Industry observer expects $60 crude to hold

Updated: 2014-12-12 14:34

By Paul Welitzkin in New York(China Daily USA)

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The world should get used to oil prices at around $60 a barrel and despite that record low price, China will probably use less crude because of pollution concerns, according to an energy industry veteran.

"I remember oil when it was at $5 a barrel and also when it was at $140 a barrel," Ian Taylor, president and CEO of Dutch energy trader Vitol Group told the eighth annual Platts Global Energy Outlook Forum in New York on Thursday. Taylor served as the keynote speaker on the theme of this year's forum, Transition & Transformation.

Global oil prices have declined from around $115 a barrel in the summer to below $60 a barrel on Thursday trading in New York, the first time since 2009. Increased American output due mainly to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in Texas and North Dakota have turned the US into a major crude producer. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) last month declined to trim its production quota of about 30 million barrels a day to further pressure prices.

"US shale has completely changed (the world) oil flow," said Taylor. "The US has become a major exporter and that means no Nigerian oil is coming into the country."

US crude-oil imports from Nigeria and Algeria have declined by 93 per cent since 2010, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), said.

Industry observer expects $60 crude to hold

"I suggest that we may stay at about $60 a barrel for longer than most might think. That means the Chinese and Indians will have access to reasonably priced crude for the foreseeable future," he said.

Taylor said the world has been getting demand-growth estimates wrong for some time and he doesn't expect China - even if it averages its desired 7 percent economic growth - to alter a stagnant demand scenario.

"China has a serious environmental problem. I don't believe that they will be turning to more oil. I think the environmental concerns will cause them to use less oil and (less) coal," he said.

Amid plunging oil prices, some have suggested that OPEC will no longer be a major force in determining prices in the future. Taylor cautioned against writing OPEC off. "OPEC has been around a long time and (they) have had bad times before. We will now have to use price to balance the market (instead of OPEC)."

Russia is one country being hurt by slumping oil prices. The EIA said Russian oil and gas revenues account for more than 50 percent of its federal budget revenue. Taylor expects Russia to make more of its crude available to China.

One energy industry finance participant at the forum said China is increasingly focusing its efforts on a climate change mitigation measure - carbon dioxide capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

CCUS involves trapping carbon dioxide emissions and either reusing them or storing them so they won't enter the atmosphere. Michael Eckhart, managing director and global head of environmental finance at Citigroup Inc said that China is very interested in reusing the CO2 emissions.

"About 75 percent of the electricity in China is from coal," Eckhart told China Daily in an interview. "China definitely wants to explore the possibilities of reusing those emissions while the US seems more interested in storing the emissions."

Eckhart said the company LanzaTech in New Zealand is developing a technology to take emissions from steel mills and convert it into gasoline. "A New Zealand pension fund has decided to invest $100 million into it," he said.