19 November 2015

The Story of Oil - a video from CME Group

On CIMB's website, there is a link to an educational website known as "Futures Fundamentals", run by CME Group. While I may not know much about the group, I found that this video, "The Story of Oil", is quite good. It comes from an article, "Gas Prices Explained."

Aside from this nice video about oil, there's also a cool infographic about how oil prices are affected. It deals with the different stages of oil production, namely:

  1. Extraction
  2. Transportation
  3. Exchange
  4. Refinement
  5. Gas Station

These are quite new to me, but no doubt, they are nothing new to those in the oil and gas industry. Maybe some of you kind souls out there can point me in the right direction so that I can understand more about each stage. Oil is such an important thing, many of our industries rely on it: logistics, industry, energy, plastics, etc.

I found it interesting that the website, "Futures Fundamentals", has many articles on futures. While I don't trade in futures, the concept of futures is also one that is quite intriguing. Buying something tomorrow, at today's prices: that's the basic concept. One of the other articles on "Futures Fundamentals" on "Why futures matter to you", says:
"Airlines can more accurately predict their fuel costs. So you can find better prices and options when you’re looking for a flight." 

I suppose, that's how airlines are able to offer you prices for flights half a year in the future, when they cannot possibly know what the price of oil will be half a year down the road.

Now, just as much as I'm not an expert on oil, I'm also not an expert on futures. But here's what one article from Marketwatch.com, "What do futures really tell us?" says.

"Futures essentially give investors a preview of what’s likely to happen when the U.S. stock markets open ...  The price of a stock-index future is generally very close to the price of the actual index, and because these futures start trading before the stock market opens, they give an early indication of what should happen when it does..."
Another interesting article in The Telegraph from 2008 explains what oil futures are, and how they are traded. Among the salient points of the article:

  • Futures contracts take place in an exchange.
  • You need to be a member of an exchange to trade futures.
  • Members can also trade for hedgers or speculators.
  • Trading houses regulate the exchanges and protect both parties as a "middleman"
  • Trading houses establish the rules of the trade, including margin levels, default rules, settling individual positions.
  • Participants in trading houses initially pay only a fraction of the amount being traded.
  • At the end of the day, the costs of the trade are charged to the participants, taking into consideration any profit made or losses sustained since the time of the trade.
  • On the settlement date, or the expiry of the futures contract, the oil is either physically delivered to the buyer, or there is a cash settlement.
  • However, physical delivery of commodity futures is rare. 
  • Market participants can also settle their obligations before the expiry date.

I don't understand everything that I read, but it sounds like there is a lot of money going on there, and a commodities futures trader could be making a lot of money. It is a potentially more lucrative business than mining for oil (which could cause losses if the oil wells dug up do not have oil). It might be worth learning up.


  • http://futuresfundamentals.cmegroup.com/impact-gas-prices-explained.html
  • http://futuresfundamentals.cmegroup.com/basics-why-do-futures-matter.html
  • http://blogs.marketwatch.com/realtimeadvice/2011/08/11/what-do-futures-really-tell-us/
  • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/2790647/Oil-price-QandA-What-are-oil-futures-and-how-are-they-traded.html

24 April 2015

Activist: Fracking Only Creates Hotel Maid & Prostitution Jobs for Women

In New York, Sandra Steingraber, who is with New Yorkers Against Fracking, claimed that the state's ban against fracking is not a loss for women. She claimed that 95% of the jobs created in the fracking industry are for men, while the leftover 5% of jobs for women are only for hotel maid and prostitution.

"Fracking" is the popular name for hydraulic fracturing, a process through which natural gas is extracted by pumping high-pressure water into layers of stone, which breaks up the stone and releases the natural gas.

In December 2014, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, announced his decision to ban fracking in the state after considering representations from environmental experts. "I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York", he said. "I think it’s our responsibility to develop an alternative … for safe, clean economic development." In actual fact, there had been a moratorium on fracking in New York since 2008 for authorities to study its impact on the environment.

In February 2015, fifteen towns in New York threatened to secede from that state to join its neighbour, Pennsylvania, where fracking is allowed. A spokesperson for the group, Mr. Finch, said: "There are no jobs. The economy is terrible. There's nothing going on." The towns reside on the Marcellus Shale, which is rich in natural gas.

