Goldman Sachs Group, an American multinational investment bank and financial services company, has revised down its Brent oil price projection for the third quarter (Q3) of 2021 by $5 from $80 per barrel previously predicted to $75 a barrel following the surge in Delta variant COVID-19.
The investment bank predicted that the surge in Delta variant COVID-19 cases will weigh on Brent oil price in Q3 2021 even with the expected increase in demand.
However, the bank projected a stronger second half of 2021, saying OPEC+ adopted slower production ramp-up will offset 1 million barrel per day demand hit from Delta.
Goldman said, “Our oil balances are slightly tighter in 2H21 than previously, with an assumed two-month 1 mb/d demand hit from Delta more than offset by OPEC+ slower production ramp-up.”
The leading investment banks now projected a deficit of 1.5 million barrels per day in the third quarter, down from 1.9 million barrels per day previously predicted.
Therefore, Brent crude oil is expected to average $80 per barrel in the fourth quarter, a $5 increase from the $75 initially predicted and the bank sees 1.7 million barrels per day in the fourth quarter.
“The oil market repricing to a higher equilibrium is far from over, with the bullish impulse shifting from the demand to the supply side,” the bank said.
Goldman added that even if vaccinations fail to curb hospitalisation rates, which could drive a longer slump to demand, the decline would be offset by lower OPEC+ and U.S. shale output given current prices.
“Oil prices may continue to gyrate wildly in the coming weeks, given the uncertainties around Delta variant and the slow velocity of supply developments relative to the recent demand gains,” it said.
Brent Crude Oil Trading at $84.53 a Barrel
The increase in Omicron variant cases has cast doubt on demand for crude oil in the near-term and trimmed gains recorded earlier in the week on Thursday during the Asian trading session.
The brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, pulled back from $85.16 per barrel on Wednesday to $84.53 per barrel at 9:50 am Nigerian time on Thursday.
The uncertainty surrounding the highly contagious Omicron variant and its impact on fuel demand has shown by the U.S Energy Information Administration on Wednesday dragged on the global crude oil outlook.
The data released on Wednesday revealed that gasoline stockpiles rose by 8 million barrels last week, way higher than the 2.4 million barrel increase projected by experts. Suggesting that demand for the commodity is gradually waning in response to omicron.
“Gasoline demand was weaker-than-expected and still below pre-pandemic levels, and if this becomes a trend, oil won’t be able to continue to push higher,” OANDA analyst Edward Moya stated.
However, in a note to Investors King, Craig Erlam, a senior market analyst, UK & EMEA, OANDA, expected the impact of omicron to be short-lived. Libya’s inability to ramp up production after outage and OPEC plus continuous failure to meet production target are expected to support crude oil in the main term even with Kazakhstan expected to get back to pre-disruption levels in a few days.
“With omicron seen being less of a drag on growth and demand than feared. Combine this with short supply and there may be some room to run in the rally as restrictions are removed. Of course, Covid brings unpredictability and zero-covid policies of China and some others bring plenty of downside risk for prices,” he said.
Unrest in Kazakhstan and Libya Shoots up Oil Prices
The ongoing unrest in Kazakhstan and the supply outage in Libya have bolstered global oil prices on Thursday.
The deadly violence, across the tightly controlled former Soviet state, has been condemned by Russia, which sent paratroopers on Thursday into Kazakhstan to quell the unrest.
However, there were no indications that oil production in the country has been affected so far.
“The political situation in Kazakhstan is becoming increasingly tense.” German financial institution, Commerzbank said, “And this is a country that is currently producing 1.6 million barrels of oil per day.”
The Global benchmark Brent crude futures rose $1.78, or 2.2%, to $82.58 a barrel by 1445 GMT, the highest since late November. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures also gained $2.18, or 2.8%, to $80.03, the highest since mid-November.
However, Brent’s six-month backwardation stood at about $4 a barrel, its widest since late November.
Backwardation is a market structure where current prices trade at a premium to future prices. It is usually a sign of a bullish market.
In Libya, lack of maintenance and oilfields shutdowns has plunged the leading African oil producer’s output to 729,000 bpd.
According to Libya’s National Oil Corp on Thursday, production slumped from a high of more than 1.3 million bpd recorded in 2021.
The oil prices rallied despite a surge in United States fuel stocks last week.
The North American country’s crude oil stockpiles fell last week while gasoline inventories surged by more than 10 million barrels, the biggest weekly build since April 2020, as supplies backed up at refineries because of reduced fuel demand, Reuters noted.
OPEC+ on Tuesday agreed to further increase oil production by 400,000 bpd in February, as it has done each month since August.
Top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia however cut the official selling price for all grades of crude it sells to Asia in February by at least $1 a barrel.
Nigerian Firms to Buy $3bn Oil Stakes in Shell Nigeria
The Royal Dutch Shell Company has revealed that five Nigerian oil and gas firms are preparing to submit bids for the company’s onshore oilfields.
The sale could generate up to $3 billion in revenue, sources working with Shell told Reuters.
Recall that the Anglo-Dutch company which owns stakes in 19 oil mining leases in Nigeria’s onshore oil and gas joint venture informed the federal government of plans to sell its stakes.
The company controls a 30% stake in the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC). This is 25% lesser than the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which holds 55%. TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) has 10% and ENI 5%.
The oil and gas industry, including banking sources, have said that Shell’s assets in the last quarter of 2021 were valued at $2 billion to $3 billion.
However, Shell has made it clear it is selling off its stakes as part of its drive to reduce carbon emissions.
The company has also struggled for years with spills in the Niger Delta due to pipeline theft and sabotage as well as operational issues, leading to costly repairs and high-profile lawsuits.
According to the sources speaking to Reuters, the stock sale has drawn interest from independent Nigerian oil and gas firms including Seplat Energy (SEPLAT.LG), Sahara Group, Famfa Oil, Troilus Investments Limited and Nigeria Delta Exploration and Production (NDEP).
No international oil companies, however, were expected to take part in the bidding process at this point. They may however be allowed to bid before the close of the process by Jan. 31, the sources noted.
The reality is that it remains unclear if potential bidders could raise sufficient funds as many international banks and investors have become wary about oil and gas assets in Nigeria due to concerns about environmental issues and corruption.
Some African and Asian banks, however, were still willing to finance fossil fuel operations in the region, they said.
The buyer of Shell’s assets, the sources say, will also need to show it can deal with future damage to the oil infrastructure which has ravaged Nigeria’s Delta in recent years.
Another possibility is that NNPC, as the majority stakeholder holding 55% of SPDC shares, could also choose to exercise its right to pre-empt any sale to a third company.
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