Coronavirus Creating Greater Upstream Oil & Gas Headwinds

Find out why the expanding coronavirus pandemic is poised to have broad market impacts on the global economy and, in turn, oil prices.

By Steve Hendrickson

Nearly two decades ago, the SARS epidemic began in China and spread to at least 20 other countries. Although it killed almost 800 globally, the economic impacts were felt mostly in China. This time, although the expanding coronavirus outbreak appears to have a much lower mortality rate, it’s poised to have a significant negative impact on the global economy and, in turn, oil prices.

The reason the global impact is likely to be greater is a lot has changed in the Chinese economy since the SARS outbreak. China's economy is much larger, is a more important market for other countries, its companies manufacture more sophisticated products and they’re more intertwined in global supply chains. With travel restrictions affecting much of the country and people staying away from work and other public spaces, the economic impact is starting to be felt.

According to Oxford Economics, China's economic growth in 2020 was previously estimated to be 6.1%; it has revised its estimate to 5.6% based on the impact of the virus so far. They also estimate this would reduce global economic growth to 2.3%, putting it at the lowest level since the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Predictably, this has been bad news for oil prices. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude prices plunged nearly 25% to $31.13/bbl and Brent prices slid 24% to $34.36/bbl on March 9--the biggest daily rout since the 1991 Gulf War. This freefall in crude pricing is also being exacerbated by OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, and Russia deciding to raise crude production, flooding additional barrels of inexpensive oil in the global market and, in turn, triggering a "price war" with rival U.S. shale producers.

Unfortunately, all this comes at the beginning of borrowing base redetermination season for many independent operators. Banks reduced many borrowing bases and tightened some loan covenants in late 2019. A lower bank price deck will only add difficulty to an already tight credit market.


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About The Author:

Steve Hendrickson is the President of Ralph E. Davis Associates, an Opportune LLP company. Steve has over 30 years of professional leadership experience in the energy industry with a proven track record of adding value through acquisitions, development and operations. In addition, Steve possesses extensive knowledge of petroleum economics, energy finance, reserves reporting and data management, and has deep expertise in reservoir engineering, production engineering and technical evaluations. Steve is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Texas, and holds an M.S. in Finance from the University of Houston and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. He currently serves as a board member of the Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers and is a registered FINRA representative.

Steve Hendrickson

PresidentRalph E. Davis Associates

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