One of the key data points gaining popularity among successful oil traders is the question of where the commodity is, or is heading. And one of the best ways to follow the movement of oil is to track tanker information.
Several businesses, some covered here this past summer, provide such data for a subscription fee. However, a community of traders has come together over the course of the past year to discuss oil trading and share data without boundaries or firewalls. Their newest contribution to this effort is a website offering free data on the movement of oil.
TankerTrackers.com touts itself as “the world’s only free website which keeps daily track of the amount of barrels of crude oil and refined product present in various spots and fleets of interest.” Led by three amateur oil traders, Samir Madani, Lisa Ward, and Kishore Gunturu, TankerTrackers has evolved from the Twitter group #OOTT. In December 2016, the group launched the website to share insights on the movement of oil.
TankerTrackers tags the number of barrels at US ports and anchorages by taking a daily snapshot of where oil tankers are situated. Via this daily accounting they are able to anticipate the number of barrels entering the US ahead of the data released in the weekly EIA report. With the help of official monthly data from various government ministries and JODI Data, the Joint Organisations Data Initiative for oil and gas transparency, (via the IEF), the site updates monthly imports, exports, production and refinery runs. This allows them to calculate changes in purchase prices and provide details on crude oil storage in China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and more.
For example, TankerTrackers.com determined that in 2016, China spent an average of $41.28/barrel and added 270 million barrels of oil to its stockpiles. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, used 56 million barrels from its own storage. This information is all posted on the same day as official publication, in an easy to read format.
In addition, the site tracks the floating storage of various countries as well as multiple corporate and national fleets as these oil tankers travel around the globe. Floating storage is of particular interest since many countries do not report draws from floating storage in their official reports. For example, Iran is notorious for only reporting increases in its floating storage and failing to report decreases. TankerTrackers.com data has revealed that Iran exports oil from its floating storage to hide decreases in field production.
Lisa Ward explained:
“We believe one of the reasons for the drawing down on Iran’s [floating storage] has some part to do with the 35 tankers they are leasing out to the EU and that their production levels [are] not quite meeting reported volumes.”
“Iran exports about a tanker a week now from [floating storage] alone,” says Samir Madani. Ward adds, “we can see all this via our FloSto data when tracking tankers and staying on top of news thanks to the live #OOTT feed on Twitter.” All of this is used by individual traders to achieve, what they believe is, a more accurate image of global supply.
At the same time, on the other side of the world, TankerTrackers.com is reporting on weather conditions around the key U.S. port of Houston, TX. They subscribe to U.S. Coast Guard alerts and regularly view webcams. This enabled them to keep tabs on extremely foggy conditions in Houston last month.
As a result of the fog, many oil tankers were stuck outside Houston and unable to unload their cargoes at the port. Using daily barrel counts, the group predicted a subsequent build-up in oil imports to the U.S. ahead of the official numbers because the vessels were within U.S. maritime borders. A number of other oil tracking companies, however, erroneously reported a draw instead. When the EIA announced its official statistics, TankerTrackers.com had correctly predicted the build.
The group is also taking personal requests to track individual tankers that certain physical oil traders are interested in. For example, some of the individual tankers the group is currently following include Humanity (heading from Iran to South Korea) and Energy R (heading from Saudi Arabia to Texas).
Their Twitter account (a must-follow), @TankerTrackers, carries all of their analysis and extra information that the website doesn't provide. The group chose Twitter because it delivers instant notification and has a broad reach. The website however, in addition to data, provides a few manuals so traders can learn how to understand and interpret the information on the website. The creators plan to introduce new features regularly, so expect to see some growth.
The creators of the site emphasize that TankerTrackers.com is a website, not a business. It brings in no revenue. The founders believe the information it delivers should be free and accessible to all. In fact, they've refused payment and urge users who wish to offer funds to donate to charities that help children in conflict zones.
If you know of additional, useful, free tools for oil traders, leave a comment or send a note to the author, and we may discuss it here in the future.
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