Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mideast On The Brink

This is page 1.

Attack on Saudi, September 2019, is tracked here.

Israeli target practice, 2020, tracked here

Mideast On The Brink

July 19, 2020: Iran has already decided to strike back against Israel -- report. Link here

January 18, 2020: France has deployed a radar system on Saudi Arabia’s eastern coast that faces the Persian Gulf to help the Kingdom protect its vital oil infrastructure, which was hit by attacks in September.

January 7, 2020: Iran launches barrage of ballistic missiles on Iraqi base where Americans stationed. 

January 6, 2020: Pentagon moves six B-52s to Diego Garcia

January 1, 2020: Iranian-backed militia attack US embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. President Trump wins bigly; won't let it turn into another Benghazi.

September 15, 2019: MarketWatch -- why the Saudi oil attack is a "big deal" that could be "game changer." 

September 15, 2019: Goldilocks frame of mind.

September 15, 2019: update, Iran's cruise missile attack on the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil sector. That is also the post that will follow the story until it's no longer a story.

September 14, 2019: reports that one-half of Saudi's production is off-line due to massive fires set by enemy drones. 

June 20, 2019: Iran shoots down $100 million US drone; US claims it was in international airspace. Tonight Iran says it is ready for war. Headline: price of oil surges. It appears Iran is hoping to push crude oil to $200/bbl -- if it can accomplish that, Iran thinks it can get the world to turn against the US and sanctions. Interestingly, that headline that price of oil surges?WTI went from $52 to $57 -- hardly surging. At $57 oil (WTI), US shale operators survive; at $60 they thrive. At $70+, we'll see just how much oil the US can produce. Twenty years ago, the Iranian ploy may have worked, but I don't see it working this time.

June 13, 2019: Iran claims to have "torpedoed" two oil tanker in the strait. One was "tied" to the US, en route from the UAE to Taiwan. Iran says the tanker was sunk; other sources say "not yet."

December 16, 2018: Notes from the Mideast.

February 21, 2018: Turkey ready to bomb Afrin

February 13, 2018: France will bomb Syria if chemical weapons were found to be used.

February 13, 2018: the Mideast is heating up. Now that ISIS is out of the way, Iran and Syria have teamed up to drive other rebels out. I assume the Kurds will be caught in the cross-fire and Turkey will muddle US efforts. Israel has hit targets in Iran for the first time, it was reported last week, and Drudge suggested "fight's on." But this is the scary part: it appears that US and Russia are now directly involved. No links; stories everywhere. US fighters have killed "scores" of "Russian fighters" (not further defined) and this morning it is being reported that a US fighter knocked out a Russian tanker in self defense. WTI down another 64 cents; now at $58.64.

November 11, 2017: has the Saudi-Iran proxy war in Lebanon begun? ISIS defeated, Iran can concentrate on Saudi; Russia and Iran both have good reasons to see Saudi fall

November 6, 2017: tribes go to war.

November 4, 2017: Prince Salman calls it something else, but anyone paying attention knows that the prince just took a preemptive strike on a coup. 

April 6, 2017: 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria. Proportional response. 

March 28, 2017: headlines at Drudge -- panic spreads in Iraq, Syria, as record numbers of civilians reported killed in US strikes; Iran and Russia getting cozy with each other.

March 20, 2017: sane folks suggesting the world is preparing for war (at the link, scroll down).

November 3, 2016: Egypt tiptoes toward a "breaking point."

November 3, 2016: is Turkey headed for civil war? External link

October 24, 2016; two days ago -- Russia's Northern Fleet was halfway to Syria.
The carrier is also sailing with a handful of new MiG-29K Fulcrum fighter-bombers in addition to her standard complement of Su-33s. The Russian navy has scrambled to get the MiG-29Ks — which pack an advanced avionics suite — ready for the voyage. The fact that Admiral Kuznetsov is sailing with Fulcrums is a sign this is no ordinary Mediterranean cruise.
But as it turns out, the Indian Navy also possesses an ex-Soviet carrier, the Vikramaditya, and operates MiG-29Ks from the flattop. So Admiral Kuznetsov’s mission could be an attempt to promote the fighters’ combat abilities — like a military form of embedded marketing — in the hope New Delhi buys more.
October 20, 2016: in biggest offensive since the Cold War, Putin is sending his entire Northern Fleet to the Mediterranean. 

