Energy Update - November 2017

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November 1, 2017

The number of active drilling rigs at work in Texas is stable around 436, slightly lower than last month's count, but significantly higher than last year, according to oilfield services firm Baker Hughes. Nationally, there are 913 rigs at work, up from 908 at this time last month. Overall, US crude production is steady around 9.5 million barrels/day, according to the Energy Information Agency.

Oil prices rose gradually throughout October as relief efforts from Hurricane Harvey continued. The price of West Texas Crude rose slightly to $52 and the price of Brent Crude also increased by a small margin to around $59 – evidence, producers say, that the global market for oil is steadying. Stable prices will likely lead to greater Texas drilling activity in the coming months.

Saudi Aramco, a Saudi Arabian national petroleum and natural gas company, made headlines in May when it completed a deal with Motiva Enterprises LLC to purchase its 50 percent ownership of the Port Arthur Refinery. The refinery is the largest in North America and fifth largest in the world , processing 600,000 barrels a day in Texas and utilizing its 24 storage and distribution terminals to distribute to states in the South, Mid-Atlantic, and the Northeast. According to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Aramco is set to hold an Initial Public Offering (IPO) at some point in 2018. Prince Mohammad believes that Aramco’s estimated value will be about $2 trillion for the sale of approximately 5 percent of Aramco, although many market experts consider that an overvaluation.

The thought is by taking this company public, Saudi Arabia will make available more funds to revamp national economic development. However, it is speculated the underlying reason behind the relinquishing of shares is crude oil production will begin to wane in favor of alternative energy , so the Saudis are attempting to capitalize at an opportune time. Regardless, any large action by Saudi Arabia in the energy sector will impact Texas and the US, as the country has significant control over the global supply and prices of oil.

On the clean energy front, Tesla recently began an effort to help Puerto Rico rebuild its energy grid after Hurricane Maria brought mass damage to the island in September. The technology behind the batteries of Tesla's electric cars is being used in generators which, combined with solar panels, are helping power areas that lost basic necessities. This sheds light on the newer, cleaner methods of harvesting and storing energy that the US and other developed countries will soon utilize.

 On another note, Texas, along with several other states, has recently feuded with Tesla due to the state's ban of car sales directly to consumers. Current legislation allows Tesla to operate service centers in Texas, where it may display vehicles and conduct test drives, but pricing and sales promotions are not allowed. Customers must purchase the cars online or in a neighboring state. This could delay the process of expanding the number of electric cars on Texas roads, which could have long term environmental and economic impacts on the state.