Oil plunges as global glut persists

The price of oil plunged to its lowest in three months amid renewed concerns that efforts to bring global supply into balance with demand are failing.

Brent oil shed 5 per cent to settle at $US53.11 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. US oil slid 5.4 per cent, the biggest one-day drop in more than a year, to $US50.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the lowest closing price for both futures contracts since December 7.

The slide hit the shares of local energy companies on Thursday, with Santos falling 3.3 per cent and Woodside closing 1.1 per cent lower.

“The crude market is losing patience,” Mike Wittner, head of commodities research at Societe Generale in New York, said.

As a result, oil is edging closer to the level it traded at before the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed in November to cut output for six months, and it is unclear whether that accord will be extended. No assurances on OPEC quotas

Saudi Arabia Oil Minister Khalid Al-Falih this week said the world can’t rely on OPEC alone to balance the market and there was no assurance that OPEC would extend the current quotas beyond the six-month agreement.

He also said non-OPEC producing nations wouldn’t be allowed to take advantage of OPEC’s market retreat. Saudi Arabia has cut its output faster than it agreed but Mr Falih hinted there was a limit.

While compliance among OPEC members with their mostly lower monthly quotas has been better than expected, the lift in oil prices as well as tight cost controls among US producers has led to a steady increase in US oil production and stockpiles.

US crude stockpiles rose by 8.209 million barrels to 528,393 million barrels in the latest tally, a record high, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Oil services company Baker Hughes earlier this week said the average US rig count for February was 744, 8.9 per cent higher than counted in January, and up 40 per cent from February 2016.

“Whenever there is opportunity, you’ll get somebody down here in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania … and they’ll go back into the marketplace,” American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerard said at an oil industry conference in Houston. “I believe our guys here in the US are well positioned … to take advantage of potential upside.” Global demand concerns

Mr Gerard said there had been a lot of talk about global demand rising at the conference, in particular in emerging markets over the next three to five years, and therefore there was a need to invest more to be ready for it.

What Mr Gerard called “thoughtful optimism” in the industry about the oil market isn’t being interpreted as such by traders and investors.

“Good news had certainly been out there in terms of production cuts,” Solaris Group chief investment officer Tim Ghriskey said.

“Now you see, especially on the US side, inventory builds and shale producers making some good money at these levels so production comes back on line.”

In its monthly report, the EIA is forecasting that Brent will average $US55 a barrel in 2017, rising to $US57 a barrel in 2018. US oil will trail Brent by about $US1 a barrel.

As for US production, the EIA is bullish. US crude oil production averaged an estimated 8.9 million barrels per day in 2016 and it is forecast to average 9.2 million barrels a day this year and 9.7 million next year.

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No quick fixes to energy supply challenges

The head of one of the country’s largest power utilities has warned there is no quick fix to the crisis that is enveloping the country’s energy supplies, as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg warned that the country is producing too little gas, and exporting too much.

Responding to the surge in both electricity and gas prices, amid the warning of gas shortages emerging as soon as the summer of 2018, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday called for meetings to be held with gas producers to find a way of resolving the looming shortfalls.

Ms Catherine Tanna, who heads up EnergyAustralia, one of the country’s largest energy utilities, warned there is no quick fix to the present challenges.

“I’d be very wary of anybody suggesting there are quick fixes here,” Ms Tanna said at theThe Australian Financial Review Business Summit in Sydney.

“We’re in for a couple of years of challenging times. We need to prepare ourselves and do the best that we can do. Prices have gone up and we’re in for a couple of years of managing our way through that.”

Ms Tana said moratoriums on gas exploration should be lifted. “But that is no magic, silver bullet,” she said. “That’s not going to produce gas next week, but to bring gas prices down sustainably, over the long term, we need more supply.”

Ms Tanna also said there is no need to change the national electricity market, although it may make sense for it to be operated “a little more conservatively” while the present challenges are resolved.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg blamed a “confluence of factors”, building over a period of time, for the emerging crisis.

