Category Archives: Middle East Resources

New Oil And Gas Find In The Mediterranean.

A large field (named Zohr) containing up to 30 trillion cubic feet of natural gas has been discovered off the coast of Egypt. The Italian oil group Eni, owner of rig_3424204bthis field, says it is almost 5000 feet below the water surface and covers an area of about 40 square miles. Eni proposes that it be piped into Egypt for use.

The posting titled ‘Supergiant’ gas field discovered in Mediterranean” says:

“Egypt consumed 1.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas last year, according to BP’s most recent Statistical Review of World Energy. At the same rate of consumption, the Zohr discovery could supply the country for almost two decades.

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Au Revoir, Adios, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye OPEC

OPEC faces serious challenges. Bank of America is quoted as saying that OPEC is frackingamericansimages“effectively dissolved”. And the author of the Telegraph posting “Saudi Arabia may go broke before the US oil industry buckles” reports “The cartel might as well shut down its offices in Vienna to save money.”

OPEC Cartel

Well, is the OPEC collapse imminent?   Probably not, but the major nation in OPEC, Saudi Arabia, appears to be in trouble and quoting from the Telegraph posting:

It is too late for OPEC to stop the shale revolution. The cartel faces the prospect of surging US output whenever oil prices rise. If the oil futures market is correct, Saudi Arabia will start running into trouble within two years. It will be in existential crisis by the end of the decade.

The contract price of US crude oil for delivery in December 2020 is currently $62.05, implying a drastic change in the economic landscape for the Middle East and the petro-rentier** states.

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Has OPEC Been Successful In Closing Down The US Shale Oil Business?

In the fall of 2014, Saudi Arabia began increasing the amount of crude oil they put up for sale. The objective is often thought to be an attempt to drive US oil fracking out of business. The price was expected to drop below the point where it was profitable to put in new wells and perhaps even close off many of those already in production. The oil rig count in October of last year was 1608 and it now stands at 747 Telegraph has posted : “Oil slump may deepen as US shale fights Opec to a standstill” gives a current status in this battle. And it seems to be going pretty well for the US and not so good for Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC members. From the Telegraph posting:

“There was a strong expectation that the US system would crash. It hasn’t,” said Atul Arya, from IHS. “The freight train of North American tight oil has just kept on coming. This is a classic price discovery exercise,” said Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil, the big brother of the Western oil industry. Mr. Tillerson said shale producers are more agile than critics expected, which means that the price war will go on. “This is going to last for a while,” he said, warning that any rallies are likely to prove false dawns.

The US “rig count” – suddenly the most-watched indicator in global energy – has fallen from 1,608 in October to 747 last week. Yet output has to continued to rise, stabilizing only over the past five weeks.”

usrigcountandcrudeproduction by bloomberg etc

Others are noting that innovation is cutting costs of new wells:

“We’ve really only begun to scratch the surface. Shale can keep growing by 500,000 to 700,000 b/d easily,” said Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources. His company has cut costs by 20pc to 25pc over the past four months.

US shale will “roll over” to some degree as producers exhaust their one-year hedges and face the full shock of lower prices. But it is hazardous to bet too heavily on this assumption.

IHS said an astonishing thing is happening as frackers keep discovering cleverer ways to extract oil, and switch tactically to better wells. Costs may plummet by 45pc this year, and by 60pc to 70pc before the end of 2016. “Break-even prices are going down across the board,” said the group’s Raoul LeBlanc.

Shale bosses have been lining up at this year’s “Energy Davos” to proclaim the fracking Gospel. “We have just drilled an 18,000 ft well in 16 days in the Permian Basis. Last year it took 30 days,” said Scott Sheffield, head of Pioneer Natural Resources.”

We’ve cut spud-to-spud time to 19 days,” said Hess Corporation’s John Hess, referring to the turnaround time between drilling. This is half the level in 2012. “We’ve driven down drilling costs by 50pc, and we can see another 30pc ahead,” he said.”

Large scale frackng has precipitated a number of geopolitical issues such as the stability of Middle East nations and on some nations that rely on crude oil sales to balance their budgets.  My next posting will look at some of these problems.

One thing though noted in the Independent posting is that:

“The market is primed for a sudden spike in prices if anything goes wrong. It is more than ever at the mercy of geopolitical events. One thing is for sure. If and when prices rebound, US shale is ready to sweep in with lightning speed to snatch yet more market share. Opec has met its match.”

Thanks to the US oil industry ingenuity, OPEC seems to be losing the fight. cbdakota




Why Are Crude Oil Prices Falling? And Will We Regret It?

