Amrita Sen

Research Associate

Amrita Sen is the founding Partner and Chief Oil Analyst at Energy Aspects. Amrita leads Energy Aspects’ analysis and forecasting of crude and products markets. Her specialism is in energy commodities, particularly oil and oil products. Amrita’s deep understanding of the complex relationships within the global energy sector, her wealth of industry contacts and 10 years of experience, allow for a unique perspective on market outlook. She holds an MPhil in Economics from Cambridge University, a BSc in Economics from the University of Warwick, and is pursuing a PhD in Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council a Research Associate at the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies and was formerly Chief Oil Analyst for Barclays Capital. She is frequently featured in leading media outlets, including the Financial Times, BBC News, Reuters, Bloomberg, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, and Sky News, and at leading industry events as a speaker, and is regarded as a leading authority on oil markets.

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                    [post_content] => This comment argues that while Saudi Arabia has shown willingness to cooperate, this does not imply that the fundamentals of Saudi oil policy have necessarily changed nor that the kingdom would accept any deal irrespective of the key principles that have been guiding Saudi oil policy so far. Based on its historical record, it is possible to identify four such fundamental principles, which need to be upheld for the success of the negotiations in the OPEC November meeting:

On each of these counts, the challenges facing Saudi Arabia are immense and the probability that these barriers will be overcome by November remains low. However, there is a realization within OPEC that failure to reach any sort of agreement in November will be very bearish for the oil market with the potential to erase all recent price gains. This would continue to put pressure on OPEC to try to reach some sort of agreement, though such a potential deal may not be as neat as many in the market are expecting and OPEC may just decide to postpone some of the difficult decisions on individual quotas to a later date and agree on a collective cut in the hope that the market will be as forgiving as after the Algiers meeting, which is highly unlikely. Should there be no clear agreement on cutting output and how to allocate individual quotas, Saudi signaling about cooperation will most likely continue, as it has no interest in talking prices down. But in terms of actual volumes it may be a different story altogether, with the possibility of output being maintained at high levels, or even increased until a collective agreement is reached, delaying the rebalancing process. This is a risk that both producers and the market should not ignore.
                    [post_title] => OPEC Deal or No Deal? This is Not the Question
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                    [post_content] => Structural reforms outlined in Vision 2030 are much needed to shift the economy to a more sustainable path and even if only a small part of Vision 2030 is being implemented, the Saudi economy will look very different in 2030 than it does now. The key question is whether these changes will have a substantial impact on oil policy and the evolution of the energy sector. In this comment, we argue that while the recent announcements and organisational changes are substantial, and the overall objectives of Vision 2030 are very ambitious, the impact on oil policy and the energy sector is likely to be more subtle than current expectations.  Despite expectations of a diminished role, the Saudi energy sector (and particularly the oil and gas sector) remains key to a smooth transition to the vibrant economy envisioned and will continue to play a vital role in the country’s future. Furthermore, the overall direction of Saudi oil policy in terms of its production and investment policy, maintaining spare capacity, integrating down the value chain through investing in refining and petrochemicals, increasing the role of gas in the energy mix, introducing efficiency measures and deploying renewables in the power mix to free crude oil for exports are not likely to change in the next few years as has been confirmed by the National Transformation Programme. In fact, one could argue that the Saudi energy sector would benefit from a more integrated energy policy that takes a holistic view about the energy challenges facing the kingdom. But the Saudi energy sector will not be immune from the changes in other parts of the economy as the recent restructuring of the energy ministry, the recent increase in energy price, the emphasis on local content policies, and plans for a partial public listing of Saudi Aramco have shown. The restructuring and reorganisation of such a vital sector and the acceleration of some policies may bring benefits and achieve efficiency gains, but they will also generate uncertainties and risks, which need to be carefully assessed and managed so policymakers don’t end up killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
                    [post_title] => Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Oil Policy and the  Evolution of the Energy Sector
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                    [post_content] => Over the last decade, non-OECD oil demand growth, and by extension global oil demand growth, was driven mainly by China, which accounted for half to two-thirds of this growth. However, since the Chinese government embarked on a deliberate policy of rebalancing, the country’s annual demand growth has slowed to under 0.3 mb/d, compared to an average demand growth of over 0.5 mb/d in the 10 years prior to 2013. In this new era of slower Chinese growth, a new contender has emerged: India, which in 2015 was the main driver of non-OECD oil demand growth. In this paper we argue that in addition to the boost from low oil prices, structural and policy-driven changes are underway which could result in India’s oil demand ‘taking off’ in a similar way to China’s during the late 1990s, when Chinese oil demand was at levels roughly equivalent to current Indian oil demand. These changes include: a rise in per capita oil consumption (reflected in rising motorization of the Indian economy), a massive programme of road construction (amounting to 30 km per day), and a push towards increasing the share of manufacturing in GDP by 2022 (which could increase oil consumption by at least a third based on a conservative linear estimate). This paper also examines the implications of a take-off in domestic demand for India’s recently acquired status as a net petroleum product exporter.

