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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Why Wall Street is throwing billions at the Permian

August 31, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The collapse of oil prices has ground shale drilling to a halt, but the one region where drilling is still active, and even increasing, is in West Texas.

The Permian Basin is one of the last profitable areas to still drill with sub-$50 oil, and as other regions fall by the wayside, an increasing portion of drilling activity and spare investment dollars are flowing into the Permian. The rebound in the rig count in the U.S. is largely concentrated in the Permian. The West Texas shale basin has captured two-thirds of the 90 oil rigs that have been added since hitting a nadir in May.

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UTA study indicates air contamination near fracking sites result of operational inefficiencies, not inherent to the extraction process

August 27, 2016

A study led by chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) indicates that highly variable contamination events registered in and around unconventional oil and gas developments are the result of operational inefficiencies and not inherent to the extraction process itself.

The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, found highly variable levels of ambient BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene compounds) in and around fracking gas drilling sites in the Eagle Ford shale region in South Texas. In situ air quality measurements using membrane inlet mobile mass spectrometry revealed ambient benzene and toluene concentrations as high as 1000 and 5000 parts-per-billion, respectively, originating from specific sub-processes on unconventional oil and gas well pad sites. BTEX compounds in high concentrations can be carcinogenic and have harmful effects on the nervous system.

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OPEC’s Output Freeze: What Has Changed Since Doha?

August 25, 2016

by Rakesh Upadhyay for Oilprice.com

It’s possible that OPEC is crying wolf with hints of an output freeze next month in Algiers; but it’s also possible that they are ramping up production to take the sting out of a freeze. This is a delicate balancing act that the Saudis need to play very carefully.

The official chatter is that the OPEC meeting in Algeria from September 26 to 28 could conclude with an agreement to freeze production by the member nations, with even Russia joining forces in a freeze that may prevent further oil price erosion. But everyone’s a bit gun-shy after the false hopes of the last round in Doha—even if a freeze at levels that existed then wouldn’t have meant much either—and it’s hard to blame them. The question is, how many times can the Saudis cry wolf without forever losing the ability to leverage this chatter to affect a rise in oil prices?

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Study quantifies impact of oil and gas emissions on Denver’s ozone problem

August 12, 2016

The first peer-reviewed study to directly quantify how emissions from oil and natural gas (O&NG) activities influence summertime tropospheric ozone (O3) pollution in the Colorado Front Range confirms that chemical vapors from oil and gas activities are a significant contributor to the region’s chronic ozone problem.

Summertime ozone pollution levels in the northern Front Range periodically spike above 70 parts per billion (ppb), which is considered unhealthy—on average, 17 ppb of that ozone is produced locally. The new research, published in an open-access paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, shows that oil and gas emissions contribute an average of 3 ppb of the locally produced ozone daily, and potentially more than that on high-ozone days.

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Lux: Total is leading example of oil supermajor expanding into solar plus storage and distributed generation

August 09, 2016

France-based Total is the first oil supermajor aggressively to enter new areas of business including solar plus storage and distributed generation, notes Lux Research in a new report: “Superpower Darwinism: What Big Oil Can and Cannot Do About Total’s Billion-Dollar Battery Move.”

Even though viable battery companies have become harder and more expensive to buy since Total’s $1-billion acquisition of Saft (earlier post), the oil supermajors—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total—have cash piles ranging from $5 billion to $30 billion each, despite shrinking profits since 2012 and uncertainty about timing of the eventual recovery of oil prices.

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American Refining Group taking 1/3 stake in Amyris/Cosan Novvi JV; accelerating commercialization of renewable base oil and lubricants

July 19, 2016

American Refining Group (ARG) is taking a 33.3% stake in Novvi LLC, a joint venture of Amyris and Brazil-based Cosan S.A. formed in 2011 to produce renewable base oils and lubricants from Amyris’ Biofene—Amyris’s brand of a renewable, long-chain, branched hydrocarbon molecule called farnesene (trans-ß-farnesene). (Earlier post.) Both Amyris and Cosan will continue to hold share ownership stakes in Novvi, together with ARG.

