I hope it’s been a good Thanksgiving for producers, mid-streamers, exporters, consumers, in fact anyone connected with the U.S. NGL business. I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one linking propane to Thanksgiving, as I came across a lovely website and a blog produced by Blue Rhino, who appear to be an “exchange of cylinder” driven retailer. Well they have published a blog called “The Beginner’s Guide to the Perfect Thanksgiving Meal”, and in the first paragraph they have mentioned the word “grill” 4 times, just to make sure I have an idea of what’s coming next.
So, we are getting even closer to the implementation of IMO 2020’s Sulphur cap, I bet you’re all prepared and excited to see what happens next, I certainly am! I think ship owners have made their minds up about both the short-term switches they have to make, as well as fueling decisions for future new buildings, especially VLGCs. The big question though is what will sit in the middle for those who have basically said they will “suck it and see”. The buzz is certainly dual fuel, and maybe it will also be part of the reality.
After a few years in the wilderness, and I do mean living on the Isle of Wight by the way, I was quite taken aback one day when two industry jargons were used in a flourish, as if I should have known exactly what they meant, one was “PRONAP” and the other was “FEIMOPJ”. Once I had worked out what they represented, I was then fascinated to know how they traded in the market.
As Thanksgiving holidays approach over in the U.S., we’re experiencing this paradox of having the signs of winter in the midcontinent, stocks dropping over 6 million barrels throughout the U.S. in the last two weeks, but propane exports have just hit a season’s high, with over 1.36 million barrels moving over the docks in the U.S. Gulf, U.S. east and west coasts. Mont Belvieu propane prices have surged on the back of not only the cold weather, but also the hefty export volumes, ending up close to 56 cents/ gallon, while the market was below 40 cents/gallon only 3 months ago, that’s up 40%.
I know markets are supposedly 24/7 these days, but come on, it’s the holiday season a coming. The market is starting to show signs of easing back, getting programmes sorted and balanced, not taking on any more positions that might need late nights and early mornings sorting out potential problems, instead allowing for late nights and early mornings having fun, albeit in a more thoughtful way, and by the way, that’s not a veiled parallel to our excruciatingly misguided Prince Andrew. But as always there’s bound to be something about to happens that’s going to ruin the party!
I was kindly invited to attend the first Argus LPG Awards for Excellence ceremony, this week in London’s Science Museum. I have to say it was a great success, and was lovely to see such a broad representation of our business, and some worthy winners as well. “You know who” picked up the best trader award, yes I do mean Seb Willems at Glencore, and he’d already got his winner’s speech prepared, that’s why he is #1, it’s all in the preparation! Mary-Jane Hogg deservedly won the executive of the year, and there were awards for Ineos, GE Power and Noreen Howat at Aggreko.
At a recent gathering of the good and the mighty in Athens, I understand a distinguished ship owner was able to hold a relatively straight face when explaining the challenges, or something along those lines, faced by the VLGC ship owners in the current mesmerizingly strong LPG shipping market. I’m sure every investor who boarded the run early, maybe even after reading my summer and autumn SIMON SAYS blogs, is sitting extremely comfortably today as he checks his share portfolio. But what happens next, is there going to be a twist, there usually is!
I still believe that if you have any serious intentions to be a player in the LPG world, you need a ship, whether you own it or charter it doesn’t really matter, all that counts is that you have one. Now a lot of people will remind me that the market has been on its knees many times over the last ten years or so, and for many periods before that, and isn’t this just me trying to ride the wave of the current strength in the freight market.
It’s looking as if it’s been another one of those weeks in the LPG world, where defining a forward view of the market could go one of many ways, and the backcloth is an ARB market that initially headed south but has now regained some broader momentum. In today’s SIMON SAYs I’ll take a look at what the key indicators are up to, and what has happened to them over the last couple of weeks, to see if there’s a clearer direction going forward, as cargoes are starting to be talked for the January 2020 arrival period in Asia.
On Friday I decided to try and explain what lays behind the EIA’s weekly inventory numbers, the numbers they know, and the ones they don’t. Although there is a degree of uncertainty regarding production, at least there was a number we could decipher, as there also was for imports and exports, but that’s about where it all stopped. I mentioned we had to make a lot of assumptions, the biggest one being U.S. domestic propane demand. Are we getting it right or wrong?