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    Platts European Petrochemicals Conference

    Barcelona, EU
    July 6, 2020

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    ZE is sponsoring at the cmdtyExchange Grain Summit 2020

    Online
    August 26, 2020

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    ZE is Exhibiting and Speaking at the LARTC 2020

    Cartagena, Colombia
    September 21, 2020

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    ZE in the News

    We're making headlines. Here's what you hear about ZE and ZEMA in the news.

    Barchart Announces Data and Services Partnership with ZE PowerGroup

    Barchart, a leading provider of market data and technology services to the financial, media, and commodity industries have announced a new partnership with ZE PowerGroup (ZE), a leading data integration provider for the energy, commodities, and agricultural industries. The partnership covers the integration of Barchart’s end-of-day futures, options, and swaps data into ZE’s products and […]

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    ZE Data EcoSystem to Feature Energy and Environmental Markets Data from Evolution Markets

    ZE PowerGroup Inc. (ZE) is pleased to announce that it will be adding Evolution Markets Inc. (EM) data products to its award-winning ZEMA™ data management and integration platform. ZEMA users will be able to license high-quality data sets directly from Evolution Markets for frictionless delivery on the ZE Data EcoSystem. Delivering Access to a Broad […]

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    Pioneer and ZEMA set the standard for ETRM/Price Data Integration

    Pioneer Solutions LLC and ZE PowerGroup Inc. (ZE) announced today successful integration at energy companies in Europe and North America between their award-winning ETRM and MDM solutions. By leveraging state-of-the-art technology, the interface between the two systems is standardized and therefore can be easily replicated with seamless implementation effort and easy maintenance. Both companies are […]

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    What we have to say

    Read our blog to learn more about ZE, ZEMA, and how we're revolutionizing the market for our clients around the world.

    Examining the correlation between crude oil and gasoline prices

    The steep drop in crude oil prices between March and April came as nations representing the bulk of demand went into lockdown, bringing industrial production to a near-halt and driving road traffic down to levels not seen in decades.

    Passenger car traffic in the UK dropped like a stone, falling by two-thirds from normal levels in April, while light commercial traffic dropped around 60% and heavy goods traffic fell nearly 40% as distribution systems struggled to maintain supplies.

    Oil prices also went into free-fall as lockdown started, with front-month Brent dropping from $50/barrel on March 5 to a low of $19.33 on April 21.

    More recently however, UK road use has increased to around 60% of normal pre-Covid levels for cars, more than 70% for light commercial and more than 80% for heavy goods vehicles, according to UK government data.

    This recovery has been mirrored in other countries as well and as if in sympathy, oil prices have climbed to the point where they are now just 20% below their pre-Covid levels.

    It’s a common complaint among drivers that gasoline prices are very quick to reflect an increase in oil prices, but far too slow to respond when crude falls. And with crude having dropped by more than 50% in April, drivers might be forgiven for having expected a significant fall in retail gasoline prices.

    We’ve decided to look at this complaint in light of the recent collapse in oil prices. We’ll compare prices in the US as well as three European countries: the Netherlands, which has the highest fuel duties according to the European Environment Agency (EEA), Lithuania, which has one of the lowest, and the UK.

    CHART 1 – Gross fuel prices index

    Source: Automobile Association UK, ICE Futures, fuel duty data from European Environment Agency, US data from various sources

    All European gasoline retail prices include both a national fuel duty and value-added tax (VAT). Fuel duty is normally a fixed amount per liter, while VAT is assessed as a percentage of the net total.

    The Netherlands levies a duty of nearly €0.79/liter on gasoline, while Lithuania’s government takes less than €0.44/liter. The UK comes in at the higher end of the scale at around €0.65/liter, according to the EEA data.

    In the US, gasoline is subject to a federal tax of 18.4 cents/gallon, while every state also levies its own fuel and sales taxes; these range from 14.66 cents/gallon in Alaska to 61.2 cents/gallon in California. We’ve applied a mean of 31.3 cents/gallon for our calculations.

    The VAT on fuels varies across EU countries, but in the cases we’re examining, the rate is 21% in both the Netherlands and Lithuania, and 20% in the UK.

    Stripping both those costs away gives us the net cost of gasoline as shown below:

    CHART 2 – Net fuel prices

    Source: Automobile Association UK, ICE Futures, fuel duty data from European Environment Agency, US data from various sources

    As the data show, there is an overall trend, but differences in how quickly the costs are passed through the distribution chain, and different wholesale prices across countries can cloud the picture.

    And it’s also clear that once taxes and duties are removed from the cost of gasoline, that fuel prices correlate much more closely to the crude oil price. Indeed, it could be argued that gasoline, net of duties and taxes, reflected pretty closely Brent’s decline in March and April.

    So what we can suggest from this study is that the bulk cost of gasoline as a product does in fact correlate much more closely with crude oil, while the retail price of gasoline is unfortunately inflated by regressive taxes.

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    Coal phase-out threatens effectiveness of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS)

    Over the last few weeks, two utilities – SSE and RWE – closed their last working coal-fired power stations in the UK, leaving the country with just four coal-based plants supplying electricity to the grid.

    By the end of 2019, coal’s contribution to the country’s power supply had slipped from 70% in 1990 to less than 3%. By 2025 that share will have dropped to zero.

    Europe’s largest economy, Germany, is headed in the same direction. A law passed last year will see the country quit all forms of coal-fired power by 2038 at the latest, and analysts believe the end will come well before then.

    The coal exit may not be felt by industry or consumers directly if renewable energy, natural gas and nuclear power are able to fill the gap. Indications point towards continued growth for wind and solar power and the potential for back up through grid-scale batteries should they be built in scale.