Executive Summary
                    [post_title] => India's Oil Demand: On the Verge of 'Take-Off'?
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                    [post_content] => The accord reached by Saudi Arabia and Russia, along with Qatar and Venezuela, in Doha on February 16th has been widely seen as effectively an agreement to do nothing. The four countries have accepted a freeze in production based on January 2016 levels, but for most of them (with the exception of Saudi Arabia) this effectively means the ability to maintain oil output at or near full capacity. The impact on the oil market balance will be minimal, especially in the short term. Furthermore, significant caveats were included in the Doha agreement, in particular that it would only take effect if other OPEC and non-OPEC countries agree to co-operate. Saudi oil minister Al-Naimi also added that his country would ‘continue to satisfy customer demand’ for oil. Indeed, the reaction of the oil market, which saw prices rise by more than 10% in anticipation of the meeting but then fall back by over half that amount after its conclusion, underlined the ostensibly disappointing outcome. However, despite the minimal impact of the deal on market balances, the reaching of an accord between the largest OPEC and non-OPEC producers does suggest some interesting conclusions for the oil market over the next few months, as subtle shifts in negotiating tactics have started to emerge.
                    [post_title] => Saudi-Russia Production Accord - The Freeze Before the Thaw?
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                    [post_content] => Over the past decade, China has become a key driver of global oil demand growth. As China’s GDP growth increased at double-digit rates, oil demand growth increased by an average 0.5 mb/d between 2003 and 2012. Over the same period, China accounted for two-thirds of global oil demand growth. Thus, any changes in China’s energy profile and oil consumption habits can send shock waves through the global oil markets. In 2014, Chinese oil demand increased by 0.27 mb/d (2.7 per cent), broadly on par with 2013’s growth and the slowest pace of expansion in the past two decades. The question is whether 2014 was a blip, or the beginning of a deeper change. In this report, it is argued that 2014 is a harbinger of things to come. As the government moves to rebalance the economy and implements an aggressive environmental agenda, oil consumption in China will become more efficient, leading to slower demand growth rates. Thus, any outsized expectations of Chinese oil demand growth are likely to be disappointed in 2015, and weigh on global crude prices. It is also argued that the structural shift in the Chinese economy heralds not only slower demand growth, but also a change in product demand patterns and the structure of the refining industry, with important implications for global trade flows of crude oil and related products.
                    [post_title] => China - the 'new normal'
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                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-01 13:55:03
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                    [post_content] => While most recent analysis has focused on the potential impact of the US ‘tight oil’ revolution on global oil supplies and oil price levels, the impact on the shifts in trade flows and on the dynamics of price differentials has received much less attention. This is quite surprising, as the recent transformations in the US energy scene have manifested themselves most visibly through changes in crude oil and product flows with consequences on the behaviour of time spreads, inter-crude spreads, and the pricing of various crudes in relation to global benchmarks. This Comment explores some of the structural issues affecting WAF crude trade flows, providing a case study of how the US tight oil revolution is shaping oil market dynamics. The growth of US tight oil led to the first wave of structural change as the USA gradually backed out imports from West Africa, but because of a variety of factors (such as higher appetite from Asia, the loss of Libyan production making Europe switch to WAF barrels, and a spate of disruptions to WAF output) the loss of the US market was not fully felt on WAF crude prices. However, beyond these temporary factors, a couple of ongoing trends are forming the second wave of structural changes impacting West African differentials. The first of these is the changing structure of global refining. Much higher US, Russian, and Middle Eastern runs have meant that Europe is now the balancing point for global refining, a trend which is expected to continue. The second is the further backing out of WAF crudes from North America. While the USA largely backed out WAF grades by the second half of 2013, as domestic output and infrastructure continued to improve, this year has seen a significant increase in US crude exports to eastern Canada. As a result, Canadian imports of WAF crudes have fallen, implying that there is more crude oil available for clearing in the Atlantic Basin. In a way, WAF has become the swing barrel heading to North America, depending broadly on WTI–Brent differentials. But the implications have not been limited to markets in the USA and Canada. Since the marginal barrel sets the benchmark price, backed WAF barrels from North America are playing a more important role in the Brent price formation process.
                    [post_title] => New swings for West African crudes
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                    [post_modified] => 2016-11-17 16:28:21
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                    [post_date] => 2014-06-23 11:58:37
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                    [post_content] => This comment analyses the potential impact of the proposed Mexican energy reforms in light of the current state of Mexican oil production. It identifies the main themes behind the reforms and evaluates the prospects for shallow, deepwater and shale resources, along with the midstream and downstream sectors. The comment notes that while Mexico offers significant opportunities, financial and political challenges will limit foreign investment until after 2016, thereby preventing any material impact on Mexican production or on global oil supplies until after 2020. The steep decline rates at existing fields and a beleaguered midstream and downstream sector, which are not tackled by the reforms, will also likely limit foreign investment.
