This morning the Trump Administration indicated that U.S. policy towards North Korea is moving from “strategic patience” to “strategic accountability”. That summary of the current situation seems far less bellicose than recent statements by either side. Moreover, U.S. policy is focused on encouraging China to step in more proactively, which gives the impression that U.S. direct action is still arm’s length away. Yet, as discussed below, misperceptions on both sides could quickly lead either side to escalate from statements to action.
Saudi denial of oil tankers entering a Yemeni port brought the Yemeni conflict to the fore in the oil sector. While the oil implications are negligible, the movement of the conflict towards the sea raises the potential for an accidental incident leading to direct conflict between the Saudi coalition and Iran, and the U.S.
Oil & Gas Journal July 19, 2017
“Although we see that the USGC surplus could rise to 2 million b/d next year, its disposition is unclear,” said Elisabeth Murphy, an ESAI Energy analyst. “Lower prices will adversely impact the rate of growth coming from shale production.”
The Syrian ceasefire agreed by Russia and the U.S. could lead to a stabilization of some portions of Syria and reduce the chances of direct clashes between Russian and American aircraft, but it does not appear that enough of the important factions are currently satisfied with their positions to lay the groundwork for a larger, negotiated settlement.
Proposed 2018 RFS volume targets were announced yesterday. With only a small reduction in target volumes for advanced biofuels, ESAI Energy continues to project higher D6 RIN prices later in 2017 and in 2018. Without increased sales of higher ethanol blends, obligated parties will need to turn to banked RINs to satisfy obligations.
Oil & Gas Journal June 21, 2017
Elisabeth Murphy of ESAI said, “Although the pace of growth is expected to slow next year, US shale production is forecast to be about 500,000 b/d higher in 2018 than 2017, still very impressive growth.”
As ESAI Energy first discussed in early April, 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard targets would be bullish for RIN prices in 2017. Expectations that mandated volumes in 2018 will remain near 2017 levels and current market fundamentals point to a shortfall in D6 RINs and higher prices by the end of the year.
This is more than a diplomatic row among GCC members. Perhaps emboldened by President Trump’s visit, Saudi Arabia and its allies have declared if you are with Iran (or specific radical Sunni groups), you are against us. This effort to delineate sides in the region cannot be easily reversed without substantial outside pressure. Expect a geopolitical premium to creep into energy prices as this dispute continues.
OPEC is very much alive, and has just extended its production restraint through the rest of 2017 and the
first quarter of 2018, improving the outlook for 2017 and maybe even 2018.
World Pipelines May 24, 2017
Elisabeth Murphy, analyst at ESAI Energy, points out that “until oil prices get closer to US$60 producers will continue to target the Bakken core where well performance is very high.
Notwithstanding the pageantry of the U.S. President visiting Saudi Arabia and the enthusiasm of young Iranians hailing their moderate President’s reelection, little changed in terms of the region’s political stability, the battle with ISIS or oil policy this weekend. The clearest signal from the weekend was the public and forceful assertion that the U.S. has allied itself with the Saudis versus Iran, which can only have stoked the age-old rivalry. This should not impact OPEC dealings this week as Iran’s production is near a top, but it is likely to have repercussions down the road when (and if) Iran’s productive capacity rises.
Bloomberg May 18, 2017
“The producers will have to work hard this summer to temper the surplus in the first quarter,” Sarah Emerson, managing director of ESAI Energy in Wakefield, Massachusetts, said …
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The decision by Saudi Arabia, Russia and ostensibly the rest of OPEC to extend the production cut through the first quarter of 2018 is not a surprise, except for the addition of the first quarter of 2018. Extending through early 2018 signals that the producers understand the magnitude of the challenge. Whether they rise to the challenge depends on their success this summer. OPEC needs to do as much as possible now to temper the surplus coming in the first quarter.
A victory on May 19 by the moderate incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, would improve the outlook for Iran’s oil sector. Economic growth jumped after the nuclear deal and the lifting of the oil embargo, but Iran will have to pursue both higher production and higher prices to realize the economic recovery Rouhani has promised.