History shows that that governments usually lose arguments with energy suppliers. UK premier Harold Macmillan summed up the position when talking about coal miners in the 1950s, warning: “There are three bodies no sensible man directly challenges: the Roman Catholic Church, the Brigade of Guards and the National Union of Mineworkers” Unfortunately, Europe now potentially faces an argument with its leading gas […]
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Whisper it quietly to your friends in the oil business. But oil prices are looking very vulnerable. Producers and the central banks have done a great job in creating the myth of imminent shortages – these have always been ‘just about to happen’ as a result of supply disruptions or the long-promised recovery in global […]
Sometimes the blog’s mind goes back to its happy days in Houston, Texas, when it set up and ran ICI’s feedstock and petchems trading office. And it thinks through the factors that it would have considered when deciding whether to buy, sell or sit on the sidelines. The memory came back during last week’s lively ACS webinar, when […]
The blog has a suggestion for a quiz question for anyone planning party games over the Christmas period: Q. What was the longest distance travelled by a cargo of crude oil in 2013? A. 9000 km (5500 miles) from Scotland to China Isn’t that amazing? We are constantly being told that supply is short, and that today’s high prices are […]
Iran has been at the centre of all the major oil market price spikes in the past few decades: Today’s record prices on an annual basis are partly due to market fears over supply disruptions due to the Iran/Israel nuclear issue Fears over a nuclear showdown also led prices to jump to $150/bbl in July 2008, when the […]
Pity for a moment those poor souls whose income depends on finding ever-more creative ways of justifying today’s record levels of oil prices. One by one, all their favourite stories have disappeared. Even the traditional summer warnings of record hurricane disruption have so far failed to deliver. How different it is from the start of the crisis, when the […]
Think back over the past 5 years. Can you remember a single time when oil supplies were actually difficult to find? If you can’t, then you have the same memory as the blog. Official statistics support this view. Thus last week’s US EIA report noted that “U.S. crude oil inventories are near the upper limit […]
Life doesn’t get any easier for Europe’s olefin producers and the consumers who depend on them. As the chart shows, based on latest APPE data, operating rates averaged just 78% in H1. This is almost as bad as H1 2009, when they were 76%. And it is a long way away from the 90% levels […]
Last week should have been a great week for the speculators. As in July 2008, they were able to spread the rumour of imminent Middle East war and upheaval. 5 years ago it was the threat of Israel bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities, and leading to a blockade of the Straits of Hormuz. This time it […]
Something very strange has happened to oil prices since 2009, as the chart of the ratio between US oil and natural gas prices shows: • Between 1986-2008, the ratio averaged 9.6, and was typically in the 6 – 14 range (6 is oil’s relative energy content versus natgas, whilst 14 was seen during the first […]
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Paul Hodges is Chairman of International eChem, trusted commercial advisers to the global chemical industry.
The aim of this blog is to share ideas about the influences that may shape the chemical industry over the next 12 – 18 months. It will try to look behind today’s headlines, to understand what may happen next in important issues such oil prices, economic growth and the environment. We may also have some fun, investigating a few of the more offbeat events that take place from time to time. Please do join me and share your thoughts.
Between us, we will hopefully develop useful insights into the key factors that will drive the industry's future performance.