur files a patent, he can then build a successful technology company under the protection of that patent and eventually sell out to companies like Apple and Facebook.

Nothing can be further from the truth. A patent does not create a shield or grant you freedom to operate without competition. It gives you a tool to attack a competitor that you believe is infringing on your patent. Enforcing your patent is typically a nightmare, even for well funded corporations.  It can take up to 5 years and cost up to $5 million to actually win a patent litigation.  And that’s if there isn’t an appeal. And you better pray that the company infringing on your patent isn’t too comfortable in a courtroom.  They can make your life a living hell and make you wish you never filed for a patent in the first place.

Ever Heard Of The Tulip Bubble?

The Tulip Bubble is regarded as the first record of a widespread financial bubble in history. In the early 1600s, Tulips were newly introduced in the Dutch Republic and investors scrambled to get on board. At the peak of the bubble a single tulip bulb could sell for ten times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. Tulips were the fourth largest Dutch export! This was at a time when food and clothing absorbed almost the entire bulk of national income. In this environment where most people had barely enough to eat, it was simply bizarre that a useless luxury item absorbed such a huge chunk of Dutch wealth. Then in 1637 the bubble burst and the price of tulips fell to 1% of their former value. The Dutch economy crashed and the consequences were felt throughout Europe.

The bursting of the Tulip Bubble didn’t just affect those who owned and traded tulips. It caused a deep recession and a liquidity crisis in the Dutch Republics. The tulip bulbs were leveraged by finance, just as we leverage homes and commodities in the United States today. When a widespread bubble bursts, it up-ends the balance sheets of the entire nation.

The price of tulips never recovered, as you can see for yourself at any WalMart in Spring. You can buy them by the dozen for under five bucks.

The Crash of 1929 and the Mortgage Crisis Were Bubbles

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The great Stock Market Crash of 1929 was brought on by similar forces. Investors were making huge returns all through the 1920s. The stock market was the place to be if you wanted to get rich quick. People borrowed heavily to purchase shares. And then it all came crashing down.

The Mortgage Bubble, which burst in 2008 showed us the same pattern again. Following 1999, when the Tech Bubble burst, the safe place to put your money was into homes. Prices were bid to unsustainable levels. All of it was commodified for investment purposes. When it crashed, almost every major bank in the U.S. and Europe found themselves in negative territory. On paper they were bankrupt. They owned a bunch of mortgages tied to homes with inflated values. The government had to step in with cash to keep the banks afloat.

The bursting of the Mortgage Bubble led to the deepest economic downturn since 1929 and its aftermath is still felt throughout the U.S. economy.

The Patent Bubble Will Hurt the Entire Economy

It is my opinion that when the Patent Bubble bursts, it could be far worse than the housing bubble.

Today, a company’s most valuable asset is  its intellectual property. Their wealth is in their patents. These patents are held on their balance sheets as intangible and undisclosed assets. They attract investment, issue bonds, and obtain credit based upon those numbers.

These patent bubble assets are not liquid and they do not trade easily. It isn’t like selling a publicly traded security. Patent assets do not trade frequently and don’t have any valuation consistency.  If a company fails, it is forced to liquidate these patent assets at fractions of their assumed value.  When Kodak filed for bankruptcy, experts were predicting patent portfolio sales of $1.8 billion to $4.5 billion.  They sold between $94 million to $525 million.  Quite a difference. There was nothing unique about the way Kodak was valuing its patents. They were just following accepted accounting principles. Imagine Kodak happening over and over again. It would create an international liquidity and balance sheet crisis.

Don’t Confuse Inflated Prices with Economic Growth

Too much money chasing the same sector results in price inflation. Those inflated prices are always unsustainable. When this patent bubble bursts, it will hurt the entire economy.

This is the opposite of productive investment, which has given us tremendous growth and a high standard of living. Investment in goods and services for reasonable returns is vital to economic growth. Investment in paper monopolies, patents and copyright, can be good for the economy. But when it gets out of balance, as it is now, it can lead to very bad economic outcomes for the global economy.

Why isn’t anybody sounding the patent bubble alarm?

When bubbles are on the rise, a tremendous amount of wealth is created. Even a pure Ponzi scheme created plenty of profit for the early investors. During the Housing Bubble, many on Wall Street and in government knew that housing prices were unsustainable.  Even Federal Reserve made comments suggesting that the economy was now “different” and there would be a soft landing.

Well the economy wasn’t different. Ponzi Schemes and bubbles always end the same way. Traders like Nassim Taleb, who wrote the influential book “The Black Swan”, and made a killing by investing against the home mortgage industry, were laughed out of the room. They were called alarmists or even branded as negative and destructive. But of course, Ponzi Schemes always fail. Everybody wants to believe it is different this time. But, it never is.

