Ratings cut on Chesapeake Energy, other oil and gas producers :Outlooks Cut to Negative by S&P in Oil Slump


Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. were among several U.S. oil and natural gas producers that had their outlooks or ratings cut by Standard & Poor’s as the industry suffers from weak crude prices, hurting their cash flow and liquidity.

S&P cut ratings for Chesapeake Energy Corp., Denbury Resources and Whiting Petroleum Corp., while giving Exxon and Chevron “negative” outlooks, the ratings agency said Friday in a statement. Exxon “has substantially more debt than during the last cyclical commodity price trough in 2009, while upstream production and costs are at similar levels,” S&P analysts Thomas Watters and Carin Dehne-Kiley said.

Oil prices have fallen 58 percent from last year’s peak, threatening $1.5 trillion in North America energy investments, according to Wood Mackenzie Ltd.  Oil has been stuck near $45 a barrel as U.S. crude stockpiles stay about 100 million barrels above the five-year seasonal average and OPEC pumps at near-record levels.

Exxon is one of only three U.S. industrial issuers to have a triple-A bond rating, along with Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft Corp. The oil company has held that grade from S&P since at least 1985, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The last U.S. company to lose the triple-A designation from S&P, as well as Moody’s Investors Service, was Automatic Data Processing Inc., which was stripped of the ratings after spinning off its auto-dealer services unit in April 2014.

Chevron has been rated AA by S&P since at least July 1987, Bloomberg data show.

“Most rating actions reflect lower credit-protection measures, negative cash flow, and uncertainty about liquidity over the next 12 months,” S&P said in the statement.

Atlantic Crude Adds to Seasonal Pressure on Prices : Bloomberg -Russia Rules Out Deal With OPEC


  • North Sea output set to reach highest level in over 3 years
  • Abundant supply comes as refiners poised to start maintenance

The North Sea and Nigeria will ship the most crude in more than three years in October, adding to downward pressure on oil prices just as demand wanes from refiners shutting down for seasonal maintenance.

Output of North Sea grades will reach the highest since May 2012 next month, according to loading programs compiled by Bloomberg. Supplies from Nigeria, the biggest oil producer in Africa, are set to reach a level not seen since August of that year.

“It’s directionally bearish for crude,” Vikas Dwivedi, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Inc. said by e-mail. “The large loading programs will need buyers.”

Production in the North Sea is rising as projects come online that were sanctioned with oil prices above $100 a barrel, according to the International Energy Agency. This coincides with the end of a shutdown in Nigeria caused by a pipeline leak, allowing supplies to flow back to the market, Dwivedi said. Demand for crude will weaken as refiners shut down for seasonal maintenance, although this year’s schedule will belighter than usual as companies take advantage of high profit margins.

Shipments of Brent, Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk and other North Sea grades, will average 2.1 million barrels a day in October, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Nigerian supplies will total 2.2 million and Angola will ship 1.77 million, the data show.

There is an “existing overhang of the crude in the northwest of Europe, as well as in West Africa,” Abhishek Deshpande, an analyst at Natixis SA said by phone. Together with refiners going offline for seasonal maintenance, that “only tells you one story — pressure on Brent and West African prices.”

Persistent Surplus

Brent crude fell 59 cents to $49.02 a barrel on the at 12:09 p.m. on London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange. The North Sea benchmark has fallen more than 50 percent in the past year amid a persistent global production surplus.

Refineries in Europe are expected to halt an average of 162,000 barrels a day of processing capacity from this month through to the end of the year compared with 768,000 a day in the same period of 2014, energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie said on Aug. 25. Maintenance, which usually starts in the third week of September or first week of October, may also be pushed back, Deshpande said.

The current increase in North Sea production is temporary relief for an industry facing long-term decline in output from aging fields and high production costs.

The collapse in oil prices has forced companies in the region to cut costs costs, resulting in the loss of about 5,500 jobs since late 2014, the U.K. Oil & Gas Authority, the industry regulator, said in a report Monday. The organization was set up to lay out a plan for improving the competitiveness of the North Sea.

Oil declined for a second day after another Russian official ruled out cooperation on production cuts with OPEC, adding to signs that a global oversupply will persist.

Brent lost 4 percent in London. Russia won’t join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and isn’t able to cut production in the same way, said OAO Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said last week there is no way the country can artificially reduce supply.

