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The Barrel Blog

There’s more spring in the step of the steel industry in March, but can it last?

Ardent observers of the steel trade press might have concluded the month of March came in like a lion after reading the top headlines of Tuesday’s Platts SBB Global Briefing. Of the top five stories, four were pricing stories and all were positive, a noticeable change from many previous steel market headlines containing such phrases as “gloom” and “doom.” The positive news for steel that launched March had an international flair: Asia rebar prices on the rise; US sheet...

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What will be the golden ruling on London’s bullion market?

London’s streets were rumored to be paved with gold, once upon a time. Now they seem to be paved with chit-chat and hearsay regarding the future of the City’s bullion trade. Now, not to repeat myself, but the London bullion market is currently in a state of transition. To what, exactly, is anyone’s guess. Over-the-counter to exchange, maybe, if the London Metal Exchange can get its hands on it. Disclaimer: all of this is basis analysis of high-level conversations with senior...

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Ethylene projects in the ethane-heavy Northeast US

The US has experienced a renaissance in petrochemicals due to the abundance of ethane from shale gas. As a result of the increasing NGL production from various shale plays, there have been a total of 17 announced greenfield steam crackers in the US. Since much of the NGL production boom has come from the Northeast US, we wanted to take a look at ethane cracker projects in that area and assess their progress. Ethane supply from the Marcellus and Utica Shale has grown strongly in the last few...

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OPEC boxes itself into a corner: Fuel for Thought

Heavyweight oil producer group OPEC stepped into the ring with young upstart US shale back in November 2014 and delivered its best shot. Led by prizefighter Saudi Arabia, it decided not to cut output in hopes of arresting the slide in prices, but, in an attempt to floor the relatively high-cost producer, declared it would defend its ground. Fast forward 13 months and unconventional crude supply is down but not out. And OPEC, whose membership has been split down the middle by a policy aimed at...

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BP to face Senate over Australian Bight oil and gas drilling plans

Offshore oil exploration in Australia’s most prospective frontier basin could be heading the way of onshore gas development in the country’s southeast: straight into an environmental roadblock. Plans by UK major BP to drill for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight were knocked back by the federal regulator last November, and now the Senate is going to take a look at the proposal, in a move that activists have said means politicians will be doing the work of the...

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The challenges and opportunities around US NGL and petrochemical exports

Earlier this week we attended the NGL Feedstocks and Derivatives: Global Supply & Demand Dynamics 2016 conference in Houston,  hosted by the American Business Conferences. During the presentations, Q&A sessions, round-table discussions, and our conversations with the industry during networking breaks, we debated the questions around exporting NGLs and petrochemicals out of the US. The best response when asking tough market questions was, “Well, it depends.” The US NGL market is...

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Rough seas for dry bulk shipbrokers as commissions tank

It’s carnage out there for the dry bulk shipping market. Anyone and everyone connected to this market are bleeding profusely with freight for moving dry commodities offering negative returns for over a decent period of time now. While it’s a matter of life and death for the dry bulk shipowners, who are struggling to cover even their operational expenses, the current crisis is pushing shipbrokers to the edge. Almost gone are the days when shipbrokers used to pride themselves as “CEOs,” a...

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So demanding: US gasoline marketers zero in on potential future growth areas

You can’t take a practice swing with a 6-iron here at the BPAMA gasoline marketers’ convention in Doral, Florida, without nearly hitting someone who is optimistic about gasoline. Not crude, mind you. There is plenty of sour feeling about that. But about 450 regional fuel executives have gathered this week at the Trump National golf resort at Doral, with Platts as one of the sponsors of the event. (The attendees will miss the really big show, which happens in a few days when resort...

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The next stage in America’s evolving ethanol landscape targets five countries

2015 was a difficult one for US ethanol producers, prices came down from an eight year high in 2014 to a near-eleven year low in January of 2016. As with any market, when times are hard, it’s essential that players can adapt and evolve to keep business alive. So, eyes turn to export opportunities and to five countries in particular. Traditionally, once supplies reach around 20 million gallons, cargoes start getting booked. Supplies are currently at around 23 million gallons. With sustained...

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IHS CERAWeek: By dismissing OPEC cut, did Saudi Minister Naimi outline the path to one?

Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi this week told a massive Houston crowd that the oil-rich kingdom wasn’t interested in solving the global market’s problems, telling them he saw no point in a coordinated production cut. While he said no cut, is that what he really meant? Maybe not. Many attendees at the IHS CERAWeek conference pointed out that while Naimi said he sees a coordinated cut as an entirely useless endeavor, he didn’t rule it out. “Perhaps he meant no cut … for now,” said...

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