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Oil Prices Drop as U.S. Fed Signals Interest Rate Hike, But China’s Oil Imports and Travel Boom Provide Hope

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Oil prices have extended their losses amid growing concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve will indicate further interest rate hikes in the coming months, thereby lowering global economic growth and fuel demand. However, the recent surge in China’s tourism industry could help offset some of these losses.

Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian oil, fell by 23 cents to $82.82 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil declined 21 cents to $76.15 a barrel.

The U.S. Fed’s announcement on its latest meeting is expected to project interest rates going higher, raising concerns of a global recession and further dampening fuel demand.

But, the booming Chinese travel industry could provide a silver lining. According to reports, China expects its tourism market to flourish this year, with a busy and robust summer travel season as travellers flock to vacation destinations.

This comes after the Chinese government ended its strict zero-COVID policy, which kept people home for almost three years.

The rise in travel demand in China could also translate into an increase in oil demand. Analysts predict that China’s oil imports will hit a record high in 2023, primarily to meet the increased demand for transportation fuel, as new refineries come on stream.

In a recent note, Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at ANZ Bank, pointed to state-owned PetroChina and Unipec booking 10 supertankers to import oil from the U.S. next month, equivalent to about 20 million barrels of crude, as a sign of China’s rising demand for oil.

Moreover, Vortexa’s head of APAC analysis, Serena Huang, noted that China’s demand for gasoline and jet fuel is expected to recover, which could provide a much-needed boost to the global oil industry.

Despite concerns of an economic downturn and fuel demand loss due to the anticipated rise in U.S. interest rates, China’s booming travel industry and rising oil demand could help cushion the overall price weakness in the global oil market.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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NNPCL CEO Optimistic as Nigeria’s Oil Production Edges Closer to 1.7mbpd

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Mele Kyari, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), has expressed optimism as the nation’s oil production approaches 1.7 million barrels per day (mbpd).

Kyari’s positive outlook comes amidst ongoing efforts to address security challenges and enhance infrastructure crucial for oil production and distribution.

Speaking at a stakeholders’ engagement between the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) and NNPCL in Lagos, Kyari highlighted the significance of combating insecurity in the oil and gas sector to facilitate increased production.

Kyari said there is a need for substantial improvements in infrastructure to support oil production.

He noted that Nigeria’s crude oil production has been hampered by pipeline vandalism, prompting alternative transportation methods like barging and trucking of petroleum products, which incur additional costs and logistical challenges.

Despite these challenges, Kyari revealed that Nigeria’s oil production is steadily rising, presently approaching 1.7mbpd.

He attributed this progress to ongoing efforts to combat pipeline vandalism and enhance infrastructure resilience.

Kyari stressed the importance of taking control of critical infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted oil production and distribution.

One of the key projects highlighted by Kyari is the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline, which plays a crucial role in enhancing gas supply infrastructure.

He noted that completing the final phase of the AKK pipeline, particularly the 2.7 km river crossing, would facilitate the flow of gas from the eastern to the western regions of Nigeria, supporting industrial growth and energy security.

Addressing industry stakeholders, including NAPE representatives, Kyari reiterated the importance of collaboration in advancing Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

He emphasized the need for technical training, data availability, and policy incentives to drive innovation and growth in the industry.

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Oil Prices Surge Amidst Political Turmoil: Brent Tops $84

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The global oil market witnessed a significant surge in prices as political upheaval rocked two of the world’s largest crude producers, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, rose above $84 a barrel while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil climbed over the $80 threshold.

The sudden spike in oil prices followed a tragic incident in Iran, where President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian lost their lives in a helicopter crash.

Simultaneously, apprehensions over the health of Saudi Arabia’s king added to the geopolitical tensions gripping the oil market.

Saudi Arabia stands as the leading producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), while Iran ranks as the third-largest.

Despite these significant developments, there are no immediate indications of disruptions to oil supply from either nation.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reassured that the country’s affairs would continue without interruption in the aftermath of the tragic event.

However, the geopolitical landscape remains fraught with additional concerns, amplifying market volatility.

In Ukraine, drone attacks persist on Russian refining facilities, exacerbating tensions between the two nations.

Moreover, a China-bound oil tanker fell victim to a Houthi missile strike in the Red Sea, further fueling anxiety over supply disruptions.

Warren Patterson, head of commodities strategy for ING Groep NV in Singapore, remarked on the market’s reaction to geopolitical events, noting a certain desensitization due to ample spare production capacity within OPEC.

He emphasized the need for clarity from OPEC+ regarding output policies to potentially break the current price range.

While global benchmark Brent has experienced a 9% increase year-to-date, largely driven by OPEC+ supply cuts, prices had cooled off since mid-April amidst easing geopolitical tensions.

Attention now turns to the upcoming OPEC+ meeting scheduled for June 1, with market observers anticipating a continuation of existing production curbs.

Despite the surge in oil prices, there’s a growing sense of bearishness among hedge funds, evidenced by the reduction of net long positions on Brent for a second consecutive week.

This sentiment extends to bets on rising gasoline prices ahead of the US summer driving season, indicating a cautious outlook among investors.

As the oil market grapples with geopolitical uncertainties and supply dynamics, stakeholders await further developments and policy decisions from key players to navigate the evolving landscape effectively.

The coming weeks are poised to be critical in determining the trajectory of oil prices amidst a backdrop of geopolitical turmoil and market volatility.

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Dangote Mega Refinery in Nigeria Seeks Millions of Barrels of US Crude Amid Output Challenges

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Dangote Refinery

The Dangote Mega Refinery, situated near Lagos, Nigeria, is embarking on an ambitious plan to procure millions of barrels of US crude over the next year.

The refinery, established by Aliko Dangote, Africa’s wealthiest individual, has issued a term tender for the purchase of 2 million barrels a month of West Texas Intermediate Midland crude for a duration of 12 months, commencing in July.

This development revealed through a document obtained by Bloomberg, represents a shift in strategy for the refinery, which has opted for US oil imports due to constraints in the availability and reliability of Nigerian crude.

Elitsa Georgieva, Executive Director at Citac, an energy consultancy specializing in the African downstream sector, emphasized the allure of US crude for Dangote’s refinery.

Georgieva highlighted the challenges associated with sourcing Nigerian crude, including insufficient supply, unreliability, and sometimes unavailability.

In contrast, US WTI offers reliability, availability, and competitive pricing, making it an attractive option for Dangote.

Nigeria’s struggles to meet its OPEC+ quota and sustain its crude production capacity have been ongoing for at least a year.

Despite an estimated production capacity of 2.6 million barrels a day, the country only managed to pump about 1.45 million barrels a day of crude and liquids in April.

Factors contributing to this decline include crude theft, aging oil pipelines, low investment, and divestments by oil majors operating in Nigeria.

To address the challenge of local supply for the Dangote refinery, Nigeria’s upstream regulators have proposed new draft rules compelling oil producers to prioritize selling crude to domestic refineries.

This regulatory move aims to ensure sufficient local supply to support the operations of the 650,000 barrel-a-day Dangote refinery.

Operating at about half capacity presently, the Dangote refinery has capitalized on the opportunity to secure cheaper US oil imports to fulfill up to a third of its feedstock requirements.

Since the beginning of the year, the refinery has been receiving monthly shipments of about 2 million barrels of WTI Midland from the United States.

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