The global economy could withstand widespread disruption from a natural disaster or attack by militants for only a week as governments and businesses are not sufficiently prepared to deal with unexpected events, a report by a respected think-tank [Chatham] said.
Bakken – North American Miracle?
The “Economic Miracle State” of North Dakota pumped another record amount of oil during the month of November at a daily rate of 509,754 barrels, which was 43% above last year’s output, and the first time that the state’s daily production exceeded 500,000 barrels (see chart above, data here). Oil production in the Peace Garden State has more than doubled from 246,000 barrels per day two years ago, and North Dakota is now producing enough oil to completely displace the imports of crude oil from Colombia (364,000 bpd) or Iraq (422,000 bpd).
And a slightly different perspective on this milestone: On Tuesday afternoon, North Dakota, home to the booming Bakken oil shale, announced that it had scored its first victory over OPEC. Bakken production in November passed the mark of half a million barrels of oil per day, at about 510,000 barrels, surpassing Ecuador. It’s probably worth pointing out Ecuador is the “Rhode Island” of OPEC. In the same way that metaphors looking to make just about any small land area in the world look big use the comparison of Rhode Island, Ecuador is the only OPEC nation that the Bakken can rival, representing 0.6% of OPEC reserves, or roughly 476,000 barrels daily.
Even investors are worried about water: Jonas Kron is worried about water. The investment adviser at Trillium Asset Management, a $900 million fund manager that focuses on environmentally sustainable investment, fears the world’s dwindling supply of fresh water is hurting the companies he has invested in. For most of the year, Kron has led a shareholder challenge to J. M. Smucker, the strawberry jam maker that also owns Folgers coffee. Kron says the company hasn’t demonstrated it’s prepared for the market changes that are sure to come as climate change reduces the size of the world’s coffee growing area.
Climate experts believe that changing rain patterns at Lake Victoria (the world’s second largest lake), consistent with expected climate impacts, are contributing to [falling water levels], and that further changes are possible. “To date the quays have conceded two metres of waters,” Ndaro says in frustration.
Gasoline prices to rise?
Cognizant of the fact that retail gasoline is currently running nearly 30 cents per gallon higher than it was in January 2008 the year when prices topped out at a national average of $4.11 and that gasoline futures have risen by 30 cents a gallon in the last few weeks, there is reason for concern. Typical of the stories is one from the Los Angeles Times that quotes Tom Kloza, long-time chief analyst for the Oil Price Information Service and the go-to guy when one needs numbers and forecasts on gasoline prices. Kloza notes that for the last decade gasoline futures prices, which ultimately determine pump prices, have risen from an autumn low to a spring high by an average of 83 percent. During these years, the annual winter-spring price surge has varied anywhere from 52 to 169 percent making higher prices by summer a fairly sure bet. This year the 2011 low for gasoline on the NY futures market likely will turn out to have been $2.44 a gallon on November 25. If one does the arithmetic using the average price jump of 83 percent, futures prices could be expected to top out in the vicinity of $4.46 a gallon next spring. Adding in the additional 60 cents to get the gasoline taxed and to the nozzle of your pump, we could theoretically be paying a national average on the order of $5.00 a gallon before the 4th of July. This of course assumes that nothing bad happens in the Middle East that restricts or seriously threatens the flow of oil exports and sends prices much higher.
With natural gas in such abundance here in the US and its low price, every day more people are wondering why nothing significant is being done to increase its use on a much wider scale. Of course, these low prices are temporary for this reason and the fact that the same rigs that drill for shale gas can be employed drilling for oil, and, as the report points out, the spread between gas and oil is at an all-time high
Alaska – Outlook for the Alaskan Pipeline Project just got a little less bright
An Alaska natural gas pipeline project that would serve overseas markets seemingly wouldn’t qualify for a loan guarantee under federal law. The Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act contains incentives aimed at speeding a project, including authorization for a federal loan guarantee. But Larry Persily, federal coordinator for Alaska natural gas transportation projects, notes that a qualified project under the law is one that would bring gas from Alaska’s North Slope to the continental United States.
Nigeria in crisis
Nigerian oil workers threatened on Wednesday to shut down output in Africa’s top crude producer, deepening a national strike over a more than doubling of petrol prices. With the government and unions locked in a showdown which has paralyzed Nigeria for three days, the biggest oil union said it was ready to halt oil production, although industry officials doubted it could shut down crude exports completely.
Gunmen in Nigeria have opened fire in a bar in the north of the country, killing eight people including several police officers. The attack in Yobe state is the latest in a series that officials blame on the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended his country’s nuclear program as he began a four-nation tour of Latin America, joining his ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in accusing the U.S. and its allies of using the dispute to unjustly threaten Iran. Both leaders planned to travel to Nicaragua on Tuesday for the inauguration of newly re-elected President Daniel Ortega, and then Ahmadinejad will also visit Cuba and Ecuador. The Iranian leader is using the visit to tout relationships with some of his close friends shortly after the U.S. imposed tougher sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.
