If 2015 is anything like 2014 we can expect a wild ride. Oil price volatility – including its downward trend – will linger well into the first and second quarters as global production persists and key conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East show no end. For its part, the United States is better positioned than most – the US is poised to carry the global economy in 2015 with projected GDP growth of 3.1 percent. However, converting this potential into meaningful energy trade and/or soft power is another matter altogether and 2015 offers limited opportunities.
Perhaps in anticipation of greater volumes, the Obama administration and the Department of Commerce clarified existing regulations and opened the door for increased US exports last week – up to one million barrels per day (mbpd) of ultra-light crude oil. The exports will expose producers to more lucrative markets abroad and may further narrow the price spread between Brent and WTI. But who’s buying?
Among the most interested parties is the European Union (EU). Let’s take a quick glance at their current energy situation. Liquids consumption is expected to decline 0.14 mbpd this year after falling in both 2013 and 2014. Not great news, but holes in the market are opening. Russian crude exports to the EU are down more than five percent from a year ago as President Vladimir Putin pushes more and more crude toward China. Moreover, OPEC crude to Europe is also down nearly 4 percent, placing more pressure on the EU’s declining domestic fields in the North Sea. While not a complete fix, US crude represents a functional stopgap measure. However, it’s not simply a matter of ask and you shall receive – there remain some barriers to settle.
First, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – TTIP is a proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the US. Negotiations began in July of 2013, but a consensus is still not on hand. Of note are the provisions surrounding energy. The EU wants freer access to US energy and raw materials; demands that have been met with mixed emotions in the US. The agreement’s ability to facilitate oil, and perhaps more so LNG, is pending its approval, but most importantly TTIP – as the EU envisions it – represents a chance for a more liquid and flexible global commodities market.
Full article: US Sees Huge Energy Opportunity In Europe (Oil Price)