There is one thing for sure. We are in a Patent Bubble right now and history always repeats itself.

Learn more about World Patent Marketing.

11/26/16

Wealthy in India are turning ‘Nigerian Prince Scam’ honest

By: John | New Zeal

India : 500 Indian Rupees : Obverse

Progressives have salivated for a “war on cash” ever since the invention of digital money. Allowing the populace to have possession of their finances is way too much freedom when compared to the digital form that must be stored in easily taxable banks. As reported and applauded by many news outlets, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modia has taken the first shots in the war by announcing that 500 and 1000 rupee notes would become worthless by the end of the year.

Owners of said bills have until then to either deposit the notes (and take a haircut if the amount seems suspicious to the government) or exchange up to the equivalent of $65 per day for other currency. To put this in perspective, these bills are the equivalent of $8 and $15 respectively and account for 80 percent of the money supply in India.

Proponents of the plan state that it will curb counterfeiting and prevent the wealthy from hoarding cash to elude taxes, but it has had dramatic effects on the lower classes in a country where 95 percent of small businesses and traders deal in cash. As expected, this has been the reaction:



One of the more interesting phenomena occurring from the ban is the rise of the honest “Nigerian Prince scam”.

In the dishonest version a person is contacted, generally through email, and given a sob story about how the author is in an authoritarian state and has a large amount of currency they need to smuggle out of the country so that it isn’t confiscated. They offer the victim a percentage of the money in return for allowing the use of the victim’s bank account. All of this is followed by a request for account information and when successful, the scammer drains the account instead of adding millions to it. In the honest version playing across India, the wealthy are turning to their employees and others and asking them to deposit sums of around 250,000 rupees, an amount that won’t be scrutinized by the government.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Maids, drivers, nannies, and cooks in India are experiencing unusual politeness from their employers. Beyond the work they do every day, they suddenly have another use – to launder the undeclared cash which the rich have been hoarding in steel wardrobes, under the mattress and in under-bed storage.

The money is to be kept in the account until a safe point in the future where it will be withdrawn minus a fee to the depositor. While there are other methods such as buying and exporting gold or paying employees months in advance, the “honest Nigerian Prince (not-a-scam) is perhaps the most inventive and goes to show that no matter what a government does to attempt to strong-arm tax money out of its populace, some will find a work around to keep what is theirs.”

(H/T Zerohedge.com)

11/3/16

Can Oil Markets Survive An OPEC Implosion?

A technical meeting that was supposed to iron out some wrinkles for a deal to cut oil production ended in acrimony over the weekend, and OPEC’s effort at coordination could be at yet another impasse.

Following the Algiers agreement at the end of September, a tentative deal that called for a collective reduction in oil output in the range of 200,000 to 700,000 barrels per day, OPEC scheduled a meeting on October 28-29 in Vienna to put some meat on the bones of the pact so that it could be officially sealed at the end of November.

But after weeks of papering over differences between its members and trying to put some positive spin on the prospects for a deal, OPEC not only failed to agree on individual production quotas, but its members also bickered over data and even which countries are supposed to participate. The group spent two days negotiating, and came away with nothing more than a statement that said they would continue talking.

The biggest hang up at this point is Iraq, which has two fundamental complaints. First, Iraqi officials dispute the data being used to calculate its oil production levels, arguing that the sources OPEC is using for its official estimates are underestimating Iraq’s output. That would hamstring Iraq more than it feels is fair, forcing it to cut deeper under the deal.

More importantly, Iraq is demanding an exemption from the deal entirely, arguing that it should be allowed to produce as much as possible because of its costly war against the Islamic State. Iran, Nigeria and Libya have been granted exemptions, due to the effect of sanctions (Iran) and disrupted supply because of security issues (Nigeria and Libya) – Iraq wants the same treatment.

That resulted in some friction at the Oct. 28 gathering in Vienna, a meeting that reportedly stretched on for 12 hours. As the WSJ notes, the success of this type of agreement at the end of November tends to require a consensus from lower-level officials ahead of time, something that did not occur this past weekend. That casts some serious doubt on the viability of the overall deal. On Oct. 29, another meeting with non-OPEC producers such as Brazil, Russia, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Oman and Kazakhstan, also ended with very little progress and zero commitments. Moreover, non-OPEC countries will have little impetus to offer any concessions if OPEC itself cannot come to terms. Russia said upfront that it would not cut its production, and it would only freeze if OPEC agreed to cut first.