October 15, 2016: Putin's quest -- along with Iran, control the Mideast and the global supply of oil. Completely cut of Saudi Arabia. 

October 15, 2016: Egypt juggles its allegiances as Russian influence surges -- WSJ

October 14, 2016: having read The Economist earlier today (the most recent issue) -- no links -- it's hard for me to believe that Putin / Syria won't be the "October surprise." My hunch is that it could become much more serious than the Cuban missile crisis, but it will end more quickly, and it could end more badly. Putin, the Bear, has been backed into a corner, and we all know what is said about a bear being backed into a corner. Even at his "best," President Obama would probably have trouble responding to Putin, but in his last few months, Obama is unlikely to be engaged at all.

October 14, 2016: with Obama now a lame duck, Reuters is a bit more free to report what is really going on. The bottom line: the US has been outplayed by Russia/Syria (Assad) in Aleppo. Obama has no options. Obama has already lost his allies in the Mideast and to win them back he would have to confront Russia head-on. There's a reason the Russian press is talking about the risk of nuclear war with the US. That alone will keep Obama from acting.

October 5, 2016: stories of rifts between Russia and US are reaching fever pitch over Aleppo. Things are possibly as tense as ever between Russia and US, at least as far as Syria is concerned. It may have something to do with the fact that Obama has always been seen as weak, and now, as a lame duck, even weaker. If Hillary is elected, things might improve between Russia and the US, but if Trump is elected, all bets are off, and Putin knows that. 

August 28, 2016: Yemeni rocket kills two Saudi Arabia girks as Yemeni rebels step up attacks.

August 21, 2016: CommonDreams says this report is an "old report" and misleading and has nothing to do with civilian casualties. The site says the US pulled out its advisors when there was a "lull" in hostilities.]

August 19, 2016 US pulls advisory staff out of Riyadh, from where Yemeni conflict was being directed. This seems be pretty significant; if so, under-reported by US mainstream media. [Update,

August 17, 2016: Saudi strikes back

August 13, 2016: if oil prices don't rise, the Mideast will sink

August 12, 2016: Saudi Arabia has run out of cash for big projects; Iran has not. Iran given green light to move forward with two new nuclear plants. 

August 9, 2016: Saudi Arabia okayed to buy US tanks to replace losses in the Yemen war

July 24, 2016: the US has two major installations in Turkey: Izmir and Incirlik. Izmir is an "open" base and not much there except "command and control." Incirlik is the major base with active aircraft fighting ISIS and the home of a "NATO" presence with nuclear bombs. It is being reported tonight that there is a "massive" fire in / around Izmir. The fire will have a bigger impact on Turkish citizens than US personnel. There is talk that the fire was deliberately set, and is anti-American. One might be concerned that Erdogan is upping the ante to get an exiled Turkish political leader out of the US and back to Turkey to stand trial. The next step of course would be to shut down US activities at Incirlik Air Base but that would be an end to US participation from Turkey against ISIS. That may be a bridge too far for Erdogan. 

July 23, 2016: update on "the forgotten war."

July 7, 2016: Baghdad hit.

July 4, 2016: Saudi Arabia hit.

July 3, 2016: nearly 100 killed in Baghdad by suicide bomber; another 200 injured. 

July 2, 2016: from The Guardian --
Vice-president Joe Biden called Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to express “strong concerns”, the White House said late on Friday, alluding to a political crisis in the tiny island kingdom that threatens its close ties to the US, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
In a description of the call, the White House said Biden and the king spoke of “recent negative developments in Bahrain and their implications for the wider region”.
On Thursday, an explosion south of the Bahraini capital, Manama, killed a woman and injured her three children. A day later, police said the blast was a “terrorist bombing” in the village of Eker and said officers had begun an investigation.
Violence has increased in Bahrain as the Sunni monarchy has cracked down on dissent among factions of the majority Shia population. Recent bombings have been blamed on radical Shia opposition groups, which were largely driven underground after failed protests in 2011.
About 1,200 troops from Saudi Arabia and 800 from the United Arab Emirates helped quash that uprising, which threatened to upend Bahrain as an Egyptian revolt had overthrown its government a month before.
In recent months, the Bahraini government has stripped away the citizenship of 250 people, including the country’s most prominent Shia cleric; suspended the largest Shia opposition group and extended a prison term for its leader; kept activists out of a United Nations human rights meeting; and rearrested a human rights activist for spreading “false news”.
June 5, 2016: pretty minor in the big scheme of things, but simply another story that the Iraqi Army (with huge assist from the US) is still nowhere near able to take on the JV team. This story is from The New York Times and states it will be another day, another campaign, before US-Iraq can think about taking back Mosul. The situation is pretty pathetic. 

