Monthly Archives: September 2016


No cheers from Algiers: oil price set for more volatility

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, tells Hot Commodity why Algiers was fruitless and what we can expect next from the oil market…

It seems, as expected, nothing will come from an over-hyped Opec-led oil production freeze meeting in Algiers. Except for providing lots of quotes to fill the airwaves and fuelling oil price volatility, that most would have happily forgone.

I’m not sure how markets developed any optimism whatsoever that an agreement would be made, given the poor track record at meetings so far this year. We now likely have to wait for the official Opec meeting in Vienna at the end of November for something more concrete in terms of concerted efforts to stabilise the global oil market, buoying prices in the face of a global supply glut. However, having everybody (Opec and Russia) in the same room and on the same page is a good start. As is some welcome, even surprise flexibility from the Saudis.

The build-up to today’s finale has been as fun as ever, with plenty of inflammatory and contradictory comment almost making a mockery of the event and the major parties involved. Deals and solutions were allegedly plentiful only to result in little. Iran is the linchpin – stubborn as ever. But rightfully so, in our view, preferring to ramp up production from 3.6m/bpd to its goal of 4m. A distinct lack of urgency on its part to find compromise with struggling Opec peers suggests it is nowhere near as desperate to help stabilise prices. It clearly sees more upside in selling 10 per cent additional production at $46-50/barrel than selling its current output at $50+. How so? After years of sanctions, being able to sell any oil at all is a bonus. And if peers do capitulate and cut production, it will only help Iran in its quest to retake market share. Where’s its incentive to play ball before it gets back to pumping at full pelt? Let the others move first.

This makes sense, with Iran’s public finances far less exposed to the oil industry than Opec mouthpiece Saudi Arabia. The latter was, to nobody’s surprise, the most frustratingly but unproductively vocal this week. It helped the oil price rally with talk of a deal offered to Iran (“if you freeze, we’ll cut”) only for the gains to be swiftly eroded by Iran’s flat refusal. This suggests, even confirms, that the Saudis are in a much more perilous position financially, needing a production freeze/cut deal soon. It’s no surprise, with a skyrocketing budget deficit of $100bn, that it’s mulling a Saudi Aramco IPO and selling government debt to ease the burden of lower oil prices on public spending plans inked when oil was closer to $100/barrel. It is set to meet Russia again next month; prepare for plenty more market-moving rhetoric.

This week’s meeting may not have delivered that much, but will hopefully prove a stepping stone on the way to more stable oil prices. The stream of disagreement between all parties involve, however, remains a wide one to cross. What’s the chance that November’s Opec meeting is yet another damp squib, forcing us to look to 2017 and contemplate déjà vu all over again?

This commentary was provided exclusively for Hot Commodity by Accendo Markets:

Oil price: don’t expect much from Algiers

Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, tells Hot Commodity why the oil majors’ meeting in Algiers is unlikely to bring resolution to the production impasse…

The price of a barrel of brent crude oil sits at the mid-point of a tight $45.5-$50/barrel September range, one which has already closed in from a wider $42-$53 from April through to mid-August. Investors are pausing for thought, price activity narrowing as they await the outcome of an informal Opec-led meeting on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum in Algiers, Algeria on 26-28 September. It is here that we hope to finally hear some real progress regarding an agreement between major oil-producing nations to curb excessive output, stabilise the market and solve the global supply glut. This would likely help the oil price rally quite significantly.

We have been here before though, if you cast your mind back to April in Doha. The risk is we simply end up with yet another unanimous agreement that a freeze is necessary but which nobody is willing to implement, because they don’t trust fellow attendees to honour the promise and/or because they can’t afford to cap production themselves. With oil prices down at $45 versus the $100+ they traded at when times were good, most oil-reliant nations are hurting badly – Opec mouthpiece Saudi Arabia included. The latter has resorted to selling bonds and is prepping for a future IPO of state oil company Saudi Aramco. A painful adjustment is becoming increasingly necessary within the group to rebalance previously oil-funded public finances with much lower oil receipts.

