This week I decided to analyze and recommend an energy company I feel is worthy of investing in. In the coming weeks, as we prepare to launch Energy Trends Finance — a service for investors, executives, and others involved in the energy sector — be sure to look out for similar analyses on companies across the energy industry.
Protect Your Downside
With all the crosscurrents in the markets, Europe in recession, Japan with no economic growth, and the U.S. registering slow GDP growth that keeps energy demand sluggish, and continued high volatility in oil and gas prices, I remain cautious in the energy sector. However, although cautious I am not absent from the market as I do believe that with a diligent and “defensive” investment philosophy one can achieve positive results over the long-term.
(Related: Three Reasons to Invest in Energy Long-Term)
Indeed, as I have outlined in several of my energy trend notes over the last few weeks, I remain bullish long-term in energy equities, as investors will continue to be attracted to energy equities due to long-term structural supply/demand imbalances that will continue to see demand – consumption increasingly outpace production growth.
Invest Defensively for the Long-Term
The key is to pick and choose wisely by not focusing on the overall broader energy market, but to seek out energy stocks that are “infrastructure” related as pipeline MLPs, or niche providers to the energy market as offshore rig providers, deep water drillers and specialty pump and valve flow systems.
In the current market of volatile share price swings, seek out companies with high dividend yields or MLPs with high distribution yields that will protect your downside by providing support to share prices in down turning markets. I’m talking about specialty companies with above average dividend yields, solid balance sheets, low debt, a sound credible and simple business plan, and — most importantly — high growth prospects. And that brings us to our energy investment idea this week: Magellan Midstream Partners LP (NYSE: MMP).
In last week’s note: 2013 Crude Oil Outlook: Supply & Demand, we looked at the more immediate trend in global supply and demand. But this week, I want to examine the long-term oil production challenge facing the industry.
Current global oil consumption is running just under 90 MM b/d, with wellhead production at about a little over 85 Mm b/d, or a deficit or about 4.7 Mm b/d. As we pointed out last week, overall global oil consumption since 2000 to 2012 has been running at a per annum rate of 1.2%; should global consumption continue to grow at this rate, we will hit roughly 100 MM b/d by 2022, or in ten years. If global oil consumption should slow to a per annum rate of 1.0%, we will hit 100 MM b/d only two years later by 2024.
Oil Demand Shift
From 2000 the increasing industrialization of the developing world has been the primary catalyst driving the demand for global crude oil. Among non-OECD nations, China and India have led the charge, with Chinese oil demand growing at a torrid 6.7% per annum rate and India’s oil demand growing at 4.0% per annum. Overall non-OECD demand for oil has increased at a comparable rate of 3.6% per annum, with the Asia/Pacific region growing oil demand at roughly 2.7%. Developed nations, however, have seen diminishing oil demand with a negative -.04% per annum growth rate.
As I shall point out, the decline in OECD oil demand is not enough to offset the rising demand for oil from the developing world, so the net result going forward will be an increasing supply/demand imbalance. My analysis points to an increasing deficit — gap in global wellhead oil supply — to meet demand. CONTINUE»
In my previous column, Energy Industry Capital Spending Reaching New Highs, we looked at how the industry continues to ramp up spending across its sectors. As I noted, this is no surprise given the enormous capital requirements to sustain its business models.
However, what is surprising is that despite the significant tailwind of high crude prices since 2010 to current, net free cash flows (operating cash flow less cash capital spending) have actually declined for the industry overall. Operating costs are increasing crimping margins, and investment spending is rising faster than top-line revenue growth. To put things into perspective, although total industry operating cash flow (OCF) dropped only 1% in 2012 from 2011, from 2007 to 2012 spending grew at a per annum rate of nearly 10% while OCF increased at a 5% per annum rate.
The worst offender has been the U.S. E&P sub-sector heavily weighted to natural gas production at low prices; the sector has seen its deficit cash flow grow. In 2012, despite spending decreasing 2% from 2011, OCF dropped a whopping 17%. From 2007 to 2012, capital spending grew at nearly a 7% per annum rate, while OCF increased only 3% per annum.
The value chain for the energy industry is a simple one: Resources to Production to Cash Flow to Value.
At first glance, higher capital spending in the energy industry may seem a paradox during a period of weak global economic growth. However, it requires enormous capital to maintain — let alone grow — its business model. To that end, several tailwinds have helped fuel the industry’s relentless re-investment, simulative monetary policy – low interest rates, high crude prices, rising costs, increasing demand from developing nations, increasingly remote and difficult regions to explore for oil driven by globally constrained light sweet crude oil.
Particularly, high crude prices are a major catalyst driving spending higher. Since 2011, on average, crude prices — whether WTI or Brent — have been at a consistently historically high level; WTI at roughly $94/bbl, and Brent at about $112/bbl.
