The Price of Oil

Crude oil is the world’s biggest and most important traded commodity.

Figure 1: The chart shows the oil price (Brent) with some policies/decisions/events. The monetary and fiscal policies of the world’s largest economies, China [red text boxes] and the US [yellow text boxes] and supply events/policies [grey text boxes]. The red line shows the annual moving average of the oil price.

In some earlier articles, like this and this, I explored for relations between the oil price, the world’s credit creation and interest rates.

This is a continuation of my exploration of how the world’s credit creation affects the structural level of the oil price.

I found it now right to repeat one of my formulations from back in 2015:

  • 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 world credit/debt, interest rates and developments to consumers’/societies’ affordability.

As time passes more is learned and more data becomes available which in theory should help improve both the understandings and the sights.

This article presents results from applying statistical analysis (with data spanning more than 15 years) for any relations from developments in total credit/debt from the non financial sectors in 43 countries (in 2017 representing more than 90% of the worlds’s GDP) with data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to changes in the oil price, refer also “Some assumptions, terms and acronyms used in the article” at the bottom.

Developments in total credit/debt is very much related to developments in interest rates, primarily the US Federal Reserve Bank’s (FRB) funds rate (as the US dollar is the world’s dominant reserve currency) which now is expected to be set higher, the London Inter Bank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and the US Treasuries 10 Years rate. A keen eye should also be kept on developments on the now flattening yield curve and exchange rate fluctuations.

It is also important to make good assessments about the abilities to the various balance sheets to take on and service more debt. This helps monitor developments in consumers’ affordability which forms the demand side of the equation.

  • The structural oil price is formulated from the interactions of fiscal and monetary policies and supply events/policies.
  • The oil price has shown and will continue to show wide fluctuations. It is the monetary and fiscal policies that give the dominant structural support for demand and thus the oil price (defines the price movements).
  • Suppliers have little control on demand, but could resort to supply policies to support a price floor.
    The price collapse in 2014 was a result of strong growth in supplies, primarily led by debt fueled US Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction.
  • The strengthening of the US$ (oil is priced in US$) has now resulted in very high oil prices in local currencies, refer also table 1.
  • Broadly speaking, it now appears that the world’s non financial sector needs to add $8 – $10 Trillion annually in credit/debt to support growth in the oil price, refer also figure 8.
    Estimates based on data from the Institute of International Finance (IIF) and BIS show that in Q1 2018 the world’s total non financial debt was $188 Trillion with another $61 Trillion in the financial corporations, totaling $249 Trillion.
  • Since 2000 there has been 3 distinct credit/debt cycles for the 43 (refer also figure 7 and 8).
    The first ended in mid 2008 with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) (duration about 7 years).
    The second ended with the collapse in the oil price in mid 2014 (duration about 5 years).
    The third started about mid 2015 and, as of writing, could be entering its fourth year.
  • The analysis found strongest correlation (above 0,72) between changes to the 43s total private and public credit/debt creation and changes in the oil price at a time lag of 3 months, refer also figure 10.
    • Why this matters? If the world’s credit/debt growth supports the oil price, a slowdown or reversal of the world’s credit/debt creation (deleveraging) should be expected to affect the oil (and energy) prices negatively.
      The results of the statistical analysis show there is an expected time lag of about 3 months from major changes in the world’s credit creation (leading indicator) to changes in the oil price. The correlations were strong with a time lag of 0 – 6 months from changes in the credit creation to changes in the oil price.
      The supply surplus starting in 2014, which collapsed the oil price, appears to be the driver for a period with lower credit creation, which suggest that the lowered oil price temporarily lowered the world’s demand for credit.
  • Changes in credit creation are the strong leading driver of changes in the oil price.
  • A simple illustration of the perspectives of the relations of the oil price, interest rate and total debt is now to look at how much the oil price has to grow to have similar effects on the world economy as an increase in the interest rate of 0,25% on the worlds’ total debt of about $250 Trillion, which continues to grow.
    An increase of the interest rate of 0,25 % adds $625 Billion to the world’s annual debt service costs. The world now consumes about 30 Gbo/a (crude oil and condensate) which means that an increase in the oil price of $20/bo has about similar effects on the world economy as an interest rate hike of 0,25%. Some major central banks, led by FRB, now plan for more interest hikes and Quantitative Tightening (QT) in the near future.
  • The above serves as a powerful illustration of the growing competition for how the consumers’ available funds will be prioritized between servicing growing debts or supporting a higher oil price.
    Historically, precedence was given to debt service and consumers reduced other (including oil) consumption.