Biofene is the basis for a wide range of products varying from specialty products such as cosmetics, perfumes, detergents and industrial lubricants, to transportation fuels such as diesel and jet fuel.

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Six refineries in $425M settlement with EPA and DOJ over emissions violations

The Department of Justice and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $425-million settlement with subsidiaries of Tesoro Corp., and Par Hawaii Refining that resolves alleged Clean Air Act violations and protects public health by reducing air pollution at six refineries. Under the settlement, the two companies will spend about $403 million to install and operate pollution control equipment, and Tesoro will spend about $12 million to fund environmental projects in local communities previously impacted by pollution. Tesoro will also pay a $10.45 million civil penalty.

The settlement, a consent decree lodged in US District Court for the Western District of Texas, includes provisions that resolves ongoing Clean Air Act violations at refineries in Kenai, Alaska; Martinez, California; Kapolei, Hawaii; Mandan, North Dakota; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Anacortes, Washington. Of the $10.45-million civil penalty that Tesoro will pay, the United States will receive $8,050,000, and co-plaintiffs including the states of Alaska and Hawaii, and the Northwest Clean Air Agency will share $2.4 million. Under the settlement, all six refineries must implement specific provisions to reduce flaring and enhance leak detection and repair:

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Oil Industry Faces Huge Worker Shortage

July 13, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

The rig count has rebounded from the lows seen in late May, a small indication that oil companies in the US could begin drilling anew. Shale drilling is a short-cycle prospect, requiring only a few weeks to drill and bring a well online. Because of this, the collective US shale industry has been likened to the new “swing producer”: low oil prices force quick cutbacks but higher prices trigger new supplies. In essence, shale could balance the market in the way OPEC used to.

While that notion was always a bit simplistic, one reason that US shale production won’t necessarily spring into action in short order is because the people and equipment that were sidelined over the past two years can’t come back at a moment’s notice.

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Morgan Stanley Warns That Rising Rig Count Could Undo The Oil Rally

July 09, 2016

by Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

In an industry where anything could happen, surprises—often unwelcome—are hard to come by. Oil is exactly such an industry at the moment. No one is sure where oil is heading, near-tem forecasts range from $20 to $80 per barrel by the end of the year, and there are just too many wild cards on the scene.

So, in a sense, the news that shale producers are launching more drilling rigs is not really news at all. It was expected, the companies themselves said they are ready to start ramping-up production as soon as prices reach some more reasonable level. What’s new, perhaps, is Morgan Stanley’s warning that production from the new wells being drilled could prompt a reversal of forecasts that U.S. crude production is falling and will continue to fall.

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Department of Interior issues final regulations for drilling on Arctic OCS

July 08, 2016

The US Department of the Interior has issued final regulations governing future exploratory drilling activities on the US Arctic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The Arctic-specific regulations focus solely on OCS exploratory drilling operations from floating vessels within the US Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

These rules require oil companies to ensure proper internal controls and planning for oil spill prevention, containment and responses—all issues identified by previous Interior reports regarding Shell’s 2012 exploration activities in the Arctic. The regulations codify and further develop current Arctic-specific operational standards to ensure that operators take the necessary steps to plan through all phases of OCS exploration in the Arctic, including mobilization, maritime transport and emergency response, and the conduct of safe drilling operations while in theater.

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Neos and Lockheed Martin to develop enhanced next-gen airborne gravity gradiometer to advance ability to find oil, gas & minerals

July 06, 2016

In partnership with Lockheed Martin, Neos Inc. will develop a new generation sensor to be used to find oil, gas and minerals beneath the earth’s surface from the air. The new Full Tensor Gradiometry (FTG) Plus technology has 20 times the sensitivity and 10 times greater bandwidth than current gravity gradiometers, according to Neos.