                    [post_title] => Awaiting the Mexican Wave - Challenges to energy reforms and raising oil output
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                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-01 14:18:31
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                    [post_content] => This comment explores the links between Saudi Arabia’s export policy, US oil market balances, and the price dynamics of US benchmarks. The authors argue that one of the biggest surprises to the market has been the resilience of US crude import despite falling US prices. As a result, the fate of US benchmarks is not just linked to US production growth and infrastructure logistics such as pipelines and rail, but also to a development that could impact global oil markets –whether Saudi Arabia decides to defend prices by reducing production should other producers increase output or relinquishes its role as the swing producer and becomes protective of its market share. Should market fundamentals weaken enough and Saudi Arabia decides to maintain its output at current levels, the US Gulf Coast (USGC) remains the lowest cost option for signaling global intentions, and the damage to prices can be confined to one part of the world. As the oil glut in the US intensifies, the debates surrounding exports of light grades from the US, or at the very least, swaps of Eagle Ford lights with Mexican Maya, are likely to gain traction in 2014. The issue then becomes whether it is US crudes, particularly light grades, that disconnect severely from the rest of the world once again or would the rest of the world share the impacts of growing US production as more crude becomes globally available. So far, US policymakers have avoided the controversial and politically sensitive issue of whether to allow exports of light crude. This issue however cannot be kept under wraps for much longer.
                    [post_title] => The Swing Producer, the US Gulf Coast, and the US Benchmarks - The Missing Links
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                    [post_modified] => 2016-03-01 14:33:39
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                    [post_date] => 2013-10-03 11:14:24
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                    [post_content] => This paper examines the implications of the rapid growth in US tight oil production for US and global energy markets. The behaviour of US crude markets is analysed, with a particular focus on changing arbitrage dynamics. The rapid growth in US tight oils production was not met with an equally fast response by the US midstream companies, resulting in severe regional crude price dislocations. These lower regional prices impacted on producer profits and, more significantly, benefitted refineries that secured cheap feedstock and sold end products at levels linked to global product markets. However, we argue that globally, US tight oil production has primarily impacted price spreads though changes in trade flows, rather than absolute oil price levels, given various offsetting factors such as extremely weak supplies from outside the US.‎ Put another way, we argue that perhaps the correct way of seeing the US supply shock is not as something that should result in the collapse of prices, but instead as a factor that has prevented prices from being significantly higher.
                    [post_title] => US Tight Oils - prospects and implications
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                    [post_modified] => 2016-02-29 15:42:13
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                    [post_date] => 2013-09-12 17:29:52
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                    [post_content] => Historically, the industry has had a very poor record in predicting oil prices and key fundamental shifts in the oil market, and this time is no different. Not only did most industry and oil market analysts fail to predict the scale of the tight oil revolution, but now that the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, expectations regarding the impact of the tight oil revolution on global supply dynamics and international prices appear overhyped. However, contrary to the general view in the market that the abundance of tight oil would cause both a sharp drop in oil prices and create a supply glut in crude or refined products, neither has really materialized. This raises a key question: how can the oil market be undergoing a revolution without its effects being felt on global oil prices? One may argue that the impact of shale oil on prices and oil market dynamics is yet to be felt, as some of the underlying forces still need time to unfold. However, we find such an argument unconvincing. If, during the last three years, the large positive US supply shock failed to cause sharp price falls, why would a rise in US supply now bring about falling prices over the next few years? Instead, in this note, we argue that there are some fundamental weaknesses and flaws in the analysis underlying the ‘oil price-collapsing’ scenario and ‘hyped expectations’; current projections of the impact of shale on global oil market dynamics are hence likely to produce ‘off the mark’ predictions once again. We also argue that the current debate neglects some key areas in which the tight oil revolution is likely to have its biggest impact – namely on crude oil and product trade flows, on price differentials, and on the global markets for natural gas liquids.
                    [post_title] => The US Tight Oil Revolution in a Global Perspective
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                    [post_content] => In January 2013, the Government of India began deregulating the retail price of diesel by permitting Oil Marketing Companies to progressively raise retail prices over a period of several months, until their losses from the subsidization of diesel were completely offset. This policy decision represents one of the final stages of the ‘decontrol’ of prices for diesel and gasoline. Two key questions which arise from these recent measures are (a) whether they will play a role in slowing the pace of growth in India’s oil consumption, and (b) whether they have impacted the structure of India’s demand for petroleum products, and whether these reforms could make a difference to the economic situation in relation to fuel subsidies. This Comment therefore focuses on the potential impacts of these important reforms on Indian diesel demand.