    One area where the loss of coal power will be felt, however, is the climate. In 2010, German power plants belched 369 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By 2019, this number fell to 311 million tonnes, helped chiefly by some plant closures but mainly from the shift to natural gas and renewables.

    Coal’s share of Germany’s total was 244 million tonnes in 2010, falling to around 165 million in 2019. The coal sector is still the single largest emitter in the country.

    An unintended consequence of the German and UK exits from coal, together with government pledges in 11 other EU countries, will therefore be to remove that largest source of demand for EU emissions allowances, and this threatens to undermine the effectiveness of the EU Emissions Trading System.

    At present, the vast majority of EU industrial installations receive a large handout of free EU allowances (EUAs). This is to protect them from additional costs that would make them uncompetitive in world markets.

    But there is no such protection for the power sector: generators are required to buy every EUA they need, either through daily auctions organised by the EU, or in the secondary market, where prices are currently around €18/tonne CO2 equivalent.

    Each EU state has a reserve of EUAs for auction, and we can use this figure as a rough estimate of the power sector’s demand. To be clear, many industrial plants don’t receive 100% of what they need free of charge, and so they also need to buy some EUAs in the market or at auction.

    Let’s take the UK as an example. In 2013, CO2 from UK coal and gas-fired power plants totaled 142 million tonnes, while the country’s auction reserve of EUAs was just 107 million tonnes.

    By 2018, however, coal and gas emissions had tumbled to 39 million tonnes, while the auction reserve was still 101 million tonnes.

    Even allowing for the demand from industrial plants, this represents a significant surplus. And when the last four UK power plants shut over the next few years, the auction, together with the free handouts to industry, would dwarf the market demand.

    Germany and the eleven other countries committed to phasing out coal face the same problem. The gradual decline in demand will leave a growing glut of allowances that could push EUA prices back to levels below €10/tonne not seen since late 2017.

    The EU has a solution, but it has so far failed to make much of a dent in the existing surplus.

    The Market Stability Reserve (MSR) automatically removes 24% of the total market surplus each year, by reducing the number of EUAs each country has in its auction reserve. In 2019, the MSR’s first year of operation, it took 400 million EUAs from the market and according to analysts it may take a similar volume in 2020.

    According to a study by Carbon Market Watch published last year, the closure of coal plants across Europe over the next ten years could wipe out an average of 240 million tonnes of demand for EUAs each year. The MSR would find it hard to keep up.

    Market observers and lobby groups are calling for reforms to the MSR that would enable it to take a greater volume of surplus EUAs from the market each year, thereby tightening supply, boosting the price and increasing the incentive to cut emissions in other sectors.

    Quitting coal is generally seen as a positive move for the climate, but the impact of so-called “overlapping” policies risks the integrity of the EU ETS and calls into question the willingness of policymakers to let the market take the lead in driving Europe’s decarbonization.

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    COVID 19 Pandemic Hits Energy Demand Hard

    Global energy demand has experienced a huge demand shock with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The rapid imposition of restrictions on movement and commerce has left every sector across the global economy reeling from the impact.

    In the weeks since the strictest measures were put in place across most developed countries, demand for oil has plummeted. The International Energy Agency predicts that global demand will drop by 9.3 million barrels/day (b/d) this year.

    And even though supply is set to fall by around 12 million b/d in May after OPEC members reached a new production agreement last week, the IEA believes this will not be enough to balance the market.

    Markets were quick to reflect the growing imbalance. The double shock of the Covid-19 pandemic and the brief oil “production war” between Saudi Arabia and Russia triggered a drop of as much as 40% in WTI prices between Friday March 6 and the following Monday.

    To be clear, WTI prices were already in decline after having peaked in early January when reports of the virus began to circulate and cases began to be reported outside China. The forward May prompt month is showing steep negative prices given fears that storage capacity could run out. Already, oil companies are using tankers for interim storage. June still remains in positive territory for now.

    Refined product demand has also collapsed, as the imposition of social distancing and lockdown policies led to a dramatic decline in road traffic.

    U.S. demand for gasoline fell by 30% in the last week of March, and IHS Markit says it could shrink by up to 50%. For jet fuel it will be even worse, as airlines have grounded as much as 96% of their fleets.

    Road traffic data assembled by Inrix showed that road traffic in major US cities fell by as much as 50% by mid-March, compared to a month earlier, as the lockdown and social distancing guidance began make themselves felt in earnest.

    UK road travel fell to levels not seen since 1955, and nitrous oxide pollution from traffic and industrial activity has fallen dramatically in areas like Italy’s Po Valley.

    In contrast, demand for electricity and natural gas for domestic use has fallen much less, as families have been largely home bound for several weeks. Of course, industrial and commercial demand has fallen, and this is reflected in the overall weaker pricing.

    A simple index chart of European energy prices shows that, apart from oil and carbon allowances, prices have remained pretty resilient.

    European Energy Price Index 2020

    Of the major energy commodities, coal was the least affected in Europe, and this reflects two elements. Firstly, Europe is not buying a significant volume of coal at the moment, as the power sector has largely avoided it, and secondly coal prices are being set by other more buoyant markets, chiefly the Australian and Chinese markets.

    Both power and natural gas markets have been reflecting the diminishing demand from industry, as factories have closed amid social distancing orders and most commercial activities have been curtailed.

    A solid example of the shrinking demand can be seen in the Italian electricity grid load, which has fallen to levels not seen except in major holiday seasons such as Easter or Christmas.

    Already though, the discussion is turning if a return to normal social, commercial and industrial activity will resume in the foreseeable future, and what the full long-term economic impact of the pandemic will be. And while analysts and forecasters have yet to fully understand the nature of the crisis, it’s clear that it will take some time before the energy sector can fully digest the demand shock.

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