Saudi Arabia is a major producer and seller of crude oil as well as the unelected leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Saudi has, in the past, adjusted its production (and thus sale of crude oil) to keep the price OPECnetoilexportrevs2013chart2at a level that OPEC desired. For example, if global demand for crude softened, Saudi would cut back production to match demand thus stabilizing the price. The Department of Energy chart shows how Saudi dominates OPEC export sales.

This autumn the demand for OPEC crude fell—but, Saudi decided not to balance supply and demand.   Consequently the price of crude oil has dropped to about 50% of what it was at its high in June 2014.

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Will The OPEC Cartel Break Up?

Because the OPEC cartel provides about 40% of the world’s crude oil, it has been able to control the crude oil price.  Its members meet and set the amount of crude they will produce for sale opposite the forecast world demand.  They can reduce or increase production to raise or lower prices. Other major crude producers outside of OPEC have been able to sell all their crude oil but acting independently are unable to displace OPEC’s role as the selling price arbiter.   As you would expect, OPEC wants the price to be high but recognizes that if they set it too high, demand will drop and competitors will be encouraged to prospect for more crude.   Within OPEC, the members have their own issues that make setting the production levels and thus the price, not easy.  However, Saudi Arabia, currently the world’s largest producer of  crude oil,  is said to be the primary voice in this process.  When the OPEC members meet, as they did on May 31st, to set the production level/price, one big factor was how much of their government’s budget is derived from the oil revenues.  And what is the price of crude oil that makes that budget whole? The graph below, from the American Interest’s posting “OPEC Sweats: How Low Can Oil Prices Go?illustrates the price needed to balance their government’s budget:


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EV Charging Station Co. Better Place Files For Bankruptcy.

Better Place joins the ranks of electric vehicle (EV) business to declare for bankruptcy.  Better Place had planned to develop a prototype EV battery-swap operation in Israel.  A network of stations were installed that would allow the EV owner to replace the battery with a new one in about the “same amount of time it takes to fill a gasoline tank on a regular car”. The idea was to remove range anxiety.  Israel was thought to be an ideal place because driving distances are relatively short.

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Russia’s Federal Budget Depends On High Price Crude Sales

A summary of the Russian Federal budget was posted by Reuters in July of this year.  It said that Russian crude oil had to be sold at or above $116 per barrel or the budget would show a deficit for the year.  A cursory look at the Ural blend (Russian Trading System, comparable to the WTI or Brent) crude pricing for the year suggests that it probably fell short of the goal.  To get some feel for whether or not they accomplished the price requirement, understand that the Ural and Brent crude price indices have been essentially the same for 2012.  The posting tables the Draft Three Year Budget:

DRAFT THREE-YEAR BUDGET 2013-2015 (in trillion roubles unless


Year                                         2012    2013     2014      2015

Break-even oil price ($)  116.2    113.9     106.0    105.4

Average oil price ($)              115      97        101      104

Nominal GDP                         60.6     65.8      73.4     81.5

Revenues                                  12.7     12.4      13.6     15.2

Expenditures                          12.7     13.4      14.1     15.3

Deficit (% GDP)                      – 0.1      1.5       0.6      0.11

Non-oil deficit (% GDP)     10.6     10.1      8.9      8.6

$1  =  31 rubles

By 2015, the draft budget forecasts break even price at $105.4.

Both Poland and Romania have shale oil and natural gas potential and are known to be evaluating whether it can be profitably exploited.  This is a real threat to Russia.  Any development of Western European shale is a major problem for Russia.  Like crude oil sales, natural gas sales are a major source of income for Russia.  Russia currently provides most of the natural gas and much of the oil to Western Europe.  Russia has not been reluctant to shut off supplies.  In 2009 a dispute between the Ukraine and Russia over unpaid bills resulted in shutting off natural gas to the Ukraine.  Other countries felt the effect with low  pressure or no  pressure in their pipelines.  While the official story was about unpaid bills there was a belief that Russia’s real reason was to warn neighboring countries not to join NATO. They probably are prepared to put pressure on these nations to persuade them to not develop shale gas or oil.

Below is a 2009 map of the Russian natural gas pipelines supplying European nations.


Stefano Casertano,  managing director of the Berlin based “The Energy Affairs Company” posted “From Fracks to Riches” on the Stratfor website.  A number of countries are dependent on sale of oil and natural gas to provide the revenue to balance their budgets. In addition to the numbers above for Russia,  Casertano lists what he says are the crude oil prices (in dollars per barrel) to achieve the needed revenue for several other countries as follows:


Libya —-$117



The US economy can get an enormous boost from an ample supply of low priced fossil fuels. The fear is that the President does not really see this boost as aligning with his political objectives.  He can use his rigged fracking safety study group to impose many “safety” restrictions as a means to cut short this very beneficial exploitation of our shale.  The consequence of slowing or even stopping the US shale boom will be appreciated by Russia and OPEC.