No Rapid Rebound for Oil Prices ( MorningStar Energy Forecast )

Energy: No Rapid Rebound for Oil Prices

The rapid decline in oil prices has created significant investment opportunities, but downside risk remains in the short term.
  • The United States has rapidly become the critical source of incremental supply for global oil markets, and growth has come overwhelmingly from unconventional drilling. The large increases in U.S. output did not upset global supply/demand balances over the past few years, largely because significant amounts of supply were disrupted by political/security issues (Libya and Iran, for example). But in 2014 the scales finally tipped: Combined with weakening demand and OPEC’s decision not to reduce its own production, major supply imbalances resulted that, as of today, have yet to dissipate.
  • In the current market environment of high costs and low oil prices, upstream firms face extremely challenged economics where new investment is not value-creative. Such conditions are not sustainable over the long term, however, and we expect the combination of rising oil prices and falling costs to provide significant relief in the coming years.
  • Despite our belief that tight oil has considerable running room from here, it can’t completely meet future global demand. The marginal barrel, therefore, will come from higher up the global cost curve. Our forecasts show that higher-quality deep-water projects will be the highest-cost source of supply needed during the rest of the decade. As a result of this meaningful move down the cost curve, our midcycle oil price forecast for Brent is $75 per barrel (WTI: $69/bbl), meaningfully below 2014 highs.
  • Although U.S. gas production is likely to slow in the near term as oil-directed drilling hits the brakes, the wealth of low-cost inventory in areas like the Marcellus points to continued growth through the end of this decade and beyond. Abundant supply is holding current prices low, but in the long run we anticipate relief from incremental demand from LNG exports as well as industry. Our midcycle U.S. natural gas price estimate is $4/mcf.

Given both its remaining growth potential and ability to scale up and down activity quickly, tight oil has effectively made the United States the world’s newest swing producer. Drastic spending cuts will lead to a meaningful decline in near-term production, but the strong economics of the major U.S. liquids plays means production will begin growing again as soon as oil prices recover.

David Meats is an equity analyst for Morningstar.

Based on our belief that U.S. unconventionals will continue to be able to meet 35%-40% of incremental new supply requirements in the coming years, we believe that additional volumes from high-cost resources such as oil sands mining and marginal deep-water will not be needed for the foreseeable future. This disruptive force that already has upended global crude markets isn’t going away anytime soon. U.S. shale once again is proving truly to be a game changer.

Meanwhile, demand tailwinds from exports and industrial consumption will help balance the domestic gas market eventually, but ongoing cost pressures from efficiency gains and excess services capacity–as well as the crowding out of higher-cost production by world-class resources such as the Marcellus Shale and associated volumes from oil-rich areas such as the Eagle Ford and Permian–are weighing on near-term prices. Even under these circumstances, however, undervalued, cost-advantaged investment opportunities remain.

Top Energy Sector Picks
Star Rating
Fair Value
Estimate
Economic
Moat
Fair Value
Uncertainty
Consider
Buying
Encana
$16
Narrow
Very High $8
ExxonMobil
$98
Wide
Low $78.40
Cabot Oil & Gas
$43
Narrow
High $25.80
Data as of June 22, 2015

Encana (ECA)
Encana is our top pick within the U.S. oil-focused exploration and production group. The company’s growth is underpinned by high-quality Permian and Eagle Ford acreage. The company has transformed dramatically in the past 12 months, with two major acquisitions and a string of divestitures and is emerging leaner and meaner. The company now has a footprint in several top-quality oil plays in the United States and Canada.

ExxonMobil (XOM)
We view ExxonMobil as offering the best combination of value, quality, and defensiveness. Exxon will see its portfolio mix shift to liquids pricing as gas volumes decline and as new oil and liquefied natural gas projects start production. The company historically set itself apart from the other majors as a superior capital allocator and operator, delivering higher returns on capital than its peers as a result.

Cabot Oil & Gas (COG)
On the gas side, Cabot controls more than a decade of highly productive, low-cost drilling inventory targeting the dry gas Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Fully loaded cash break-even costs are less than $2.50 per mcf.

ADD UPDATE at close of market:

Each week we look at the level of crude oil located in U.S. storage tanks around the country, which offers a glimpse into the inner workings of production and consumption levels. After peaking earlier this spring, U.S. crude inventories have undergone successive weeks of drawdowns, indicating slowing production and higher demand from consumers. In Europe, however, the story is different. Crude storage is reaching a multi-year high at the trading hub of Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp, known as ARA. In fact, storage levels have spiked since the beginning of the year to 60.6 million barrels in June. European storage is growing so rapidly because a lot of oil coming from Africa is having trouble finding interested buyers, forcing it into storage.

Growing storage levels in the U.S. pushed down oil prices earlier this year, and the same could hold true for European storage. That points to a persistent glut in global oil markets, with production exceeding demand by around 2 million barrels per day according to IEA estimates. Even if some of that supply can get soaked up by extra demand, there is a lot of oil sitting idle in tanks right now. That means oil prices likely won’t jump in the near term because the markets will need to work through the excess sitting in storage first.

While inventories are drawing down in the U.S., a group of companies are proposingincreased storage along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Magellan Midstream Partners and LBC Tank Terminals are proposing a $95 million oil storage facility near Houston. The facility would be able to hold around 700,000 barrels of crude and would be connected to existing distribution infrastructure. If it moves forward, the site could be completed by 2017. Magellan’s project would greatly expand storage along the Gulf Coast, helping refiners access and store product.

In another major construction project along the Gulf Coast, Cheniere Energy (NYSE: LNG) announced that it would take on $5.8 billion in new debt to build a fifth LNG train at its Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana. Lining up financing is a crucial step before construction can begin. Cheniere hopes to further expand by building a sixth LNG train, but has not secured financing for that yet. The company expects to liquefy and ship its first load of LNG later this year when its first train finishes construction, kicking off a new era in which the U.S. becomes a natural gas exporter.

Advertisements

One thought on “No Rapid Rebound for Oil Prices ( MorningStar Energy Forecast )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s