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Craft Oil: The Lesser Known Side of America’s Energy Industry

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Craft Oil Infographic

Craft Oil: The Lesser Known Side of America’s Energy Industry

Go back a decade, and America’s energy industry was quite the hot button issue.

Oil prices were soaring past $100/bbl, the country was still reliant on OPEC for imports, and a lack of energy independence was becoming a costly issue. Meanwhile, the United States was being outclassed on the energy production front by both Saudi Arabia and Russia.

However, in the short span of eight years – and thanks to the use of technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – the United States quickly went from having a questionable energy future to being in a clear position of strength. Today, even with lower prices, U.S. field production of crude is at a 43-year high.

America’s Independent Oil Producers

Since 2016, the U.S. has produced close to the equivalent of 30 million bpd in oil and natural gas, making the United States a champion of global energy production.

Today’s infographic from Jericho Oil focuses on a key part of the turnaround in the U.S. energy sector that often gets overshadowed by Big Oil players like ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell. It covers the role of “Craft Oil” in the industry, an umbrella that includes many small, independent, and focused companies across America that produce oil and gas on a domestic basis.

The thousands of companies in this group, many which are community-driven or family-owned, actually drill 95% of the country’s oil wells to yield 54% of onshore oil and 85% of onshore gas production.

Comparing Big Oil to Craft Oil

Below is a comparison of ExxonMobil to the profile of an average Craft Oil company:

 
Big Oil
Craft Oil
Employees
71,300
12
Years in Business
108 years
23 years
Annual Gross Revenues
$218.6 billion
$9.25 million
Ownership
Publicly traded
75% private, 25% public
Level of Integration
Typically fully integrated, combining upstream and downstream activities to get the most out of the value chain
Usually a pure play, focused upstream on oil exploration and production
Focus
Produce, transport, refine, and market oil products
Develop new plays, and drive upstream trends such as technological innovation
Production
Domestic and international
Mostly domestic

Most Craft Oil companies are very small in comparison – but together, they contribute to a very significant portion of U.S. production, as well as the economy.

Investing in Craft Oil

Do these independent producers provide a strategic opportunity for investors?

Yes, but here are a few areas investors should consider evaluating before taking any action:

Location of Assets:
In the U.S. and Canada, independent oil companies undergo strong regulatory scrutiny to make sure their reporting and numbers give transparency to their operations.

Cash and Debt:
How much does the company have in cash? Will they have to raise more money soon?

Companies operating in junior oil and gas should not have more than 2x more debt than their current cash flow.

Management Team:
The strength of any management team is linked to their connections, past experience, and skill set. If the management team has built and sold successful projects in the past, that is a good sign of strength.

Economics:
Investors need to be aware of key metrics to gauge if junior oil and gas companies can make money in the current or projected cost environment. These include IRR (Internal Rate of Return), NPV (Net present value), and payback period. Companies that make their money back fast and with a good return can re-invest that capital into additional projects.

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Energy

Mapped: Every Power Plant in the United States

What sources of power are closest to you, and how has this mix changed over the last 10 years? See every power plant in the U.S. on this handy map.

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This Map Shows Every Power Plant in the United States

Every year, the United States generates 4,000 million MWh of electricity from utility-scale sources.

While the majority comes from fossil fuels like natural gas (32.1%) and coal (29.9%), there are also many other minor sources that feed into the grid, ranging from biomass to geothermal.

Do you know where your electricity comes from?

The Big Picture View

Today’s series of maps come from Weber State University, and they use information from the EPA’s eGRID databases to show every utility-scale power plant in the country.

Use the white slider in the middle below to see how things have changed between 2007 and 2016:

The biggest difference between the two maps is the reduced role of coal, which is no longer the most dominant energy source in the country. You can also see many smaller-scale wind and solar dots appear throughout the appropriate regions.

Here’s a similar look at how the energy mix has changed in the United States over the last 70 years:

Energy net generation over time

Up until the 21st century, power almost always came from fossil fuels, nuclear, or hydro sources. More recently, we can see different streams of renewables making a dent in the mix.

Maps by Source

Now let’s look at how these maps look by individual sources to see regional differences more clearly.

Here’s the map only showing fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel power plants in the U.S.

The two most prominent sources are coal (black) and natural gas (orange), and they combine to make up about 60% of total annual net generation.

Now here’s just nuclear on the map:

Nuclear power plants in the U.S.

Nuclear is pretty uncommon on the western half of the country, but on the Eastern Seaboard and in the Midwest, it is a major power source. All in all, it makes up about 20% of the annual net generation mix.

Finally, a look at renewable energy:

Renewables power plants in the U.S.

Hydro (dark blue), wind (light blue), solar (yellow), biomass (brown), and geothermal (green) all appear here.

Aside from a few massive hydro installations – such as the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State (19 million MWh per year) – most renewable installations are on a smaller scale.

Generally speaking, renewable sources are also more dependent on geography. You can’t put geothermal in an area where there is no thermal energy in the ground, or wind where there is mostly calm weather. For this reason, the dispersion of green sources around the country is also quite interesting to look at.

See all of the above, as well as Hawaii and Alaska, in an interactive map here.

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Energy

The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns

This unique chart shows the performance of individual commodities over the last decade – see commodity returns in 2018, and how they compared to previous years.

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Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2019 Edition)

Commodities are an interesting asset class to watch.

In certain years, all commodities will move in price together in an obvious and correlated fashion. This is a representation of the cyclical characteristics of commodity markets, in which macroeconomic factors align to create a tide that lifts or sinks all boats.

At the same time, however, each individual commodity is incredibly unique with its own specific set of supply and demand circumstances. In the years when these supply or demand crunches materialize, a certain commodity can surge or crash in price, separating itself from the rest of the pack.

A Decade of Commodity Returns

Today’s visualization comes to us from our friends at U.S. Global Investors, and it tracks commodity returns over the last decade.

More specifically, it takes a closer look at individual commodities (i.e. corn, gold, oil, zinc) to show how performance can vary over time. With a quick examination of the graphic, you can see years where commodities moved together – and some years where individual commodities stole the show unexpectedly.

Palladium: A Perennial Winner

The best performing commodity in 2018 was palladium, which found itself up 18.6% – just enough to edge out corn, which jumped up 17.9% in price last year.

Interestingly, palladium has also been the best performing commodity over the 10-year period as well:

Palladium is the best performing commodity

Palladium has finished in first place in four of the last 10 years, including in 2017 and 2018 – it’s also impressive to note that palladium has only had negative returns twice in the last decade (2011, 2015).

A Crude Awakening

The worst performing commodity in 2018 was crude oil, which fell -24.8% in price.

Like palladium, this wasn’t a unique occurrence: crude has actually been the worst performing commodity investment over the last decade:

Oil is the worst performing commodity

As you can see, crude oil has been the worst (or second worst) commodity in three of the last five years.

Further, as our chart on how all assets performed in 2018 shows, crude oil was outperformed by every other asset class, and the energy sector had the poorest performance out of all S&P 500 sectors last year.

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