The major participants at ADIPEC 2020’s ADNOC Trading Forum expressed a wide range of sentiment, but the general message was one of caution or even outright pessimism when it came to oil price movements. The Virtual Conference, which was held in Abu Dhabi, was dominated by three main topics, the impact of COVID-19, global oil and gas demand destruction, and the U.S. election results. With a wide range of speakers including representatives from Abu Dhabi’s national oil company ADNOC, the major storage company VITOL, Japanese company ENEOS, Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM), and OMV amongst others, the forecasts for 2021 were plentiful and varied. The main takeaways for observers were that markets may be growing increasingly optimistic about a COVID recovery, but oil prices are unlikely to see a real recovery before the end of 2021. Oil market fundamentals are very weak at the moment and even if a COVID-19 vaccine is produced, the impact on fundamentals will be slow. Furthermore, any oil market recovery could easily be halted by a change in the strategy of OPEC+ or any other supply increase before demand picks back up. According to Energy Intelligence, Platts and Argus, the overall expectation for oil prices in 2021 is in the high $30s to mid $40s per barrel. In a panel with Martin Fraenkel, Euan Craik, and Alex Schindelar, all three industry leaders agreed that they expected a more optimistic situation in 2022. The three oil analysts emphasized that much will depend on the success of tackling COVID globally and the resilience of the market in the face of a possible supply boost.
Russel Hardy, the CEO of Vitol, argued that 2020 has shown how resilient the hydrocarbon sector still is. Despite the major breakdown of demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hardy claimed that Vitol has been able to ride out the storm and is fully prepared for 2021. While a combination of negative prices, demand destruction, and a storage glut means that a return to normal is still a long way away, an industry recovery is well and truly underway. Kajo Fujiwara, the Executive Officer of Crude Trading and Shipping for Japanese company ENEOS emphasized that “work continued even in COVID time”. He said that was particularly difficult as a state of emergency had been put in place in Japan as its refineries were forced to cut, exports decreased and margins were very low. The company’s investment plans were also altered as several projects were delayed. In H2, however, ENEOS saw refinery runs increase and signs of demand recovering.
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