From the ShaleTEC website (Shale Training and Education Center):
What Is Shale Gas and Why Is It Important?
Shale gas refers to natural gas that is trapped within shale formations. Shales are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that can be rich resources of petroleum and natural gas. Sedimentary rocks are rocks formed by the accumulation of sediments at the Earth's surface and within bodies of water. Common sedimentary rocks include sandstone, limestone, and shale.
Over the past decade, the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has allowed access to large volumes of shale gas that were previously uneconomical to produce. The production of natural gas from shale formations has rejuvenated the natural gas industry in the United States. 
The US Government's Energy Information Administration noted that natural gas is a clean burning fuel, generating less CO2 emissions than coal and other petroleum products. However, natural gas, made up mostly of methane, is also a greenhouse gas. This means that natural gas must be flared up at most drilling sites.

From the EIA's website:
Fracking involves pumping liquids under high pressure into a well to fracture the rock which allows natural gas to escape from the rock. There are some potential environmental concerns associated with the production of natural gas using this technique:
The fracturing of wells requires large amounts of water. In some areas of the country, significant use of water for shale gas production may affect the availability of water for other uses, and can affect aquatic habitats.
If mismanaged, hydraulic fracturing fluid—which may contain potentially hazardous chemicals—can be released by spills, leaks, faulty well construction, or other exposure pathways. Any such releases can contaminate surrounding areas.
Hydraulic fracturing also produces large amounts of wastewater, which may contain dissolved chemicals and other contaminants that require treatment before disposal or reuse. Because of the quantities of water used and the complexities inherent in treating some of the wastewater components, treatment and disposal are important.
According to the United States Geological Survey, hydraulic fracturing "causes small earthquakes, but they are almost always too small to be a safety concern. In addition to natural gas, fracking fluids and formation waters are returned to the surface. These wastewaters are frequently disposed of by injection into deep wells. The injection of wastewater into the subsurface can cause earthquakes that are large enough to be felt and may cause damage."
Natural gas may be released to the atmosphere during and after well drilling, the amounts of which are being investigated.
Hydraulic Fracturing - Its Growth and Risks. Prepared by Reuters.
Source: http://sitesmedia.s3.amazonaws.com/boussonadvisorygroup/files/2012/11/Fracking2.jpg


  1. Richardson, V. (2015) "Fracking boom creates jobs for women — but only as prostitutes and maids, activist claims". Washington Times, 20.04.2015. URL: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/apr/20/fracking-creates-jobs-women-prostitutes-maids-only/?page=all
  2. Gerken, J. (2014) "Gov. Andrew Cuomo To Ban Fracking In New York State". Huffington Post, 17.12.2014. URL: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/17/cuomo-fracking-new-york-state_n_6341292.html
  3. Mathias, C. (2015) "New York Towns Threaten Secession Over Gov. Cuomo's Ban On Fracking". Huffington Post, 20.02.2015. URL: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/20/new-york-fracking-secession-southern-tier-cuomo_n_6722296.html
  4. ShaleTEC website. "What Is Shale Gas and Why Is It Important?" Published by Pennsylvania College of Technology. URL: http://www.shaletec.org/whatis.htm
  5. EIA website. "Natural Gas Explained: Natural Gas and the Environment" Undated. URL: http://www.eia.gov/Energyexplained/?page=natural_gas_environment

18 March 2015

Kris Wiluan

Kris Wiluan, one of Indonesia's 40 richest people. Picture taken from Forbes.com
Kris Wiluan is a business magnate, and one of the top 40 richest people in Indonesia. He also happens to be a giant in the energy industry. His story may be seen as a series of lucky breaks, combined with his natural charm.

In the 1960s, his parents sent him to Germany to study, but he turned up in England by mistake. His uncles convinced his parents that English was more practical, and so they allowed him to study in England. While studying in university there, he met his British wife.

After graduating he became a programmer for Guest, Keen and Nettlefold, now GKN. Later, in 1976, he was offered to work for United Motor Works. A year later he began his own business. He began his business modestly, catering food and supplies to oil rigs, including videos and other entertainment.

In an interview with the Telegraph, he describes his big break: One day, while transporting equipment for Dupont from Singapore to Batam, they missed the returning ferry. While chatting in the darkness, he was suddenly inspired to promote Batam as an alternative storage location.

He got his first contract from Dupont for storing 40,000 pipes on Batam island. With his charm, and sheer good luck, he managed to pull together the necessary resources without putting down any capital. Later, he moved into machining blank pipes for Mobil and other oil companies.

His business empire today includes PT Citra Tubindo, which manufactures pipes and other oil-related equipment, and KS Energy, a Singapore-listed equipment distribution and drilling company.