The challenges standing in the way of the deal were evident right after the Algiers announcement at the end of September. Getting all members on board for a production cut was always going to be an uphill battle. But after this weekend, the odds of a deal look increasingly grim. “It’s more likely that OPEC will come away with no decision in November than that they’ll reach an agreement,” Fabio Scacciavillani, chief economist at the Oman Investment Fund, told Bloomberg on Oct 30. “If they are able to agree, it will likely be a wishy-washy deal that’s hobbled by too many exemptions.”

With competing interests, the discord seen over the weekend in Vienna was somewhat predictable. And the results of the fallout are predictable too: oil prices dropped more than 1 percent on Monday during early trading, with both WTI and Brent dipping below $50 per barrel and dropping close to one-month lows. Hedge funds and other money managers cut their long positions on oil futures and increased short bets for the week ending on October 25, a sign that the markets are losing confidence in a deal. “The price balloon is deflating in response to increasing doubts that OPEC will deliver a credible agreement on production control,” David Hufton, CEO of brokers PVM Group, told Bloomberg. “The combined OPEC and non-OPEC dance rhythm is one step forward followed by two steps back.”

In fact, the chances of a deal might deteriorate even further in the remaining days before the official meeting at the end of November. OPEC likely increased oil production in October, which would require even steeper cuts than they previously laid out. That could put a deal of any significance entirely out of reach.

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Link to original article: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/Can-Oil-Markets-Survive-An-OPEC-Implosion.html

10/12/16

For How Long Can OPEC Talk Up Oil Prices?

Not a day passes without OPEC making oil and gas headlines, and today is surely no exception. Seemingly in lockstep with OPEC, the market is once again pacified on the promise that changes to the global oil supply glut are a’ comin’.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal quoted anonymous sources close to the matter who had it on good authority that the Saudi’s were willing to cut “up to” 400,000 barrels per day (and that they had planned to do so all along, with or without an OPEC agreement). We can assume this figure is off August or September levels, which are near-record highs for the oil-rich country.

Of course, there are 400,000 different possible production cut figures included in this “up to 400,000” range—including a big fat zero—so fundamentally speaking, like so much of the OPEC speak, this could mean nothing.

But this isn’t the first time OPEC chatter or supposition or guesswork has moved markets, and it won’t be the last. Because, as Oilprice contributor Rakesh Upadhyay pointed out back in August, just a month before the freeze was announced, fundamentals aren’t what’s driving the oil market—speculation is. And nothing feeds speculators like OPEC.

As Upadhyay wrote, “Though most analysts agreed that a production freeze was not going to alter the fundamentals, prices rose sharply, with the hedge funds adding record long positions,” as evidenced by the chart below, which shows what happened in February when OPEC cuts were on the table for Doha. Fundamentals didn’t change—the glut wasn’t easing—yet hedge funds and speculation on OPEC rumors drove up prices.

IMG URL: http://oilprice.com/images/tinymce/saap1.png

The hope quickly faded when the Doha meeting fell short of expectations, but prices continued to climb. Then, the market found new hope in the Vienna meeting. We then wondered—this time quite wistfully—if a freeze could… maybe, possibly… happen in that meeting over the summer, much in the same way one might hold onto hope that we might someday win the lotto. Our hopes were dashed yet again—but not before the market reflexively inched up again.

Soon after, Saudi comments, which indicated that a new spirit of cooperation among OPEC members might be taking shape, sending prices upward yet again. An unofficial meeting was announced. Algiers, they said. “Stabilize the market” they said (which can apparently be done with talk, rather than production cuts). Russia chimed in, vacillating between joining the “market stabilization” efforts and not. We asked ourselves, this time ever more cautiously, dare we hope again? Most thought not, but speculators threw caution to the wind, moving markets this way and that on almost a daily basis in response to every utterance regarding the freeze.

Then the announcement came that OPEC had reached a deal. The earth shook, moving markets again— this time by a large percentage—and this time backed up by a more tangible hope.

Meanwhile, the industry scrambled to make sense of what it all meant. How big would the cut be? Which members would do the cutting? How did Saudi Arabia and Iran reach any kind of consensus when they were worlds apart—on multiple fronts? And then there was the ultimate question that had every analyst from here to Venezuela furiously figuring and calculating and refiguring and recalculating: just how high could prices go?

Speculators continued to largely disregard the ins and outs of the deal, which were absent at the time, and we saw markets tick up happily in response.

When the size of the production cut—between 240,000 and 740,000 barrels per day—was announced, one could feel the weight of the disappointment within the industry overall. The analysts wanted more; wanted deeper. Most OPEC members had been scrambling to reach record high oil production leading up to the meeting, some successful. Given current production levels, the small cut was seen by most analysts as a mere token gesture that would do very little to address what most would agree is the reason behind the price “problem”—the global supply glut.

