FRACTIONAL FLOW

Fractional flow, the flow that shapes our future.

Archive for October 2014

Growth in Global Total Debt sustained a High Oil Price and delayed the Bakken “Red Queen”

The saying is that hindsight (always) provides 20/20 vision.

In this post I present a retrospective look at my prediction from 2012 published on The Oil Drum (The “Red Queen” series) where I predicted that Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from Bakken in North Dakota would not move much above 0.7 Mb/d.

  • Profitable drilling in Bakken for LTO extraction has been, is and will continue to be dependent on an oil price above a certain threshold, now about $68/Bbl at the wellhead (or around $80/Bbl [WTI]) on a point forward basis.
    (The profitability threshold depends on the individual well’s productivity and companies’ return requirements.)
  • Complete analysis of developments to LTO extraction should encompass the resilience of the oil companies’ balance sheets and their return requirements.

Figure 01: The chart above shows development in Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from January 2009 and as of August 2014 in Bakken North Dakota [green area, right hand scale]. The top black line is the price of Western Texas Intermediate (WTI), red middle line the Bakken LTO price (sweet) as published by the Director for NDIC and bottom orange line the spread between WTI and Bakken LTO wellhead all left hand scale. The spread between WTI and Bakken wellhead has widened in the recent months.

Figure 01: The chart above shows development in Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from January 2009 and as of August 2014 in Bakken North Dakota [green area, right hand scale]. The top black line is the price of Western Texas Intermediate (WTI), red middle line the Bakken LTO price (sweet) as published by the Director for NDIC and bottom orange line the spread between WTI and Bakken LTO wellhead all left hand scale. The spread between WTI and Bakken wellhead has widened in the recent months.

What makes extraction from source rock in Bakken attractive (as in profitable) is/was the high oil price and cheap debt (low interest rates). The Bakken formation has been known for decades and fracking is not a new technology, though it has seen and is likely to see lots of improvements.

LTO extraction in Bakken (and in other plays like Eagle Ford) happened due to a higher oil price as it involves the deployment of expensive technologies which again is at the mercy of:

  • Consumers affordability, that is their ability to continue to pay for more expensive oil
  • Changes in global total debt levels (credit expansion), like the recent years rapid credit expansion in emerging economies, primarily China.
  • Central banks’ policies, like the recent years’ expansions of their balance sheets and low interest rate policies
    • Credit/debt is a vehicle for consumers to pay (create demand) for a product/service
    • Credit/debt is also used by companies to generate supplies to meet changes to demand
    • What companies in reality do is to use expectations of future cash flows (from consumers’ abilities to take on more debt) as collateral to themselves go deeper into debt.
    • Credit/debt, thus works both sides of the supply/demand equation
  • How OPEC shapes their policies as responses to declines in the oil price
    Will OPEC establish and defend a price floor for the oil price?

I have recently and repeatedly pointed out;

  • Any forecasts of oil (and gas) demand/supplies and oil price trajectories are NOT very helpful if they do not incorporate forecasts for changes to total global credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

Oil is a global commodity which price is determined in the global marketplace.

Added liquidity and low interest rates provided by the world’s dominant central bank, the Fed, has also played some role in the developments in LTO extraction from the Bakken formation in North America.

As numerous people repeatedly have said; “Never bet against the Fed!” to which I will add “…and China’s determination to expand credit”.

Let me be clear, I do not believe that the Fed’s policies have been aimed at supporting developments in Bakken (or other petroleum developments) this is in my opinion unintended consequences.

In Bakken two factors helped grow and sustain a high number of well additions (well manufacturing);

  • A high(er) oil price
  • Growing use of cheap external funding (primarily debt)

In the summer of 2012 I found it hard to comprehend what would sustain the oil price above $80/Bbl (WTI).

The mechanisms that supported the high oil price was well understood, what lacked was documentation from authoritative sources about the scale of the continued accommodative policies from major central banks’ (balance sheet expansions [QE] and low interest rate policies) and as important; global total credit expansion, which in recent years was driven by China and other emerging economies.

I have described more about this in my post World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price.

 

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World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price

In April 2012 I published this post about World Crude Oil Production and the Oil Price (in Norwegian) which was an attempt to describe the developments in the sources of crude oils (including condensates), tranches of total life cycle costs (that is [CAPEX {inclusive returns} + OPEX] per barrel  of oil) and something about the drivers for the formation of the oil price.

Rereading the post and as time passed, I learnt more and therefore thought it appropriate to revisit and update the post as it in my opinion contains some topics from what I have observed, learned and discussed that have been given poor attention and appears poorly understood.

I will continue to pound the message that oil prices are also subject to the reality of;

  • “Demand is what the consumers can pay for!”

