German Pellets: The elephant in the room

Biomass market participants from all over the world gathered in London for the annual Argus Media biomass conference, but there was one noticeable absentee — German Pellets, until recently one of the world’s largest wood pellet producers.

Since the start of this year, barely a week has gone by without new headlines concerning the wood pellet producer and its recent downfall. The producer filed for insolvency in February, followed by seven European subsidiaries and its US arm Louisiana Pellets.

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Terror in the nursery — Goldilocks cut in half

In December 2014, with Brent at around $50/bl, Opec secretary-general Abdullah al-Badri said: “We do not want a very high price because there will be less demand and consumption. We do not want a low price because there will be less investment and supply.”

When the price was $110/bl, or $100/bl, or $90/bl everyone was happy, he added. Well, US shale oil and Canadian oil sands producers certainly were.

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How will Gazprom handle the LNG glut?

The US is about to start its first new LNG export facility for over four decades. And it’s pointing its tankers to Europe, Gazprom’s largest and most important gas market.

In Paris last week, Cheniere Energy chief executive Charif Souki said the 25mn t/yr Sabine Pass project could deliver LNG to Europe at $4.50/mn Btu. This is close to the breakeven cost for Gazprom delivering to Europe, according to Societe General European gas and LNG analyst Thierry Bros. He estimates Gazprom would need prices of $4.50-5/mn Btu, including transport and taxes. This means the US slightly edges out Russia on price to supply Europe. Continue reading

The wrong capacity

There may be something in Italian refiner Saras executive vice-president Dario Scaffardi’s thesis on European refining that “there is no overcapacity, just wrong capacity”.

Speaking at a business update in July, Scaffardi said the closure of a string of European refineries since 2009 was because of substandard, smaller and less-complex refineries being unable to compete in the wider market place, not simply the result of an excess in supply. Continue reading