Continued growth in global production of petroleum and other liquids has outpaced consumption growth since August 2014, resulting in rising global liquids stocks. Total global liquids inventories are estimated to have grown by 2.3 million barrels per day (b/d) through the first seven months of 2015, the highest level of inventory builds through July of any year since 1998. These strong inventory builds have put significant downward pressure on near-term crude oil prices: North Sea Brent crude oil spot prices have averaged $58/barrel through July of this year compared to $109/b over the same period in 2014, responding to growth in global inventories.
Plunging oil prices have substantially reduced Saudi revenues. With Brent prices averaging roughly $100 per barrel in 2014, Saudi oil exports of 6.31 million barrels per day would have generated roughly $631 million in revenues daily. In the first quarter, with Brent prices averaging $53.92, the same output would have generated roughly $340 million daily, $291 million less per day than oil at $100 per barrel.
US LNG export projects face an uncertain future despite continued discoveries and production growth, a Brookings Institution analyst said. “More liquefaction capacity may be coming than markets can absorb,” warned Tim Boersma, acting director of Brookings’s Energy Security and Climate Initiative.
In May 2008, the company’s market capitalization reached $367.27 billion, making it one of world’s most valuable companies, according to a survey compiled by the Financial Times. Gazprom’s deputy chair, Alexander Medvedev, repeatedly predicted at the time that within a decade the Russian energy giant could be worth $1 trillion.
Gazprom is first and foremost a tool of Russian foreign policy, which Putin is not shy about wielding to pursue Russian interests. During Putin’s years in power, the Kremlin has used its control over Gazprom — increasing or decreasing the cost of energy — to maintain influence over Russia’s neighbors. Putin once described Gazprom as “a powerful political and economic lever of influence over the rest of the world,” and a team of Russian foreign policy experts noted that “if the leaders of this or that country decide to show good will towards the Russian Federation, then the situation with gas deliveries, pricing policy and former debts changes on a far more favorable note to the buyer.”
“Shale was the biggest event to happen in the past decade. As shale gas production increases every year, LNG import levels have dropped drastically in the United States. In 2014, they imported only 1.6 bcm compared to 200 bcm of their total import capacity. Now, it’s expected to become an LNG exporter by the end of this year at the earliest.”
Pipelines do not determine flows: infrastructure is necessary, but flows depend on market realities. Nord Stream, for instance, expanded Russia’s export capacity by a third in 2012, yet Russia’s exports are still far below their pre-crisis levels. Exports from Algeria have suffered the same fate: in 2011, Algeria inaugurated a new pipeline to Spain, but Algeria’s pipeline exports to Europe were 35 percent lower in 2014 than in 2010. By contrast, Norway is not building new pipelines but its exports are steady and its market share is growing (since demand, the denominator, is falling).
States are attempting to get their hands on long-term gas supply contracts with the Russian natural gas exporter Gazprom and pave the way for a multi-commodity energy supplier business where they can influence end-user prices directly.
“Now we are facing a stagnant demand both for oil and gas globally. These two commodities are providing 70% of Russian export and 50% of Russian federal budget revenues, so you can imagine how painful that is.”
Gazprom revived its contract with Italian contractor Saipem (controlled by state-run Eni SpA). The Milan-based company had signed two contracts worth €2.4 bn in total for the construction of an undersea pipeline and support services for construction of a second undersea pipeline, both part of much touted South Stream. The contract terms are now being renegotiated, so as to start construction in time for the 2016 deadline.
The most significant development on the supply side in 2014 was undoubtedly the continuing revolution in US shale. The US recorded the largest increase in oil production in the world, becoming the first country ever to increase average annual production by at least 1 million barrels per day for three consecutive years.
More than $100bn of investment has been deferred or scrapped in response to the near-50 per cent plunge in crude over the past year.
Not quite as severe as in the UK, he says the trend is similar in the Netherlands, considering the decline in Groningen and the curtail in production: “Moving from a net exporter of gas to a net importer of gas.” The situation across the entire EU, according to Mr. Egan, is even worse, with the European Union importing 80% of its gas, forecast to get even worse.
Falling oil prices have resulted in much lower gas prices in many parts of the word. As a result, gas demand is enjoying the tailwind of substantial price drops while the upstream sector is suffering amid large capital expenditure cuts.
Examining the essential gas transmission infrastructure projects in Europe alone - without taking into account the upstream sector – according to the European Commission, investments of at least 70 billion EUR are required by 2020, while EU funding will provide €4.7 billion for both gas and electricity PCIs between 2014 and 2020, subject to final approval of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (in 2015).