Oil has fluctuated the past three weeks as concerns over slowing demand in China fueled volatility in global markets. Prices are down more than 25 percent from this year’s closing peak in June on signs the surplus will persist. OPEC members are sustaining output and U.S. crude stockpiles remain almost 100 million barrels above the five-year seasonal average.

Russia Rules Out Deal With OPEC

“Russia’s comments on the market are having some impact on prices today,” Bjarne Schieldrop, Oslo-based chief commodities analyst at SEB AB, said by phone. “There’s some positive data coming from U.S. rig counts for example, and that could be positive for oil prices this week.”

Brent for October settlement lost $1.98 to settle at $47.63 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark crude traded at a premium of $3.37 to West Texas Intermediate. Prices have decreased 17 percent this year.

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Iraq About to Flood Oil Market in New Front of OPEC Price War

(Bloomberg) — Iraq is taking OPEC’s strategy to defend its share of the global oil market to a new level.

The nation plans to boost crude exports by about 26 percent to a record 3.75 million barrels a day next month, according to shipping programs, signaling an escalation of OPEC strategy to undercut U.S. shale drillers in the current market rout. The additional Iraqi oil is equal to about 800,000 barrels a day, or more than comes from OPEC member Qatar. The rest of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is expected to rubber stamp its policy to maintain output levels at a meeting on June 5.

While shipping schedules aren’t a promise of future production, they are indicative of what may come. The following chart graphs planned tanker loadings (in red) against exports.

As in previous months, Iraq might not hit its June target – export capacity is currently capped at 3.1 million barrels a day, Deputy Oil Minister Fayyad al-Nimaa said on May 18. Still, any extra Iraqi supplies inevitably mean OPEC strays even further above its collective output target of 30 million barrels a day, Morgan Stanley says. The following chart shows OPEC increasing output in recent months against its current target.

Defying the threat from Islamic State militants, Iraq has been ramping up exports from both the Shiite south – where companies like BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc operate – and the Kurdish region in the north, which last year reached a temporary compromise with the federal government on its right to sell crude independently.

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Half of U.S. Fracking Companies Will Be Sold OR Dead This Year

Half of the 41 fracking companies operating in the U.S. will be dead or sold by year-end because of slashed spending by oil companies, an executive with Weatherford International Plc said.
There could be about 20 companies left that provide hydraulic fracturing services, Rob Fulks, pressure pumping marketing director at Weatherford, said in an interview Wednesday at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston. Demand for fracking, a production method that along with horizontal drilling spurred a boom in U.S. oil and natural gas output, has declined as customers leave wells uncompleted because of low prices.
There were 61 fracking service providers in the U.S., the world’s largest market, at the start of last year. Consolidation among bigger players began with Halliburton Co. announcing plans to buy Baker Hughes Inc. in November for $34.6 billion and C&J Energy Services Ltd. buying the pressure-pumping business of Nabors Industries Ltd.
Weatherford, which operates the fifth-largest fracking operation in the U.S., has been forced to cut costs “dramatically” in response to customer demand, Fulks said. The company has been able to negotiate price cuts from the mines that supply sand, which is used to prop open cracks in the rocks that allow hydrocarbons to flow.
Oil companies are cutting more than $100 billion in spending globally after prices fell. Frack pricing is expected to fall as much as 35 percent this year, according to PacWest, a unit of IHS Inc.
While many large private-equity firms are looking at fracking companies to buy, the spread between buyer and seller pricing is still too wide for now, Alex Robart, a principal at PacWest, said in an interview at CERAWeek.
Fulks declined to say whether Weatherford is seeking to acquire other fracking companies or their unused equipment.
“We go by and we see yards are locked up and the doors are closed he  said. “It’s not good for equipment to park anything, whether it’s an airplane, a frack pump or a car.”

Crude glut: A lesson in supply and demand : Running Out Of Storage


Oil traders are growing increasingly nervous that a glut of crude will send prices into a tailspin.
5 ways surplus oil will affect us

Oil storage tanks in the United States have been filling rapidly as companies there contribute to produce more crude than refiners can process. As a result, the price differential between U.S. crude and international sources has widened considerably, once again providing a “North American” discount to the market.

