Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.SNP Offers Labour Deadly Death Embrace Alliance, Holding England to Ransom, Destroy UK From Within - Nadeem_Walayat
2.Gold And Silver – Most Widely Used Currency In Western World? Stupidity - Michael_Noonan
3.Election Forecast 2015 - Coalition Economic Recovery vs Labour Collapse - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Election Forecast 2015 - Debates Boost Labour Into Opinion Polls Seats Lead - Nadeem_Walayat
5.Why are Interest Rates So Low? Ben Bernanke, Confused as Ever, Starts His Own Blog to Prove It - Mike_Shedlock
6.Leaders Debate Election 2015 - Natalie Bennett Green Party Convincing Anti-Austerity More Debt Argument - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Labour Economic Collapse vs Coalition Recovery - UK Election Forecast 2015 - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
8.China’s Stock Market Mania; How High can Red-chips Fly? - Gary_Dorsch
9.Gold and Misery, Strange Bedfellows - 31st Mar 15 - Dan_Norcini
10.Ed Miliband Debate Election 2015 Analysis - Labour Spending, Debt and Economic Collapse - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 5 days
Unsound Banking: Why Most of the World's Banks Are Headed for Collapse - 21st Apr 15
Bitcoin Recent Low Price Volatility Might Be Deceptive - 21st Apr 15
Currency Wars Back As Russia Buys Gold - One Million Ounces in March Alone - 21st Apr 15
The Greece 'Grexit' Issue and the Problem of Free Trade - 21st Apr 15
Why Europe Lets People Drown - 21st Apr 15
Wealth Destruction for the 99.9 Percent - 21st Apr 15
SNP Publish England's Suicide Note as Pollsters Still Forecast Labour-SNP Election Disaster - 21st Apr 15
Characteristics of Extremely Over-Indebted Economies - 21st Apr 15
Trader Education Week -- a Free Event to Help You Learn to Spot Trading Opportunities - 21st Apr 15
Gold & Silver Alert: Silver Stocks’ Signal - 20th Apr 15
Now is the Time to Buy Resource Stocks, Especially Gold Equities - 20th Apr 15
DJ Transportation & Utility Averages Suggest Stocks Bull Market Is Over - 20th Apr 15
Crude Oil Price Bull Market Hope - 20th Apr 15
Stock Market Bears Get Slaughtered Despite Greece Counting Down to Grexit Financial Armageddon - 20th Apr 15
The Rise of the Paper Machines - 20th Apr 15
Gold and Silver Inflection Point - 20th Apr 15
SP500: A Butcher's Stock Market (Chop Chop Chop) - 20th Apr 15
Are Stock Market Bears Slowly Gaining Control? - 20th Apr 15
Sugar Commodity Price Bear Rally - 19th Apr 15
Avoid the Spread of the Stock Market "China Syndrome" - 19th Apr 15
Stock Market Going Nowhere Fast - 19th Apr 15
An Easy Way to Profit From the Two Biggest Trends in the Stock Market - 19th Apr 15
No Scripture Is Divine, Authentic and Beyond the Creation of the Human Brain - 19th Apr 15
Inflation, Central Banks, and Business Cycles - 18th Apr 15
Stock Market Correction May be Nearing End - 18th Apr 15
UK Housing Crisis, Immigration, Population Growth, Election Forecast 2015 - Video - 18th Apr 15
Q1 Corporate Earnings Risky for Stocks - 17th Apr 15
US Stock Market Getting Scarier by the Day - 17th Apr 15
Stock Market Watershed Day - 17th Apr 15
Gold Price Has “Hallmarks Of Market That Is Bottoming” - 17th Apr 15
Chinese Stock Market - Men Go Mad in Herds - 17th Apr 15
Two Stocks Offering Investors High Yields and Profits - 17th Apr 15
Gold Price Has “Hallmarks Of Market That Is Bottoming” - 17th Apr 15
Chinese Stock Market - Men Go Mad in Herds - 17th Apr 15
Two Stocks Offering Investors High Yields and Profits - 17th Apr 15
King Dollar Hurting Stock Market Corporate Earnings! - 17th Apr 15
Production Declines Hide Bigger Crude Oil Storage Issues - 17th Apr 15
Top Three Takeaways From Today’s OPEC Crude Oil Report… and How You Can Profit - 17th Apr 15
How to Profit from Australia's Healthiest Biotech Stocks - 17th Apr 15
What Is Really Driving Gold Price? - 17th Apr 15
Will Ever More Boomers Selling Retirement Assets Change Investment Prices For Decades? - 16th Apr 15
Won't Be Contagion with 'Grexit' Greece Euro-zone Exit - 16th Apr 15
Sharp Decline in USD/CAD and Its Consequences - 16th Apr 15
Blackstone is like Apple, Google, Hermes, Boeing - 16th Apr 15
The Most Dangerous Financial Headline I've Seen Since the 2008 Crisis - 16th Apr 15
Is Legal Tax Avoidance Extinct in the UK? - 16th Apr 15
Why Russia Will Send More Troops to Central Asia - 16th Apr 15
More Thoughts on the Current Crude Oil Market - 16th Apr 15
U.S. Treasury Secretary Warns Greek Exit Will Cause Enormous Disruption and Hardship - 16th Apr 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