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Written by Rune Likvern

Tuesday, 21 August, 2018 at 14:34

More on LTO Economics in the Bakken

The goal for any commercial company is to make as high as possible profit and returns on invested (employed) capital, primarily the owners’ capital, equity.

Light Tight Oil (LTO) extraction from the Bakken and Three Forks formations in North Dakota had a new high of 1,17 Mbo/d in Apr-18 according to data published in Jun-18 by the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC).

This article is an update of this (which has more details on specific costs to which there are small changes) and is a small expansion focused on profitability/financial metrics.

  • Scenarios were run there no wells were added as of Jan-19 (in the Bakken, Three Forks formations) with an initial flow above 1,2 Mbo/d to get estimates on NPV (DCF) and returns for the project and on equity (owners’ capital), ROE and ROI with a sustained oil price of $60/bo and what oil price would provide the project with a 7% return (ref table 1).
    All at the wellhead (WH).
    These runs had cut off end 2040.
    The objectives with such scenario analysis is to establish baselines from which it becomes possible to follow developments in several financial metrics, also adjusted for oil price movements.
    Applied to companies, it provides for benchmarking of companies’ management performances.
  • At $60/bo (and $2,50/Mcf for natural gas) the Bakken project would return about 4%.
  • A 7% return was obtained with a sustained oil price of $73/bo (and $3,00/Mcf).
    • The above estimates do not include costs for acreage, 800 Drilled UnCompleted (DUC) wells with an estimated total cost (employed capital) of $2,0B – $2,4B, any refracking (ref Marathon), flared gas and future costs for Plugging & Abandonment (P&A) for about 12 000 wells started as of Jan-09 to end 2018, estimated at a total cost of $1,8B – $2,4B and recognized write downs.
  • Including the items described above, the estimates show a full cycle return of 7% for the Bakken as one big LTO project would be achieved at a sustained future oil price at about $80/bo [$90/bo WTI].
  • One of the best and most reliable metrics for investors are NPV projections for Equity (Owners’ Capital).
    A NPV projection for equity that comes in at about 0 with a discount rate of 10% (the higher the better) is considered acceptable (reference also tables 1-5).
    This metric allows comparisions across sectors.
  • A run was done to estimate the effects from pushing back the time from where no wells were added with 5 years (from 2019 to 2024) while remaining close to cash flow neutral (all other things kept equal). This reduces the return for both the project and equity (owners’ capital).
    The discounted return on equity (owners’ capital) was lowered from 14% to 10% with $73/bo at WH.
    Alternatively a higher oil price is required to achieve some targeted return.
  • By applying financial leverage in the extractive industries, like oil extraction, it allows to extract the reserves faster (accelerate the depletion). In the Bakken the use of high financial leverage explains the rapid buildup in extraction levels.
    In this article financial leverage expresses the ratio of debt [inorganic funding] to equity [owners’ capital] used in a company’s investment.
    When financial leverage works, it boosts return (acts as a multiplier) on owners’ capital.
    If it does not work (what many companies painfully discovered after the oil price collapsed in 2014), leverage works fast in the opposite direction and destroys owners’ capital.

    • From companies’ SEC reports it was found that there is a huge span in their financial performances in the Bakken, one major big oil company has lost all their equity of $4+Billion [in the Bakken], one was found to have big negative retained earnings (accumulated deficit) of $2+Billion and then there are several companies on trajectories towards varying degrees of profitability.
  • The 3 years, 2015-2017 with the oil price under $50/bo left primarily the wells of the 2014 – 2016 vintages (ref also figure 2), suffering from the low oil price, and it is now projected these vintages could incur total losses (write downs) of $6B – $8B with a sustained oil price of $60/bo.
    These losses are and/or will be recognized on the companies balance sheets (equity, reduced owners’ capital) as the wells end their economic life and are Plugged & Abandoned (P&A).

