Oil prices edged higher in rangebound trade on Monday on optimism about a rebound in the U.S. economy as vaccinations accelerate, but rising COVID-19 cases in other parts of the world kept a lid on prices.
The prices have remained rangebound in the last three weeks, with Brent between $60 and $65 per barrel and WTI at $57 to $62.
“Oil prices are entering a consolidation phase after swinging wildly last month,” Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM.
“While there are still plenty of reasons to be bullish, market players have become more cautious as infections have surged in Europe, India and some emerging markets, while vaccine rollouts have proved slower than anticipated,” he added.
India now accounts for one in every six daily infections worldwide, and other parts of Asia are seeing infection rates rise.
Asian oil demand remained weak and some buyers asked for lower volumes in May partly because of refinery maintenance and higher prices.
The United States has fully vaccinated more than 70 million people but U.S. gasoline demand has not picked up as much as expected.
The U.S. economy is at an “inflection point” amid expectations that growth and hiring will accelerate in the months ahead, but faces the risk of reopening too quickly and sparking a resurgence in coronavirus cases, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
“There really are risks out there. And the principal one just is that we will reopen too quickly, people will too quickly return to their old practices, and we’ll see another spike in cases,” Powell said in a CBS interview, recorded on Wednesday.
On the production side, no new oil drilling rigs were started in the United States in the most recent week, a report published by Baker Hughes showed.
Oil Slips With Energy Prices in Europe Halts Record Rally
Oil dipped toward $72 a barrel in New York after prices of energy commodities in Europe halted a record-breaking run.
West Texas Intermediate futures fell 0.6%, having reached the highest intraday level since early August on Wednesday. A rally in European gas and power prices to unprecedented levels was set to end as industries were starting to curb consumption. The surge in energy rates could temporarily boost diesel demand by as much as 2 million barrels a day as consumers switch fuels, according to Citigroup Inc.
Still, the bullish signals for oil are continuing to increase. U.S. crude inventories dropped by more than 6 million barrels last week to a two-year low, according to government figures, as coronavirus vaccination programs permit economies to reopen. Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Mike Wirth warned that the world is facing high energy prices for the foreseeable future.
The investor optimism is showing up in key oil time spreads widening. Trading of bullish Brent options also surged to a two-month high on Wednesday.
Prices have been pushed higher in recent days “by supply outages combined with expectations of switching from gas to oil in the power sector,” said Helge Andre Martinsen, a senior oil market analyst at DNB Bank ASA. “We still believe in softer prices toward year-end and early next year as curtailed production returns and OPEC+ continues to increase production.”
Strong prices for gas, liquefied natural gas and oil are expected to last “for a while” as producers resist the urge to drill again, Chevron’s Wirth told Bloomberg News. Norway’s Equinor ASA said Thursday it also expects European gas prices to remain high over winter.
Nigeria Sets Up N20B Oil Sector Research Fund
The minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has launched a US$50 million Nigerian Content Research and Development (R&D) fund, this is seen as a breath of fresh air in a country where funding for research has been lacking.
The launching of the fund by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) was also an occasion for the commissioning of the Board’s Technology Incubation and Innovation Center located within the Board’s Tower in Yenogoa, Bayelsa.
The minister said through a representative said the fund would be used to create research centers of excellence, finance research commercialisation, funding support for basic and applied research and endowment of professorial chairs in universities and research institutions in the country.
Nigeria spends only about 0.2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on research and development annually as against developed and some developing countries that spend between 2.5 to 4 percent and between 0.7 and to 1.2 percent of their annual GDP respectively on research and development.
Sylva said that the continued underfunding of research and development in Nigeria has continued to reflect on the country’s overdependence on foreign goods and services.
”This is unsustainable if we are serious about building a national technological capability that will drive economic growth,” he said.
The minister, therefore, urged oil and gas operating and service companies and other members of the private sector to embrace investment in R&D as a key component of their business model in order to complement the NCDMB effort.