And further skepticism surfaced over the fact that no specific member had agreed to any specific cut—they just agreed that as a group, “they” would do some cutting—some months down the road—and that the “they” in that equation wouldn’t be Iran. And it wouldn’t be Nigeria. And it wouldn’t be Libya.

And still, amid all this ambiguity and mystery, and with some distant promise to shave a mere 240,000 barrels of oil per day off OPEC’s record production figures, oil climbed above $50 a barrel. Today, Brent is trading at $52.64, which is a 12-month high-a monumental swing on mere talk.

And sure, some minor fundamentals have changed, such as five weeks of crude oil inventory draws in the U.S., but those inventory numbers are still way too high. In reality, OPEC hasn’t actually done anything to ease the glut. They’ve just talked… about talking… two months from now. In fact, the only actions that OPEC has taken is to pump oil at record paces, adding to the glut, and hoping that speculators will lap up what they’re dishing out in rhetoric. That’s what OPEC is doing today.

So happy are the markets on this wispy nothingness, in fact, that some are suggesting the oil markets are poised for a major meltdown, as speculators buy up contracts that are equal to a year’s worth of U.S. consumption—amounts that can’t possibly be delivered and will be pushed off to next month’s contracts or cancelled. To put this in perspective, there are 480 million barrels of oil on order for delivery in November to Cushing, Oklahoma—a facility that is capable of handling only 50 million per month.

What will also be pushed aside are some other cold, hard facts, such as Libya’s production increases, or Iraq’s, or Iran’s, and how fundamentally, this means the remaining OPEC members would have to make deeper cuts to offset these increases and still meet the organization’s promised cut. Deeper cuts that could hurt whichever member is tasked with taking on this burden.

But to keep the market’s eye on the OPEC ball despite market saturation, the Algerian Energy Minister, desperate to save his country from an economic collapse, made yet another announcement on behalf of OPEC that the bloc would be willing to cut yet another 1% “if we need to” on top of the cuts proposed out of the meeting in Algiers, adding that there would be even more meetings forthcoming—the first of which will be in Istanbul on Oct 9-13, again, on the sidelines of another energy meeting, the World Energy Congress. But this time, the informal talks about the freeze will include non-OPEC Russia and non-OPEC Azerbaijan.

As Reuters reports, the meeting signals that OPEC “is more serious now about managing the global supply glut.” Russia apparently doesn’t share this perceived seriousness, with Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak saying on Friday that he doesn’t expect to sign a deal with OPEC during this meeting. Just more talk.

And yet another meeting is scheduled in Vienna for October 28 and 29, according to OPEC sources, followed by a “long-term strategy” meeting on November 1-4, and a technical meeting again in Vienna on November 23 and 24, and possibly a follow-up meeting of the High Level Committee a day later on November 25. Finally, recommendations will be presented at the previously disclosed and much anticipated meeting on November 30.

That’s plenty of evenly spaced talk that is sure to keep OPEC in media headlines, and give the oil speculators something to play with until that time. After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to how long prices will hold, but it’s likely that regardless of the outcome of the 30 November recommendation meeting, OPEC will continue to feed the beast with talk—and the market will readily accept the handout, even if it’s in lieu of the fundamentals.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

Link to original article: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/For-How-Long-Can-OPEC-Talk-Up-Oil-Prices.html

08/24/16

OPEC’s Output Freeze: What Has Changed Since Doha?

It’s possible that OPEC is crying wolf with hints of an output freeze next month in Algiers; but it’s also possible that they are ramping up production to take the sting out of a freeze. This is a delicate balancing act that the Saudis need to play very carefully.

The official chatter is that the OPEC meeting in Algeria from September 26 to 28 could conclude with an agreement to freeze production by the member nations, with even Russia joining forces in a freeze that may prevent further oil price erosion. But everyone’s a bit gun-shy after the false hopes of the last round in Doha—even if a freeze at levels that existed then wouldn’t have meant much either—and it’s hard to blame them. The question is, how many times can the Saudis cry wolf without forever losing the ability to leverage this chatter to affect a rise in oil prices?

But lets rewind a bit to the nature of the recent chatter. The Saudi Energy Minister has indicated that Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s largest producer, is willing to proceed with a production freeze.

“We are, in Saudi Arabia, watching the market closely, and if there is a need to take any action to help the market rebalance, then we would, of course in cooperation with OPEC and major non-OPEC exporters,” said Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, reports Reuters.

