Friday, December 9, 2011

The shifting geopolitics of oil - the best rocks at the best terms

The oil world for the last 40+ years have been driven by a search in the Middle East and emerging markets. The cheap oil was outside the politically stable developed world. Cheap oil made the political risks of working in difficult regions of the workable, but the oil dynamics are changing. Political risk has not decreased in many high reserve countries. The cost of oil in these countries are on the rise, but most importantly, the increase in reserves in many developed countries have changed where drilling capital will be committed.

The reserve increase is a direct result of technology. This is the cornucopian story which we have discussed. Innovation will drive real prices. There is natural cycle. As the cost of drilling increases, both actual and political, there will be a change in behavior toward technology and investing. Money will be placed in R&D to reduce production costs. If these technologies are sound, there will be a shift in investment focus. the same will occur with investing around the world. Higher political risks will reduce the amount of investing in any country or region. The fact that many of the cheap sources of oil are controlled by state oil companies makes case for why private companies are moving back to the developed world. Put these two together and you will find that new technology will increase reserves in previously expenses areas and lead to the shift away from politically risky areas.

The technologies of has lead to the vast developments of oil sands, shale gas (fracking), deep water drilling and shale oil through horizontal drilling. The developed world and places outside the Middle East are where new reserves are being found. Australia is becoming a leader natural gas developer. Canada now is second in reserves. The US may become a natural gas exporter. Brazil may become an oil and gas powerhouse in Latin America. The story of oil is - "go west" 

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