RCEM: Views on Energy News

Thanks to ESCP Europe's Research Centre for Energy Management's  wide network in the academic and business communities, our views on energy news give you comprehensive insight into energy issues. 

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Despite a 91% compliance by OPEC members with the production cuts implemented in January 2017 and the removal of more than 1 million barrels a day (mbd) from the global oil market, the oil price has seen a lot of volatility ranging between $53 and $57 a barrel.

And although US oil inventories have declined for the last five months consecutively according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), their levels are still close to record high. This could be due to two factors: one is rising Shale oil production and second, the glut in the global oil market might have been bigger than what was previously estimated.

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Among notable promises made by US President-elect Donald Trump during his presidential elections were four particular ones that attracted the attention of the world because of their geopolitical implications and their impact on the price of oil. These were the dismantling of the nuclear deal with Iran, lifting the sanctions on Russia, enhancing US oil production and a strong dollar.

Whilst most declarations made by US presidential candidates during their election campaigning would be quickly forgotten once they are installed inside the White House, it might be wise to analyse these promises in case Mr Trump stuns the world by fulfilling some or all of them.

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The end of October was marked by two surprising moves by the European Commission toward the Russian gas giant, Gazprom.

After years of confrontation Brussels decided to permit Gazprom to use almost 90% of the OPAL gas pipeline, located in Eastern Germany. Almost simultaneously there were information leaks about a deal between the two players on the competition case. Apparently, both sides found a way to settle the row in a satisfactory way.

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For the first time in eight years, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has decided to cut crude oil production to bolster the oil price having suffered huge losses since the collapse of the oil price in July 2014.

The continued weakness of oil prices has inflicted a huge damage on the global economy, the economies of the oil-producing countries and global investments. There has been a loss of 0.75%-1.00% annually in global economic growth since 2014. Investment in upstream exploration from 2014 to 2020 is projected to be $1.8 trillion less than previously assumed, according to leading US consultants IHS. The Arab Gulf oil producers have lost an estimated $443 bn in oil revenues between July 2014 and December 2016. And the US shale oil industry took a major blow by losing some 1.5 million barrels a day (mbd) of oil production and also risking major defaults on the $200 billion in loans that have been extended to the domestic shale oil industry.

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In spite of all the polls assuring of a clean win for Hillary Clinton, the latent anti-establishment revolt of the “America first” electorate has propelled a non-interventionist and, in this sense, a “nationalist” (as opposed to globalists) to the top job in the last world’s superpower. It is hard to dismiss outright the comment from non-mainstream but gaining momentum political groups that the result of the 2016 US elections is “a triumph of the people over a failed political establishment” and that America will never be the same again.

However, the last assumption could be effectively challenged. It is not over yet. There are deep divisions within the political class and corporate community with Wall Street bankers still clinging to their guns and the neocons in both parties ready to continue sacrificing the United States for the sake of a globalist vision.

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Despite developments in renewable energy, it will take 50 years for electric cars to impact global oil demand in transport, according to Dr Mamdouh G Salameh, professor of energy economics at the ESCP Europe Business School.

In his recent paper, ‘Is oil supremacy on the wane?’ Dr Salameh says the enabling technologies of renewable energy are not developed enough to properly impact consumption levels of oil in the transport sector.

Predictions of a post-oil era are also unlikely as in 2015, renewable energy accounted for only 2.8% of the global primary energy consumption.

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On June 10, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) – surprised the world by advancing into several territories of central and northern Iraq. Most notably, ISIS has taken over Iraq’s second biggest city, Mosul. ISIS has also tried to gain control of the oil-rich area of Kirkuk (which is now under the control of Iraqi Kurdish forces). ISIS’ offensive has left Iraq in a dire situation, ridden by sectarian and ethnic conflict.

However, an overwhelmingly Iraqi force of 30,000 with a contribution from Iraqi Kurdish (Peshmerga) forces are now closing on Mosul with Western air support.

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The incomprehensible relative political stability in Algeria is largely attributed to the psychological trauma suffered by the people during the so-called Black Decade, the civil war that raged between 1991 and 2002 with Islamist fundamentalists challenging the regime.

Today, the aging and basically unhealthy 79-year-old president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who heads the National Liberation Front (FLN) is offering a semblance of 'stability and continuity' (the ultimate and most appealing of the FLN slogans) and thus capitalizes on the rejection of violence by 40 million people of the weary nation.

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The amazing age of oil

When Edwin Drake drilled one of the world’s first commercial oil wells in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1859, he definitely could not have anticipated the tremendous impact his drilling would have on the global economy, civilization and warfare in the years that followed.

Who gets what?

Since then, oil has been the lifeblood of the industrial world’s progress and standard of living. Innumerable everyday products – from pharmaceuticals to computers- depend on oil and its refining into complex chemicals and plastics. Modern industrial farming, which feeds much of the world, would grind to a halt if it were deprived of diesel-powered tractors, oil-and gas-based fertilizers to grow and harvest crops and the fossil fuels to process, package and ship food worldwide to feed a world population that has skyrocketed from 1.5 billion at the start of the oil age to 7 billion now.