North American motorists will like it

With rising inventories in key locations, refiners will be able to access cheaper crude and will pass at least some of those savings along to consumers. But refiners on the east and west coasts have limited access to cheaper North American crude and won’t feel the benefit as much as those who live in the mid-continent.

U.S. producers will fear it

With more crude in storage, oil companies are essentially competing with their own past production. And as space in the tanks become more scarce, producers will be forced to sell their current output at steep discounts, driving prices down further. Even as demand picks up in response to lower pump prices, the huge volume of inventories will moderate any rebound in crude prices.

American politicians will debate it

The boom in U.S. crude production has already prompted talk in Washington about lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports from the lower 48 states. As producers fill up available storage, the calls to end the prohibition (which does not include exports to Canada) will grow louder and more desperate.

Canadian producers will be sideswiped by it

Canadian crude prices are set in relation to the price of West Texas Intermediate, which is set in Cushing, OK., site of a major storage hub that is brimming with crude. Since U.S. crude is a “light” variety, Canadian oil sands producers are still seeing healthy demand for their “heavy” barrels. But their prices are being hammered down.

American environmentalists will seize on it

In the long-running debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, the Canadian government has sold the project as contributing to U.S. energy security. Opponents of the pipeline will point to the surplus production as another reason that the pipeline is unnecessary and should be turned down

Calgary’s Enbridge Inc. owns the largest oil storage facility at the continent’s most important location for such things, but it is a commercial secret as to how close its tanks are to full capacity.

In the past three years, as the U.S. oil boom took off, Enbridge expanded its tank farm in Cushing, Ok., by a third so that it can now store 20 million barrels of crude. Cushing is a strategic location: It is a hub for the web of pipelines that crosses the U.S. plains but is also the continent’s largest crude storage centre.

In recent weeks, oil traders have grown increasingly nervous that a growing glut of oil could overwhelm North America’s capacity to store it, and that we’ll soon run out of places to put it. If that occurred, prices would go into a tailspin and the industry would be forced to shut off their wells until growing demand caught up to shrinking supply.

The storage picture is opaque – clouded by companies’ commercial sensitivities and time lags in U.S. government data. Enbridge stores crude for its own account and on behalf of customers who profit by buying oil at today’s low prices and then re-selling it at a higher price on the futures market for delivery at some later date.

“Demand for commercial tank storage today is high since the future expected price of oil is higher than it is today so investors are looking to build up supplies in North America,” Enbridge spokesman Graham White said in an e-mailed statement. “Enbridge works with commercial storage clients to accommodate their requirements.”

Market fears were heightened late last week when the Paris-based International Energy Agency said that rising U.S. supply “may soon test storage capacity limits.” The warning prompted another selloff in oil markets, with North America’s key benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI), falling to six-year lows Monday, down 2 per cent to $43.82 (U.S.) a barrel. That’s the lowest price for WTI since the depths of the great recession of 2008-09.

“The U.S. is a-flood with oil and other production points around the world are not letting up in their output. The question is how much more oil can we take before the storage tanks hit capacity?” said Gene McGillian, senior market analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Ct.

For Canadians, the storage issue has broad ramifications.

Another round of price cuts would further cripple Alberta’s already-struggling oil industry, and blow an even larger hole in the province’s finances, as Premier Jim Prentice prepares to release his first budget since taking office in September. Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver has delayed Ottawa’s budget until at least April in order to get a better sense of how falling oil prices will hit the Canadian economy.

For consumers, the further decline in crude prices offers more relief at the pump with prices again dropping below $1 per litre in major Ontario markets, while at the same time, undercutting the value of the Canadian dollar.

But some analysts argue the fears are overblown.

“Yes, the U.S. has seen unprecedented growth in crude stocks this year,” said Afolabe Ogunnaike, a Houston-based analyst with Wood Mackenzie, an international consulting group. “But we still think there is significant amount of storage capacity available.”

He said U.S. inventories have gown by 66.5-million barrels since the beginning of the year, but estimates there is still room to store another 200-million barrels. Meanwhile, the pace of the stock build-up should slow as refineries, which were down for seasonal maintenance, resume operations to prepare for the summer driving season. And as the industry reacts to lower prices by cutting drilling and other spending, it will soon begin to show up in lower production.