“We are going to have a ministerial meeting of the International Energy Forum in Algeria next month, and there is an opportunity for OPEC and major exporting non-OPEC ministers to meet and discuss the market situation, including any possible action that may be required to stabilize the market.”

The hopes of reaching an agreement in Doha were scuttled by Saudi Arabia, because it wanted its arch rival, Iran, to participate in the freeze. Unfortunately for oil prices, Iran had made it clear that it would not join any such discussion until they reached pre-sanction levels of oil production.

What has changed from Doha to Algeria?

Iran

Iran’s oil production is close to its pre-sanction levels, meaning that its first cited prerequisite for any discussion has now been met—a criteria that was not met at the time of the Doha meeting. In addition, increasing oil production further by Iran is a big ask—it would need billions of dollars worth of investments in both upstream and downstream facilities to make this happen. With oil prices languishing below $50 a barrel, major oil companies are reluctant to commit huge sums of money for new oil projects.

Iran’s oilfields are mature, and more than half of its wells have an annual decline rate of 9 percent to 11 percent, according to Michael Cohen, an analyst at Barclays in New York. Therefore, at their existing production levels, they need an additional 200,000 to 300,000 barrels a day annually to replace the shortfall from their aging wells.

Iran needs more money and investment to continue pumping at the current rate, making it more likely for Iran to agree to some kind of an arrangement where they continue to pump oil at a rate close to their target of 4 million barrels a day.

That said, the last thing that Iran wants is to be sidelined, so Tehran is bound to make its presence felt at the meeting with strong statements. But at the end of the day, it is unlikely that Iran will scuttle an agreement where it has everything to gain and nothing to lose.

“There may be a little bit more to it this time. I’m still very skeptical, but it’s just with Iran being where they are production-wise, they’ll be more inclined to eventually go along with a deal,” said Again Capital’s John Kilduff, reports CNBC.

Saudi Arabia

The oil-rich nation underestimated the resilience of the U.S. shale oil drillers when they declared war on them in 2014. American oil has not only kept flowing—the shale producers have managed to bring down production costs considerably. This ability was not anticipated by Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has burned more than $175 billion in reserves since August 2014. The Saudis have introduced austerity measures and plans to monetize their crown jewel Saudi Aramco to survive the oil downturn. Nevertheless, things are not going well for this nation, which youth is struggling to find jobs as shown in the chart below.

IMG URL: http://cdn.oilprice.com/images/tinymce/2016/Oil%20Graphs%201.png

A large population of unemployed youths who cannot take care of their families can sow seeds of frustration, and the Arab Spring will still be fresh in the memory of the rulers.

Saudi Arabia is struggling to grow in this oil downturn. Barring the 2009 dip, the current growth rate of 1.5 percent is the worst in a decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

IMG URL: http://cdn.oilprice.com/images/tinymce/2016/Oil%20Graphs%202.png

If oil prices remain low, the Saudi plan to sell shares in Saudi Aramco might not fetch them the valuations they expect, and a nation that cannot provide the most basic of amenities—food for its foreign workers—says a lot about their financial condition.

Saudi Arabia has seen the recent slide in crude oil prices towards the $40/barrel mark, which could have gone deeper without the chatter of a production freeze. And since they have already cried wolf once in Doha, doing so again in Algiers decrease the importance of any ‘chatter’ leverage they have in the future.

Rest of the nations already onboard

Barring Iran and Saudi Arabia, the rest of the nations were in agreement about the need to freeze production during the Doha meeting.

From OPEC to Russia, everyone is at record production levels

The oil-producing nations want to ensure that even if there are talks of a production freeze, they should not feel the pinch. Hence, even before the meeting, they will try to produce more, rather than less. The recent ramping up may very well be an indication that a freeze—although at a level higher than what would have likely come out of the Doha meeting—may be on the horizon.

The oil markets are so sensitive that even a statement of agreement by OPEC at the end of the meeting is enough to send oil prices flying above the resistance level of $51 a barrel.

What about the shale oil producers?

Though U.S. production is declining and experiencing a flurry of bankruptcies, the remaining companies are much better positioned to continue pumping at lower levels to survive the downturn.

Though the risk remains that the shale oil drillers will come back in full force when oil prices recover, the risk is worth taking. OPEC and Russia have realized that any new world order will have to include the shale oil companies. They are a large enough force not to be neglected or defeated.

With all of this in mind, an agreement between OPEC and Russia is more feasible in Algiers than it was in Doha. It might not mean much though, with output levels soaring ahead of the meeting. A freeze at current levels—or levels reached by the time of the meeting—won’t do much to change the fundamentals, nor is there any indication that a freeze would have long legs.