European refiners have started to sever links with Iran, stopping spot purchases of crude ahead of a European Union meeting later this month that could impose a full oil embargo on Tehran.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it had told Israel that it would not be “appropriate” for Israeli pilgrims to make an annual visit to the tomb of a 19th-century Jewish holy man in the Nile Delta, as activists mobilized to block the pilgrimage route. Ceremonies at the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abu Hatizra have triggered yearly political sparring in Egypt throughout most of the last decade, with Islamists, nationalists, and others claiming that the government by allowing the pilgrimage is pursuing an unpopular policy of normalization with the country’s former enemy.
A bomber on a motorcycle killed a scientist from Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site and his bodyguard-driver on Wednesday during the morning commute in Tehran, Iranian media reported, in an assassination that could further elevate international tensions over the Iranian nuclear program and stoke the country’s growing anti-Western belligerence. It was the fourth such attack reported in two years and, as after the previous episodes, Iranian officials accused the United States and Israel of responsibility.
And for a slightly different phrasing of the same incident: An Iranian university professor and deputy director at Natanz enrichment facility was killed in a terrorist bomb blast in a Northern Tehran neighborhood on Wednesday morning.
The European Union’s recent agreement in principle to gradually ban Iranian crude oil imports has brought to a head a long-running dispute between Europe’s economic and foreign ministries. Economic ministries feared politicizing oil because any disruption could hurt fragile economies and send prices soaring. Foreign ministries, for their part, were eager to turn the screws on Tehran with an oil embargo that would raise the costs of the country’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. This gap is narrowing fast — but not only because of the urgency of increased diplomatic pressure.
How’s this for timing: by accident of Navy schedules, the U.S. military now has two aircraft carrier battle groups near Iran’s shores, with a third on her way, right as a bomb killed an Iranian nuclear scientist and Iran threatens to close off a key waterway.
Israel’s military chief said on Tuesday that the army was preparing for a potential influx of refugees into the Golan Heights from Syria with the demise of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which he said was inevitable.
An Algerian has quit the Arab League team sent to check Syria’s compliance with an Arab peace plan, and a second monitor said he might leave because the mission was failing to end the killing of civilians protesting against the president’s rule.
Bunker prices have rallied at the start of 2012 to levels not seen since 2008, when record crude oil prices pushed the price of marine fuels to all-time highs. The price of 380 centistokes (cSt) bunker fuel, the most widely used bunker grade, rose to $740 per metric tonne (pmt) in Singapore on Wednesday, January 11. That was just over $20 shy of an all-time high of $761.50 set on July 15 in the world’s leading bunkering port, 2008 according to Bunkerworld data
Around 300 Chinese workers who manufacture XBox consoles took to a factory roof and threatened bosses with mass suicide over a dispute about pay, unconfirmed reports have claimed. The workers were employed at the Foxconn Technology Park in Wuhan in Hubei province. Foxconn is an independent, global manufacturing partner to companies including Apple, Microsoft and Sony.
I highly recommend this podcast which covers the disturbing Foxconn story in an entertaining and enlightening manner.
Is the EU in recession? The German economy is likely to have shrunk by 0.25% in the final quarter of 2011, an official from the Federal Statistics Office has said.
A digital rights and civil liberties group has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, demanding that they release information on who is authorized to operate drones within the United States.
Apologies, I just realized my post yesterday somehow got destroyed… so here it is again, this time in complete form.
The year in review and the year ahead by Derik Andreoli (Logistics Management)
The second liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in North America—originally designed for imports—is being constructed in Louisiana. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released an environmental assessment of the Sabine Pass LNG facility. FERC found that approval of the project, with a few changes, would not significantly affect the “quality of the human environment.” The deadline for comments is January 27.
Getting thirsty, yet?
Perhaps the West is looking a bit like Texas where: Water has always been a concern for 65-year-old Joe Parker, who manages a 19,000-acre cattle ranch here in South Texas. “Water is scarce in our area,” he says, and a scorching yearlong drought has made it even scarcer. What has Mr. Parker especially concerned are the drilling rigs that now dot the flat, brushy landscape. Each oil well in the area, using the technique known as hydraulic fracturing, requires about six million gallons of water to break open rocks far below the surface and release oil and natural gas. Mr. Parker says he worries about whether the underground water can support both ranching and energy exploration.