The U.S. energy department reported in February that crude storage capacity is 60 per cent full, and the figure has climbed a few percentage points since then. But the situation varies widely across the country and within Canada. The largest tank farms are close to production facilities, as in Cushing, or Hardisty, Alta. Or on the U.S. Gulf Coast, which is close to Texas producers and Gulf of Mexico producers and serves the world’s largest refining centre.

The U.S. separates the country into districts known as “PADDS – for Petroleum Administration Defence Districts, which were created during the Second World War for logistical purposes. PADD 1, for instance, is the East Coast, which has a large refining sector that relies heavily on imported crude and has little storage capacity beyond the refineries themselves. The East Coast market for petroleum products heavily influences the pump prices paid by consumers in Eastern Canada.

The key regions for storage are PADD 3, which includes the U.S. Gulf Coast, and PADD 2, which contains Cushing and the Midwest, where the vast majority of Canada’s record exports to the U.S. are headed. As of March 6, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) calculated that PADD 2 storage was 73-per-cent full, while PADD 3 was at 59 per cent. For technical reasons, many storage facilities can’t go above 80-per-cent capacity.

Oil storage tanks in Linden, N.J. are shown in this aerial file photo of Aug. 29, 2007. (The Associated Press)

The PADD 2 market is particularly important for Canadian producers, who have growing — but still limited ability — to reach the Gulf Coast. The International Energy Agency warned that should storage capacity in the Midwest reach its limits, Canadian exports would suffer.

However, refiners have invested heavily in equipment required to process the heavy-diluted bitumen that is produced in the oil sands and are keen to maintain those imports, said Greg Stringham, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Analysts note that Washington is working with out-dated numbers for storage capacity. The energy administration last updated its capacity estimates in September, and will do so again in March.

“Crude oil stocks are rising everywhere in North America,” said Hillary Stevenson, manager of supply chain network for Genscape, an energy-market consulting firm. “But there’s been considerable growth in capacity, especially on U.S. Gulf Coast since September . . . so things maybe aren’t as full as people are thinking, especially on the Gulf Coast. We do have some time to absorb this growing supply glut that we’re having.”

But there is still an incentive for investors to store crude, though companies such as Enbridge are raising prices at their tank farms. The speculators are taking advantage of a condition in the futures market called contango, when prices for immediate delivery or next month are considerably below those for later months.

On the market yesterday, one could buy a barrel of crude for April delivery for $43.79 (U.S.) a barrel, and then resell it for delivery a year from now for $55.55. So if storage for the year costs less than $12 a barrel, you stand to make a profit.

Earlier this winter, traders were anticipating the same type of transaction using supertankers. In 2009, an armada of supertankers are leased, filled with crude and left at anchored for delivery at higher prices later. But this year, international crude prices have not seen the same steep differential in the futures markets, so the sea-borne market never developed.

But there is another source of “storage” that is not as accessible as the oil in tanks but still represents a future challenge for producers. In the prolific shale oil fields of Texas and North Dakota, many companies are drilling wells but not doing the final work need to bring them into production.

As above-ground storage begins to reach its limits, more firms will decide not to complete the wells they are now drilling. The glut will be buried, but not dead.


The Economist explains : Everything you want to know about falling oil prices

Why is the oil price falling?
Mostly because of increased supply from America—up by 4m barrels a day since 2009. Although most crude exports are still banned, American imports have plummeted, contributing to a glut on world markets. Other producers have decided not to try to curb their production and keep the price up.

Highly indebted companies are going bust, with knock-on effects on investors.

Oil Slump Extends to a Fifth Week as Global Glut Seen Expanding

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries is dominated by Gulf producers, notably Saudi Arabia. They have huge reserves to cushion the impact of low prices. They also hope that the slump will eventually shut down high-cost production, tightening the market again.

Are they right to think that?
Probably not. America’s shale production boom is based on new techniques—fracking and horizontal drilling—and unlike “big oil” involves small companies and small projects. These are flexible, meaning they will quickly respond to any price rise. And they are innovative: huge productivity gains still lie ahead.

What about the other producers?
Other producers such Nigeria and Venezuela are indeed hurting badly. But OPEC solidarity stretches only so far. Russia tried and failed to get OPEC support for a production curb—and is now ramping up its production in the hope of protecting the volume of oil revenues.