Link to original article: https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/OPECs-Output-Freeze-What-Has-Changed-Since-Doha.html

By Rakesh Upadhyay for Oilprice.com

08/9/16

Surprise Natural Gas Drawdown Signals Higher Prices Ahead

The U.S. electric power sector burned through a record amount of natural gas in recent weeks, a sign of the shifting power generation mix and also a signal that natural gas supplies could get tighter than many analysts had previously expected.

The EIA reported a surprise drawdown in natural gas inventories for the week ending on August 3. The reduction of 6 billion cubic feet (Bcf) was the first summertime drawdown since 2006. Natural gas spot prices shot up following the data release on August 4, although they fell back again shortly after.

Natural gas consumption patterns are much more seasonal than for oil. Demand tends to spike in the winter due to heating needs, and then drops substantially in the intervening months, particularly in the spring and fall. Between March/April and October/November, natural gas inventories build up as people need less heating, and that stockpiled gas is then used in the next winter.

So it comes as a surprise that after a record buildup in inventories this past winter, the summer has seen a much lower-than-expected buildup in storage. And last week’s drawdown, the first in over a decade during summertime, says quite a bit about the shifting energy landscape. The EIA says this is the result of two factors: higher consumption from electric power plants, and a drop off in production.

The U.S. is and has been in the midst of an epochal transition from coal-fired electricity to natural gas and renewables, a switch that will take many more years to play out. But the effects are already showing up in the power generation mix. Utilities have rushed to build more natural gas power plants over the past decade, and now with so many online, demand for gas has climbed to new levels.

Just a few weeks ago, on July 21, the U.S. burned through 40.9 billion cubic feet, the highest volume on record, according to the EIA. And in late July, the power burn exceeded 40 Bcf/d three times due to a hot weather. Nine of the ten highest power burn days on record took place last month, with the other one occurring in July 2015. Average consumption of 36.1 Bcf/d in July of this year was 2.7 Bcf/d higher than a year earlier, and 1.5 Bcf/d higher than the previous high reached in July 2012.

IMG URL: http://cdn.oilprice.com/images/tinymce/2016/Nick0508A.png

The high rates of consumption from the electric power sector are contributing to tepid growth in inventories this summer. This comes on the heels of a massive buildup in inventories last winter, and heading into summer the expectation was that huge storage levels would keep natural gas prices at rock bottom levels, perhaps for years. But that doesn’t look like it will come to pass.

While high demand is keeping natural gas from being diverted into storage in large amounts, the other main reason that natural gas inventories are not building up as much as previously thought is because of a supply-side issue: natural gas production is actually falling after years of steady increases. Natural gas prices have traded below $3 per million Btu since the beginning of 2015. U.S. gas drillers continued to ratchet up production through 2015, however, creating this past winter’s inventory glut. But the resulting downturn in prices has now made drilling unprofitable in many areas. On top of that, the oil price crash has ground oil drilling to a halt, which means that the natural gas produced in association with oil has also come to a standstill. The upshot is that natural gas production is now falling in the United States. The Marcellus Shale, the most prolific shale gas basin in the country, saw production peak in February at 18.5 Bcf/d. Since then output has declined 3 percent. In August, the EIA expects gas production from the Marcellus to fall by another 26 million cubic feet per day.

IMG URL: http://cdn.oilprice.com/images/tinymce/2016/Nick0508B.png

Of course, this stuff is cyclical. The first summer drawdown in inventories in a decade means that natural gas markets are now tighter than many analysts thought only a few months ago. Falling production and rising demand could lead to steeper drawdowns in inventories this coming winter. The effect of that will be to push up spot prices, which could induce more drilling once again.

Original article: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Heating-Oil/Surprise-Natural-Gas-Drawdown-Signals-Higher-Prices-Ahead.html

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

08/4/16

Today’s Downturn Sets Markets Up For A Dramatic Oil Price Spike

Another oil price downturn threatens to deepen the plunging levels of investment in upstream oil and gas production, which could create a more acute price spike in the years ahead.

Oil and gas companies have gutted their capex budgets, necessary moves as drillers went deep into the red following the crash in oil prices. But the sharp cutback in investment means that huge volumes of oil that would have otherwise come online in five or ten years now will remain on the sidelines.

The industry will cut spending by $1 trillion through 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie. Those reductions are creating a “ticking time bomb” for oil supply. The consultancy projects that the market will see 5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (mboe/d) less this year, compared to expectations before the collapse of oil prices. And next year, the industry will produce 6 mboe/d less than it otherwise would have had the spending cuts not been made.

