China is making an aggressive entrance into the world of energy exchanges, but will it help the markets like some analysts suggest, or will it spell doom for oil prices?
Persistent oversupply in the global oil and gas market has created a difficult situation for smaller oil and gas companies who must find ways to compete in a debt-laden, low-priced environment against state-run oil titans like Saudi Aramco and deep-pocketed oil giants such as Exxon.
But the small oil and gas players—those private companies that are facing an uncertain future despite sitting atop a literal wealth of oil and gas in prolific US shale plays—may have just been handed their ticket out of trouble by the largest oil importer in the world, China.
Or have they?
China, in its quest to shore up its energy security, is launching a new energy exchange that will make it much easier for buyers and sellers of all things energy—including gas, oil, LNG, carbon credits, and even chemical products—to find each other and do business together in the robust Chinese market that might otherwise seem daunting to enter.
For smaller US energy businesses—which account for nearly 60-70% of all energy companies in the United States–the Greater Bay Area International Energy Transaction Center, as the exchange is called, could be just what the doctor ordered: easier access to a tricky but colossal market.
For China, the exchange is designed to protect its energy security at a time when its voracious appetite for crude oil exceeds its domestic production.
On the surface, it seems like a marriage made in oil heaven.
But concerns with the new energy exchange are widespread, and global–from the United States to the Middle East.
Today, there are approximately 9,000 independent oil and gas companies operating in the United States—this includes only those businesses that produced fewer than 75,000 bpd and have less than $5 million in oil and gas sales per year. This class of producers accounts for 83% of all oil produced in the U.S., and 90% of all natural gas.
It’s a booming business—and no doubt some of these smaller players will jump at the chance to engage with Chinese companies to sell their oil and gas products. There are concerns, however, that easier access to the huge Chinese energy market will erode prices further—a price situation that China is looking forward to.
As for those independents, some of which are struggling in the already lower oil price environment, additional price erosion could mean death.
And then there are the Middle East producers. There was a time when the United States imported almost 150 million barrels of oil monthly from OPEC member countries, according to the Energy Information Administration. But then just a few years ago, the United States lifted the export ban on crude oil, and everything changed. In January 2017, the United States imported 117.6 million barrels of oil from OPEC. In September 2019—the last month for which there is data—the United States imported just 48 million barrels.
That’s less than half.
OPEC nations—mostly Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Iraq—had enjoyed hawking their wares on the US market. But as the U.S. slowed its oil imports, Middle East producers set their sites on another large market: Asia, including China.
Those same OPEC nations that were hurt by U.S. oil production will also be hurt by China’s courting of U.S. oil companies through this exchange. For OPEC, who has come up against the United States oil industry time and time again as it tries to lift prices through production cuts, American oil producers keep turning up like a bad penny.
A Geopolitical Foothold
China is hoping that the new international exchange platform will rival the LSE and NYSE when it comes to online trading of crude oil and other energy-related products, including settling trade and delivering it. In addition to crude oil, chemical products, and LNG mentioned above, it will also deal with LPG, methane, ethane, and energy derivatives. And there’s more: it will also make available market information.
But the exchange will also increase—to the worry of many—China’s geopolitical foothold in new markets.
China is fast sinking money into developing oil and gas resources in foreign countries, despite lower oil prices. Its state-run oil companies, including CNOOC, have been throwing money at oil projects in Brazil, Mexico, Guyana, Nigeria, and Canada–and the US Gulf of Mexico, to name just a few. And while some see this as just a method of filling the oil void left by its own domestic production, others see this as China’s way of controlling oil resources across the globe for geopolitical gain.
China has already sunk money into Iran and Venezuela in the form of loans in exchange for cheap crude–two countries that have found themselves on the receiving end of US sanctions that have crippled their respective oil industries. This move has upset the geopolitical apple cart as the U.S. struggles to bring oil exports for both to zero–without China’s backing, the U.S. might have been successful in doing so.
The growth of a massive new energy exchange not only improves China’s global positioning to influence oil prices, but also increases its geopolitical clout as its money gives it influence in state-run oil companies that carry political sway within their governments–particularly with Venezuela’s PDVSA and Angola’s Sonangol.
There is no doubt that the exchange will increase the energy trade between smaller players. Whether this will have a positive result for small U.S. energy companies or whether this will crush prices and increase China’s political might remains to be seen.
Byt Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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World Bank sees ‘significant’ inflation risk from high energy prices
Energy Prices are expected to inch up in 2022 after surging more than 80% in 2021, fueling significant near-term risks to global inflation in many developing countries, the World Bank said in its latest Commodity Markets Outlook on Thursday.
The multilateral development bank said energy prices should start to decline in the second half of 2022 as supply constraints ease, with non-energy prices such as agriculture and metals also expected to ease after strong gains in 2021.
“The surge in energy prices poses significant near-term risks to global inflation and, if sustained, could also weigh on growth in energy-importing countries,” said Ayhan Kose, chief economist and director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group, which produces the Outlook report.
“The sharp rebound in commodity prices is turning out to be more pronounced than previously projected. Recent volatility in prices may complicate policy choices as countries recover from last year’s global recession.”
The International Monetary Fund, in a separate blog https://blogs.imf.org/2021/10/21/surging-energy-prices-may-not-ease-until-next-year, said it expected energy prices to revert to “more normal levels” early next year when heating demand ebbs and supplies adjust. But it warned that uncertainty remained high and small demand shocks could trigger fresh price spikes.
The World Bank noted that some commodity prices rose to or exceeded levels in 2021 not seen since a spike a decade earlier.