Gravity gradiometers have been commercially used for more than 20 years and militarily longer than that. The technology is based on the principle that earth’s gravity field varies with location, local topography and sub-surface geologic features. Measuring the gravity variation caused by items beneath the earth’s surface can help identify unique underground and undersea geologic structures. The new airborne FTG Plus sensor is so advanced it could find a 10-meter tall hill buried one kilometer below the earth’s surface.

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Increase in US rig count will not cap oil prices

June 23, 2016

by David Yager for Oilprice.com

The impact of rising oil prices on North American light tight oil (LTO) production is said to be a “Catch 22”, the title of Joseph Heller’s popular 1961 novel set in WWII. The premise was you could get out of the army if you were crazy but you weren’t crazy to try to get out of the army. So this avenue to escape the war didn’t work for the book’s main character John Yossarian.

Too many analysts continue to believe drilling and service has the same problem with rising oil prices. With WTI back above $50 a barrel—at least briefly last week—North American LTO developers are putting rigs, service equipment and personnel back to work. The so-called “fraclog” or “DUC” inventory (wells drilled but uncompleted) is being reduced. While this is good it is also thought by some to be temporary.

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3 Years Of Painful Cuts Sets Oil Markets Up For Serious Supply Crunch

June 01, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Total global oil production could decline for the next several years in a row as scarce new sources of supply come online.

According to data from Rystad Energy, overall global oil output will fall this year as natural depletion overwhelms all new sources of supply. But the deficit will only widen in the years ahead due to the dramatic scaling back in spending on new exploration and development.

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What Does The Next OPEC Meeting Have In Store?

May 23, 2016

by Rakesh Upadhyay for Oilprice.com

The next OPEC meeting on the 2nd of June will act as little more than a forum for continued altercations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The 2 June 2016 OPEC meeting will be held amid a backdrop of oil prices near $50 per barrel, a sharp drop in Nigerian production due to sabotage, turmoil in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia operating with a new oil minister, and Iran aggressively pumping close to pre-sanction levels.

OPEC interactions have become a direct altercation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the remaining members reduced to mere observers.

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US Lifted The Crude Oil Export Ban, And Exports Went Down

March 30, 2016

by Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

Just over three months after the authorities lifted the four-decade ban on crude oil exports, the US has actually exported less this year than it did over the same period the year before, when the ban was still in place.

According to Clipper Data market intelligence cited by the Financial Times, we’ve seen a 5 percent decline in U.S. crude oil export volumes since the beginning of this year. The data suggests that on average we are exporting (waterborne) 325,000 barrels per day now, compared to 342,000 barrels per day during the first months of 2015.

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Opinion: The Current Oil Price Rally Is Reaching Its Limits

March 24, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Oil prices have climbed by about 50 percent from their February lows, topping $40 per barrel. But the rally could be reaching its limits, at least temporarily, as persistent oversupply and the prospect of new shale production caps any potential price increase.

US oil production has steadily lost ground over the past two quarters, with production falling more than a half million barrels per day since hitting a peak at nearly 9.7 million barrels per day (mb/d) in April 2015. American oil companies have gutted their budgets and have put off drilling plans, with many projecting absolute declines in 2016.

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$67 Oil Has All The Majors Converging in Argentina

March 13, 2016

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Argentina offers one of the few places on earth where oil companies are not suffering from the full force of the collapse in prices. Argentina regulates oil prices, a policy originally intended to insulate the public from the whims of the market, protecting people from triple-digit crude prices. But with the crash in prices since mid-2014, the effect of the regulation has reversed: motorists are now effectively subsidizing the oil industry.

Prices for light oil are set at $67 per barrel and natural gas prices fixed at $7.50 per million Btu (MMBtu). That means consumers are not reaping the benefits of cheap fuel. The higher prices they pay offer a huge lifeline for the oil industry.