US Historic Bubble

Japan Earthquake: Impact on Crude Oil, Fuel and Nuclear Power

Commodities / Crude Oil Mar 13, 2011 - 02:49 PM GMT

By: Dian_L_Chu

Commodities

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleA 9.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Japan on Friday March 11, prompting a 30-foot tsunami slamming the country's northeast coast. Media reported that one major oil refinery was caught fire while nearly a dozen nuclear plants were shut down leaving Millions of buildings around Tokyo without power.




Crude oil saw a pullback breaking the recent uptrend from the Libya and Middle East unrest.  Reuters reported that there were six refineries that account for 31% of Japan's output shut down after the quake and it was unclear when they would reopen.  Some media reports suggested the crude oil price drop is largely due to expectation that these refinery shutdowns could mean less imports of oil.

Earthquake or Rollover?

So, not surprisingly, I received an email asking whether the drop of crude oil is related to Japan’s devastating earthquake, or more the result of the mass rollover from United States Oil (USO) and the triple expiration as discussed in my previous post.

While there’s not one easy answer, a good place to start is to review some oil barrel statistics of Japan.

Japan Imports = 1.6% of World Demand

Based on the U.S. EIA data, Japan imported 4.7 million barrels a day (bpd) in 2009, with total oil refining capacity of 4.6 million bpd at 29 facilities as of January 2010. According to Reuters, the six refineries that are shut down have a total capacity of 1.40 million barrels per day (bpd).  That's about 1.6% of the 89.3 million bbl/d global 2011 product demand forecast by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

While Japan is the second-largest net importer of oil in the world after the United States in 2009, the  estimated import disruptions due to the earthquake does not appear significant enough to sway world’s crude oil market. 

China Trade Deficit - Major Catalyst

From various indications, the drop of crude price after Japan's earthquake could be partly attributed to the  knee-jerking reaction to a devastating natural disaster, some risk-off profit taking, USO starting its rollover on March 8, and the fizzled “Day of Rage” protest in Saudi Arabia.

However, the major catalyst for the downward pressure on crude oil before and after the Japan earthquake was the surprise trade deficit number--$7.3 billion, the largest in 7 years--coming out of China signaling an possible economic slowdown.

Japan to Increase Energy Imports after the quake

On the other hand, since about 25% of Japan’s electricity is coming from nuclear, the resulted power shortage due to closures of a dozen nuclear reactors after the quake suggests Japan will likely need to increase its imports of petroleum products and other energy sources (See Chart). 


The country’s power generation relies mostly on coal and natural gas, which means there will be an increase in imports of diesel (to power generators), and other petroleum products (since part of domestic production is offline), along with natural gas/LNG, and coal, just to keep the the entire nation going in the aftermath.