In 2007, Forbes listed Kris Wiluan's net worth at USD 185 million. He was No. 35 in the Forbes 2007 list of Indonesia's 40 richest people. A mere 2 years later, he was listed by Forbes as having a net worth of USD 240 million. This time, however, he was No. 40 in the Forbes list.


  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/businessclub/business-club-video/global-business-insight-video/7849925/Kris-Taenar-Wiluan-interview.html
  2. http://www.forbes.com/lists/2007/80/07indonesia_Kris-Wiluan_KIAQ.html
  3. http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/80/indonesia-billionaires-09_Kris-Wiluan_KIAQ.html
  4. http://batampos.co.id/26-08-2013/pahit-manis-karir-bisnis-kris-wiluan-1/ (Indonesian)

16 March 2015

The Koch Brothers

America's Richest Oil Tycoons. Source: http://money.cnn.com/infographic/luxury/americas-richest-oil-tycoons/index.html
Today, I was surprised to find out that there are big oil tycoons in the USA. The no.1 and no. 2 spots in the USA are taken by David Koch and Charles Koch, two brothers. Together, the two brothers are worth USD89.7 billion, which is about RM332.28 billion. That's a lot of money, and almost 7 times the net worth of George Kaiser, who is the third richest oil tycoon in America.

Their immense wealth comes from Koch Industries, Inc., originally an oil refinery which was co-founded by their father, Fred Chase Koch, in 1940. It was originally called the Wood River Oil and Refining Company. According to Wikipedia, Koch Industries Inc. is the second-largest privately held firm in America.

Fred Chase Koch, the senior patriarch, had four sons: Frederick, Charles, David, and William (Bill). David and Bill are twins, but Bill was born 19 minutes later.

In 1983, Frederick and Bill both sold their shares in Koch Industries Inc to their brothers Charles and David. However, there followed 15 years of litigation between the siblings. Frederick and Bill would accuse Charles and David of cheating them. Eventually, a settlement was reached in 2001, ending all subsequent litigation.

According to Wikipedia, both Charles and David Koch own 42% each in Koch Industries Inc.

The Wood River Oil and Refining Company was later renamed Rock Island Oil and Refining Company. In 1961, Charles joined Rock Island. In 1966, at age 32, he became chairman of the company, after his father's death. In 1968, Rock Island became Koch Industries Inc, in honour of co-founder Fred Koch.

David joined the family business in 1970, eventually becoming president of Koch Engineering in 1979.

Today, Koch Industries Inc. is a huge conglomerate which is involved in various industries. These include manufacturing, chemicals, energy, minerals, agriculture, and many others.

Fred C. Koch was a chemist by training. With the exception of his eldest son Frederick, who studied an arts degree, all his sons -- Charles, David, and Bill -- studied chemistry. 

Here are some articles that might interest you: 

03 March 2015

Price of Petrol March 2015

The price of RON95 is now RM1.95 and RON97 is now RM2.25. This price is cheaper than prices in October 2014, when the present pricing mechanism was imposed. The nice table you see above is from the Facebook page of Sinchew Daily newspaper. (Thanks, guys! I couldn't have done it better myself....)

It's a frequent complaint of Malaysians whenever the price of petrol goes up. "What! Oil now up to $xxxx (insert figure here) per barrel! Soon our petrol will go up again. Soon everything will go up again...." And it is an accepted fact of life -- petrol prices will go up every so often, causing everything to go up. Coffee, food, clothes, services, etc. Everything goes up with the petrol.

However, due to the current petrol war between Saudi and USA, excess oil production has driven oil prices down. Some articles say that it's to drive the USA out of the oil business. Reason? Saudi has lower breakeven point for each barrel produced (after the initial cost of drilling the oil well), compared to USA producers. Oil wells drilled in the Middle East have a longer production period (about 20 years) compared to "fracking" method used in the USA (1-2 years). Once the USA is out of the oil business, oil production will be back to normal -- controlled numbers, and priced comfortably high.

In the meantime, local producers have no reason to raise their prices, not with the price of petrol at these levels. However, a good number of them still do, due to "the GST Effect". These are the producers and traders who make a big show of it. "Oh, the GST is coming!" they cry. "Everything will go up!" But in fact, on paper, it shouldn't go up at all. After all, many of them are already paying tax, and GST merely replaces these taxes. I sincerely hope that prices won't go up, even after GST is implemented.

In the meantime, it's still a good time to fill your car up and take a slow drive along Peninsular Malaysia's East Coast. Have a nice view of the sea and relax.