A tunnel beneath the Yellow River, China’s second longest, and related water gates and ditches have been completed for the eastern route of the country’s giant south-north water diversion project. Water diverted from the Yangtze, China’s largest river, along the eastern route will flow through the tunnel to the parched northern provinces of Shandong and Hebei as well as Tianjin Municipality, the Shandong Provincial Construction Management Bureau of South-to-North Water Diversion Project said in a statement on Sunday.
One of the government’s top scientists says much more research is needed to determine the possible impacts of shale gas drilling on human health and the environment. “Studies should include all the ways people can be exposed, such as through air, water, soil, plants and animals,” Dr. Christopher Portier wrote to The Associated Press in an email.
Federal environmental regulators took steps Friday to deliver drinking water to several Dimock Twp. homes where tainted well water has been tied to nearby gas drilling, according to three families who spoke with EPA officials.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency abruptly changed its mind Saturday about delivering fresh water to residents of a northeastern Pennsylvania village where residential wells were found to be tainted by a natural gas drilling operation. Only 24 hours after promising them water, EPA officials informed residents of Dimock that a tanker truck wouldn’t be coming after all. The about-face left residents furious, confused and let down — and, once again, scrambling for water for bathing, washing dishes and flushing toilets.
About being a net petroleum products exporter…
Growing tension with Iran and a threat to global crude supplies may be dominating oil traders’ attention but a potentially bigger story is breaking on the demand side of the market. Petroplus, Europe’s largest independent refining company, this week began shutting down three of its five refineries, halting about a quarter of a million barrels of daily production.
Meanwhile in the MENA
As the US completed its official withdrawal from Iraq, a series of events stoked a political crisis that will push Iraq toward a precipice. Observers questioned the timing of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s audacious moves against two of Iraq’s senior Sunni politicians, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak. All within days of the troop withdrawal, Maliki called on the parliament to depose Mutlak, who recently likened Maliki to Saddam, and the judiciary issued an arrest warrant for VP Hashemi’s alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Kurdish officials have refused to comply…
The Arab League has urged the Syrian government to end its violence against protesters and allow League monitors in the country to work more freely, but stopped short of asking the U.N. to help.
Iran’s top nuclear official announced this weekend that the country was on the verge of starting production at its second major uranium enrichment site, in a defiant declaration that its nuclear program would continue despite new international sanctions restricting its oil revenue.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court has sentenced an Iranian-American man to death for spying for the CIA, officials said on Monday, a move likely to aggravate U.S.-Iranian tensions already high because of Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
Iran has described the US Navy’s rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen held by Somali pirates as a “humanitarian gesture”. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country had also rescued foreign sailors from pirates on occasion. But he said such acts did not affect overall relations between countries.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed a U.S. warning to avoid close ties with Iran on Sunday, denouncing what he said was Washington’s attempt to dominate the world as he welcomed the Iranian president to the Latin American nation.
And things are getting worse in Nigeria
Nigeria’s president has said for the first time he thinks sympathisers of the Islamist Boko Haram group are in his government and security agencies. Goodluck Jonathan’s comments come amid a wave of violence blamed on Boko Haram which has left dozens of people dead in the north, most of them Christians. Mr Jonathan also said the security situation was now more complex than during the civil war four decades ago.
A general strike in Nigeria over the elimination of a fuel subsidy has brought the country to a standstill. Shops, offices, schools and petrol stations around the country closed on the first day of an indefinite strike.
Nigeria was paralysed by strike action over high fuel prices on Monday, with shops, schools and banks shut, roads empty and thousands of people joining demonstrations in large cities. Police shot dead one man and injured several others in Lagos, a union leader said, near to where several thousand people had gathered peacefully in a park to denounce President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
A bit on coal
Exports of coal are helping drive the business for railroads, but will new regulations leave the business in the dust? Coal exports may account for less than 10 percent of U.S. production, but strong demand from overseas buyers proved critical for domestic mining companies facing weak utility markets in 2011.
And some other stuff
Economic growth was disappointing in 2011 and a strong rebound is unlikely in 2012, but North America’s railroads will continue to outperform the overall economy, especially in the intermodal sector.
More than 60 percent of truckers surveyed in November said they expect volume to increase in 2012, with only 2 percent expecting freight levels to decrease, says trucking acquisition analysis and research firm Transport Capital Partners. An even larger share, 70 percent, said they expect rates to rise
Truckload rates rose less than some carriers expected but more than shippers wanted in 2011, with spot market rates on average rising 7.4 percent and contract rates climbing an average 6.5 percent, a freight pricing specialist says.
An system that allows ships to make emulsion fuel onboard could help ship operates save on bunker cost while also ensuring compliance with global and regional emissions standards, according to the company that makes it. (my note: we’re talking fuel savings of 5 to 15%…)