As markets reel from the coronavirus crisis, prices available to oil and associated gas producers have fallen to single digits in Western Canada and turned negative in parts of North America, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Analysts expect some existing production will soon grind to a halt.
Origin Energy, the Australian upstream company and utility, has slashed its capital expenditure in reaction to the global Covid-19 outbreak but maintained guidance for earnings and profits in FY2020. CEO Frank Calabria reassured investors on the utility’s resilient balance sheet, saying there was “significant headroom” in its debt covenants at current oil prices.
As China strives to rekindle its economy, after strict lockdowns in January and February to contain the coronavirus, energy demand slowly recovers. Beijing lowered gas prices for industrial users, but Wood Mackenzies deems it’s insufficient to stir a lost-demand recovery and new coal-to-gas switching.
Excess LNG supplies from the U.S. and diverted cargoes from Asia Pacific are heading for Europe, swelling gas storage and putting more downward pressure on prices as demand from industry and power generation stays subdued. IHS Markit says Europe's imports could swell to equal the monthly offtake of South Korea and Japan combined.
Stockpiles of domestic U.S. gas production will reach an all-time high in 2020, as drilling companies keep producing record volumes even though the coronavirus crippled domestic demand. Exporting excess LNG is not easy as Europe is in lockdown, but the first US LNG cargo for more than a year is heading for the Chinese port of Tianjin.
Rapidly falling oil prices since March 18, when Saudi Arabia started to flood the market, have pulled down seasonal gas and wholesale power prices in the UK. According to Cornwall Insights, Brent crude oil prices plunged over 60% so far in 2020, with seasonal gas and power contracts shedding 32.7% and 21.1%, respectively.
Industry lockdowns, caused by the coronavirus, have slashed electricity demand in most countries by around 15%. In Spain and California, where grid operators have to balance a substantially higher share of variable renewables, the lockdown “fast forwarded these power systems 10 years into the future,” the International Energy Agency (IAE) commented.
Though short-term profits of power and water utilities are hit by the lockdowns of energy-intensive industries to contain the coronavirus pandemic, investors are seeing energy companies as “safe havens” as a recession looms large and stock markets plunge. Amid falling bond yields, investors turn to steady payouts from regulated utilities.