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Why Africa’s Top Oil Producer Is Low on Gasoline

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  • Why Africa’s Top Oil Producer Is Low on Gasoline

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer and a member of OPEC, has suffered fuel shortages over the past few weeks. They complicated transport and hurt economic activity and, in the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, ensured that for many Nigerians the Christmas holidays were “anything but merry and happy.” His administration says it’s working overtime to end the queues that have formed at gasoline stations throughout much of the country. Nigeria is about the only major African economy to experience frequent fuel scarcities.

1. What’s the reason for the shortages?

Part of the problem is that, despite pumping 1.8 million barrels a day of crude, Nigeria has to import almost all its fuel because of the decrepit state of its refineries. But in that, it isn’t alone: Most countries in Africa lack refineries. A bigger problem is that Nigeria caps gasoline prices, often at levels below retailers’ costs. The cap today is set at 145 naira, or $0.40, a liter, which would translate to $1.52 per gallon. That makes the west African nation one of the 10 cheapest places in the world to buy gasoline and compares to a global average of $1.12 and a U.S. average of $0.73 per liter, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

2. Does that mean fuel retailers can’t make money?

They could when the current cap was set, in May 2016. Back then, Brent crude traded at less than $50 a barrel. It’s since risen about 40 percent, to $68, which has made it more expensive for retailers to buy refined fuel. Neither does it help that Nigeria bases the cap on its official exchange rate of 305 naira per dollar, which few retailers can access, given that the market rate is almost 20 percent weaker at 360. Many have stopped importing, leaving that job almost entirely in the hands of the state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., a task it is struggling with and was never designed to do on such a scale.

3. What’s being done to solve the problem?

Maikanti Baru, the head of NNPC, and other Nigerian officials including Emmanuel Kachikwu, minister of state for petroleum resources, say they’re clamping down on anyone hoarding fuel or selling it above sanctioned prices. They’ve ramped up the amount of gasoline sent to depots across the country and called for Nigerians to cease panic buying. They’ve said the shortages will be over soon and that increased demand in the run-up to Christmas was to blame. But one thing they and Buhari are adamant about is that prices won’t be increased. Queues at service stations have eased in Lagos, the main commercial hub, and Abuja, the capital. But the shortages are still severe in many other cities, including Kano in the north.

4. What would be so bad about raising the price of gas?

Fuel prices are a hugely sensitive issue in Nigeria. Given the poor state of schools and hospitals, many citizens feel that cheap fuel is about the only benefit they get from their government. When Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari’s predecessor, tried to end subsidies and hike prices in 2012, nationwide protests crippled the country, forcing him to backtrack. Buhari, 75, who won elections in 2015 by appealing to Nigeria’s poor masses, increased prices the following year only after weeks of shortages forced his hand. He will be loathe to do it again, especially with elections coming up in early 2019 and his popularity already dented by a weak economy and rising unemployment.

5. What’s the damage to Nigeria’s economy?

Previous fuel crises were bad enough to hit gross domestic product. A bigger impact might be on inflation, given the resulting increase in transport prices. Buhari’s team met with officials on Jan. 2 to figure out a long-term plan to prevent any future shortages, but he’s unlikely to find solutions in the absence of allowing fuel prices to rise — at least until current efforts to revamp old refineries and investments in new ones start paying off.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Crude Oil

Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

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Oil Dips Below $62 in New York Though Banks Say Rally Can Extend

Oil retreated from an earlier rally with investment banks and traders predicting the market can go significantly higher in the months to come.

Futures in New York pared much of an earlier increase to $63 a barrel as the dollar climbed and equities slipped. Bank of America said prices could reach $70 at some point this year, while Socar Trading SA sees global benchmark Brent hitting $80 a barrel before the end of the year as the glut of inventories built up during the Covid-19 pandemic is drained by the summer.

The loss of oil output after the big freeze in the U.S. should help the market firm as much of the world emerges from lockdowns, according to Trafigura Group. Inventory data due later Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute and more from the Energy Department on Wednesday will shed more light on how the Texas freeze disrupted U.S. oil supply last week.

Oil has surged this year after Saudi Arabia pledged to unilaterally cut 1 million barrels a day in February and March, with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicting the rally will accelerate as demand outpaces global supply. Russia and Riyadh, however, will next week once again head into an OPEC+ meeting with differing opinions about adding more crude to the market.

“The freeze in the U.S. has proved supportive as production was cut,” said Hans van Cleef, senior energy economist at ABN Amro. “We still expect that Russia will push for a significant rise in production,” which could soon weigh on prices, he said.

PRICES

  • West Texas Intermediate for April fell 27 cents to $61.43 a barrel at 9:20 a.m. New York time
  • Brent for April settlement fell 8 cents to $65.16

Brent’s prompt timespread firmed in a bullish backwardation structure to the widest in more than a year. The gap rose above $1 a barrel on Tuesday before easing to 87 cents. That compares with 25 cents at the start of the month.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and oil trader Vitol Group shot down talk of a new oil supercycle, though they said a lack of supply response will keep prices for crude prices firm in the short term.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

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Oil Prices Rise With Storm-hit U.S. Output Set for Slow Return

Oil prices rose on Monday as the slow return of U.S. crude output cut by frigid conditions served as a reminder of the tight supply situation, just as demand recovers from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brent crude was up $1.38, or 2.2%, at $64.29 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate gained $1.38, or 2.33%, to trade at $60.62 per barrel.

Abnormally cold weather in Texas and the Plains states forced the shutdown of up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production along with 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas output, analysts estimated.

Shale oil producers in the region could take at least two weeks to restart the more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude output affected, sources said, as frozen pipes and power supply interruptions slow their recovery.

“With three-quarters of fracking crews standing down, the likelihood of a fast resumption is low,” ANZ Research said in a note.

For the first time since November, U.S. drilling companies cut the number of oil rigs operating due to the cold and snow enveloping Texas, New Mexico and other energy-producing centres.

OPEC+ oil producers are set to meet on March 4, with sources saying the group is likely to ease curbs on supply after April given a recovery in prices, although any increase in output will likely be modest given lingering uncertainty over the pandemic.

“Saudi Arabia is eager to pursue yet higher prices in order to cover its social break-even expenses at around $80 a barrel while Russia is strongly focused on unwinding current cuts and getting back to normal production,” said SEB chief commodity analyst Bjarne Schieldrop.

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Crude Oil

Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

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Crude Oil Rose Above $65 Per Barrel as US Production Drop Due to Texas Weather

Oil prices rose to $65.47 per barrel on Thursday as crude oil production dropped in the US due to frigid Texas weather.

The unusual weather has left millions in the dark and forced oil producers to shut down production. According to reports, at least the winter blast has claimed 24 lives.

Brent crude oil gained $2 to $65.47 on Thursday morning before pulling back to $64.62 per barrel around 11:00 am Nigerian time.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose 2.3 percent to settle at $61.74 per barrel.

“This has just sent us to the next level,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. “Crude oil WTI will probably max out somewhere pretty close to $65.65, refinery utilization rate will probably slide to somewhere around 76%,” Yawger said.

However, the report that Saudi Arabia plans to increase production in the coming months weighed on crude oil as it can be seen in the chart below.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister, warned that it was too early to declare victory against the COVID-19 virus and that oil producers must remain “extremely cautious”.

“We are in a much better place than we were a year ago, but I must warn, once again, against complacency. The uncertainty is very high, and we have to be extremely cautious,” he told an energy industry event.

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