As we come close to the start of 2020, both the production forecast, and the reality, jump ahead another year. Decisions have been made in advance to order new VLGC buildings, although with a lack of any real perceived urgency, and a stutter attributed to all the uncertainty associated with IMO 2020. We have discussed the reasons before, the long memories of the traditional ship owners for when rates struggled to cover operating expenses (OPEX), that has discouraged them from investing in new buildings on any scale at all.
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.
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?
The power struggle in the Middle East may well have taken a new and more immediate twist, potentially sending huge shockwaves through the oil markets once the weekend is over and electronic trading commences Sunday evening. As a result, the whole international LPG complex faces a major jolt, not only on the back of any spike in crude oil pricing but also potentially as a result of production cutbacks in Saudi Arabia.