 

The argument in this Comment can be viewed as being in three parts. The first looks at the Indian reforms in the context of wider literature on the response of demand to the progressive elimination of subsidies – arguing that, contrary to the expectation that higher prices lead to a reduction in demand, for a developing economy like India, the demand for diesel is likely to continue growing as income effects are stronger than price effects. However, the second argues that the price effects by themselves are quite complex; the lag between reforming the prices of different petroleum products, and the relative price changes which have prompted substitution between them, complicates the dynamics of demand. And third, it argues that India’s system of differential taxation at the state level could lead to outcomes completely different to those intended by reform at the federal level, particularly in relation to subsidy removal.
                    [post_title] => Diesel Pricing Reforms in India – a Perspective on Demand
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            [post_content] => This comment argues that while Saudi Arabia has shown willingness to cooperate, this does not imply that the fundamentals of Saudi oil policy have necessarily changed nor that the kingdom would accept any deal irrespective of the key principles that have been guiding Saudi oil policy so far. Based on its historical record, it is possible to identify four such fundamental principles, which need to be upheld for the success of the negotiations in the OPEC November meeting:

On each of these counts, the challenges facing Saudi Arabia are immense and the probability that these barriers will be overcome by November remains low. However, there is a realization within OPEC that failure to reach any sort of agreement in November will be very bearish for the oil market with the potential to erase all recent price gains. This would continue to put pressure on OPEC to try to reach some sort of agreement, though such a potential deal may not be as neat as many in the market are expecting and OPEC may just decide to postpone some of the difficult decisions on individual quotas to a later date and agree on a collective cut in the hope that the market will be as forgiving as after the Algiers meeting, which is highly unlikely. Should there be no clear agreement on cutting output and how to allocate individual quotas, Saudi signaling about cooperation will most likely continue, as it has no interest in talking prices down. But in terms of actual volumes it may be a different story altogether, with the possibility of output being maintained at high levels, or even increased until a collective agreement is reached, delaying the rebalancing process. This is a risk that both producers and the market should not ignore.
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