May 7, 2016: CNN is reporting that ties between Israel and Saudi are as close as ever; Saudi mulls nuclear weapons if Iran "breaks their nuclear deal." Saudi re-thinking Saudi-US relationship. Not mentioned in the article but this story comes on day it was announced the 80-year-old Saudi oil minster was ousted. Another story lurking is the close relationship developing between ISIS and Turkey. Last month it was reported that Turkey's relationship with the US is at a breaking point.

April 30, 2016: is Baghdad about to implode?

April 18, 2016: OPEC in tatters

April 13, 2016: President Obama will visit Saudi Arabia to participate in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council on April 21, 2016, to "shore up US commitment there." [Update: I do not recall any major announcement following this visit.]

April 13, 2016: Iraq coming apart at the seams

April 11, 2016: Iraqi Kurdistan President says spoke with Vice President Biden to discuss political crisis in Baghdad, review plans to liberate Mosul from Islamic State.

March 14, 2016: Putin orders Russian troops out of Syria; will maintain "presence."

March 10, 2016: end times for the Caliphate (ISIS); excellent update of the current situation in the war against ISIS.

February 22, 2016: heating up with major Saudi military exercise

February 14, 2016: Putin rising; US marginalized in the Mideast

January 31, 2016: a free-for-all in the Mideast. An existential crisis for Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria. 

January 25, 2016: Mosul Dam could collapse.

January 13, 2016: from the NewStatesman: Behind Saudi Arabia’s bluster is a country that feels under grave threat.
Saudi Arabia feels with good reason more threatened than at any time in its modern history, at least since the subversive Kulturkampf of the 1950s and 1960s from Nasser’s Egypt.
This stems from five sources: first, the challenge of Sunni and largely Salafi jihadism; second, the sustained ideological and material challenge of the Islamic Republic of Iran; third, the collapse of large parts of the Middle East state system following the Arab spring; fourth, a sharp fall in global energy prices; and fifth, a sense that historical alliances – notably but not only with the United States – are fraying.
These threats are real.
A decade or so ago, the heirs to Juhaiman al-Otaybi’s 1979 Grand Mosque attackers, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, launched a terror campaign within the kingdom with the aim of inspiring a general Sunni insurgency. The Saudis were slow to realise what they were facing. Once they did, they mobilised and ruthlessly crushed the terrorists.
But they did not go away. The remnants regrouped in Yemen and from there plotted, recruited others (including the American imam Anwar al-Awlaki) and directed further attacks, against Western and Saudi targets. More recently there has been a wave of attacks, claimed by Islamic State, mostly on Shia targets – but also on security forces and a Sunni mosque at a military base near the Yemeni border.
Remember the fall of the Shah of Iran? It happened during the period when the US president was very, very similar to our current president. Both ideologues and internationally weak and isolationists. From wiki: The Carter Administration increasingly became locked in a debate about continued support for the monarchy. In the current situation, President Obama has explicitly stated and has explicitly acted in such a matter to let the Saudis know they are on their own. 

January 11, 2016: ten US sailors held by Iran

January 11, 2016: Google: The Saudi-U.S. relationship: Shakier than ever.
Saudi Arabia's royal family is frightened — and that's a problem for the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
The Saudis are surrounded by enemies. To the north, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, leader of Islamic State, has promised to overthrow the Al Saud dynasty, which he calls “the serpent's head.” To the south, Sunni-led Saudi forces are at war against Shia Muslim rebels in Yemen. To the east, the Al Saud face the rival they fear most, Shia-ruled Iran.
The Saudis have problems at home, too. Fearing subversion from both Islamic State and Iran, the government has cracked down on Sunni and Shia dissidents alike, jailing writers, journalists and human rights lawyers as well as potential terrorists. The plummeting price of oil has blown a hole in the government's budget while the population, accustomed to subsidized housing and utilities, keeps growing.
And the family faces a succession crisis; 80-year-old King Salman, who ascended to the throne last year, is described privately by diplomats as nearly senile.

