Crude oil prices extended gains on Thursday following the report that China, the world’s largest importer of crude oil is considering a cut in its quarantine duration for inbound visitors.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil price is measured, rose to $93.71 a barrel at 10:39 am Nigerian time, up from $89.34 it traded on Wednesday.
The U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil, appreciated from $81.60 per barrel it traded on Wednesday to $85.76 a barrel.
“The market is bouncing on that quarantine news and by extension a flickering light at the end of the zero-Covid policy tunnel,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, adding that this is “the first positive sign we have seen out of China on the Covid front.”
Earlier this year, China instituted broad-based COVID-19 measures in key cities to contain the spread of the virus and avert the 2020 type of lockdown. This weighed heavily on business and economic activity and plunged demand for crude oil.
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that China is considering easing some of the measures for inbound visitors. Quoting people familiar with the matter, the report said the quarantine period for inbound visitors would be eased from the current 10 days to 7 days.
According to the report, Chinese officials are planning to cut the quarantine period to two days in a hotel and then five days at home, but there is no clarity yet on how the new restrictions would apply to foreigners and other visitors without a residence in China.
However, Innes has warned that China’s zero-Covid policy is likely to remain in place, at least through the first quarter of 2023. Therefore, maintains a bullish his bullish view on oil going into the new year.
“Short of an unlikely shale oil revival, there are few lasting policy measures the Biden administration can use to effective push oil much lower.”
Oil Prices Continue Slide as Market Skepticism Grows Over OPEC+ Cuts
Global oil markets witnessed a continued decline on Wednesday as investors assessed the impact of extended OPEC+ cuts against a backdrop of diminishing demand prospects in China.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian crude oil, declined by 63 cents to $76.57 a barrel while U.S. WTI crude oil lost 58 cents to $71.74 a barrel.
Last week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, agreed to maintain voluntary output cuts of approximately 2.2 million barrels per day through the first quarter of 2024.
Despite this effort to tighten supply, market sentiment remains unresponsive.
“The decision to further reduce output from January failed to stimulate the market, and the recent, seemingly coordinated, assurances from Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend the constraints beyond 1Q 2024 or even deepen the cuts if needed have also fallen to deaf ears,” noted PVM analyst Tamas Varga.
Adding to the unease, Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut its official selling price (OSP) for flagship Arab Light to Asia in January for the first time in seven months raises concerns about the struggling demand for oil.
Amid the market turmoil, concerns over China’s economic health cast a shadow, potentially limiting fuel demand in the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
Moody’s recent decision to lower China’s A1 rating outlook from stable to negative further contributes to the apprehension.
Analysts will closely watch China’s preliminary trade data, including crude oil import figures, set to be released on Thursday.
The outcome will provide insights into the trajectory of China’s refinery runs, with expectations leaning towards a decline in November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia has added an extra layer of complexity to the oil market dynamics.
Discussions centered around the cooperation between Russia, the UAE, and OPEC+ in major oil and gas projects, highlighting the intricate geopolitical factors influencing oil prices.
U.S. Crude Production Hits Another Record, Posing Challenges for OPEC
U.S. crude oil production reached a new record in September, surging by 224,000 barrels per day to 13.24 million barrels per day.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a consecutive monthly increase, adding 342,000 barrels per day over the previous three months, marking an annualized growth rate of 11%.
The surge in domestic production has led to a buildup of crude inventories and a softening of prices, challenging OPEC⁺ efforts to stabilize the market.
Despite a decrease in the number of active drilling rigs over the past year, U.S. production continues to rise.
This growth is attributed to enhanced drilling efficiency, with producers focusing on promising sites and drilling longer horizontal well sections to maximize contact with oil-bearing rock.
While OPEC⁺ production cuts have stabilized prices at relatively high levels, U.S. producers are benefiting from this stability.
The current strategy seems to embrace non-OPEC non-shale (NONS) producers, similar to how North Sea producers did in the 1980s.
Saudi Arabia, along with its OPEC⁺ partners, is resuming its role as a swing producer, balancing the market by adjusting its output.
Despite OPEC’s inability to formally collaborate with U.S. shale producers due to antitrust laws, efforts are made to include other NONS producers like Brazil in the coordination system.
This outreach aligns with the historical pattern of embracing rival producers to maintain control over a significant share of global production.
In contrast, U.S. gas production hit a seasonal record high in September, reaching 3,126 billion cubic feet.
However, unlike crude, there are signs that gas production growth is slowing due to very low prices and the absence of a swing producer.
Gas production increased by only 1.8% in September 2023 compared to the same month the previous year.
While the gas market is in the process of rebalancing, excess inventories may persist, keeping prices low.
The impact of a strengthening El Niño in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean could further influence temperatures and reduce nationwide heating demand, impacting gas prices in the coming months.
Nigeria Takes Bold Step to Energize Oil Sector: Plans to Revoke Dormant Exploration Leases
The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum and Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) has announced that the Federal Government is considering revoking inactive oil exploration leases granted to companies unable to conduct exploration activities.
Gbenga Komolafe, CEO of NUPRC, conveyed that only companies demonstrating robust technical and financial capabilities would retain their leases under the guidelines of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
“Based on PIA, the commission is focused on delivering value for the nation, so only firms that are technically and financially viable will keep their leases,” affirmed Komolafe in a statement to Reuters.
He outlined that the commission plans to review existing leases, and the allocation of new leases will be contingent upon specific terms and conditions.
Current data from NUPRC reveals that over 60% of prospecting licenses, comprising 53 exploration leases issued since 2003, have expired. Of these, 33 licenses, including four entangled in contract disputes, have not been renewed.
While automatic revocation has not been exercised, the regulator signals a departure from allowing companies to indefinitely retain leases without meaningful exploration activities.
The enactment of the PIA in 2021 empowers the regulator to assess the technical and financial capabilities of companies holding oil exploration leases.
The Nigerian oil and gas sector has faced challenges, witnessing dwindling investments as major players exit onshore and shallow water assets due to security concerns, infrastructure sabotage, and legal disputes in the Niger Delta.
The proposed move aims to incentivize active exploration, addressing the sector’s stagnation and fostering renewed investor confidence.
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