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The Energy Report: Bases Loaded

Published 03/25/2024, 09:31 AM

Oil prices are building a base over $80 a barrel as global supplies tighten, the US rig count falls and the geopolitical risk rises. The energy gloves are off as Russia retaliates from Ukraine’s attacks on their oil refineries by attacking Ukraine with hypersonic missiles on their energy infrastructure.

Reports say as much as 25% of Russia’s refining capacity could be shut down at a time when global supplies of diesel and gasoline are below average for this time of year.

This comes after the horrific Friday terror attack on a concert hall near Moscow that Russia blames on Ukraine, but it appears it was an attack by a rejuvenated ISIS. Russia lashed out with aggressive attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Russia attacked critical infrastructure in Ukraine’s western region of Lviv with missiles early on Sunday, Kyiv said, in a major air strike that saw one Russian cruise missile briefly fly into Polish airspace, according to Warsaw as reported by Reuters.

Reports say as much as 25% of Russia’s refining capacity could be shut down at a time when the global supplies of diesel and gasoline are below average for this time of year. Reuters reported that Russian oil refining capacity that was shut down in the first quarter due to Ukrainian drone attacks on at least seven refineries amounts to about 4.6 million tons (370,500 barrels per day), or some 7% of the total, Reuters calculations show, on top of maintenance related to other causes.

The United States has urged Ukraine to halt drone strikes on Russian energy infrastructure, warning they risk provoking retaliation and driving up global oil prices, the Financial Times reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.  Russia’s oil refining production forecast for 2024 remains unchanged and close to last year’s level of around 5.5 million barrels per day, Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov said on Wednesday.

While things heat up between Russia and Ukraine, the Red Sea attack risks are still high even as Israel reportedly gave a proposal to Hamas for a ceasefire that could allow for the release of 40 hostages held by Hamas. This comes as Israel attacks the hospital hideout of the Hamas terrorists who used hospitals as a shield.

Oil Price reported that the total number of active drilling rigs for oil and gas in the United States fell by 5 this week, according to new data that Baker Hughes published on Friday, bringing the total rigs gained this year to just 2. The total rig count fell by 5 to 624 this week, compared to 758 rigs this same time last year.

The number of oil rigs fell by 1 this week after seeing a gain of 6 in the week prior. Oil rigs now stand at 509–down by 84 compared to this time last year. The number of gas rigs also fell this week, by 4 to 112, a loss of 50 active gas rigs from this time last year. Miscellaneous rigs stayed the same at 3.

Natural gas prices are trying to find a bottom and there is some criticism of natural gas producers that they didn’t react fast enough to the warm temperatures and the lack of demand thereby creating a glut. But maybe it’s possible that natural gas producers are going to get smarter in the future with the use of artificial intelligence.

Last week reports said that EQT the country’s largest natural gas producer announced a deal to buy pipeline equations and streams according to Barrons. They wrote that artificial intelligence is the hottest theme in investing right now, and its growth could boost even the prospects of the latest major energy deal. EQT, the country’s largest natural gas producer, announced a deal on Monday to buy pipeline company Equitrans Midstream (NYSE:ETRN).

The $35 billion merger will create a behemoth that controls nearly every step from getting natural gas out of the ground to delivering it to customers. Shares of EQT were down 8% on Monday, partly because it will be taking on billions of dollars in Equitrans’ debt. Equitrans shares were up 2.7%. EQT says it can pay down the debt quickly. Executives also highlighted the growth possibilities from the deal.

EQT CEO Toby Rice said on a conference call after the acquisition was announced that the growth in demand from data centers used to run AI applications could boost the fortunes of the most important pipeline that EQT is buying.

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