Will low prices continue?
It looks like it. Some high-cost production is closing, but once wells are drilled, it usually makes sense to keep pumping, even at a loss. It is better to make a little money rather than none. And the shale revolution is marching on.

How low can the price go?
If your correspondent could forecast that, he would be on a yacht reading The Economist rather than at a desk writing for it. But much below $40 will sharply increase bankruptcies, and the pressure on OPEC to curb production. Cheap energy also leads to higher demand.

What happens next?
The debate about lifting America’s ban on crude exports is firing up. The petrochemical and steel lobbies are fighting a rear-guard action against big oil. America’s domestic crude (light and sweet) is unsuited for the nation’s refineries (configured for sour and heavy imported oil)—but would make a lucrative export.

Who benefits from low prices?
Winners necessarily outnumber losers (imagine a world in which energy was free). Consumers have more cash in their pockets; industry enjoys lower energy costs, makes bigger profits, and pays more taxes. And it is a great time for companies with strong balance-sheets to make acquisitions.

And who suffers?
The oil industry’s immediate reaction is to squeeze costs out of its supply chain. So wages and margins are falling fast. Highly indebted companies are going bust, with knock-on effects on investors. But lower costs help the industry adapt and increase efficiency.

UPDATE March 19


(Bloomberg) — Oil trading near the lowest price in six years is headed for a fifth weekly drop amid signs the global supply glut is worsening.

Futures were little changed in New York after falling for the seventh time in eight days on Thursday. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries needs to keep its production target unchanged to maintain market share, said Kuwait, the group’s third-largest member. Iran may increase oil exports within months of reaching a deal on its nuclear program, according to U.S. and European officials.

Oil has renewed its slump after losing almost 50 percent last year as U.S. crude stockpiles expand to the highest levels in more than three decades, even as drillers idled the number of active rigs to the fewest since 2011. OPEC maintained its quota at 30 million barrels a day in November, resisting calls to curb output amid surging supply from shale producers.

“The demand-supply imbalance is going to need to be fixed by an adjustment to supply,” Ric Spooner, a chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said by phone. “Traders are waking up to the harsh reality of the U.S. inventory builds and it’s getting difficult to ignore that.”

West Texas Intermediate for April delivery was at $43.92 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 4 cents, at 11:39 a.m. Sydney time. The contract, which expires on Friday, closed at $43.46 on March 17, the lowest since March 2009. The volume of all futures traded was about 81 percent below the 100-day average.

Crude Supplies

WTI’s more active May contract was 21 cents higher at $45.74 a barrel. Front-month prices have decreased 18 percent this year.

Brent for May settlement was 15 cents higher at $54.58 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. It slid $1.48 to $54.43 on Thursday. The European benchmark crude traded at a premium of $8.85 to WTI for the same month, compared with $9.83 on March 13.

OPEC, which supplies about 40 percent of the world’s crude, has no plans for an extraordinary meeting to discuss ways to shore up prices, Kuwait Oil Minister Ali Al-Omair said in Kuwait City. The 12-member group, scheduled to gather on June 5, pumped 30.6 million barrels a day in February, exceeding its quota for a ninth straight month, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

World powers have offered to suspend restrictions on Iran’s oil exports if the Islamic Republic accepts strict limits on its nuclear program for at least a decade, said U.S. and European officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Crude stockpiles in the U.S., the world’s biggest oil consumer, gained by 9.62 million barrels to 458.5 million through March 13, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s the highest level in weekly records from the Energy Department’s statistical arm dating back to August 1982. Production climbed to 9.42 million a day, the fastest pace since at least January 1983.

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The U.S. Has Too Much Oil and Nowhere to Put It = another drop in prices


The bottom line: A record 449 million barrels of oil are being stored in the U.S. Shrinking storage capacity will lead to another drop in prices.