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Recent intense bellicose rhetoric and sabre-rattling between India and Pakistan has raised the stakes in the completion of the much-heralded Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project. An unnamed official of the Indian government dismissed suspicions that the US$9-billion project could be either postponed or shelved indefinitely due to flaring animosity.

The current round of open and covert hostilities was provoked by a terrorist attack on an army camp at Uri on September 18 and another one at 46 Rashtriya Rifles camp in Baramulla on October 2. The attack in Uri located in India-administered Kashmir was carried out by a radical grouping called Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) that is allegedly linked to Pakistani intelligence services and reportedly responsible for a similar attack on a military base in the town of Pathankot in the Indian state of Punjab in January this year.

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The African continent is not considered to be the main source of oil for the global market. However, it is playing a more significant role as provider of the still principal energy resource. It sets the stage for accelerated development as well as for wars and political destabilization.

Africa is home to only 7.6% of the world oil resources and it accounts for 9.3% of the world oil production. From 2010 onward, one third of all new oil fields discoveries were made on this continent.

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What are the most likely repercussions for South East Europe’s energy security after the somewhat ambiguous reconciliation between Ankara and Moscow has re-activated the Turkish Stream pipeline project? Will it challenge the EU energy directives? Will it drive another wedge into the alliance of nations loyal to the concept of an ‘energy union’ and undermine solidarity? Does it really matter or it is not worth consideration? Is it a challenge or an opportunity?

For the moment, the implementation of the project stepping into the shoes of the defunct South Stream is far from being ascertained. Yet, pre-emptive review is appropriate. Should the Black Sea offshore infrastructure materialize, even in its current scaled-down design, it might impact the breakdown of energy imports of the south East corner of Europe having negatively affected the prospects of Azeri pipeline gas deliveries as well as Qatari and US-shipped LNG.

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Twenty seven months since Saudi Arabia launched its war of attrition against US shale oil production, it has still failed to break the back of US shale industry. This failure is starting to haunt Saudi Arabia.

By flooding the global oil market with oil, Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf have certainly succeeded in killing a string of global offshore mega-projects. Investment in upstream exploration from 2014 to 2020 will be $1.8 trillion less than previously assumed, according to leading US consultants IHS. But this is a bitter victory at best.

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The proof that Iran honours its commitment to create a favourable investment climate and lure back foreign capital lies in the signing of confidentiality agreements with brand named International Oil Companies (IOCs) that happened at the end of August. 

The multinational assortment of energy majors included the leader in the current re-discovery of post-sanctions Iran, French giant Total, followed by Austria’s OMV, Germany’s Wintershall, Russia’s Lukoil and Zarubezhneft, and Indonesia’s Pertamina.

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With the majority of its nuclear-related economic sanctions lifted, Iran is to all appearances open for trading with the world. However, the reality is different.

With supposedly the fourth-biggest proven reserves of crude oil estimated at 157.8 billion barrels (bb) and the second largest proven reserves of natural gas estimated at 1201 trillion cubic feet (tcf), Iran has the potential to grow into a major market in the world.

Iran’s economy with an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $417 bn is the third biggest in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Oil accounted for 60% of Iran’s budget revenues in 2015.

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Historical Background

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) gained independence from the United Kingdom in December, 1971. It is a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman and Umm al-Quwain. Each emirate is governed by its own ruler; together, they jointly form the Federal Supreme Council.

The UAE has accumulated so many accolades that no other country in the world could have done so in such a short period of its history. It has the world’s eighth largest proven oil reserves amounting to 97.8 billion barrels (bb) and is the third biggest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia and Russia exporting more than 2 million barrels a day (mbd). It also has the seventh largest proven natural gas reserves in the world estimated at 215.1 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Moreover, the UAE’s economy is the second biggest in the Arab world after Saudi Arabia. It is also the most diversified economy among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

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A new claim has been made about the size of the United States proven oil reserves. The claim comes this time not from BP Statistical Review of World Energy but from a Norwegian Consulting Group Rystad Energy.

Rystad Energy claims in a new report quoted by Reuters that due to its large deposits of shale oil, the United States has more recoverable oil reserves than either Russia or Saudi Arabia.

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On July 12th, 2016, the UK Climate Change Committee was reported as advising that, if near surface temperatures rise more than 20 C above their 'pre-industrial' level by the 2040s then there will be chronic water shortages in the UK and people living in modern homes will die from the heat. Or they will unless they fit shutters to their windows like the French do, because modern British homes, care homes, and hospitals have been designed to retain heat in winter rather than stay cool in summer.

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The militant group Niger Delta Avengers once again took the arms and destroyed several oil wells and installations located in South of Nigeria, region populated by a large Christian community. 

There is a grim feeling ofdéjà vutaking us back to 2006-2009 when rebels of this region inhabited by some 20 million people revolted against the federal government demanding at least some control over local natural resources.

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While it is true that low oil prices could reduce the cost of manufacturing, thus helping the global economy to grow, it is a short-term benefit as this is offset by a  curtailment of global investment which forces companies around the world to cut spending, sell assets and make thousands, if not millions, of people redundant.

Therefore, it is doubtful whether the steep decline in oil prices would provide a boost to the US economic recovery. While the price decline would certainly provide the equivalent of a sizable tax cut for US consumers, it will deliver a major blow to the increasingly important US oil industry.

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