This is creating the conditions for a supply crunch and a price spike. The reason is simple: demand continues to rise by some 1.2 million barrels per day each year, but supplies are no longer growing because of the spending cuts. That is not a problem today as production still slightly exceeds demand and high levels of crude oil and refined products sit in storage. But by as early as the end of 2016 the oil market could tip into a supply deficit. And because the industry has scaled back so intensely on capex, global supplies could fall short of demand for quite a while. The end result could be a dramatic price spike.

This scenario has been described before by Wood Mackenzie, which published an estimate earlier this year that put the total value of cancelled projects over the past two years at $380 billion, projects that would have yielded 27 billion barrels of oil and gas.

So far, the markets are not pricing in the brewing supply crunch. Oil prices continue to fall, and speculators have taken the most pessimistic position in months, selling off long bets and buying up shorts.

Oil analysts and forecasters do not see a rapid rise in prices either. A Bloomberg survey of 20 analysts revealed a median price forecast of just $57 per barrel in 2017. No doubt that record levels of inventories are on their minds – even if oil production itself flips into a supply/demand deficit, it could take years to work through storage levels.

“We’re looking at a market that’s still in a very slow process of rebalancing and we don’t think that you’ll get a sustainable deficit until the second quarter of 2017,” Michael Hsueh, a strategist at Deutsche Bank AG, told Bloomberg. “Those deficits are necessary to draw down global inventories, but that will still take until the end of 2018, it appears.”

But the swing from surplus to deficit could be more dramatic than many think. Now that oil is once again entering a bear market, with WTI and Brent dropping to $40 per barrel, the industry could be forced to slash spending even deeper than it already has, leaving even more oil reserves undeveloped. And in any case, it is possible that high storage levels and the two-year production surplus is leading to a myopic view of the future – just because the markets are oversupplied today does not meant that they will in several years’ time.

Wood Mackenzie says that while U.S. shale has been the hardest hit by the steep fall in investment, the shale industry will be the first to bounce back because of the short-cycle nature of shale drilling. The price spike will lead to a resurgence in shale, and Wood Mackenzie is predicting that shale production doubles from the 2015 high-watermark of 4.5 million barrels per day to 8.5 mb/d by the mid-2020s.

But that is a long way off for oil executives dealing with deteriorating balance sheets and rising debt levels.

Link to original article: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Todays-Downturn-Sets-Markets-Up-For-A-Dramatic-Oil-Price-Spike.html

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

06/15/16

Uranium Prices Set To Double By 2018

With prices set to double by 2018, we’ve seen the bottom of the uranium market, and the negative sentiment that has followed this resource around despite strong fundamentals, is starting to change.

Billionaire investors sense it, and they’re always the first to anticipate change and take advantage of the rally before it becomes a reality. The turning point is where all the money is made, and there are plenty of indications that the uranium recovery is already underway.

It’s been a very tough few years for uranium. But it now looks like we’ve reached the bottom, and the future demand equation says there’s nowhere to go but up—significantly up.

Uranium analyst David Talbot of Dundee Capital Markets is forecasting 6 percent compound annual demand growth through 2020, which is enough, he says, to “kick-start” uranium prices up to and beyond 2007 levels. Morningstar analyst David Wang predicts prices will double within the next two years.

Mining Weekly expects “the period from 2017-2020 to be a landmark period for the nuclear sector and uranium stocks, as the global operating nuclear reactor fleet expands.”

“It’s impossible to find another natural resource that is so fundamentally necessary and yet has carried such negative sentiment as uranium. The market has been skewed by negative sentiments that ignore the supply and demand fundamentals,” says Paul D. Gray, President and CEO of Zadar Ventures Ltd., a North American uranium and lithium explorer.

But the toxicity levels have dissipated, and nuclear energy is rebounding as a cleaner power source with next generation safeguards. The fundamentals are again ruling the day, and this will be the key year for uranium,” Gray told Oilprice.com.

Why Sentiment is Changing: Born in Chernobyl, Raised in Japan

The negative sentiment on uranium was largely made in Japan. The 2011 disaster at Fukushima created an irrational disconnect between sentiment and uranium fundamentals.

Now that enough time has passed since Fukushima, this negative sentiment is losing steam as it appears that Japan has succeeded in bringing some of its reactors back online – four of its reactors have already restarted operations. So the world is refocusing on what are arguably brilliant fundamentals, which actually have been there all along.

First and foremost, the world is building more nuclear reactors right now than ever before, despite Fukushima. A total of 65 new reactors are already going up, another 165 are planned and yet another 331 proposed.