January 10, 2016: quiet; the focus was on the Golden Globes awards.

January 9, 2016: Saudi Arabia calls emergency meeting with its allies on how to deal with Iran.

January 8, 2016: from The Guardian -- Saudi Arabia v Iran: Riyadh defiant and angry after turbulent week

January 6 - 7, 2016: not much being reported in major US media outlets

January 5, 2016
  • Kuwait recalls ambassador from Iran as Saudi executions crisis widens; Kuwait joins SA, Bahrain, and Sudan
  • The New York Times headline: US finds itself in a bind as Saudis ties grow strained
  • Washington Post: Mideast tensions soar as Saudi Arabia rallies countries to cut ties with Iran
  • BloombergView: Obama sides with Iran over Saudi Arabia
  • Reuters: Iran unveiled a new underground missile depot; Emad precision-guided ballistic missile was tested in October, 2015
January 4, 2016
Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a proxy war in Syria, where Iranian-backed Shiite militias are fighting Saudi-backed Sunni rebels battling to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Iran and Saudi Arabia also support opposing sides in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been launching airstrikes against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since March.
    • Iran and Russia have an interest in toppling the House of Saud. 
    • Iran already has ample reason to want to topple the Saudis, who are its main antagonist in the Shiite vs. Sunni conflict that has swept the region amid America’s retreat. The two are fighting a proxy war in Yemen, after a Saudi-led coalition intervened to stop a takeover by Iran’s Houthi allies. The Saudis are also the leading supporter of the non-Islamic State Sunnis who are fighting Syria’s ally Bashar Assad. Russia and Iran are allied with Assad.  
    • The White House decision last week to walk back U.S. sanctions against Iran after its recent ballistic-missile tests may also embolden Iran to take greater risks. 
    • As for the Saudis, they can be forgiven for doubting that they can count on President Obama. Fairly or not, they concluded from the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak that this Administration will abandon its friends in a pinch. They saw his “red-line” reversal in 2013 in Syria, Mr. Obama’s accommodation to Russian revanchism in Crimea, and that he now may let Assad keep power in Syria. The Saudis intervened in Bahrain in 2011 without telling the U.S., and they recently formed a new Sunni-state coalition to fight Islamic State—again without the U.S.  
  • Market plunges almost 500 points; oil up a little over 2% but still well below $40
January 3, 2016
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard also lashed out at Saudi Arabia Sunday. They compared the executions to attacks carried out by the Islamic State. The Guard said in a statement that Saudi Arabia’s “medieval act of savagery” in putting al-Nimir death will lead to the “downfall” of the monarchy. Comment: I think Iran will be seen by the global community as a "modern" nation compared to the "medieval" Saudi Arabia
  • Sunday evening futures (for the archives): the Dow futures righted themselves; early down 175 points, then Asia showed strength on energy; now up 41 points; WTI futures up $0.96
  • The [London] Guardian's view: Saudi's moves unjust; provoking. I don't know if Saudi has (m)any friends right now. There are still a lot of Americans that think Saudi Arabia sponsored 9/11; their oil pumping policy is "killing" Venezuela, others; and, now, the Shiite issue
  • Saudi Arabia cuts diplomatic ties with Iran; gives Iranian diplomats 48 hours to get out of Dodge
January 2, 2016
December 1, 2015
  • President Obama asking Russia to get out of Syria; tells media it appears Russia is about ready to get out of Syria
  • Russia has one air base in Syria
  • it appears Russia is getting ready to add a second air base; has already been operating helicopters out of that second air base; indications are it is being prepared for fixed wing aircraft
  • Russia also increasing the number of forward operating bases it uses to mount helicopter attacks
  • Russia has moved missiles along the Syrian - Turkish border
  • late reports today that the US is sending more US troops to the area
  • House democrat: Obama risks nuclear war with Putin 
  • Iraqis feel Obama in "cahoots" with ISIS -- Washington Post (December 2, 2015, lead) 
  • Obama has directed that "the US will establish a special operations 'targeting force' in Iraq as part of the intensified military effort to fight ISIS"  

