As the new year begins and E&Ps continue to face pressure to focus on returns, operators remain on the lookout for incisive market data and forecasts that provide greater visibility into potential risks and opportunities.
Utilities are in the thick of an industry transformation driven by technological and competitive forces. 2019 shows no signs of slowing down. We have highlighted 5 key trends to stay ahead of in the coming year, so utilities can continue to position themselves for success.
The variability of supplier responses to bid events can pose significant financial and operational risks to energy companies, especially as this behavior is prone to change when market and economic conditions shift. Variances in bid responses during the recent economic recession and recovery motivated PowerAdvocate to analyze the impact of macroeconomic factors on supplier bidding behavior. The aim of this analysis was to uncover trends that, when coupled with project and company-specific data, will enable industry leaders to better anticipate and mitigate project and supplier risk. If you missed our introduction of this analysis, you can read our previous blog about it here.
Our team hypothesized that suppliers who offer a diverse range of services, work across multiple industries, and service a wide geographic area respond to macroeconomic circumstances differently than smaller or more specialized suppliers. To measure these differences, and to better understand how a supplier’s profile influences their behavior, the team categorized bid data into two groups: bids from major suppliers and bids from specialized suppliers.
With cost volatility and a need to continue adapting to an evolving industry, Oil & Gas firms have increasingly turned to innovations such as "digitalizaton" as solutions, with many industry leaders citing it as a top of mind focus in 2018 and beyond. But what is digitalization, and how can firms think about leveraging it effectively to drive greater cost competitiveness and overall higher EBITDA?
To help answer these questions, PowerAdvocate's sister company Wood Mackenzie recently published a report outlining the digitalization landscape in Oil & Gas, including a case study of how one operator drove >$1B in savings and a 25% reduction in third party costs through digitalization and big data from PowerAdvocate.
Historically, energy firms have seen uncertainty in their supplier’s behavior as simultaneously unmanageable and a source of severe risk for their operations. This uncertainty can cause major projects to fall behind schedule and can create reputational and financial loss for an organization.
While this risk has always been a concern for energy firms with high exposure to contractors, the volatility of today’s market highlights the need for all companies to be able to proactively mitigate the risk that suppliers pose to major projects and operations.
Leveraging PowerAdvocate’s energy supplier database of $3.3T in energy market spend and 70K sourcing events, we identified and quantified trends in supplier bidding behavior. Using these insights, energy firms can efficiently plan for changes in bidding behavior and mitigate risks during market fluctuations.
Global trade continues to keep energy companies on their toes. With 60-80% of business line costs coming from supplier activities, owners and operators need data and insights to better understand supply risk. With that in mind, our analysts have built out a comprehensive report summarizing the latest impacts of the 301 trade case.
Platinum, a key input to critical refining catalysts, has already faced steep multi-year price declines and has recently hit a long-term low. However, recent hints at a price rebound point to substantial possible cost risks for downstream firms.
Summary: What Happened?
In late March China launched its first oil futures contract that may fully appeal to non-Chinese risk managers. Since oil field service (OFS) providers and other companies often peg contract pricing to oil benchmarks such as WTI and Brent, this introduces a new option for contracts. However, O&G supply chain teams should beware the new option: rather than entertaining the new Chinese oil futures, teams should consider less risky and more established alternatives to mitigate risk and avoid unnecessary costs.
Why Have I Not Heard of Chinese Futures Before Now?
Despite surging activity on China’s three main commodity exchanges (the Dalian Commodity Exchange, the Shanghai Futures Exchange, and the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange), until recently, several factors have precluded Chinese commodity futures markets from emerging as commonly referenced international price benchmarks:
- Lack of cross border access: Foreigners have seldom been permitted to access and utilize Chinese commodity futures. Only a limited number of Chinese state-controlled enterprises have been granted licenses by the Chinese government to transact in commodity derivatives outside China.
- Non-convertibility of the RMB: The Chinese government limits the convertibility of its currency, the RMB. This can make exchange rate transactions costlier to execute than those with other currencies. Market participants have expressed concerns that profits earned on Chinese commodity futures contracts may potentially be difficult to move out of China.
Both factors have contributed to large divergences between Chinese and foreign benchmark pricing across many commodities. These divergences make Chinese contracts unsuitable to hedge commodity exposure incurred outside of China and arguably make Chinese commodity derivative prices less reflective of global market conditions than their foreign equivalents. Traders and supply chain managers have thus been reluctant to use them.
Higher prices are on the horizon for utility-scale solar projects due to tariffs and quotas recently approved by President Trump. This new legislation could seriously impact financial plans for solar projects, but expertise in capital projects, specifically renewable projects, can help utilities, EPCs, and developers mitigate these costs and prepare for future changes.
Why are the rules changing?
In September, the International Trade Commission (ITC) determined that U.S. solar manufactures experienced significant injury due to imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) solar cells and modules. This investigation stems from the United States’ Global Safeguard law, where an industry representative may petition the ITC to determine if imports are causing “serious injury” and recommend remedies. The petition was filed by the recently bankrupted Suniva and later joined by SolarWorld.
On January 22, the Trump Administration followed through with the recommendations from the ITC and imposed a four-year solar import tariff that will start at 30 percent in the first year and gradually drop to 15 percent. This tariff will apply to all CSPV solar cells and modules that are imported into the U.S. There is a quota specifically for solar panel cells which excludes the first 2.5 GW of cells imported into the U.S. each year, but the details on how the quota will apply remain undetermined. Like the tariff, the quota will last four years. All countries are included except for Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) beneficiary countries, which account for less than three percent of total imports.
UPDATE: In a surprising move, President Trump announced on March 1 that he intends to impose sweeping 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% tariffs on aluminum -- the most severe of the potential trade remedies recommended by the Department of Commerce. Details of the plan are still unknown, but the announcement has already driven dramatic steel and aluminum price increases and spooked equipment manufacturers. Register for our March 13 webinar for the latest updates on Section 232.
Read on for our initial analysis of the Department of Commerce's recommendations.