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EPA to develop regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells; ICR coming in April

March 10, 2016

The US EPA will begin developing regulations for methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources—e.g., oil and gas wells. The agency announced plans to cut methane emissions from new oil and gas wells last year. (Earlier post.)

The expanded regulatory scope comes in support of the newly announced commitment by President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to new actions to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector, the largest industrial source of methane.

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Opinion: Who Will Be Left Standing At The End Of The Oil War?

February 25, 2016

by Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

This is a financial cold war—nothing more, nothing less.

While there are billions of reasons to cut output, and every major producing country is reeling from the loss of revenues, some are weathering the current bust better than others, but the devil is in the details, and the details contain tons of variables.

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$10-Trillion Investment Needed To Avoid Massive Oil Price Spike Says OPEC

December 30, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

OPEC says that $10 trillion worth of investment will need to flow into oil and gas through 2040 in order to meet the world’s energy needs.

The OPEC published its World Oil Outlook 2015 (WOO) in late December, which struck a much more pessimistic note on the state of oil markets than in the past. On the one hand, OPEC does not see oil prices returning to triple-digit territory within the next 25 years, a strikingly bearish conclusion. The group expects oil prices to rise by an average of about $5 per year over the course of this decade, only reaching $80 per barrel in 2020. From there, it sees oil prices rising slowly, hitting $95 per barrel in 2040.

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EIA ups total shale oil resource estimate by 13% to 419B barrels, shale gas by 4% to 7576 Tcf

December 15, 2015

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) continues to expand its assessment of technically recoverable shale oil and shale natural gas resources around the world. The addition of four countries—Chad, Kazakhstan, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—to a previous assessment covering 42 countries has resulted in a 13% increase in the global assessed total resource estimate for shale oil and a 4% increase for shale gas.

A total of 26 formations within 11 basins were analyzed in these 4 countries. Although these formations contain significant volumes of technically recoverable resources, there is currently no shale exploration underway in any of the four countries, meaning the new assessed resources are not yet economically recoverable.

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Oil Well Strippers Suffering From Low Oil Prices

December 10, 2015

by Michael McDonald of Oilprice.com

With OPEC breaking down and any kind of coordination among its members on price cuts looking increasingly unlikely, it now appears that oil prices could remain below $50 a barrel for a year or more. As producers confront this unpleasant reality, some will finally start to significantly curtail or even shut down operations. And that is going to severely hurt an all but invisible group; strippers in the United States.

A stripper is a small operator of very old oil wells that frequently produce less than five barrels per day of oil. These wells may not seem consequential, but there are roughly 410,000 of them in the US. Since 2002, according to the industry association for strippers [National Stripper Well Association, NSWA], these marginal wells have generated more than 2.9 billion barrels of oil and 18.8 Mcf of natural gas.

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Oil Jobs Lost: 250,000 And Counting; Texas Likely To See Massive Layoffs Soon

November 26, 2015

by Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com

Crude oil just capped off a third straight week of declines, as WTI nears the $40 per barrel threshold. Goldman Sachs is once again raising the possibility of oil dipping into the $20s per barrel.

That spells more pain for the energy sector. Many companies have already slashed spending and culled their payrolls, but the total number of job losses continues to climb. According to Graves & Co., an industry consultant, oil and gas companies have laid off more than 250,000 workers around the world, a tally that will rise if oil prices remain in the dumps.

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Opinion: Saudis Planning For A War Of Attrition In Europe With Russia’s Oil Industry

November 18, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Russia’s central bank recently warned about the growing financial risks to the Russian economy from Saudi Arabia encroaching upon its traditional export market for crude oil. Russia sends 70 percent of its oil to Europe, but Saudi Arabia has been making inroads in the European market amid the oil price downturn.

The result is a heavier discount for Russia’s crude oil, the so-called Urals blend. Bloomberg reported that the Urals typically lands in Rotterdam, a major European destination, at a discount to Brent of around $2 or less. But the discount has widened to $3.50 lately due to increased competition from Saudi Arabia. “Oil supplies to Europe from Saudi Arabia are probably adversely affecting Urals prices,” the Russian central bank warned in a recent report.

