FRACTIONAL FLOW

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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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Oil, Interest Rates and Debt

At first glance it is hard to see how oil, interest rates and debt are connected. Two of them are human constructs while oil (fossil sunlight), a gift from Mother Nature, took tens of millions of years to process. Oil is an endowment extracted from a confined underground stock and is now the most dense and versatile energy source known to man.

Figure 1: Chart that shows the development of [extraction] cost of oil and interest rates (US 10 Year Treasuries) has developed since 2000 and a likely trajectory for oil extraction costs.

Figure 1: Chart that shows the development of [extraction] cost of oil and interest rates (US 10 Year Treasuries) has developed since 2000 and a likely trajectory for oil extraction costs.

Both lines are SIGNALS, and most likely plan their future based on only one of them.

The 10 Year Treasury (or similar) rate is the reference used for amongst other things to set interest rate for mortgages. Most now, aware of it or not, base their future plans on the expectations to developments of the 10 Year Treasury.

What is now playing out in the oil market may be described as below;

Low interest rates [stimulates debt growth] => Pulls demand forward => Oversupply => Deflation

How will the interest rate develop in the future?

This is important as the present huge global debt overhang weighs heavily in the consumers’ balance sheets and their affordability for costlier oil. It is also important for oil companies’ long term planning to bring costlier oil to the market.

A lasting, low rate makes higher debt loads manageable. Interest rates works both sides of the demand/supply equation.

A higher interest rate will have serious implications for highly leveraged consumers and oil companies.

The dynamics may be described as below:

Higher interest rate => lowers demand => downward pressure on price [deflation] => makes it harder for [highly leveraged] consumers/oil companies to service their debt overhang => lowers investments to develop costlier supplies

At some point in time the present oil supply overhang will come to an end. This will become reflected in a higher price.

The timing of these events creates uncertainties and the agile and financial strong oil companies will sweat out a lasting low oil price.

Few are aware of that the costs of accessing our real capital (like oil) that runs our economies are rapidly increasing.

What is different this time is that the oil price may remain lower for longer than the estimated full cycle break even costs for new developments.

The suggested path for costs is believed in the near term to come down as oil service companies have reduced their prices to shoulder the burden from the recent price collapse. Over time, the capacities of the service companies will become aligned with the demand for their services and products. At some point, as the oil price recovers and investments pick up, the market mechanisms will bring the prices from the service companies up as the service companies also need to make a profit to stay in business.

In figures 4 and 5 are shown how the combination of lower interest rates and a lasting, high oil price encouraged the oil companies to rapidly take on more debt to develop costlier oil on the expectations that consumers had remaining ability to take on more debt/credit to pay for this, thus allowing the oil companies to retire their debts.

The oil companies’ behavior in the recent decade is reminiscent of group think. Few expected the oil price to collapse, though the oil industry itself repeatedly point out the cyclical nature of the oil price.

The aggregate of developments (primarily driven by an amazing growth in the extraction of light tight oil [LTO]) gradually resulted in a supply overhang that made the oil price collapse.

The costs of extracting real capital, like oil, has been rapidly increasing, yet we are making decisions for the future as if it were decreasing, based on the price of capital (money). This is a short term phenomenon that will last until supply and demand become balanced.

The present situation with an apparent oil glut and low prices is a temporary false signal.

This may also be the case with the low interest rates.

The near future will reveal how the competition for available funds to service a still growing huge global debt overhang fare towards the need to fund developments of costlier oil.

Can an increasingly leveraged global economy handle both higher oil prices and interest rates and still remain on its growth trajectory?

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The Oil Price and EMEs growth in Credit and Petroleum Consumption since 2000

In this post I present a closer look at the credit growth for 6 Emerging Market Economies (EME) together with the developments in their and the net oil exporters petroleum consumption for the period 2000 to 2014.

The 6 EMEs are; Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

  • Where did the lion’s share of growth in global petroleum consumption end up since 2000?
  • What was the likely mechanism/vehicle that allowed for this?

This post is an update and expansion to my post “Changes in Total Global Credit Affect The Oil Price”

  • The credit growth for the EMEs was strong in absolute and relative terms (also as a percentage of GDP) since 2009. As from 2013 the EMEs credit growth slowed (decelerated).
  • The EMEs credit growth gained momentum as the big central banks lowered interest rates and started Quantitative Easings (QE), refer also figures 02 and 04.
  • As the EMEs enter debt saturation (little room left on their balance sheets {little remaining quality collateral} to take on more credit/debt) expect this to affect their consumption and their potential to pay for higher priced oil.
  • Potential for continued [global] credit growth will for some time become one of the vital factors that define the sustainable ceiling for the oil price.
  • Demand is what one can pay for. In other words, demand is monetary in nature. Credit acts as money and adds to aggregate demand.
    Credit growth also made it possible to bid up and pay for higher priced oil during the recent years.
  • If the oil price, for whatever combination of reasons, moves to a sustainable higher level, it should be expected that those who are left with limited/no access to more credit will reduce their consumption/demand for oil.

Figure 01: The stacked areas in the chart show the growth in petroleum consumption for the 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters from 2000 to 2014 [2000 has been used as a baseline]. Total growth for the 6 EMEs are shown by the black dotted line. The red dashed line shows the change in total global petroleum consumption since 2000. [These are shown versus the right axis]. The development in the oil price is shown by yellow circles connected by a grey line versus the left axis.

Figure 01: The stacked areas in the chart show the growth in petroleum consumption for the 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters from 2000 to 2014 [2000 has been used as a baseline]. Total growth for the 6 EMEs are shown by the black dotted line.
The red dashed line shows the change in total global petroleum consumption since 2000. [These are shown versus the right axis].
The development in the oil price is shown by yellow circles connected by a grey line versus the left axis.

The chart above shows several interesting developments.

  • The strong growth in petroleum consumption from the 6 EMEs and net oil exporters since 2000.
  • Early in the previous decade the OECD countries also grew their petroleum consumption as a response to central banks’ lowered interest rates that allowed for further credit expansion [kicking the can until there is no more road left].
  • A shift occurred post the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008.
    The 6 EMEs and net exporters outbid OECD (and others) for a portion of their petroleum consumption.
    (This is shown by the growth in global petroleum consumption [the red dotted line] which since 2008 did not fully meet growth in consumption from the 6 EMEs and net oil exporters.
    The 6 EMEs and the net oil exporters increased their total petroleum consumption with 17.1 Mb/d (from 26.7 Mb/d in 2000 to 43.7 Mb/d in 2014), while global consumption grew by 15.2 Mb/d to 92.1 Mb/d.
  • OECD reduced its petroleum consumption from 48.0 Mb/d (2008) to 45.1 Mb/d (2014).
    OECD countries slowed and/or reversed credit expansion (deleveraged [default is one way to deleverage]) and introduced austerity measures in a bid to manage their credit overhang.
  • The net oil exporters (countries/regions) that saw noticeable growth in their petroleum consumption in the period are; Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Norway, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan and the regions Middle East and Africa. There are other small net oil exporters like Denmark, Trinidad&Tobago which had small changes to their petroleum consumption.
  • Indonesia became a net petroleum importer as of 2003 and Malaysia as of 2011.

The net oil exporters spent some of the increased revenues from higher priced oil for social programs to improve living standards and as leverage for increased investments to sustain and/or grow oil supplies (which require energy!) for what looked like a sustained growth in demand/consumption that would support a lasting high oil price.

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Written by Rune Likvern

Saturday, 5 September, 2015 at 19:01

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