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David Hargreaves on oil, week 47 2013

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Oil barrels

Not the Yellow Metal, the Black One.

Regular readers of the Week in Mining will know that we champion a number of causes, run competitions and offer substantial prizes to the winners. Trillions of dollars actually. The fact that they are Zimbabwean is of no consequence. We have SOTBO (Statement of the Blinding Obvious), which draws regular contenders. Then ROOTS (the Running Out Of Things Society) and also SAC (the Society for the Abolition of Clichés). This latter has outlawed “the yellow metal” (gold), the “red metal” (copper) and now has its teeth into “black gold” or oil, as it is also known. There is no basis of comparison between the two, since oil is industrially useful and gold is not. It simply represents the fear factor.

Presently, a tonne of oil is worth less than an ounce of gold and this could – unthinkably – become less.

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This is not because of a pending crash in the gold price but potentially in that of our favourite lubricant. It is much about the arrival of shale oil, particularly in the USA. That country, the single greatest world economic power house and energy user, was largely responsible for the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, establishing a position of dominance in supply, ensuing that for 40 years the world price was at least quadruple its cost of production. That could abruptly end. America is about to become the largest producer once more, possibly an exporter. At least it will switch the focus onto growing importers China and India and could significantly alter the US perception of its role as the Middle East policeman. Our next step for oil is for marker Brent Crude, currently at $110 per barrel, to register $80, then welcome to no-man’s land. The trend is undeniable.

USA Energy Balance 2002 - 2012

The trend is unmistakable: The USA is producing more oil and using less. This was a deliberate policy before shale gas came along. Thus its import dependency fell in the decade by 118Mt and is expected to zero in the next 2 to 3 years. Natural gas presents an even more startling picture. Production in the period has bounced over 26% and is gaining momentum. Consumption rose only 10% but in doing so, local prices have fallen sharply, from a peak of $8.85 per million BTU in 2008 to $2.76 by 2012. This has been at the expense of coal, where, as shown, production has fallen 9.5% and consumption 22.6%, leaving the country a growing net exporter. For the foreseeable future, this puts serious pressure on OPEC and particularly the Middle East. It could alter America’s defence attitude to the region, leading continuing importers China, Japan, India, EU in the hot seat. We might again start to call it black gold if those two commodities start to chase each other down the price spiral.

It has put the International Energy Agency, IEA, on a spot. Only this year, that watchdog described shale oil as a “game changer”. The Middle East producers who account for about 40% of world crude output and 60% of exports, have slowed down on new projects. Further, their sovereign wealth funds, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan, have been heavily investing abroad in non-oil businesses. Now the IEA is having a bit of a revisit. It thinks shale oil is now “Surge rather than a revolution” and East of Suez will reassert itself by the mid 2020’s. The same source now says the USA will overtake Russia as the largest producer in 2015 (it was to have been 2017). Reserves worldwide continue to grow, not least offshore Brazil, whilst stirrings in the automobile industry, as we report in Watchtower, are not to be ignored.

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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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Vetepriset kommer att gå upp – hur man än vrider och vänder på det

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Vete i närbild

Priset på vete har halverats på två, samtidigt sjunker vetelagren. Torbjörn Iwarson på Centaur Commodity Fund säger i DiTV att priset måste upp för att motivera bönder att odla mer. Han konstaterar att hur man än vrider och vänder på det så måste priset gå upp för världen kan inte vara utan vete.

Torbjörn Iwarson kommenterar vete och apelsinjuice.
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Bra start för Centaur Commodity Fund

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Tre olika råvaror

Centaur Commodity Fund är den nya råvarufonden i Sverige som förvaltas av den erfarna råvaruprofilen Torbjörn Iwarson. Fonden har en bred exponering mot råvarumarknaden och mäter sig mot det etablerade indexet Bloomberg Commodity Ex Energy Total Return Index.

Fonden har fått en bra start och presterade bäst jämfört med sina närmaste konkurrenter. Förvaltaren skriver på LinkedIn med glimten i ögat ”Nybörjartur med råvarufonden.” En fond ska självklart utvärderas över längre tid, inte en enskild månad, men det måste ändå vara trevligt att börja med att vara bäst.

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Vinregionen Champagne drabbad av hagelstorm

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Hagelskadad vinodling i Champagne

Den 12 maj bröt våldsamma hagelstormar ut i vid Champagnes vingårdar i Frankrike. Särskilt drabbat är området Vitry-le François där odlare har fått mellan 50-100 procent av sina odlingar förstörda.

Vingårdarna i södra Aisne hade 70-100 mm regn och stora översvämningar.  Svåra hagelskador drabbade regionerna Courcelles, Barzy-sur-Marne, Passy-sur-Marne och Trélou-sur-Marne som hade hagelstormar som varade i hela 45 minuter.

– Det är väldigt ovanligt att en enda storm drabbar ett sådant stort område. Detta är givetvis en stor katastrof för odlarnas ekonomi, deras familjer och anställda.  För odlare som säljer sin skörd är detta ofta den enda inkomstkällan. Medan odlare och producenter som skapar sin egen champagne oftast kan fylla ut med reserv-vin som man sparar tillbaka från bättre skördeår, säger Fredrik Schelin, vinexpert i Sverige.

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– Vi har inget hagel just nu men vi har det besvärligt med vädret just nu. Massor av regn, och möglet har redan satt sina spår. Det är svårt för oss att arbeta med jorden, men förhoppningsvis blir det bättre till sommaren, säger Jean-Paul Hébrart, Champagne Marc Hébrart – Mareuil sur AŸ.

Det är svårt att bedöma de övergripande skadorna av stormen. Mellan 450-500 hektar vinstockar, det vill säga ca 1,4 procent av hela Champagnes vinodlingar har drabbats i varierande grad, från 50 till 100%. Fram till skörden är Champagne-regionen fortsatt utsatt för risk för hagel och storm.

Isabelle Diebolt från Champagne Diebolt-Vallois – Cramant rapporterar:
– Vi har inget hagel, men oändligt mycket regn, så det är svårt att odla och jobba med vin just nu.

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