Top Gun Theme, USS Enterprise

Eight (8) New Permits -- December 1, 2015

Active rigs:

Active Rigs66187191182196
Eight (8) new permits --
  • Operators: BR (5), SM Energy (2), EOG
  • Fields: Corral Creek (Dunn), Moraine, Skabo, Parshall (Mountrail)
  • Comments: 
Fidelity broken up into five pieces; sold four, still holding one, if I recall correctly. Prior to these recent deals, Lime Rock Resources bought some Fidelity property. Today we see that two wells were transferred from Fidelity to Lime Rock Resources:
  • 29203, loc, Hansen 18-19RD, Stanley oil field, Mountrail
  • 29204, loc, Sandy 18-19RD, Stanley oil field, Mountrail
The previous Fidelity / Lime Rock deal was done quite some time ago but these two wells are likely part of the original deal, I suppose. The original Fidelity-Lime Rock involved the Stanley oil field so most likely these are part of the original Stanley deal. Sundry forms back to August, 2015, signed by Lime Rock so I assume these are part of the Stanley prospect. But I don't know; that's just my hunch. The "original Sandy 18-19H (#23912) was dry -- probably a casing problem -- this "RD well" is about 40  feet to the west of the "original" Sandy well. The original Hansen well was also PA'd and a new location, the Hansen 18-19RD about 50 feet to the south.

Williams County's Largest Man-Camp Closes -- December 1, 2015

The Dickinson Press is reporting:
While the city of Williston was deciding the fate of its own man camps, market forces were deciding the fate of another. Capital Lodge, between Ray and Tioga, has closed, according to a report in the Tioga Tribune.
A visit to the site Friday afternoon found a ghost town.
Capital Lodge opened in the fall of 2011 with about 130 residents in 13 of the total planned 2,500 beds .At the time of its closing, it was permitted for 2,000-plus beds, but, according to recent figures from the county, it had only 100 residents.
The lodge had built an on-site sewer treatment plant with a capacity for 3,000 residents. The crew camp is across the road from a Target Logistics facility along U.S. Highway 2. 
I remember these two man-camps when they were first going up.

This is just the way it was supposed to work -- temporary facilities. I hope the county has these man-camps bonded for reclamation.


5-year highway bill re-authorizes Export-Import Bank; should pass Senate, House

A Note For The Granddaughters

Breaking news now: 337 sei whales beached on southern Chilean coast; cause of death unknown. Current population estimated at 80,000, about one-third of pre-whaling days.

Baleen whales (Mysticeti)
  • right whales
  • rorquals, includes sei whales, minke (less rorqual)
  • gray whale
  • pygmy right whale
  • bowhead
  • humpback
  • fin
  • blue whale
Toothed whales (Odontoceti)
  • oceanic dolphins
  • narwhal and beluga
  • porpoises
  • sperm whale
  • dwarf and pygmy sperm whales
  • beaked whales
  • river dolphins (Amazon, Baiji [Yangtze], south Asian [India, Pakistan], La Plata [Argentina, Uruguay)

EV Sales Are Posted -- December 1, 2015

Numbers for EVs sold in November, 2015, have been posted:
  • Tesla: 3,200 -- most in any month; previous high this year, 2,800 in June; last month, 1,900
  • Nissan Leaf: 1,054, down from 1,238; average monthly sales this year: 1,447
  • Chevrolet Volt: 1,980, down from 2,035; average monthly sales this year: 1,207
  • BMI i13: 723, down a bit; average monthly sales this year: 873
  • Ford Fusion Energi: 944, up slightly; average monthly sales this year: 790
  • Ford C-Max Energi: 639, steady; average monthly sales this year: 637
  • VW e-Golf: 472, down from 596 in October; average monthly sales this year: 32
  • Toyota Prius PHV: huge hit, only 44 in November, down from a paltry 91 in October; average monthly sales for the year: 379
  •  Fiat 500e (estimate): 390, down from 425; average monthly sales this year: 539
  • Tesla Model X: 6 (September); 4 (October); 5 (November)
A lot of time and ink spent on so few sales.

