How To Profit When Oil Drops to $60 a Barrel

October 17th, 2014
in contributors

by Matt Insley, Daily Reckoning

It's been dubbed "America's point of reckoning," and according to one forecast, it could slash the price of oil by over 30%. In other words: $60 oil.

Today, we'll take a look at this important terminology, what it means and how to profit. Along the way, we'll also update our Profitable Oil Driller's Dictionary...

Follow up:

Simply put, America is bursting at the seams with oil.

Shale plays across the country are continuing to increase production. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) September Drilling Productivity Report, oil production has risen in each of the three major U.S. shale plays (Permian, Eagle Ford, Bakken) every single month this year.

We're witnessing a steady, relentless march higher in U.S. oil production.

Not just any oil, mind you - we're talking about light sweet crude oil - the good stuff!

This is "America's point of reckoning," the day the U.S. produces more light sweet crude than our refiners can handle.

However, amidst this enormous economic boom for our country, there's a lone black cloud coming over the horizon.

You see, while light sweet crude oil is the good stuff, it's completely unexpected. "Way back when" in the '70s, '80s and '90s, Houston's refinery row was gearing up for heavy sour crude, imported from the Middle East and OPEC.

Back then, with the expectation that America's oil days were over, refiners went full bore into processing heavy sour crude. In the refining space, this is a big deal. The chemical and physical processes to refine heavy crude are far different than those for refining light sweet crude. And by no stretch of the imagination, U.S. refiners have billions of dollars invested in heavy sour crude upgrades.

So how does this get to $60 oil, you ask?

With current estimates for crude production in 2015 (heading higher as far as the eye can see), the U.S. could soon eclipse its capacity for refining light sweet crude oil. There'd simply be no room at the inn.

This is "America's point of reckoning," the day the U.S. produces more light sweet crude than our refiners can handle.

Under current legislation - in which U.S. crude exports are banned - this point of reckoning, according to energy consulting agency Wood Mackenzie, "could drive down domestic crude oil prices more than $30 per barrel versus their international benchmarks."


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A $30 discount to current crude prices would put WTI prices around $60 per barrel.

"So Matt, does this forecast have any validity?" you ask.

Well, if we left all regulations the same and production continues, America's point of reckoning is all but guaranteed.

However, with my ear to the ground in the oil patch, I think U.S. regulators will open the floodgates and allow certain types of crude exports.

Fact is, we've already seen the writing on the wall. Earlier this year, the U.S. government gave two companies the right to export lease condensate (very slightly modified oil that comes directly from the ground in South Texas).

Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD) and Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD) received approval earlier this year to export unrefined oil to foreign countries.

And while some folks have written this up to a government fluke or a one-off event, I believe we're seeing the future of the light sweet crude export market (via ultra-light condensate).

On the topic, Scott Sheffield, Pioneer's chairman and CEO, told Reuters earlier this week:

"We operate 50,000 bpd [of condensate] and we're selling probably about 20,000-25,000 bpd, but eventually we'll get up to 50,000 bpd."

Better yet, "we'll see a lot more exports of condensate starting maybe late this year, early next year," Sheffield says, portending that more companies will receive government approval to export as well.

This is a turning of the tide for American energy - and potentially a beacon of hope in the dark-clouded backdrop of America's refining sector.

Although oil prices are under fire this week, I love the outlook for Pioneer and Enterprise. I also like any other companies working in the South Texas Eagle Ford that will have the same opportunity to command a higher price for their exported crude. Warding off America's point of reckoning could be their point of profit!









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