    • Older vintages and future wells could fully or partially make up (cover) for these losses from their profits at a sustained oil price of $60/bo. A lasting oil price above $60/bo speeds the healing.
      Irrespective of a future higher oil price and how this probable loss is handled by the oil companies, the 2014 – 2016 vintages will for many years provide strong headwinds to the profitability for many companies in the Bakken.
      This is one of the many things that is hard (close to impossible) to identify from the companies’ SEC filings.

This post includes some estimates with some profitability metrics for the average 2017 vintage well for 2 price scenarios and how a company with solid finances and strong discipline can boost discounted return on equity.
This also illustrates why project NPVs, undiscounted cash flows, time to pay outs, ROE and ROI may be poor metrics when analyzing and ranking several projects and/or companies.
Short story, several metrics should be estimated and compared to get the best possible information about the prospects for financial profitability for any project/company.

Figure 1 Bakken annual NCF and Cumulative 2009 to Apr 2018

Figure 1: The chart above shows the estimated net cash flows by year [black columns]. The red area shows the estimated cumulative net cash flow since Jan-09 and per Apr-18. LOE, G&A and interest rates (effective, i.e. adjusted for tax effects) based on a weighted average from several companies’ SEC 10-K/Q filings. Taxes according to what was in force. Price of oil, monthly North Dakota Sweet (NDS) and realized gas price; the average from several companies’ quarterly reports.

NOTE; the chart in figure 1 shows an estimate (red area) on the development of total capital employed (equity and borrowed) (as from Jan-09 to Apr-18) that first needs to be recovered before profits can be made.

The payouts were reached late 2022 at $60/bo and late 2021 at $73/bo.

The chart does not give any indication about future profits or losses.

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The Powers of Fossil Fuels, an Update with Data per 2017

This post is an update and small expansion of The Powers of Fossil Fuels spanning more than two centuries of the history of the world’s energy, primarily fossil fuels (FF), consumption.

  • Between 2002 and 2017 world energy consumption grew with about 39%, world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 130% and world total debts by more than 160% (market value and expressed in US dollars).
  • The narrative of the growth story of the world economy (GDP) appears as a rule to leave out two participants:
    1. DEBT and the accelerating debt growth since the 1980’s, more notably since the start of this millennium and how this unprecedented growth in total world debt helped pull forward ENERGY demand.
      Post the Global Financial Crisis (GFC in 2008/2009) the continuity of economic growth became facilitated by concerted policies by the world’s major central banks by their low interest policies and Quantitative Easings (QE).
      Lower interest rates allowed room for more DEBT on most balance sheets and growth in total DEBT is important for continued economic growth.
    2. ENERGY (and primarily FFs) consumption and its strong growth facilitated by the rapid growth in DEBT.
  • Simplistic explained is GDP a monetary measure of the annual volume of transactions.
    These transactions involve the exchange of products and services which require some input of ENERGY and in recent years growing amounts of DEBT allowed for this to happen.
    This illustrates that money/currency is a claim on ENERGY.
    The orderly retirement of the growing DEBT is a claim on future ENERGY.
  • This post also takes a brief look at the recent years’ growth in solar and wind (renewables, RE) and how their growth measured up against FFs since 1990 and Year over Year (YoY) changes for FF and RE since 2000.

Figure 1: The chart shows the developments in total world energy consumption split on sources as of 1800 and per 2017.
Energy sources are stacked according to when these were introduced into the world’s energy mixture.
The black line (plotted versus the left hand scale) shows development in the world’s GDP in current US dollars since 1980 based on data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In the early 1800s biomasses (primarily wood) were humans’ primary source for exogenous energy. Coal was gradually 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 biomasses 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 and thus the Industrial Revolution was 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 debt fueled 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 RE (solar and wind).

How does this measure up against hard data for RE (solar and wind) versus FFs?

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