The end of the line for the Prius PHV: production ended in June, 2015; timing of next generation PHEV Prius uncertain -- Autoblog.
The fourth-generation Toyota Prius and it's potential 58 miles per gallon fuel economy isn't due until later this year at the earliest, and some folks suspect it will be well into next year. But at least you'll still be able to buy one until it arrives; the same can't be said for the plug-in Prius - "Pip" to its friends - that will cease production this June. Nathan Kokes, a marketing representative in Toyota's Advanced Technology division, made the announcement on the forum Prius Chat without giving any reason for the decision.

Inside EVs says there about 1,100 Prius PHVs in stock at dealers, which would last for just under three months at the average sales rate this year. Assuming no changes in production to boost stocks, that would give you until the end of summer to fulfill your first-generation Prius PHV dreams, then there'd be a drought for an unknown length of time. For the conspiracy theorists looking to the sales numbers or the Mirai launch for cause, Kokes did join the chat thread once after the announcement to say that "will have plenty of Prius Plug-in Hybrids to sell long after [June]," and, "production plans and product cadence are in no way timed to any external incentive (i.e., CA HOV sticker), competitive product or the upcoming Mirai launch."
That story was published in May, 2015, when a spokesman said about 1,100 Prius PHVs were still sitting in dealer showrooms. Monthly sales/cumulative to date since May:
  • June: 464 / 464
  • July: 584 / 1,048 
  • August: 344 / 1,392
  • September: 216 / 1,608
  • October: 91 / 1,699
  • November: 44 / 1,743

Memo To Jane Nielson -- December 1, 2015

From the EIA:
New data released yesterday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that for the first nine months of 2015, most (50.8%) of the crude oil produced in the Lower 48 states were light oils with an API gravity above 40 degrees. The largest share of production was in the 40.1 to 45 degree API gravity range. --- EIA
Just Between You And Me

CNBC is reporting why OPEC's plan to "balance" the oil market failed.  OPEC's plan to shake up the world oil market may have backfired for now.
Just a year ago, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to let market forces determine the price of oil, rather than its own production quotas.

Conventional thinking then was that the U.S. oil patch would be littered with bankruptcies, and production would collapse. As for Russia , the world's largest energy producer would be forced to cut back production by hundreds of thousands of barrels this year due to both the weakness in oil prices and the impact of Western financial sanctions.

But the results have turned out very different. Instead of falling off, production increased from where it was last year, and the world is still swimming in oil. The three biggest producers — Russia, the United States and Saudi Arabia — have in fact been adding more than 1 million barrels a day more to the market in the past year.
Just between you and me: I'm getting tired of all these "OPEC" stories. In fact, the events this past year in the oil sector prove beyond a shadow of a doubt OPEC is a sham. OPEC is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia sets the course and everything else "OPEC" does is simply irrelevant. Ask Venezuela. OPEC is irrelevant; Saudi Arabia is not.

Update, December 1, 2015: this is kind of cool. I've been posting that for quite some time now. OPEC is a sham. There never was an OPEC. It was always Saudi Arabia. I think everyone knew that, but it wasn't put in writing. Now, Dan Yergin is saying exactly that. From CNBC
What kept oil prices up, even as the new U.S. shale oil production increased, was the roughly-commensurate loss of barrels owing to disruptions of one kind or another. In the failed state of Libya, oil production and exports largely stopped. At the same time, sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program took, at the peak, about 1.4 million barrels of Iranian exports off the market.
But the oil market ran out of offsets. U.S. production was continuing to surge, on track to add 1.5 million barrels per day just in 2014. At the same time, the risk of what IMF chief Christine Lagarde has called the "new mediocre" — lower growth in the global economy for a long time — meant that oil demand was growing more slowly — just 800,000 barrels per day in 2014. The "China chill" (slowing of the Chinese economy) was the single most important factor.
This was the context in which OPEC decided to hang up its jersey as market manager. Yet, to say "OPEC" is rather misleading. For this is not really a decision by OPEC, which is sharply divided. Rather it is the decision by Saudi Arabia, which holds most of the world's spare capacity, and the other Gulf countries to refrain from cutting output to keep up the price, as had previously been the practice for many years.