Looking at the overall energy sector that includes the oil & gas (U.S. E&P, Western Majors and Canadians), refining, pipeline, utility, and oil services sectors, the industry spent over $450 billion, or 58% higher in 2012 compared to 2007 spending, and 6% above 2011, at a per annum growth rate of nearly 10% from 2007 to 2012.
The battle for market share in power generation is primarily between historically abundant and relatively cheap coal and environmentally cleaner but increasingly abundant Natural Gas (NG).
The increasing supplies of NG driven by the productivity of unconventional shale exploration and drilling has pushed NG prices lower over the last few years. With lower NG prices has come greater NG use as a fuel source in power generation.
While many in the media have sounded the death knell for coal as a power fuel source, and in the very long-term I think coal usage will gradually diminish, it will take years — perhaps even decades — for coal to be relegated to an insignificant role in power generation, but I am convinced it will occur.
We all remember our Economics 101 lesson that price is the equilibrium point between supply and demand, and that fact has not changed. Right now, there are a plethora of opinions about the future direction of natural gas (NG) prices, both immediate and long-term, and you have probably heard most of them. Suffice to say, with the range of projected NG prices so wide, I decided to take a hard look at the data and keep my projected view of NG prices on a very short-term timeframe. Quite frankly, looking out more than one year is pure speculation even if it’s based on educated analysis.
The U.S. Energy Department (EIA) reported that U.S. gas inventories were 2.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) for the week ending February 22nd, a decline of nearly 6% year-to-date (YTD) compared to last year for the same period; however, storage remains 16% above the five-year average. Comparing the YTD averages since 2008, NG still remains above prior years except for 2012. So we have good news and bad news, good that 2013 NG levels are running below 2012, bad that NG levels still remain at very high levels.
Let’s look at the good news; it appears that NG production has slowed in early 2013. I looked at my NG database that covers U.S. NG production; year-over-year production 4Q 2012 to 4Q 2011 is flat at roughly 0.0% with the multinationals down 4% YoY on the quarter, and the U.S. Independent E&Ps up only 2% YoY on the quarter.
This week I am focusing on energy trends in global natural gas (NG) supply and demand; or as the Russians prefer to call NG, “the blue fuel,” due to its blue burning properties.
Unlike our more popular hydrocarbon — crude oil — there is no talk of “peak gas”—at least for now. Global NG production has increased at an annual compound rate of 5.3% since 2000, while crude oil’s comparable growth rate has been 1.0%—so we are not running out of NG, and the world is amply supplied or in balance overall. However, there are supply/demand imbalances across regional NG markets.
The major reason for the regional imbalances is that while crude oil is highly fungible or easily transportable, NG is not, which makes NG globally a highly segmented market. While NG can trade under $3.00 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) in North America, it commands prices north of $15 Mcf in Asia.
Let’s build upon last week’s long-term bullish case for crude oil. Much has been said about, “Global Peak Oil” production in the last few years, and probably for good reason. We know that U.S. crude oil production peaked in the early 1970s just as Mr. King Hubbert predicted back in the late 1950s.
But, is peak global oil production just around the corner?
Energy industry analysts believe that global oil production will peak sometime between 2015 and 2025. That sounds like a fairly broad range. However, the reality is that it’s a fairly short timeframe in geologic time that does not even register a notch, and it’s rapidly coming upon us.
(Read More: Five Misconceptions About Peak Oil)
I’m not a forecaster, but I have studied oil supply and demand for the last 20 years, and I do believe that global crude oil production has reached a plateau, and may very well peak sooner than we think.
Why? For one thing, on average, the global natural decline rate of producing wells is roughly 7% plus or minus 1% or 2%. That means production has to grow at least 8% a year to register a net positive increase.
Hi, I’m Lou Gagliardi, an energy industry specialist who has ‘lived through the energy cycles.’ I would like to introduce myself to the readers at Energy Trends Insider. The topic of my column will be in energy finance and investment research. My goal will be to lay out the energy terrain to help you manage risk while enjoying the upside benefits of the sector’s long-term bullish trends. I will analyze and explain what energy industry trends you need to focus on to find long-term investment opportunities that balance risk and reward trade-offs.
But first a little bit about my career and experience.
I began my career doing project economics at Texaco for all facets of the energy value chain from upstream, downstream to midstream. I eventually segued to covering oil and gas companies at IHS Herold’s valuation shop. At Herold, I provided fundamental equity investment research. My core specialties run the entire energy value chain from oil, gas, and power markets to company coverage of Western multinationals, U.S. E&Ps, Canadian oil sands, national oil companies, refining, alternative energy, MLPs, pipelines, and oil service providers.
Over the years I have been interviewed by CNBC, the New York Times, Forbes, and the Financial Times, regarding Canadian oil sands, emerging markets, Enron and El Paso. I was featured in Robert Bryce’s book on the downfall of Enron, having notified clients of Enron’s financial inadequacies prior to the market’s awareness.