Phil Flynn is writer of The Energy Report, a daily market commentary discussing oil, the Middle East, American government, economics, and their effects on the world's energies markets, as well as other commodity markets. Contact Mr. Flynn at (888) 264-5665
Oil prices gave up some of its fundamental strength after a very bullish Energy Information Administration (EIA) supply report on fears that Hurricane Dorian will adversely impact oil demand as we head into refinery maintenance season. Even news that Iran was threating to abandon all constraints on nuclear development in breach of the 2015 nuclear deal failed to spark an additional geo-political risk rally. Oil did rally on an earlier report from the Tasnim New Agency that Yemeni troops launched retaliatory missile attacks against Saudi troops in Jizan and Haradh, Saudi Arabia. The news agency said Yemen’s al-Masirah news website reported that more than 30 Saudi troops were killed and injured after the missile attacks. The attack from the Iranian backed troops will only further complicate U.S-Iran talks as well. Still, the Trump administration says it is open to talks with Iran. In the meantime, oil sold off on a report that the People’s Bank of China cut reserve requirements for all banks by 0.50 percentage point effective from September 16 and cut its reserve requirements for certain urban banks by another full percentage point, with half effective on October 15 and the rest, a month later. Apparently, the oil market wanted more.
Hurricane Dorian, as it hit Carolina’s coasts, is raising demand. The storm also did major damage to oil facilities in the Bahamas. Terminal News reported Equinor’s South Riding terminal in the Bahamas, which comprises 6.75 million barrels of crude and condensate storage capacity, sustained damage and that oil has been observed on the ground outside of the onshore tanks. The company says it is too early to indicate how much has split and that currently there are no observations of any oil spill at sea. All personnel in the Bahamas are confirmed safe and accounted for. Equinor says oil spill response resources have been mobilized and they are working to establish a better overview of the situation.
They also reported that the storm passed over Buckeye Partners’ Bahamas Hub, a 26-million-barrel petroleum storage, trans-shipment and blending facility at Freeport. Buckeye said on September 3rd that following an initial preliminary assessment, no significant damage was identified, however it would continue to conduct in-depth, on-the-ground inspections and assessments. However, according to S&P Global Platt’s, a U.S. Gulf Coast fuel oil trader said that damage to surrounding infrastructure is preventing the terminal from opening. Platt’s also notes that observable feedgas flows to Kinder Morgan’s Elba Island LNG export terminal in Georgia remained at zero for a second consecutive day. The operator evacuated workers due to the threat from the hurricane.
More shale pains. Reports of declining production rates, as well as the inability to turn a profit, is raising questions about U.S. shale production outlook. The big oil majors are reportedly hovering to pick up distressed shale assets and while that should stem the doom and gloom, it is apparent that the lack of investment in more traditional oil products could leave the market undersupplied in the future. Reuters reported that, “Oil producers and their suppliers are cutting budgets, staffs and production goals amid a growing consensus of forecasts that oil and gas prices will stay low for several years. The U.S. has 904 working rigs, down 14% from a year ago, and even that is probably too many, estimated Harold Hamm, chief executive of shale producer Continental Resources, which has reduced the number of rigs at work Bankruptcy filings by U.S. energy producers through mid-August this year have nearly matched the total for the whole of 2018. A stock index of oil and gas producers hit an all-time low in August, a sign investors are expecting more trouble ahead.” There will be trouble for shale if the Democrats get their way.
Crude oil demand is still rocking, and oil supplies are falling. A big surge in U.S. oil imports happened as ships wanted to offload before the storm. U.S. oil exports were above 3.0 million barrels for the second week in a row. But the data will get murkier as the petroleum complex has to recover from storm disruptions. Still, crude oil inventories decreased by an impressive 4.8 million barrels from the previous week.At 423.0 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are at the five-year average for this time of year. Gas demand is still strong as inventories decreased by 2.4 million barrels last week and are about 3% above the five-year average for this time of year. Distillate fuel inventories fell by 2.5 million barrels last week and are about 6% below the five-year average for this time of year. Total commercial petroleum inventories decreased last week by 4.9 million barrels last week.
Total products supplied shows demand averaging 21.7 million barrels per day, up by 1.6% from the same period last year. Over the past four weeks, motor gasoline product supplied averaged 9.7 million barrels per day, up by 0.9% from the same period last year. Distillate fuel product supplied averaged 4.0 million barrels per day over the past four weeks, down by 5.7% from the same period last year. Jet fuel product supplied was up 1.9% compared with the same four-week period last year.
Natural gas had a bearish report which may be the last hope for natural gas bulls. The natural gas bears have owned this market until the last few weeks. I hope the bulls enjoyed the run. The EIA reported that working gas in storage was 2,941 bcf as of Friday, August 30, 2019, according to EIA estimates. This represents a net increase of 84 bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 383 bcf higher than last year at this time and 82 bcf below the five-year average of 3,023 bcf. At 2,941 bcf, total working gas is within the five-year historical range.
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