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Opinion: Political Climate Shifting Against The Oil And Gas Industry

November 10, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

Oil and gas companies have had a tough time over the past year trying to weather the storm of falling oil prices. But the political and financial winds are moving in the wrong direction for the industry, raising more “above ground” problems at a time that they can ill-afford it.

Drilling oil and gas wells requires a lot of money. For companies that have seen their revenues vanish because of collapsing oil prices, access to credit is obviously critically important. But US financial regulators are growing concerned about a pile of energy debt that is deteriorating in quality. A report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve singled out the oil and gas sector when it concluded that credit risk was rising across the United States.

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Opinion: Oil Megaprojects Won’t Stay On The Shelf For Long

November 06, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

One casualty of the oil price downturn could be the megaproject.

For years, as conventional oil reserves depleted and became increasingly hard to find, oil companies ventured into far-flung locales to find new sources of production. Extracting oil from these frontier areas required more advanced technology and a lot more capital: Ultra deepwater, Arctic offshore, heavy oil sands, and increasingly, the Lower Tertiary.

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Opinion: Stop Blaming OPEC For Low Prices

October 29, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

We are a little more than a month away from OPEC’s next meeting, which will be held in Vienna on December 4, 2015.

OPEC altered the course of the oil markets last year when it decided to cast aside its traditional role of maintaining balance through production cuts. Instead it pursued a strategy of fighting for market share, contributing to an immediate rout in oil prices. WTI and Brent then went on to dive below $50 in the weeks following OPEC’s decision. OPEC is widely expected to continue its current strategy at its next meeting, and as such, no rebound in oil prices is expected, at least not because of the results of the group’s meeting in Vienna.

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Day Of Reckoning For US Shale Will Have To Wait

October 25, 2015

by Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

October has been billed as a pivotal month in which indebted shale companies would see their credit lines cut, precipitating a faster consolidation in the industry that would sow the seeds of a rebound.

But banks appear to be taking a more lenient approach than expected. A new Jeffries report says that only $450 million in borrowing bases have been cut, across more than 20 companies. That amounts to just 2 percent of available credit lines, much lower than the 15 percent reduction expected by analysts. In other words, banks are allowing drillers to continue to borrow, which could delay the inevitable balancing needed in the market.

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Opinion: Oil Market Showdown—Can Russia Outlast The Saudis?

October 20, 2015

by Dalan McEndree for Oilprice.com

Two men enter, one man leaves, two men enter, one man leaves, two men enter...

November 27, oil consuming countries will celebrate the first anniversary of the Saudi decision to let market forces determine prices. This decision set crude prices on a downward path. Subsequently, to defend market share, the Saudis increased production, which exacerbated market oversupply and further pressured prices.

While the sharp decline in crude prices has saved crude consuming nations hundreds of billions of dollars, the loss in revenues has caused crude exporting countries intense economic and financial pain. Their suffering has led some to call for a change in strategy to “balance” the market and boost prices. Venezuela, an OPEC member, has even proposed an emergency summit meeting.

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Argonne analysis shows greenhouse gas emissions similar for shale, conventional oil

October 16, 2015

Shale oil production generates greenhouse gas emissions at levels similar to conventional crude oil production, according to a pair of new studies released by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

The research, conducted by Argonne researchers in collaboration with Stanford University and the University of California, Davis, analyzed the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas and the Bakken play mainly in North Dakota. Eagle Ford and Bakken are the second and third largest oil-producing shale formation regions in the United States, during the last three years. In 2014, Bakken and Eagle Ford together accounted for 54% of oil production and 19% of gas production among the top seven production regions. These are shale formations with low permeability and must be hydraulically fractured to produce oil and gas.