Fuel Prices Could Spike

The oil import disruption at Japan is unlikely to wrangle an upward momentum out of crude oil.  However, the Japanese refinery shutdown happens to coincide with planned shutdowns of crude units led by China and Japan that will cut 2.12 million barrels of output a day, or 6.8% of the region's total, in the April-June quarter, according to Reuters

Moreover, the second quarter is the typical refinery turnaround season with a substantial amount of crude processing capacity offline.  As such, there could be a tightening of the global petroleum products market, and spikes in the prices of petroleum products including gasoil (diesel), gasoline, along with LNG and coal prices.  This will likely benefit other Asian refiners in South Korea, Taiwan and China and oil majors such as Shell (RDS) with refineries in the region.

Meanwhile, construction, engineering and industrial material and equipment companies should also benefit from the massive rebuilding effort in Japan.  And some analysts also see a technology product price spike and supply crunch since Japan is a major high tech center of the world that could impact earnings in the tech sector. 

More Pressure from Triple Expiration

Now, turning back to the crude market in the week ahead, escalating call option trades (see chart)—the highest since July 2009--suggest the major rollover action is yet to occur.

Since there's not a real physical supply shortage, and  Cushing is brimming with crude unable to take delivery, more downside could be expected in the April crude contract from March 15 to March 22 with the triple expiration on ICE and NYMEX, which would further pressure both WTI and Brent.

From a technical perspective, $95 seems a solid target for the WTI, and Brent could come down to $109 or $108 range.


Japan Nuclear Meltdown Crisis

Besides crude oil, I think the biggest story out of this international disaster for the energy sector is the near materialization of the greatest obstacle and fear of the nuclear power – a possible nuclear reactor meltdown.

As of this writing, Japan is still struggling to contain the situation, and has resorted to using salt water to cool two reactors at Fukushima Plant. The reactors were damaged by the earthquakes, and could be at risk of meltdowns and spreading radiation.

U.S. Nuclear Power - 3 Decades of Void 

The U.S. has 104 nuclear reactors producing 799 billion kWh in 2009, or over 20% of total electrical output, according to World Nuclear Association. Although the US is the world's largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity; very few new reactors were built in the past 30 years after the Three-Mile incident in 1979.

However, despite big obstacles like cheap natural gas, high project costs and the Great Recession sapping demand in recent years, nuclear power was staging a comeback when President Obama's 2012 budget proposed $36 billion in loan guarantees to build nuclear power plants. The industry is expecting 4-6 new units to come on line by 2018, a result of 16 license applications to build 24 new nuclear reactors made since mid-2007.

Fukushima - The Deepwater Horizon of Nuclear Power

Now, the little progress the U.S. nuclear power sector has made in the past three decades could see a major setback, if not completely decimated, by the worst nuclear accident in Japan’s history.  There will likely be a more regulatory scrutiny, and a seismic shift in the global energy mix where more resources will be pouring into natural gas, clean coal and renewable, instead of nuclear.

In a way, Fukushina is the Deepwater Horizon of the nuclear power sector, and it fair to say it might take another 20 years of zero incident to get nuclear power back into the energy fold. 

Nuke Write-off?

On that note, future investments in nuclear power could be even harder to come by, and companies like NRG Energy (NRG) and Southern Company (SO) may need to scrap or write off their planned nuclear power projects, which could impact their forward earnings, and stock valuation.

Different Impact on Different Sectors

While the world is still in shock watching this tragic disaster still unfolding on TV, different sectors will likely experience different impacts from this unprecedented event.

In this case, it is most likely a non-event for the crude oil, and the nuclear power basically has met its Deepwater Horizon.  Likewise, other Asian refiners and companies specializing in infrastructure building could get an unexpected boost in their business, while consumers would likely feel the pinch in the form of higher fuel and technology product prices.

Dian L. Chu, M.B.A., C.P.M. and Chartered Economist, is a market analyst and financial writer regularly contributing to Seeking Alpha, Zero Hedge, and other major investment websites. Ms. Chu has been syndicated to Reuters, USA Today, NPR, and BusinessWeek. She blogs at http://econforecast.blogspot.com/.

© 2011 Copyright Dian L. Chu - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014