Powering all of these developments will require an impressive amount of uranium. Right now, existing nuclear reactors use 174 million pounds of uranium every year. That will increase by a dramatic one-fifth with the new reactors under construction. But in the meantime, uranium producers have reduced output due to market prices and put caps on expansion. As a result, supplies are dwindling.

Currently, the world is increasingly recognizing nuclear energy as the cheaper, cleaner, and greener option—as indicated by the number of reactors being built.

As the specter of nuclear accidents wanes in the aftermath of Fukushima and climate change fears move to the top of the chain, uranium is set for a global sentiment transformation.

As Scientific American opines, “Nuclear energy’s clean bona fides may be its saving grace in a wobbling global energy market that is trying to balance climate change ambitions, skittish economies and low prices for oil and natural gas.”

According to Bloomberg, in Asia alone, approximately $800 billion in new reactors are being developed.

The market hasn’t quite caught on yet to what this massive nuclear development means for uranium because it’s still stuck in the Fukushima sentiment–but the cracks are showing and it’s about to break free.

At the same time, the uranium industry is not producing the uranium needed to feed the hundreds of new reactors slated to come online. Not even close. The uranium is not being produced because producers can’t turn a profit at today’s spot prices.

The minute the market catches on to the massive amount of reactors coming online combined with the pending uranium supply shortage, uranium will experience a price surge like no other commodity before it.

Up to 20 percent of the uranium supply needed to operate the world’s existing 437 nuclear reactors for the rest of this year and next is not covered, according to uranium market analyst David Talbot.

The market has recognized the pending lithium boom, for instance, as heralded by the electric vehicle (EV), battery storage and powerwall push. But the market is sleeping when it comes to uranium, which has even more obviously bullish fundamentals. That’s why when this sleeping giant awakens suddenly with the start-up of new reactors around the world, it will be with a roar that rewards those savvy enough to sneak around the irrational sentiment.

Determining when the break-out will come, exactly, is part and parcel of playing this rally with an eye to massive returns (for which you can thank the negative sentiment if you’re already onto uranium). But all bets are that this year we’ll see the first new reactors come online, and then it will snowball from there, transforming from a buyers’ market into a sellers’ market.

The Billionaires’ Sixth Sense

Billionaire investors are lining up behind uranium with major acquisitions, betting that they are on the edge of a price break-out.

Earlier in June, Hong Kong billionaire investor Li Kashing, though his CK Hutchinson Holdings and CEF holdings, said he would buy $60 million in convertible bonds from NexGen Energy targeting uranium projects in Canada’s Saskatchewan province.

“The current spot prices seem low, but the fundamentals indicate there’s going to be a very large demand and supply gap — that’s what you’re making a call on,” NexGen CEO Leigh Curyer said of the deal. NexGen is slated to start production in the 2020s.

Mr. Li’s $60-million bet on Saskatchewan uranium is near another uranium company, Zadar Ventures Ltd, which has four projects in Saskatchewan and one in Alberta, and stands to benefit from the high-dollar renewed focus on this resource.

The Athabasca Basin is elephant country in terms of uranium deposits. It represents the world’s highest-grade uranium deposits and is the home to all of the major uranium producers, developers and explorers.

If your going to look for the world’s next uranium mine, the Athabasca Basin is the place to do so.

Considering that nearly half of the U.S.’ 57 million pounds of uranium imports last year came from Canada and Kazakhstan, with Canada providing 17 million pounds—these producers are extremely well-positioned for what comes next.

Talbot predicts that the Uranium pound price could reach $65 within two years, and notes that some mines will be extremely profitable at this price—particularly those in the Athabasca Basin and in the western and southwestern U.S., while development of uranium deposits in Africa will require higher prices.

The Athabasca Basin is precisely where Zadar and NexGen operate, along with other promising contenders, including Cameco Corp. (TSX:CCO) and Denison Mines Corp. (DML:TSX).

Last month, billionaire D.E. Shaw let us all know that he’d acquired 1.4 million shares in Cameco, eyeing rising uranium prices, tightening supplies and growing demand—and joining the ranks alongside George Soros. And others have lined up, too, including well-known money managers Ken Griffin, Ray Dalio and Steve Cohen.

Then we have Bill Gates—who has jumped on the uranium bandwagon with great determination. Through his TerraPower company, Gates is developing a Fourth Generation nuclear reactor that would run on depleted uranium, rather than enriched uranium.

Increasingly, this is shaping up to be the the Year of Uranium, but while the market sleeps, big investors don’t: They’ll be all set when uranium experiences a violent upswing, and those operating around the Athabasca Basin are likely to be among the first to benefit from the upward price trend and shrinking supply.

http://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/Uranium-Prices-Set-To-Double-By-2018.html

By. James Stafford of Oilprice.com