“Two thirds of what [gas] we produce now goes for export and the fact that we have [international] parity pricing, but also the [exploration] moratoriums and bans … not just on unconventional gas exploration but also on conventional offshore gas exploration,” he told the summit.

“We’re producing less than we should and we’re exporting more than we have. That is leading ot a tightness in the market and with gas increasingly setting the price for electricity as our major coal-fired power generators are being phased out, it is affecting all parts of our energy system and we do need to fix it.”

Mr Frydenberg reiterated the government’s opposition to establishing gas reservations although he did applaud a recent move by the Queensland government to give a new exploration licence in the Surat Basin to supply the domestic market.

“I thought that was quite creative since it avoided the issue of conflicting with existing contracts or sovereign risk arguments,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“We’ve got a ridiculous situation where some gas in Victoria for example, is making its way to Queensland for export and businesses in Victoria… are really facing punishing prices.”

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Foley cleared of serious head injury

The Waratahs can breathe a sigh of relief after scans cleared five-eighth Bernard Foley of any abnormalities relating to the serious concussion that ruled him out of football indefinitely.

Foley suffered a head knock in the Waratahs trial against the Highlanders before the season and has missed the opening two rounds of Super Rugby. The 27-year-old was sent home from South Africa to see a neurologist, with coach Daryl Gibson having said his star playmaker could be out for up to year in the worst-case scenario.

It is understood Foley was a 50-50 chance to play on the weekend against the Sharks but the Waratahs decided to send him home to rest with player management in mind, given he has potentially 30 games ahead of him this year for NSW and Australia.

However, assistant coach Nathan Grey confirmed on Thursday Foley would be back on the footy field sooner than later after scans showed there was no season-threatening problem. “Everything seems to be OK. It’s just a matter of him resting and getting his head right around comfort levels and headaches,” Grey said. “When he’s right to go he’ll be right to go. It’s a bit of an open book.”

Meanwhile, the Waratahs are adamant there will not be a repeat of their poor defensive effort against the Lions when they take on the Sharks this weekend in Durban. The 55 points NSW conceded against last year’s Super Rugby finalists was the fourth most in the club’s history. “I don’t think a few of us showed up to the game on the defensive side,” said NSW back-rower Jack Dempsey. “Everyone was pretty down after the game. The mood has picked up and everyone is raring to go.”

On what will be the final game of their South African tour, the Waratahs are aiming to make amends and avoid recording back-to back losses for the first time in four years in Africa. NSW assistant coach Nathan Grey said his men would be better prepared than they were in Johannesburg.

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Magpies land home in Silverdome’s safe nest

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Goal shooter Zoe Claridge rehearses taking a shot at a Tasmanian Magpies training session in Launceston. Picture: Scott GelstonIt’sbeen just 21 days since the new Tasmanian Magpies startedon the road, but for goal shooter Zoe Claridge and her Tasmanian-based teammates, that’s just half the story.

In netball reality, it’s been closer to two years.

That’s when the Tassie Spirit unceremoniously bid farewellto Launceston to never return to the Australian Netball League.

The Collingwood-feeder side has played four of its six games in Melbourne, but for Claridge it’s not the same.

“It’s really a big difference playing at home than it is playing away – having that support is a huge difference,” Claridge said.

After much hype in a three-year partnership with glamour Super Netball club, the debut on their ANL namesake’s home court on Saturday evening and Sunday morning could give the Tasmanians the vital edge.

It’s more than the extra supporters on the sideline, Claridge insists.

The Silverdome court is regarded as one of the best playing surfaces in Australia, a fact why national coach Lisa Alexander insisted on bringing a Test match to Launceston last year.

“It makes you more relaxed knowing you know the court, you know the ring, you know how bouncy they are, especially for me being a shooter,” Claridge said.

“Just to know how much bounce there is and how much it affects your shot.

“Just being able to know the court does make a huge difference.”

