The shale boom is over, but not the financial fallout. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:
Texas at the epicenter. We’re witnessing the destruction of money that loosey-goosey monetary policies encouraged.
Following the sharp re-drop in oil and natural gas prices in late 2018, bankruptcy filings in the US by already weakened exploration and production companies , oilfield services companies, and “midstream” companies (they gather, transport, process, or store oil and natural gas) jumped by 51% in 2019, to 65 filings, according to data compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone. This brought the total of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust since 2015 in these three sectors to 402 bankruptcy filings.
The debt involved in these bankruptcies in 2019 doubled from 2018 to $35 billion. This pushed the total debt listed in these bankruptcy filings since 2015 to $207 billion. The chart below shows the cumulative total debt involved in these bankruptcies since 2015.
It is GM’s virtue-signaling plea for forgiveness. The bad ol’ GM wants you to forget all about those “gas guzzling” Hummers it made back in the early 2000s. It will now make a time-guzzling electric version of the same thing. Which is just as wasteful, by the way – but in a way that’s acceptable today.
According to Iraq’s acting Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Trump is trying to muscle Iraq into abandoning a lucrative oil deal with China. From Whitney Webb at mintpressnews.com:
The U.S. is adamant that its assassination of Qassem Soleimani and refusal to leave Iraq is about protecting Americans, but a little known Iraqi parliamentary session reveals how China increasingly strong ties to Baghdad may be shaping America’s new Mideast strategy.
Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.”
While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East. Indeed, it has been alleged that even the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China.
Chinese money is proving more attractive in the Middle East than US bullets and bombs. From Simon Watkins at oilprice.com:
Following the political and popular backlash in Iran over details of its plans to make the Islamic Republic effectively a client state through various multi-layered oil and gas deals, China has switched its attention for the moment to Iran’s close ally and neighbour, Iraq. Like Iran, Iraq has enormous and still relatively underdeveloped oil and gas reserves, it is an irreplaceable geographical stepping stone in China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ programme, and it is in need of major ongoing funding. China already has leverage over Iraq as the leading oil company (Rosneft) of its close geopolitical ally, Russia, already has effective control over the oil and gas infrastructure of the north Iraq semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, and Chinese companies operate on a number of fields in south Iraq. Last week saw key developments in China’s cornerstone project of making Iraq into a client state.
The first of these developments was the announcement from Iraq’s Finance Ministry that the country had started exporting 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to China in October as part of the 20-year oil-for-infrastructure deal agreed between the two countries. As highlighted by OilPrice.com, the broad framework of this arrangement was agreed last September during a visit by Iraq’s then-Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to Beijing, with the purpose of expanding China’s then US$20 billion of investment in Iraq in addition to the US$30 billion or so in annual trade between the two countries. According to last week’s statement, Chinese firms Zhenhua Oil and Sinochem were the importers of the Iraqi barrels involved, and OilPrice.com understands that all trade financing surrounding these exports – and many of those to come – have been done by the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation.
Tom Luongo is in desperate need of a copy editor. As a writer who not always correctly edits my own stuff, I sympathize. But whatever his writing miscues, he always has a unique and provocative viewpoint. From Luongo at tomluongo.me:
he future of the U.S.’s involvement in the Middle East is in Iraq. The exchange of hostilities between the U.S. and Iran occurred wholly on Iraqi soil and it has become the site on which that war will continue.
Israel continues to up the ante on Iran, following President Trump’s lead by bombing Shia militias stationed near the Al Bukumai border crossing between Syria and Iraq.
The U.S. and Israel are determined this border crossing remains closed and have demonstrated just how far they are willing to go to prevent the free flow of goods and people across this border.
The regional allies of Iran are to be kept weak, divided and constantly under harassment.
Iraq is the battleground because the U.S. lost in Syria. Despite the presence of U.S. troops squatting on Syrian oil fields in Deir Ezzor province or the troops sitting in the desert protecting the Syrian border with Jordan, the Russians, Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds forces continue to reclaim territory previously lost to the Syrian government.
One week into the new year and we may be looking at both financial fireworks and a hot war in the Middle East. Could be an interesting year. From James Howard Kunstler at kunstler.com:
An almighty bafflement befogs the nation as the first full business week of 2020 commences and events pile up like smashed vehicles on a weather-blinded highway. Before we even smoked that Iranian bird on the Baghdad airport tarmac, something ominous was tingling away in the financial markets, in fact, has been since way back in September. Perhaps one-in-100,000 Americans has the dimmest clue as to what the repo mechanism stands for in banking circles, but it has been flashing red for months, with klaxons blaring for those who maybe missed the red flashes.
The repo market represents trillions of dollars in overnight lending in which bonds (or other “assets”) are used as collateral for ultra-short-term loans between large banks. Theoretically, this flow of supposedly secured lending acts as mere background lubricant for the engine of finance, like the motor oil circulating in your Ford F-150. You don’t notice it until it’s not there, and then all of a sudden you’re throwing rods and sucking valves, and the darn vehicle is a smoldering goner in the breakdown lane.
There’s more trouble looming for the Permian Basis petroleum industry. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:
“The capital markets for oil and gas remain extremely difficult.”
The Dallas Fed’s Forth Quarter Energy Survey, released today, portrays an industry that is turning increasingly somber. The data is based on responses of executives (names are not disclosed) of 170 energy companies – 111 exploration and production (E&P) companies; and 59 oil field services companies – located or headquartered in the Dallas Fed’s district, which covers Texas, northern Louisiana, and southern New Mexico and includes the most prolific shale oil-and-gas field in the US, the Permian Basin.
This time, there were additional questions, including on the reasons for “flaring” of natural gas in the Permian Basin. Natural gas is so abundant in the hydrocarbon mix produced at these wells (“associated” natural gas), and natural-gas pipeline takeaway capacity is so insufficient, that the surge in production led to the collapse of the price of natural gas in the area, reportedly dropping below zero on occasion. And it led to a record amount of natural gas getting flared in 2019.
Flaring large amounts of gas is a waste of natural resources, a source of air pollution, and a big financial drag for the already struggling oil-and-gas companies, investors, and banks.
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