While commissioning the Technology Incubation and Innovation Center, Sylva said that the center will provide a formidable platform for the generation, incubation and acceleration of innovative ideas to the world marketplace.
He said innovations start from the creation of ecosystems where ideas can connect and challenged various industry stakeholders and youths to utilize the Center to solidify adaptation of existing solutions and also create new solutions that address major industry challenges in the country.
Sylva reconstituted the Nigerian Content Research and Development Council, NCRDC. The council consists of delegates from three key groups including the Government, Industry and Academia.
The council offers policies that shape the direction of NCDMB’s research interventions with a membership that includes representatives of the Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria, PETAN, Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS and the Petroleum Contractors Trade Section, PCTS.
Other statutory members include the National Universities Commission, NUC, the National Board for Technology Incubation, NBTI and the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, NOTAP.
Speaking earlier during his presentation, Simbi Kesiye Wabote, the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, noted that research and development are integral to the growth and development of any nation as it plays an important role in opening new chapters of modern life.
Wabote however regretted that African nations accounted for less than 1 percent of what is spent on R&D globally, adding that the continent’s aggregate GDP is only 3 percent of the global GDP.
“There is a nexus between what is spent on research and development and economic prosperity. It is time to start nurturing the growth of our home-grown technology rather than just being a wholesome consumer of other people’s innovation,” he said.
According to Wabote, another reason NCDMB is channeling its efforts on research and development is that it is one of the six parameters which are essential for sustainable local content practice.
Other five parameters for sustainable local content development according to him include an enabling regulatory framework, periodic gap analysis, structured capacity building and fiscal and monetary incentives to attract new investments and keep existing businesses afloat as well as create access to the market to enhance patronage of goods and services generated from established capacities.
He further explained that another reason the Board is promoting research and development in the oil and gas industry is that it is in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development, NOGICD, Act of 2010.
“The authors of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act of 2010 recognized the importance of Research and Development and included key provisions in the Act. Specifically, Sections 36, 37, 38, and 39, of the NOGICD Act are dedicated to promoting Research and Development,” Wabote said.
He also noted that research and development is a major feature of the Board’s 10-Year Strategic roadmap that seeks to increase the level of Nigerian content in the oil and gas industry to 70 percent by the year 2027.
He said, “The 10-Year Roadmap consists of five pillars and four enablers. The pillar on Technical Capability Development contains initiatives to further drive the delivery of Research and Development in the oil and gas industry.
The enabler on research and statistics cover the initiatives required to conduct research in key areas to generate new evidence to address industry knowledge gaps and operational challenges.”
Wabote said the Board would soon embark on a roadshow to showcase its research and development initiatives to the various stakeholder groups in the country, including universities that represent a key constituency; saying that the Board was set to move fully into the implementation phase of its initiatives to derive better results from the intellect of Nigerians in the academia, research institutions, and technology hubs.
Oil Rises on Supply Concerns as Hurricane Ida Disrupts Global Oil Market
Crude oil gained on Monday amid concerns output from the United States, the world’s largest oil producer may remain below usual level given damages done by Hurricane Ida three weeks ago.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian crude oil is priced, gained 62 cents or 0.9 percent to $73.54 a barrel at 11:56 am Nigerian time while the U.S West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil appreciated by 64 cents or 0.9 percent to $70.36 per barrel.
Brent crude oil has remained in range, trading between $70 and $74 per barrel in the last three weeks, a position expected by most oil experts to be maintained in the near-term.
“Oil prices may not have much room to rise in the near term, but at the same time are not expected to crash soon,” said Stephen Brennock of broker PVM.
Last week, in a report released by th U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the administration said it expects Brent crude oil to remain around current levels for the rest of 2021, averaging $71 a barrel in the fourth quarter of the year.
“Markets still need clarity on the virus impacts beyond the very near term and until we get that, it seems like most assets, including oil, may continue to drift sideways,” Howie Lee, an economist at Singapore’s OCBC bank.
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