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Oil Sells Off As OPEC Remains Divided On Deal

Canada oil rig

Oil prices remained week on Tuesday morning despite a weaker dollar, whereas gasoline prices pumped on yet another outage on the Colonial Pipeline.

(Click to enlarge)

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Chart of the Week

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• Global offshore oil production in deepwater topped 9.3 million barrels per day in 2015, up from 7 mb/d a decade ago.

• At the same time, shallow water oil production is losing significance as resources are exploited and exhausted. Shallow water output only accounted for 64 percent of offshore production, the lowest share on record.

• Offshore output accounts for 30 percent of overall oil production, but companies need to go further offshore and into deeper water to find new reserves.

Market Movers

• ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) was cut to Neutral from Buy by Goldman Sachs on Monday, lowering its price target from $98/share to $93/share. But Goldman upgraded Chevron (NYSE: CVX), noting a more favorable risk vs. reward.

• Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) announced a $2 billion purchase of Permian Basin acreage, expanding its holdings in several properties with a focus on enhanced oil recovery.

• Statoil (NYSE: STO) and YPF agreed to cooperate on exploring offshore drilling potential on Argentina’s Atlantic Coast.

Tuesday November 1, 2016

Oil prices sank on Monday by more than 2 percent as news emerged from Vienna: OPEC met to discuss the technical details of its proposed production cut and the meeting did not go well. The members could not hammer out specifics on who would cut and by how much. Worse, Iraq continued to object to being included in the cut, arguing that it needs resources to fight ISIS. All reports suggest that little if any progress was made during the lengthy meetings, and OPEC issued a vaguely worded statement with no concrete commitments and merely some words about agreeing to continue to negotiate. The news did not sit well with the markets, casting doubt on the late November meeting in Vienna. With the chances of a meaningful deal starting to fade, oil prices plunged below $50 per barrel.

OPEC approves long-term strategy. While OPEC is struggling to ink a deal on production cuts, the cartel did manage to approve a document that outlines a long-term strategy. The pact puts forth a strategy to pursue price stability, which is to say intervening in the market to prop up prices. OPEC has been unable to agree to that strategy for quite a while because Saudi Arabia has been arguing since 2014 that the markets should determine oil prices. However, since the replacement of former oil minister Ali al-Naimi and the ascendancy of the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as one of the kingdom’s most powerful officials, Saudi Arabia’s strategy has shifted. Of course, persistently low oil prices played their part in the Saudi about-face, but Saudi Arabia now backs a more assertive hand in the oil market. The strategy document argues for market management, but stops short of calling for individual country quotas. While OPEC seemingly wants to control prices, its members are still at odds over how to do so.

Pipeline explosion sends gasoline prices soaring. A section of the Colonial Pipeline exploded on Monday, leading to the sharpest increase in gasoline futures prices in eight years. The Colonial Pipeline is the largest pipeline carrying gasoline in the entire U.S., moving refined products from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. An explosion in Alabama killed one worker and injured others, and gasoline prices for December delivery spiked by 15 percent. This is the second time in two months that the pipeline’s main line was shut – the first instance was for maintenance after a spill, an outage that also led to regional prices increases for gasoline.

Canadian oil industry was near the “brink.” CBC News reports that much of the Canadian oil industry was near bankruptcy after two years of low oil prices and “would have gone belly up if the downturn dragged on for another year.” Low oil prices forced some operators out of business, and banks started cutting off credit. “The industry doesn't work under $50 oil and when oil is under $50, we have major capital expenditure cuts, we have major outflows of money,” Rick Grafton, the CEO of Grafton Asset Management and co-founder of FirstEnergy, said at a recent event. “The industry is resilient, but they were on the cusp. I think $25 oil and $1.50 natural gas for 12 more months would have been a disaster." But activity is starting to pick up with oil prices back to around $50 per barrel.

Nigeria confirms more attacks. A pipeline run by Nigeria’s state-owned NNPC in the Niger Delta was attacked by a militant organization known as the Greenland Justice Mandate. The attack follows one by the Niger Delta Avengers, which damaged Chevron’s Escravos Pipeline. Both incidents are a sign that violence could be returning to Nigeria, potentially preventing the country’s ability to restore lost output. On Tuesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with Niger Delta leaders and also representatives from militant groups in an effort to diffuse the violence.

GE to take over Baker Hughes. First reported last week, GE (NYSE: GE) confirmed on Monday that it would merge its oil and gas business with that of Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI). GE will own 62.5 percent of the new company and Baker Hughes will own 37.5 percent. Shareholders of Baker Hughes will receive a one-time cash dividend of $17.50 per share after the deal closes. The deal comes after Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) was blocked from taking over Baker Hughes earlier this year.

More quarterly results:

• Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC) lost $830 million in the third quarter, much lower than the $2.24 billion it lost a year earlier but worse than analysts had expected. Anadarko’s share price dropped nearly 2 percent on the news. Related: 105 Oil & Gas Bankruptcies: But Production Isn’t Shrinking

• BP (NYSE: BP) saw profit rise by 35 percent in the third quarter from 3Q2015. It posted a replace cost profit (similar to net income) of $1.66 billion, reaping the benefits of cost reductions. The profit comes after three consecutive quarters of losses. BP lowered its capex to $16 billion for 2016, compared to a previous range of $17 to $19 billion.

• Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A) reported $1.4 billion in net income for the third quarter, sharply up from a $6.1 billion loss in 3Q2015.

Chevron runs into LNG cost overruns again. Chevron (NYSE: CVX) raised its cost projection for its Wheatstone LNG project in Australia by 8 percent on Friday, which would increase its bill for the project to $34 billion. The cost overruns come after Chevron’s Gorgon LNG in Australia cost a gargantuan $54 billion.

Tesla to see solar roof and battery package. Elon Musk of Tesla (NYSE: TSLA) unveiled a new offering that it says could change the game for residential power: a solar roof that looks like a normal roof, with several different design options for the appearance of the mounted solar cells. The effort hopes to overcome not just the aesthetic challenge for solar; Tesla’s solar roof functions as a normal roof but generates electricity. That combined with Tesla’s Powerwall, a home battery system, could change the game for solar, Musk argues.

By Evan Kelly of Oilprice.com

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