Hypertransparency in Energy Markets: The Race to Technology-Aided...
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Hypertransparency in Energy Markets: The Race to Technology-Aided Insight

By Andy Bose, VP & GM, Oil, Platts And Joe Held, CIO, Platts

Andy Bose, VP & GM, Oil, Platts

“The emergence of shale oil, together with growing concerns about climate change and the environment, means that the beliefs that many of us have used in the past to analyse the oil market are out of date. We need a new toolkit, a new set of principles, to guide our analysis of the oil market.” - Spencer Dale – Chief Economist BP, October 21, 2015

Separately, the desirability of new models in acquiring and consuming data was also central to a recent industry panel on energy market information management in which Platts participated. With that discussion in mind, we feel CIOs should consider the following

Information has Always been the Lifeblood of the Energy Markets

Pinned to the wall in the New York office of Platts, a global provider of energy and commodities information, is a faded photocopy of an Oil gram published on June 9, 1923.

In this single-page daily newsletter: just seven prices and six paragraphs of news and market commentary. Its big news: Oklahoma gasoline prices were tanking. In its day, this was critical information that helped guide trading and logistics in the oil markets.

Today, via smart phones and iPads, is the most recent edition of Oilgram Price Report, which, at roughly 30 pages, contains over a thousand petroleum price assessments and 15 pages of news, commentary, and analysis. The coverage, wide and global, digs deep into the workings of sophisticated oil markets. Companies rely on Platts and the like to collate such information to better understand logistical supply chain movements; inter-commodity values, and pricing advantages in local, regional, and global markets.

That old Oilgram is a reminder that the fundamental mission of news and pricing agencies has remained largely the same across time: to deliver the most relevant information in a timely fashion.

Technology is Changing the Physical Structure of Energy Markets and Creating Opportunities for the Best Informed Energy Companies

In 2015, headlines were awash with news of North America’s shale oil and gas revolution . . . the result of technology innovations that allowed commodity producers to tap previously uneconomical reserves and bring these resources to market. The resulting U.S. oil boom triggered unexpected shifts in prices, trade flows, and power plays, affecting not only producers and refiners in North America but worldwide. The innovations that dramatically changed the flows of energy, in tandem, changed

Joe Held, CIO, Platts

information demands.

Needed: relevant, interactive, and accurate pricing and trade flow data, as well as timely insights into supply-chain economics and land/sea logistics. At issue: managing risk; operating tighter, just-in-time inventories, and profiting from unique arbitrage opportunities:

■ America’s move from a major importer of oil products to a net exporter (new profit opportunities for stressed U.S. refiners)

■ Diverted flows of West African crude oil away from the Americas and towards Asia (a competitive boon for Asia’s oil refiners)

■ Lower-costing oils providing a lifeline to troubled European refiners

■ Market share strides

As the Pace of Innovation Increases, so too do the Needs for Technology-Aided Insight

Evolutions such as that now 30-page Oilgram Price Report delivered in nano seconds are just the beginning. Customers increasingly demand “technology data.” They want speed, inter-activeness, customizable platforms, third-party data "receptibility", 3-D imaging, smart data, and more.

One of the latest techno waves is direct instrumentation of the physical supply chain: bespoke monitoring of pipeline oil and gas flows, transponder signals of seaborne commodities, and real-time capacity utilization rates of storage containers. Every second brings a non-stop flow of data points, prices, headlines, and factoids.

The data barrage can overwhelm. The challenge for IT teams is to make sense of all this data for companies and customers alike, in ways that maximize the value of producing, procuring, processing, storing, and selling energy, including managing foreign exchange and financial risks.

Insight will be driven by innovations in linking data, deploying semantic technologies, and rendering content with new visualization technologies–at commercial speed.

Just as energy flows have shifted, so too have assumptions from across the entire energy supply chain. Next generation tools must address this, as well as take aim at the global connectedness of markets and increased links across commodities. The need: continual innovation in how market data is acquired, linked, processed, and visually presented. At Platts, that has meant: combining A to Z supply chain insights with price references and forward looking analysis in a way that brings meaningful transparency and actionable business advantages to a global marketplace growing in complexity.

Through recent acquisitions, Platts has gained access to database cubes that inter-relate information by processing flows overnight, allowing energy market analysis to be undertaken with hard-linked data. This is a forward step among what will be many.

Platts’ past year’s focus has been:

- Continuing development of ontologies for Platts’ structured and unstructured data, representing a real-time reflection of the physical logistics of commodity trade flows. More work to come on the linking of private, public, and proprietary data to bring clarity and understanding to cross-commodity relationships as markets change. Example: real-time mapping of the effects of a U.S. Mid-west drought on grain crops and the production of ethanol, and the impact on gasoline prices.

- Enhancing the commodity symbology with metadata to make it easier to identify commodities and tune search engines, improve curating content with context-aware authoring, and provide context for linking data. Symbology can be difficult to decipher without a digital reference guide. Continuing to improve the symbology will not only provide the current commodity identifier but also provide context regarding location and commodity specifications, such as chemical composition, and possibly contract terms. Customers will have a choice of the current symbol format or the concatenated format once it is available.

- Further implementation of geospatial rendering technology and other tools to improve the visualization of the company’s analytics for customers. Example: global charting of pipeline flows and impacts on global energy supplies and prices.

Delivering such capabilities at commercial speed is critical to any company’s next-generation initiatives. One effort by Platts was to launch real-time oil market data with Excel plug-ins and a new API platform, providing building blocks for customers to embed into their own transaction and modeling systems.

We’re proud of the relevance Platts has maintained since its 1909 founding. And we’d echo Spencer Dale’s comment, albeit with a twist; the changing environment requires information tool kits and principles that are ever evolving to guide analysis and provide customers with a “win” advantage.

Check Out: Energy Tech Review

 

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