Conflicting comments from oil ministers as the meeting approaches does little to inspire confidence. The Saudis, Iranians and Russians are keeping us entertained. Buy the build-up, sell the meeting has proved the correct strategy so far this year.

While a failed meeting risks sending oil prices lower, a host of drivers are, nonetheless, keeping prices from falling markedly: the buck-denominated commodity is buoyed by expectations of a delay to US Fed rate rises, something we don’t see happening until March next year at the earliest; the energy commodity remains in recovery mode with technicals still showing supportive rising lows around $45 since the very depressed 12/13 year lows (<$28) in January; global growth has not collapsed, even if remains sluggish to say the very least; there is no sign yet of a Chinese hard landing (big oil consumer). Also, monetary stimulus/accommodating policy remains in abundance from all the major central banks; geopolitical instability in the Middle East remains ever-present; and US oil inventories continue to oscillate around breakeven, never straying too far (last week’s aberration drawdown was due to a storm). As with the Fed and its rate rises, I struggle to see how we can get a unanimous agreement to freeze production or respect caveats this month, which means prices are highly likely to correct. But I also expect the build-up to generate much excitement and a price rally beforehand, meaning the ensuing correction merely retraces the up-move and doesn’t do too much damage. After all it’s in every participants' interest to talk up the price, but in nobody’s interest to see it break the 2016 recovery uptrend. Expect lots of chat and media comment for something that will likely amount to nothing more than another round of tea and biscuits and agreeing to disagree by the great and good (and bad) of the oil world. This commentary was produced exclusively for Hot Commodity by Accendo Markets:

Soon your car will be cooking your dinner

Can you imagine using your car to power your kitchen appliances? Steve Abbott, business development manager at clean tech company Hyperdrive Innovation, envisages a greener future where consumers will harness energy from electric vehicles to power their homes…

The colder autumn weather will soon see us swapping BBQs outdoors for nights in watching boxsets, and it won’t be long before we’re all cranking up the heating. Naturally, household energy usage will begin to creep up and so will demand on the grid. But with our reliance on energy bound to increase over the next few months, how can we ensure we keep lights on, bills affordable and carbon emissions down?

With climate change continuing to be a pressing issue, the need to become more energy efficient and reduce reliance on fossil fuels has never been more important. You only have to look at the growth in electric vehicles to see a global shift towards creating a greener future. In the UK, the need to develop a smart grid for ensuring a resilient, clean and lower cost energy network is particularly prevalent. Tech companies are seeing the issues around balancing power supply and demand as an opportunity to develop smart energy solutions to build fewer new conventional power plants in the UK.

Thanks to advances in technology, energy storage at a domestic level is one concept that is fast becoming a more widespread possibility. Already we have seen the hype around Tesla’s Powerwall, the battery which allows homeowners to harness energy from renewable sources and make it available for household use. However, given its hefty price tag, alongside switchgear (electrical equipment) and installation costs, a Tesla Powerwall isn’t yet a viable solution for every homeowner.

Smaller British tech companies are working to make energy generation and storage a more affordable possibility for homeowners. In the future, consumers could generate solar and wind energy at home, store it and sell it back to the grid at times of peak demand using lithium-ion batteries. This would not only provide added flexibility for network operators but also create an additional revenue stream for homeowners, therefore reducing payback of renewables systems and providing an incentive for more homeowners to invest in distributed energy generation and storage.

Electric vehicles could take this concept even further. The batteries in EVs could be used to store energy and pump it back into the system at peak times when consumers need power most. They could be charged over night when there is excess capacity available and be ready to discharge power to the grid by the morning. This means that when everyone switches on the oven at dinner time, energy stored in the batteries could smooth out those peaks in demand and allow the network to run more efficiently.

The potential for harnessing energy from renewable sources is very significant. With access to energy storage technology, consumers can not only generate improved returns on their solar and wind installations but help to develop a cleaner, lower cost energy network. With question marks still hanging over investment in new nuclear power, and fossil-fuel fired generation out of favour, consumers adopting the latest energy storage technology could really make a difference as we look towards a greener future.

This commentary was provided exclusively for Hot Commodity by Hyperdrive Innovation.