Seven months ago the giant tanks in Cushing, Okla., the largest crude oil storage hub in North America, were three-quarters empty. After spending the last few years brimming with light, sweet crude unlocked by the shale drilling revolution, the tanks held just less than 18 million barrels by late July, down from a high of 52 million in early 2013. New pipelines to refineries along the Gulf Coast had drained Cushing of more than 30 million barrels in less than a year.
As quickly as it emptied out, Cushing has filled back up again. Since October, the amount of oil stored there has almost tripled, to more than 51 million barrels. As oil prices have crashed, from more than $100 a barrel last summer to below $50 now, big trading companies are storing their crude in hopes of selling it for higher prices down the road. With U.S. production continuing to expand, that’s led to the fastest increase in U.S. oil inventories on record. For most of this year, the U.S. has added almost 1 million barrels a day to its stash of crude supplies. As of March 11, nationwide stocks were at 449 million barrels, by far the most ever.
Not only are the tanks at Cushing filling up, so are those across much of the U.S. Facilities in the Midwest are about 70 percent full, while the East Coast is at about 85 percent capacity. This has some analysts beginning to wonder if the U.S. has enough room to store all its oil. Ed Morse, the global head of commodities research at Citigroup, raised that concern on Feb. 23 at an oil symposium hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “The fact of the matter is, we’re running out of storage capacity in the U.S.,” he said.

If oil supplies do overwhelm the ability to store them, the U.S. will likely cut back on imports and finally slow down the pace of its own production, since there won’t be anywhere to put excess supply. Prices could also fall, perhaps by a lot. Morse and his team of analysts at Citigroup have predicted that sometime this spring, as tanks reach their limits, oil prices will again nosedive, potentially all the way to $20 a barrel. With no place to store crude, producers and trading companies would likely have to sell their oil to refineries at discounted prices, which could finally persuade producers to stop pumping.
Oil investors appear to be coming around to the notion that a lack of storage capacity could lead to another price crash. In the futures market, hedge funds have spent the past few weeks cutting their bets that oil prices will rise. Instead, they’ve built up a record short position, increasing their wagers that prices will fall. During a March 11 interview on CNBC, Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn said he’s concerned the U.S. is running out of storage, particularly as refineries enter their seasonal maintenance period, to prepare for the summer driving season. Around this time they usually cut the amount of crude they buy. Cohn said prices could go as low as $30 a barrel.
Oil Inventories at Highest Levels We’ve Seen
The math on this can be a bit tricky. The U.S. Department of Energy measures oil storage capacity twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. As of September 2014, the U.S. had 521 million barrels of working capacity, up from 500 million in 2013. That includes the space inside tank farms and on-site at refineries. It doesn’t, however, include the amount of oil that can be stored in pipelines or storage tanks near oil wells; nor does it include the amount of capacity in tankers off the coast, in transit from Alaska, or on trains. Of the 449 million barrels of total crude stocks, about 327 million are stored in tank farms or on-site at refineries.
According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. is using about 63 percent of its storage capacity, up from 48 percent a year ago. “We have more space than some people tend to believe,” says Andy Lipow, an energy consultant in Houston. The most recent estimate of storage capacity also doesn’t include tanks built since September in North Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas, he says.
Still, the amount of space available in the tanks at Cushing is getting tight. The storage hub will run out of room by Memorial Day, says Stephen Schork, who runs energy consulting company Schork Group. As long as oil stays cheap, he says, traders have an incentive to store it. Cushing has room for roughly 71 million barrels of oil, up from about 50 million in 2010. One of the biggest owners of tanks there is Canadian energy distributor Enbridge. “We don’t have much room left, but we’re still answering the phones,” says Mike Moeller, who manages the company’s Cushing tank farm. “Not everybody who calls is going to get space.” He says monthly lease rates in the spot market have gone from dimes per barrel to more than a dollar in some cases.
“These producers have kept chugging away when they should have been shutting down”
Even with prices less than half what they were last summer and storage capacity growing scarcer, U.S. oil output has continued to rise. Through February, U.S. daily crude production reached 9.3 million barrels, about 1 million barrels more than a year ago. The massive storage buildup has provided oil companies with a phantom demand for their crude. Many hedged production before prices got too low, taking out futures contracts that guarantee a certain price. That’s allowed them to sell oil for a price higher than the going rate of $49 a barrel, keeping many profitable despite lower prices.
Running out of room inside the nation’s storage tanks might be the only way to keep companies from pumping more oil. “These producers have kept chugging away when they should have been shutting down,” says Dominick Chirichella, co-president of the Energy Management Institute, a New York-based advisory group. “At some point, the fact that supply is outstripping demand has to have its moment of truth.”

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