Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.Gold Price Trend Forecast, Where are the Gold Traders? - Bob_Loukas
2.Stocks Bear Market of 2017 Begins? Shorting the Dow At its Peak! - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Betting on President Trump Leaving Office Early, Presidency End Date - Betfair Market - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Why Stock Market Analysts Will be Wrong About 2017 - Clif_Droke
5.Is This The Best Way For Investors To Play The Electric Car Boom - OilPrice_Com
6.Silver Price 2017 Trend Forecast Update - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Gold Price Set For Very Bullish 2017, Trend Forecast - Austin_Galt
8.10 Things I learned From Meetings With Trump’s Transition Team - - John_Mauldin
9.How Investors Can Profit From Trumps Military Ambitions - OilPrice_Com
10.Channel 4 War on 'Fake News', Forgets Own Alt Reality Propaganda Broadcasting - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 7 days
The Mother of All Financial Bubbles will be Unimaginably Destructive when it Bursts - 19th Feb 17
Gold’s Fundamentals Strengthen - 18th Feb 17
The Flynn Fiascom, the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper - 18th Feb 17
Not Nearly Enough Economic Growth To Keep Growing - 18th Feb 17
SPX Stocks Bull Market Continues to make New Highs - 18th Feb 17
China Disaster to Trigger Gold Run, Trump to Appoint 5 of 7 Fed Governors - 18th Feb 17
Gold Stock Volume Divergence - 17th Feb 17
Gold, Silver, US Dollar Cycles - 17th Feb 17
Inflation Spikes in 2017, Supporting Gold Prices Despite Increased Odds of March Rate Hike - 17th Feb 17
Roses Are Red... and So's Been EURUSD's Trend - 17th Feb 17
Gold Trade Note Sighted - 17th Feb 17
Gold Is Undervalued Say Leading Fund Managers - 17th Feb 17
NSA, CIA, FBI, Media Establishment 'Deep State' War Against Emerging 'Trump State' - 16th Feb 17
Silver, Gold Stocks and Remembering the Genius of Hunter S. Thompson - 16th Feb 17
Maps That Show The US’ Strategy In Asia-Pacific - 15th Feb 17
The Trump Stock Market Rally Is Just Getting Started! - 15th Feb 17
Tesco Crisis - Fake Prices, Brexit Inflation Tsunami to Send Food Prices Soaring 10% 2017 - 15th Feb 17
Stock Market Indexes Appear Ready to Roll Over - 15th Feb 17
Gold Bull Market? Or was 2016 Just a Gold Bug Mirage? - 15th Feb 17
Here’s How Germany Buys Time From China - 15th Feb 17
The Stock Trader’s Actionable Guide to Trump - 15th Feb 17
Trump A New Jacksonian Era? The Fourth Turning (2) - 14th Feb 17
Stock Market Yet Another Wall Street 'Witch's Brew' - 14th Feb 17
This Is Why You Don’t Own A Lot Of Stocks - 14th Feb 17
Proposed Tax Reforms Face Enormous Headwinds - 14th Feb 17
BBC Inside Out Tesco Rip off Offers - Determined to Lose Big Spend Customers! - 13th Feb 17
Is the UK An Economy Built on Debt? - 13th Feb 17
Stock Market VIX Cycles set to Explode in March/April 2017 – Part 2 - 13th Feb 17
Stocks At Record Highs - Will Uptrend Accelerate? - 13th Feb 17
US Dollar: 'Rumors of My Death are Greatly Exaggerated' - 13th Feb 17
Is This The Top Commodity Play For 2017? - 13th Feb 17
Trump a New Jacksonian Era? - 13th Feb 17
Stock Market at High Tide - 13th Feb 17
Channel 4 War on 'Fake News' Ends - The New News Age - 12th Feb 17

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

State of Global Markets 2017 - Report

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.


© 2005-2016 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

Catching a Falling Financial Knife