Natural gas and coal prices, for instance, reached record highs amid supply constraints and rebounding demand for electricity, although they are expected to decline in 2022 as demand eases and supply improves, the bank said.
It warned that further price spikes could occur in the near-term given current low inventories and persistent supply bottlenecks. Other risk factors included extreme weather events, the uneven COVID-19 recovery and the threat of more outbreaks, along with supply-chain disruptions and environmental policies.
Higher food prices were also driving up food-price inflation and raising questions about food security in several developing countries, it said.
The bank projected crude oil prices would reach $74/bbl in 2022, buoyed by strengthening demand from a projected $70/bbl in 2021, before easing to $65/bbl in 2023.
The use of crude oil as a substitute for natural gas presented a major upside risk to the demand outlook, although higher energy prices may start to weigh on global growth.
The bank forecast a 5% drop in metals prices in 2022 after a 48% increase in 2021. It said agricultural prices were expected to decline modestly next year after jumping 22% this year.
It warned that changing weather patterns due to climate change also posed a growing risk to energy markets, potentially affecting both demand and supply.
It said countries could benefit by accelerating installation of renewable energy sources and by cutting their dependency on fossil fuels.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Diane Craft)
U.S. FAA seeks new minimum rest periods for flight attendants between shifts
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to require flight attendants receive at least 10 hours of rest time between shifts after Congress had directed the action in 2018, according to a document released on Thursday.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing major carriers including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, had previously estimated the rule would cost its members $786 million over 10 years for the 66% of U.S. flight attendants its members employ, resulting from things like unpaid idle time away from home and schedule disruptions.
Aviation unions told the FAA the majority of U.S. flight attendants typically do receive 10 hours of rest from airlines but urged the rule’s quick adoption for safety and security reasons.
Under existing rules, flight attendants get at least 9 hours of rest time but it can be as little as 8 hours in certain circumstances.
“Flight attendants serve hundreds of millions of passengers on close to 10 million flights annually in the United States,” the FAA said, adding that they “perform safety and security functions while on duty in addition to serving customers.”
It cited reports about the “potential for fatigue to be associated with poor performance of safety and security related tasks,” including in 2017, when a flight attendant reported almost causing the gate agent to deploy an emergency exit slide, which was attributed to fatigue and other issues.
The FAA estimated the regulation could prompt the industry to hire another 1,042 flight attendants and cost $118 million annually. If hiring assumptions were cut in half, it said, that would cut estimated costs by over 30%.
After the FAA published an advance notice of the planned rules in 2019, Delta announce it would mandate the 10-hour rest requirement by February 2020.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is testifying at a U.S. House Transportation subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
House Transportation Committee chairman Peter DeFazio said on Wednesday that it was “unacceptable” to delay the FAA adopting the flight attendant rest rule and mandating secondary flight deck barriers to better protect the cockpits on all newly manufactured airliners.
Attorneys at the FAA “need a little poke” to move faster on rules when ordered by Congress, DeFazio said on Thursday at the hearing. “Do not screw around with it for three years… you just do it.”
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants representing 50,000 workers at 17 airlines, said the rule was critical.
“Flight attendant fatigue is real. COVID has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short night, and combative conditions on planes,” she said. “Congress mandated 10 hours irreducible rest in October 2018, but the prior administration put the rule on a process to kill it.”
During the pandemic, flight attendants have dealt with records numbers of disruptive, occasionally violent passenger incidents, with the FAA citing 4,837 unruly passenger reports, including 3,511 for refusing to wear a mask since Jan. 1.
The FAA proposes to make the new flight attendant rest rules final 30 days after it publishes its final rules.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jason Neely and Bill Berkrot)
Bitcoin price hits all-time high, one day after U.S. ETF debut – Global News
The world’s leading cryptocurrency was up 3.30 per cent, trading at US$66,364.72, after reaching a record of US$67,016.50, topping the US$64,895.22 hit on April 14 this year.
Tuesday was the first day of trading for the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF — a development market participants say is likely to drive investment into the digital asset.
The ETF closed up 2.59 per cent at US$41.94 from its opening price of US$40.88 on Tuesday and continued its ascent on Wednesday, last up 3.76 per cent at US$43.52.
The Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF, expected to debut on the Nasdaq Wednesday, appeared to be delayed after its prospectus was amended in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A person familiar with the matter said the Nasdaq expects the ETF to launch on Thursday, but that has not been confirmed yet.
El Salvador becomes 1st country to adapt Bitcoin as legal tender
Trading appeared to be dominated by smaller investors and high-frequency trading firms, analysts said, noting the absence of large block trades indicated that institutions were likely staying on the sidelines.
James Quinn, managing partner at Q9 Capital, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency private wealth manager, said the launch of the new product was “meaningful” for bitcoin.
Theoretically, any licensed brokerage firm in the United States which wants to take on this ETF can do so as easily as any other ETF, which “should make it available to a lot of folks,” said Quinn.
While the ETF is based on bitcoin futures, Quinn said the trades and hedges underpinning the ETF means activity will flow into the spot market and the bitcoin price.
Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe amid surging interest in digital assets. VanEck is also among fund managers pursuing U.S.-listed ETF products, although Invesco on Monday dropped its plans for a futures-based ETF.
Ether, the world’s No. 2 cryptocurrency, was up 3.63 per cent on the day at US$4,018.75, after hitting a high of US$4,080, nearing its record high of US$4,380 reached on May 12.
© 2021 Reuters
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