The Oil Big Five: Some of the same, some of the new

When we began the Oil Big Five posts, we had an idea of featuring brand-new items every single month. But that whole saying about people forgetting history being doomed to repeat it?

It came to mind this month when we were soliciting suggestions from our Platts oil editors and analysts for this month’s listing. Big issues don’t go away quickly, and in an industry as large and complicated as global oil, it’s doubly true.

That said, we do have several new issues on the list this month, as well as some follow-ups to previous topics. Be sure to comment here, on Facebook or on Twitter (use the hashtag #oilbig5), and we look forward to featuring your comments. Tell us what you’re thinking about, and here’s what we’re most focused on at the moment:

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US net oil import dependence tested new lows in June

We hadn’t written about the monthly EIA statistics on US oil supply and demand for a while because they’d gotten kind of dull. The big movements recorded month after month, particularly in product export growth and net import dependence, had fallen into a bit of a predictable range.

That changed in June. The EIA released numbers from that month today.

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US airlines are taking the hedge off on jet fuel

An old investing adage is to buy on the dips, a philosophy generally followed by US airlines in the hedging market over the years. This year? Not so much.

Jet fuel prices have declined in price and volatility so far in 2014. So has jet fuel hedging, at least in the US. What is essentially insurance on any airline’s single-largest cost has become seen as less than necessary.

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Regulation & Environment: Tax changes facing Russia’s oil sector

Russia’s refineries are facing a change in domestic taxation that is expected to have a significant impact. Platts’ Moscow bureau chief Nadia Rodova looks at the shifts in this week’s Oilgram News column, Regulation & Environment.

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Infographic: Steel raw materials in numbers

Platts steel team tasked our design and production department to take a wealth of steel raw materials data and transform those freshly mined (sic) numbers into something visually engaging. In this post we present you with the very interesting results.

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India’s gas pricing dilemma: A ‘Modi’cum of liberalization?

The new Narendra Modi government in New Delhi prolonged the suspense this week over what tack it will take on the controversial domestic gas pricing issue.

It had been expected to signal which way it is inclined ahead of a September 30 deadline to announce its final decision on gas prices.

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Energy Economist: The Russia-Ukraine standoff looks to the energy needs of winter

In this month’s excerpt from Energy Economist, Ross McCracken looks at the winter energy implications of the Ukraine-Russia divide.

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Has the UK natural gas market’s year-long downtrend gone into reverse?

The UK gas market has been on a downtrend throughout the year after a mild winter left storage facilities entering summer already at high levels. Qatar has also kept up a steady flow of LNG cargoes throughout the year, sending daily gas prices down from the mid 60s pence/therm in January to the lowest point of the year at 34.60 p/th on July 11.

But the market now seems to have turned 180 degrees, with a sharp jump in prices since mid-August. With higher winter demands on the way, July’s lows may not be seen again this year.

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The steel sheet market undercuts suggestions of overall weakness

There were two interesting news items in the American steel world this week: year-to-date US imports are up 37% from last year while domestic mill capability utilization recently topped 80%, after being in the 70-79% range most of the last few years, climbing from sub-50% levels seen in 2009.

Neither of these items is particularly surprising, as they are the culminations of year-long trends, but they fly in the face of suggestions that American steel consumption has been lackluster this year.

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The north of Australia is getting some oil and gas exploration attention

Australia’s ongoing offshore exploration success — Santos last week announced another gas discovery in the prolific Browse basin — has seen the vast country’s largely-untapped onshore resources overlooked by many.

Some of the country’s unconventional resources — notably Queensland’s coal seam gas fields in the east of the country — have been known about and developed for years, while others such as the Cooper Basin, in east-central Australia, have attracted significant investor attention of late, notably from US major Chevron.

But delegates at the 20th South East Asia Australia Offshore & Onshore Conference last week, held in the booming northern port city of Darwin, heard about less well known, but equally promising, onshore basins such as South Bonaparte, MacArthur and Carolina.

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