Auto Sales -- November 2015

November auto sales rate comes in at 18.19 million vs 17.2 million a year ago marking the first time ever with three straight months over 18 million

From The Detroit News:
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. each posted November U.S. sales gains on Tuesday, led by Fiat Chrysler’s 3 percent rise in sales, fueled in part by consumers seeking Black Friday car deals.
Ford’s sales rose 0.4 percent to 187,794 vehicles. Ford brand sales increased 0.6 percent and Lincoln fell 2.4 percent year-over-year.
Jeep brand sales jumped 19.9 percent year-over-year, while Ram sales were up about 0.5 percent. Chrysler sales fell 12.1 percent, Dodge brand sales slid 7.5 percent and Fiat sales dropped 2.6 percent.

November new vehicles sales in the U.S. may hit a record for the month, driven by continued demand, low gasoline prices and several month-long Black Friday specials that drew consumers into showrooms.
From Bloomberg (prior to results):
Automakers, already poised to break U.S. sales records for both November and the year in a strengthening economy, are leaving nothing to chance: They’re boosting rebates and other deals in an effort to swipe market share from rivals.
The annualized sales pace for November may reach 18.2 million cars and light trucks.
Automakers, like retailers, have started kicking off their year-end holiday sales in November. Traditionally, December has been the time to buy a new vehicle. Now, with carmakers trying to steal buyers from each other, they have started their offers a month early.
When automakers report monthly sales Tuesday, the industry may show a decline in total vehicle sales of 1.6 percent. That is mostly because there were two fewer selling days than a year ago. The forecast includes gains of 2.9 percent for General Motors Co. and 3.2 percent for both Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.
From USA Today:
Auto industry authorities expect monthly sales figures, slated to be released Tuesday, will show record-setting sales despite an increasingly common issue: not enough vehicles being produced.
"The demand is just insatiable right now for SUVs," says Erich Merkle, sales analyst for Ford Motor, where supplies are tight on the Explorer, Edge and Lincoln MKX. "That's what's hot, and it's showing up in the sales."
Honda has the same supply-and-demand problem. When it comes to the HR-V, CR-V and Pilot SUVs, "We can't get enough of them," says John Mendel, executive vice president in charge of sales for American Honda.
Even Volkswagen, dogged by a scandal over its diesel emissions, has a few models in tight supply.
Overall, dealers had a 24-day supply of smaller trucks in October on their lots, the most recent month in which supply data were available. That's down five days from the year before.  The supply of compact crossovers was 44 days on average, down three days from the year before.
The industry average in October was a 62-day supply.
Ford press release:
  • Ford Motor Company U.S. sales of 187,794 vehicles, up slightly at 0.4 percent versus last November 
  • F-Series retail sales increase 16 percent, driving total F-Series sales to a 10 percent gain, with commercial vans up 59 percent; best November Ford Truck performance in eight years 
  • all-new Edge sales up 6 percent; new Explorer up 1 percent on strong demand for new high-end Platinum series 
GM sales at USA Today:
General Motors enjoyed the fruits of a renewed product lineup and a flourishing market for big vehicles in November, posting a 2% sales gain, compared to the same period a year earlier.
GM's performance in the retail sales market — which is more profitable than fleet sales to customers such as rental car companies and government — was better, up 4% for the month.
Like other companies, the automaker reaped the benefits of an industry-wide surge into crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks, which are typically more profitable than cars. Customers are showing less interest in cars amid low gasoline prices.
The company's Chevrolet brand rose 5% to 156,907 units for the month. Cadillac was up 2% to 13,390, but Buick fell 17% to 15,960 and GMC fell 2% to 43,039.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Auto sales: on track to hit 18 million new vehicles sold in calendar year 2015. EV sales will be reported Tuesday with the exception of Ford EVs which will be reported Wednesday.
Automakers selling cars and trucks in the US will report November sales on Tuesday, and the thinking from the analyst community is that the annual sales pace will clock in very close to, at, or above 18 million new vehicles sold.
Barring a horrible December, that means we're about to see a record year for auto sales in the US.
The previous annual peak was 17.4 million, set 15 years ago in 2000. The sales pace has moved above 18 million since then, on a monthly basis, but we've never wrapped up a year at that level.
Active rigs:

Active Rigs65187191182196

RBN Energy: hedge protection for gas producers continues to melt away.
U.S. oil and gas companies currently have hedge protection in place for less than one-fifth of their expected 2016 production, and the strike price of the remaining derivatives is significantly lower than in previous years. With a bleak gas price outlook for 2016, the result could be even more severe capital spending reductions, potential production curtailments, and increased financial stress for mid-size and smaller firms. In today’s blog, we examine what has happened to producer hedging protection and the implications for capital spending and production trends.
The Rolling Stones lyrics from 1969 must be echoing in the minds of gas producers today: “Oh, a storm is threat’ning, my very life today; if I don’t get some shelter, oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away.”  In recent weeks there have been a spate of reports from banks and consultants that warn of more pricing problems facing U.S. gas producers.  During 2015, about half of gas production was hedged out.  But that will drop like a rock in 2016, down below 20% according to most reports.  Worse yet, the price of those hedges is also headed south.  Given the potential impact on producer drilling activity and ultimately on production, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the numbers.
But before we start – a quick disclaimer. We are not an investment advisor.  The purpose of this blog is not investment advice or endorsement.  RBN looks at company level numbers to see what they mean for the market as a whole, not implications for any particular company’s stock. 
Current natural gas market conditions make this a particularly bleak time to be exposed to market prices. Henry Hub spot prices averaged $2.07/MMbtu in November; the lowest level seen since 1998, and according to NGI the spot price plunged below $2.00/MMbtu in the first week of November for the first time since the summer of 2012. As we pointed out in “Breakdown: U.S. Natural Gas Storage Hits 4 Tcf for the First Time”, working natural gas inventories recently reached an all-time high.
We also detailed the threat to winter gas prices in “A Hazy Shade of Winter – Shadow of Storage Surplus Threatens Winter Natural Gas prices” and “Hazy Shade of Winter Part 2”. In its November 2015 Short Term Energy Outlook, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said it expects warmer than average temperatures caused by the strong El Nino in the Pacific Ocean will reduce winter heating demand and provide little price relief to gas producers.
And with the CME/NYMEX forward curve below $3.00/MMbtu until December 2017, the access to additional shelter for next year’s volumes doesn’t look good. 
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

California oil and gas regulator resigns after helping Governor Brown. Fox News is reporting:
California's chief oil regulator announced his resignation after 17 months as head of the embattled agency, including a criticized episode in which he directed state workers to investigate the oil and gas potential of Gov. Jerry Brown's family ranch.
Additionally, days after Brown appointed Bohlen in June 2014, the governor and the governor's aides asked Bohlen to have oil and gas regulators research and map out the oil, gas and mineral potential and history of the Brown family ranch in Northern California, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.
Bohlen and Brown aides this month defended the oil agency's work for Brown family private property, saying it was legal and normal, and that Brown had no interest in drilling on his family land.
However, the oil regulator who prepared the map for Brown filed a whistleblower complaint over being made to do the work. Former oil regulators and oil-industry veterans told the AP the state oil work for Brown was unique because of the custom map with drilling information and color-coded geological records and legends, and because of the report's conclusion by state regulators that the area of Brown's family ranch was unlikely to warrant any drilling or mining in the future.
Bohlen told The Los Angeles Times this month that Brown also directed him in June 2014 to keep the personal work done for Brown out of email, citing open-records laws.
State officials were unable to produce any other examples of state regulators mapping out the petroleum, mineral and geology of land for personal purposes, and records showed the state oil agency specifically rejecting requests for maps from a state lawmaker's office and from a private individual.

South Dakota Approves Its Segment Of The ETP Dakota Access Pipeline -- December 1, 2015

The Gazette is reporting:
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted 2-1 Monday to approve the Bakken crude oil pipeline, but added conditions to better protect landowners along the route.
“It is crucial that we do this right so that our farmers and ranchers can get back to doing what they do best, producing food for the world,” Chairman Chris Nelson said.
The 1,134 mile pipeline proposed by Energy Transfer Partners of Texas would carry Bakken crude from North Dakota to Patoka, IL, crossing 18 Iowa counties. The $3.7 billion pipeline would initially carry 450,000 barrels of crude per day and could be expanded to 570,000 barrels.
In South Dakota, the pipeline travels 272 miles and extends through 13 counties. The conditions include requirements for construction and reclamation to better protect landowners.
Commissioner Gary Hanson, the lone dissenting vote, argued that the pipeline route would unduly harm development for the communities in the Sioux Falls area.
Hanson said he suspects the decision to grant the permit will be appealed to the South Dakota court system.
The website for the ETP Dakota Access pipeline

Many previous posts on this pipeline, including:
I track pipelines of interest here