Not only for Claridge, but for Northern Hawks state league teammate Ashton Whiley and Cavalliers midcourter Shelby Miller that all call the Silverdome home six months of the year.

The Melbourne-based Magpies arrived on Friday afternoon for a light session later that night to adjust to their new weekend home.

The home court advantage could not come at a better time for the rookie ANL side that sit on a precarious 2-4 win/loss record after a shock first win over Victorian Fury.

Claridge said the side is not underestimating the urgency to collect winsagainst the Southern Force, six games into a short 14-game season.

“I don’t think though it matters where we’re playing at the moment –every game is important and wewant to win them all,” she said.

But a positive Claridge also fancies theTasmanians’ chances against the fourth-placed rivals, the partner to the Adelaide Thunderbirds.

“I think we’re like every team that we play: we take them not that they’re above us or below us (on the ladder), but we take every game as it comes and put 110 per cent in each game,” she said.

“But I like our chances if we can gel together throughout the course of it.

“Obviously, not being able to train together all the time does affect us a little bit, but I think we’re able to adapt and just play to whoever we’re on the court with.”

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Letters to the editor

LET’S TALK: Rebecca Mathie, Rebecca Wilcox, Sammy Doueihi, Amy Raveneau and Kylie Fogarty at the International Women’s Day event held on Wednesday.We shouldexamine the real cost of the LPI saleTHE Land Titles Office (now called LPI) is currently the subject of a NSW Government tender to the private sector for a period of 35 years.

The LPI maintains and guarantees the register of all titles and mortgages in NSW. The tender closes in a few weeks when the successful private operator will take over the LPI functions.

With the change in place there is considerable doubt as to who will pay for the faults or errors which will undoubtedly occur as profit will be the main driver.

On anticipated turnover the state could generate a return of about $4 billion if the sale does notproceed over the period of the 35 years.

If the sale proceeds, it is expected to receive between $1 and $2 billion for the state.

Financially it is a no-brainer!

There will be considerable loss – in the hundreds – of jobs in Sydney and this could flow into Bathurst where, it is claimed, contracts have already been let to an Indian company for work which could be done in Bathurst and NSW.

When the sell-off takes place, it is highly likely that much of the work, jobs and information of a property and personal nature will be moved offshore.

This is a security risk from which there is no government guarantee. The Concessionaire is likely to offer insurance to cover such eventualities and this will increase the cost of housing in NSW.

None of the informed groups, the Law Society, Real Estate Institute, Surveyors Institution, Property Council and many others, support the sell-off.

In fact, it seems no one but the government favours the move.

Even within government there are many who feel keenly that the move is not in the interest of the state and the people of NSW. Economically, strategically and from an employment perspective, the sale cannot be justified.

Don GrantGlaring reporting omission demonstrates a deeper biasTHE reporting of the International Women’s Day event by the Western Advocate (“Being bold for change”, Thursday, March 9) demonstrates the continual bias towards men.

In a room full of high-achieving women, professional women offering services to women, high school students and a very talented group of women on the panel for the hypothetical, the Western Advocate article consisted of twoparagraphs about the event and 12 paragraphs quoting the speech by Andrew Gee, the federal MP.

Even if the reporter had limited time at the function, there was ample opportunity to speak to the many outstanding women giving their time to promote the successes of women and to encourage young women.

Later in the afternoon one of the attendeesgave an International Women’s Day keynote address to the women and men of US tech giant AT&T and took questions from appreciative men and women in Bangalore, India, Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia.

It is this continual overlooking of women in the media that has resulted in the lack of women in local government, on business boards and in the Australian honours system.

May I suggest that, as editor, you counsel your reporters to be more aware of gender bias in their reporting.

Monica Morse, BathurstFresh political faces give hope for the city’s futureCONGRATULATIONS to Bathurst Youth Council’s new deputy mayor, Lili Carter, and Youth Council mayor, Sarah Driver.

May you enjoy every success in your new roles, which give hope for the futureof a rich democracy in Bathurst.

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