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available tools to support the global financial markets which the economy heavily relies upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive. The chart suggests causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price.

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the oil price [Brent spot] and the time of central banks’ announcements/deployments of available tools to support the global financial markets which the economy heavily relies upon. The financial system is virtual and thus highly responsive.
The chart suggests causation between FED policies and movements to the oil price.

The four big central banks, BoE, BoJ, ECB and the Fed expanded their balance sheets with $6 – 7 Trillion following the Lehman collapse in the fall of 2008. These liquidity injections are about to end.

Since 2008 most of the advanced economies’ credit expansions originated from the central banks, the lenders of last resort. Central banks are collateral constrained.

The consensus about the oil price collapse during the recent weeks is attributed to waning global demand and growth in  supplies.

All eyes are now on OPEC.

  • Any forecasts of oil (and gas) demand/supplies and oil price trajectories are NOT very helpful if they do not incorporate forecasts for changes to total global credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

For more than a decade, I have carefully studied the forecasts (and been involved in numerous fruitful [private] discussions) from authoritative sources like the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) including the annual outlooks from several of the major oil companies and I did NOT find that any of these takes into consideration changes to global credit/debt [growth/deleveraging], levels of total global credit/debt and interest rates.

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The Powers of Fossil Fuels

In this post I present a brief perspective spanning two centuries of the history of energy and mainly fossil fuels (FFs) consumption. Then a brief look at the recent years growth in solar and wind (renewables) and how their growth measures up against FFs since 1990.

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the world’s total energy consumption split on sources as from 1800 and into 2013. The chart has been developed in a joint between Dr Nate Hagens and me.

Figure 1: The chart above shows the developments in the world’s total energy consumption split on sources as from 1800 and into 2013. The chart has been developed in a joint effort between Dr Nate Hagens and me.

In the early 1800s biomass (primarily wood) were humans’ primary source for exogenous energy. Coal became increasingly introduced into the energy mixture after the successful development and deployment of the steam engine which gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. Coal is a nonrenewable, abundant and a denser energy source than wood. The growing use of biomass had led to deforestation in those areas serving energy intensive industries like mining and metals. The steam engine and its use of abundant coal as an energy source made it possible to rapidly expand the industrial production, create economic growth, thus the Industrial Revolution was in reality a revolution made possible by fossil fuels. With the most recent discoveries and introduction of fossil oil and natural gas there appeared to be several abundant sources of volumetric dense energy that could entertain exponential and illusive economic growth. Fossil fuels represent natures’ legacy stock of dense energy (ancient sunlight) that during some decades has been subject to an accelerated depletion. Several reports in the media may now leave the impression that we are at the threshold for a smooth transition from FFs to renewables (solar and wind). However, how does this measure up against hard data? Read the rest of this entry »

Status of Norwegian Natural Gas and a Forecast towards 2025

In this post I present actual Norwegian natural gas production, status on reserves, the development in discoveries and what this results for my expectations for the future delivery potential for Norwegian natural gas.

Included is also a brief look at actual and forecast development for EU’s (+Norway) consumption and production of natural gas.

Norway is not a formal member of the European Union (EU).

This post is an update on my post back in March 2013 (in Norwegian).

Norway, after Russia, has been and is the EU’s second biggest supplier of natural gas. In Europe the outlook for natural gas supplies is followed with heightened interests following the recent developments in Ukraine and its ability to continue to afford Russian natural gas. A big portion of the  natural gas consumed by EU transits from Russia through Ukraine.

The potential for any interruptions to EU’s natural gas supplies has made EU consult other suppliers requesting these to have a look at their potentials to increase deliveries to offset any shortfalls to natural gas deliveries from Russia.

Fig 1 Norway actual as of 2013 and forecast natural gas production to 2025

Figure 1: The chart above shows development in natural gas exports from production installations on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) as reported by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) from 1996 to 2013 and with my forecast for delivery potential towards 2025. The chart also shows the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) forecasts; green line upper projection, orange line lower projection. The black dotted line is the forecast from the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2012 (IEA WEO 2012). Numbers are believed to be gross exports from the production installations and thus not adjusted for “shrinkage” from Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) extraction, primarily at Kollsnes and Kårstø. The NGL extraction reduces total sales gas volumes with around 4% relative to what is exported from the production installations. Numbers in Giga cubic meters (Gcm = Bcm)

My forecast (developed in the spring of 2014) and the forecast from the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) shows basically the same trends, but differs about the timing for the start of  the decline and how steep it will become. My forecast results in some kind of plateau towards the end of this decade followed by a steep decline, refer also figure 4.

I now expect the Norwegian delivery potential for natural gas to decline by 40 – 50% by 2025.

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