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Tom Kool

Tom Kool

Tom majored in International Business at Amsterdam’s Higher School of Economics, he is Oilprice.com's Head of Operations

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The Very Real Prospect Of $5 Oil

5 Dollar Oil

The rebound in oil prices on Thursday didn’t last long as bearish sentiment once again took hold on Friday morning, with some analysts contemplating the possibility of $5 WTI. 

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Friday, March 20th, 2020

Oil prices rebounded on Thursday on hopes of a trillion-dollar stimulus package from Washington, along with other stimulus measures from governments around the world. The rally was short-lived however, with a growing number of analysts see a deeper bottom for oil. 

Citi: $5 oil is possible. Citigroup laid out a pessimistic scenario in which WTI falls to $5 per barrel. Energy Aspects said Brent could fall to $10. Mizuho Securities said some oil could even fall into negative territory absent shale shut-ins. “This is Operation Desert Storm, Enron, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina/Rita, Lehman Bros, combined,” Stephen Schork, president of the energy consultancy Schork Group Inc., told Bloomberg

Majors could store jet fuel at sea. Oil companies are rushing to store oil at sea, but the glut has become so severe that the majors are looking at even storing jet fuel at sea. That practice is rare because jet fuel degrades more quickly than other fuels and is sensitive to contamination. “The industry generally expects products will be used within three months of being produced,” said George Hoekstra, an independent consultant, told Reuters. Related: Russia Sees Oil & Gas Income Fall By Almost $40 Billion

Texas considers the unthinkable – regulating production. Several oil executives have reached out to the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas in the state, asking for regulation on production in order to rescue prices, according to the WSJ. In Bloomberg Opinion, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton proposed rationing production, cutting output in the state by 10 percent. 

North Dakota to keep inactive wells inactive. North Dakota regulators are considering moves that would allow oil producers to keep their wells inactive, rather than forcing them to choose between producing and reclamation. The logic would be trying to keep unwanted production offline.

Halliburton furloughs 3,500 workers. Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) furloughed 3,500 workers on Wednesday, putting them on limited work schedules for two months. 

Moody’s: Oilfield services most at risk of credit shock. Moody’s said that weaker oilfield services companies are the most vulnerable to a credit shock. Roughly $32 billion in debt in oilfield services falls due between this year and 2024. Smaller regional players “face the brunt of the sector’s weakness, and therefore the greatest refinancing risk.”

Refiners look to cut processing. Low oil prices are typically good for refiners, but demand destruction is putting refiners in a bind. Refining margins for transportation fuels fell into negative territory in Europe and Asia. Marathon (NYSE: MPC) cut production at its Los Angeles refinery, California’s largest. Meanwhile, a growing number of refiners are sending staff home because of the coronavirus, including HollyFrontier (NYSE: HFC), Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A) and Valero (NYSE: VLO).

Total to cut spending and freeze recruitment. Total (NYSE: TOT) said that it would halt its share buyback program, its recruitment program and also cut capex, perhaps by as much as 20 percent. 


Iraq calls for emergency meeting. Iraq’s oil minister called for an emergency OPEC meeting, but a meeting seems unlikely before June.

Shell suspends construction at cracker plant. Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS.A) suspended construction at its massive ethane cracker in Western Pennsylvania due to the coronavirus. The project has around 8,000 workers on site.  Related: April Could Be Worst Month Ever For Oil

ConocoPhillips suspends flights to Alaska North Slope. The coronavirus has forced ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) to cancel flights for hundreds of workers to Alaska’s North Slope for at least two weeks.

Shale drillers getting crushed. More shale drillers are exploring debt restructuring as WTI sinks into the mid-$20s.  

Shale industry lost $2.1 billion last year. A survey of 34 North American shale-focused drillers reported a combined $2.1 billion in 2019, according to IEEFA. That capped off a decade in which they spent $189 billion more than they generated. 

Capex cuts top $31 billion. The global oil and gas industry has already slashed $31 billion from spending plans this month, following the historic collapse in prices. 

Natural gas prices could rise on shale knockout. With the Permian basin on the ropes, associated gas production could decline as drilling dries up, tightening up the gas market. “We increase our 2021 price forecast to $2.45/MMbtu as we expect to see accelerating production declines next year,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a note. At the same time, gas demand in the power sector is down as the U.S. goes on lockdown and appears set to enter into economic recession. 

Oil crash could destroy biofuels market. The crash in oil prices makes ethanol comparatively expensive around the world.

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Leave a comment
  • JOSEPH HALL on March 20 2020 said:
    And now for the good news!!!
  • Me XMan on March 21 2020 said:
    Saudis and Russians will kill each others before oil get down to $5.
  • Dan McGrath on March 21 2020 said:
    Everyone hold tight, Trump will take a series of actions after Monday Coronavirus bill is passed to prop up all domestic industries, not just oil. Look for a $30-35/bll. duty on imported oil to take WTI to 55. There 300K workers depending providing essential services and thus will be secured via a National Security need. It would be the easiest, no cost, option by the US Govt to flip this scenario right now. The overarching macro issue is - that the US preserves that the US dollar- is the settlement currency for all crude, globally.

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