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Texas is famous the world over for two things on a massive scale: oil and droughts. Now the slick but dry state is becoming famous for water: that precious element that both resolves the drought problem and makes it possible to pump more oil out of the ground.
Not only does Texas have the Permian Basin and the Eagle Ford shale, but it also has the Gulf of Mexico and its massive oil deposits and endless gallons of seawater that are now economically treatable thanks to next generation water processing technology.
Lest we be too quick to forget whence we came, America is now 9-months into lower gasoline prices, which started their swoon the week of June 30, 2015 from a lofty national average just under $3.70, tumbling almost every subsequent week before bottoming and bouncing from $2.02 the end of January, according to gasbuddy.com.
Predicting and diagnosing the trajectory of oil prices has become something of a cottage industry in the past year. But along with all of the excess crude flowing from the oil patch, there is also an abundance of market indicators that while important, tend to produce a lot of noise that makes any accurate estimate nearly impossible.
Oil's rapid decline since August of last year has been dramatic. To listen to some commentators you would also think it is unprecedented and irreversible. Those claiming that oil will continue to fall from here and remain low for evermore, however, are flying in the face of both history and common sense. The question we should be asking ourselves is not if oil prices will recover, but when they will.
Figure 1: Inflation adjusted WTI since Jan 1985. Chart from Macrotrends.net
Are the Russians coming to Texas riding the tailwinds of fracking? That depends on whom you ask, as some believe Russian forces were behind the anti-fracking vote in Denton, while a $15 million investment in new Texas fracking technology by Roman Abramovich perhaps tells another story.
In 2008, Canadian economist Jeff Rubin stunned the oil market with a bold prediction: With the world economy growing at 5 percent a year, oil demand would grow with it, outpacing supply, thus lifting the oil price from $147 to over $200 a barrel.
If you have been following the price of oil over the last few months, the chances are you are a little confused. On the one hand, you have the likes of A. Gary Shilling who, in this Bloomberg article, loudly trumpets the prospect of oil at $10/Barrel, and on the other, there is T. Boone Pickens, who, at the end of last year was predicting a return to $100 within 12-18 months. Pickens prediction has moderated somewhat as WTI and Brent crude have continued to fall, but in January he was still saying that oil would return to $70 or $80/barrel in the near future. So, who is correct?
It may be difficult to look beyond the current pricing environment for oil, but the depletion of low-cost reserves and the increasing inability to find major new discoveries ensures a future of expensive oil.
With crude oil prices collapsing and small American oil producers faced with grim choices for survival, the Darwinian nature of commodity market cycles rears its head, dictating that only the fittest will survive—and only the fittest of the fittest will thrive. As the herd of small companies that formed the backbone of the shale boom is culled, there emerges a new focus on junior players who are sitting on prime prospects where oil can be produced at $20 per barrel or lower and still turn a healthy profit at today's prices hovering around $45 - $52 range.
Oil companies have eyed the Arctic for years. With an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil lying north of the Arctic Circle, the circumpolar north is arguably the last corner of the globe that is still almost entirely unexplored.
As drilling technology advances, conventional oil reserves become harder to find, and climate change contributes to melting sea ice, the Arctic has moved up on the list of priorities in oil company boardrooms.
In a previous article I posted a chart from the International Energy Agency’s recent Oil Market Report that shows global demand for refined products catching up to supply by the 3rd quarter of this year. My opinion is that all of the analysts who are now blaming the sharp drop in oil prices on a “glut” of supply could change their tune quickly as consumers adjust to lower fuel costs. Just as higher costs reduce demand for any commodity, lower costs will increase demand.
The Ukrainian government has repeatedly claimed it is doing its best to improve the oil and gas investment climate, but official statements are the opposite of the reality, as Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is leading the great deception.