Although last week was shortened by the Thanksgiving holiday, a few more pieces seemed to be falling into place in the U.S., and for that matter when moving out of the U.S. as well. If we then add in a few what might or might not happen questions, it was actually an eventful last week of November. Then came the attention on the U.S. from Asia, concern may be, as well as from a small number of trading houses nestling in the major cities of Europe. But why the concern?
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.
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.
I bet some of you are saying that all I seem to talk about these days is that damn ARB, from Houston to Chiba, but to soothe any sore feelings I’m going to explain a little more about the direction of seaborne trade. Not just the route from the U.S. to Asia, however important it might be. We’ve all seen the world maps with those directional arrows, and in a nutshell that’s pretty much what it is all about. Whatever anybody says you can’t beat a good world map!
In yesterday’s SIMON SAYS I told the post shale story for U.S. LPG exports, especially those from the U.S. Gulf coast, and how once everybody had signed up to buy at high terminal fees, the bottom suddenly caved in on the market in the summer of 2016, and it was here to stay for longer than anyone ever wanted. The result was that Chinese end-users began to cancel, or try to renegotiate their term contracts, as they could take advantage of cheaper Middle East product and discounted naphtha. That’s putting it kindly, what was really happening was wholesale reneging!
Yesterday I was in my comfort zone, the market action was clearly at the front of the curve, where some real time world LPG supply issues were having a significant influence on demand decisions in Asia, as we enter that winter run-in, just like the old days. Middle East LPG exports in October down, down from Saudi Arabia and right down out of Iran. U.S. Gulf exports at no change, despite being told we were supposed to be getting a 15% increase in export slots late third quarter.
I struggle sometimes when it comes to the Indian LPG market, especially explaining its true impact on the international seaborne trade. I think it mainly comes from spending far too long away from the LPG industry, just as India was starting to thrive, and then coming back to trading models geared predominantly to U.S. exports and FEI pricing, neither with any focus on India.
There’s not really a similar sector anywhere in the international oil and gas industry that performs the same role as the “midstream” does in the U.S. market. I can remember my mother would irately say, when I interrupted her for some reason, “don’t stop me in midstream”, otherwise it wasn’t a word often used in the Hill household.