David Hargreaves on Energy, week 45 2013

EnergyNo apologies for banging on about oil presently; it is the mining and commodities driver. OPEC has belatedly acknowledged that the US shale oil revolution is a threat to its global dominance of the crude market. It cannot be a coincidence that “Sovereign Wealth Funds” ie government held cash from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain are casting their net over other-and offshore-assets. OPEC acknowledged that demand for its crude will fall below 30M bbls/day in 2014 and maybe take until 2020 to recover, all (or mostly) because of US shale oil production. OPEC’s 2013 annual outlook, just published, still tries to downplay the role of the new product. It looks for an average $40/bbl until 2010 then a steady climb. We wish it well. Our money is still on $80 if the lid can be kept on Iran and its politics.

The UK Energy Fiasco would be comic if it were not tragic. Consumers are being subjected to arbitrary tariff increases of up to 10% per year and the threat of power cuts this winter. Why? The coal-fired stations (50% of total load) are facing closure because they do not meet EU pollution standards. Most of the nuclear ones are old and creaking too.

We plan to build a new one – Hinkley Point, which will be done by the French and Chinese who are developing a guaranteed tariff that will double (yes double) the price we currently pay per kilowatt hour. It gets better. The North Sea is rapidly running out of oil and gas so we are in hock to Qatar and Norway. Oh, we are the largest wind farmer in the world but subsidise that industry up to its armpits and load the cost on households. What is left? We have 500 years of coal supply but that is smelly, so no go. We think we have a lot of shale gas too. Yet the PPP (Professional Protesting People) are winning the day to prevent it being exploited. If you were given a grant to organize chaos you could not compete with this one. BP, one of the largest oil producers, capitalized at £40bn, not only produced a solid Q3 income statement but the promise of shareholder goodies to come. The quarterly dividend was advanced to 9.5c (+5.6%) and share buy backs are in the wind. It is on the divestment trail to fund this and will go easy on new project spending. All this, despite the Gulf of Mexico disaster. The shares rose 25p to 478p from end October with serious commentators rating them a ‘hold’.

Oil. Brent crude marker held at last week’s level of $104.90 as the US and Iran threaten an agreement of sorts on the latter’s nuclear policy. Israel is not pleased, but that country had best beware. When America withdraws its awesome military presence from the Middle East, as it progressively will, diplomacy will be the name of the game, or the unthinkable will ensue.

Spot uranium price

About David Hargreaves

David Hargreaves

David Hargreaves

David Hargreaves is a mining engineer with over forty years of senior experience in the industry. After qualifying in coal mining he worked in the iron ore mines of Quebec and Northwest Ontario before diversifying into other bulk minerals including bauxite. He was Head of Research for stockbrokers James Capel in London from 1974 to 1977 and voted Mining Analyst of the year on three successive occasions.

Since forming his own metals broking and research company in 1977, he has successfully promoted and been a director of several public companies. He currently writes “The Week in Mining”, an incisive review of world mining events, for stockbrokers WH Ireland. David’s research pays particular attention to steel via the iron ore and coal supply industries. He is a Chartered Mining Engineer, Fellow of the Geological Society and the Institute of Mining, Minerals and Materials, and a Member of the Royal Institution. His textbook, “The World Index of Resources and Population” accurately predicted the exponential rise in demand for steel industry products.

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