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Opinion: China To Continue Expanding Its Influence In The Oil And Gas Sector

October 14, 2015

by John Manfreda for Oilprice.com

Since 2009, China has been taking a much more active role in its pursuit of international oil contracts. In 2009, for the first time, Saudi Arabia exported more of its oil to China than it did to the U.S. China also made large investments in Saudi Arabia’s oil refining industry as well. But China’s oil investments didn’t stop there; they also pursued oil producing Canadian assets in 2011-12.

When it comes to Chinese energy industry, there are three major state owned companies. One is called China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), which is an oil and gas producer, another is called PetroChina, which is another oil producing company, and its third company is Sinopec, which is primarily a refining company.

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Opinion: Is Russia Plotting To Bring Down OPEC?

October 06, 2015

by Dalan McEndree for Oilprice.com

President Putin’s recent moves in the Middle East—to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria through deployment of combat aircraft, equipment, and manpower and build-out of air-, naval-, and ground-force bases, and the agreement in the last week with Iran, Iraq, and Syria on intelligence and security cooperation—could contribute to Russian efforts to combat the myriad negative pressures on Russia’s vital energy industry.

Live by Energy…

Energy is the foundation of Russia, its economy, its government, and its political system. Putin has highlighted on various occasions the contribution Russia’s mineral wealth, in particular oil and natural gas, must make for Russia to be able to sustain economic growth, promote industrial development, catch up with the developed economies, and modernize Russia’s military and military industry.

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Opinion: This Is What Needs To Happen For Oil Prices To Stabilize

September 21, 2015

by Dan Doyle for Oilprice.com

Dan Doyle is president of Reliance Well Services, a hydraulic fracturing company based in Pennsylvania.

On September 10th, the EIA reported a production decline in the Lower 48—essentially shale production—of 208,000 BOPD (barrels of oil per day). That is a staggeringly enormous number, approximately 10 percent of the estimated global over-supply. Additionally, it was a week-over-week number which makes it all the more impressive. Yet it received little attention through the week. Rather, Goldman Sachs was grabbing all the headlines with its $20 call on oil.

This week, I was looking for a possible correction in that number with a zero decline or possibly even a gain (remember, the EIA numbers are estimates). But instead we got another decline of 35,000 BOPD.

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Opinion: The Shale Delusion: Why The Party’s Over For US Tight Oil

September 18, 2015

by Art Berman for Oilprice.com

The party is over for tight oil.

Despite brash statements by US producers and misleading analysis by Raymond James, low oil prices are killing tight oil companies. Reports this week from IEA and EIA paint a bleak picture for oil prices as the world production surplus continues.

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Opinion: The Default Next Move For Oil Is Downwards, And Here’s Why

September 09, 2015

by Martin Tillier of Oilprice.com

As traders, investors and pundits, we all like to think that what we do is akin to a science. We believe that by working harder and being smarter we can give ourselves an edge, that enough research will reveal to us the next move, either a long term trend or an intraday blip on a chart, and that we can profit from that knowledge. Usually, especially over longer time spans, we are correct in that assumption. Sometimes, however, no amount of fundamental or technical analysis will help.

Over the last week or so we have seen some violent swings in the price of oil, swings that in many ways defy logic. At times like these we have to rely on the art, rather than science, of trading and reading markets. That is not to say that traders and investors at home should be simply making wild guesses, it is just that right now, the oil markets are trading on factors other than the fundamental influences that we are used to. It is hard to chart fear and panic.

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Opinion: OPEC Divorce And Self-Destruction Thanks To Saudi Oil Strategy?

September 02, 2015

by Dalan McEndree for Oilprice.com

“If you are the world’s leading energy economy, you produce energy, that’s what you do.”

“A government can stay irrational longer than it can stay solvent.”

“Even in the short term, you’re dead, if you commit suicide.”

The first quote modifies a GEICO commercial describing a free-range chicken (If you’re a free range chicken, you roam free, that’s what you do), the second, the famous John Maynard Keynes quote about markets (The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent), the third, another famous Keynes quote (In the long run, we’re all dead).

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