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Oil prices rise as investors focus on U.S. data

Oil futures climbed toward the $50 level on Thursday, driven higher by a bullish outlook following weekly U.S. inventory data, but market participants expected the commodity to trade in a narrow range ahead of a OPEC meeting next week.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in September CLU7, -0.67% climbed 23 cents, or 0.5%, to $49.84 a barrel, after trading as low as $49.12 earlier in the session.

October Brent crude LCOV7, -0.29% on London’s ICE Futures exchange rose 38 cents, or 0.7%, to $52.74, bouncing back from a loss of as much as 0.9% earlier on Thursday.Oil has experienced fitful trade over the past several weeks, but has managed to drift higher within range of its 200-day moving average at $49.45 a barrel, as investors have grappled with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’s attempts to cap global output, along with other major producers. U.S. shale producers have been the biggest headwind to OPEC’s efforts to stem output. Meanwhile, an agreement led by the cartel and major crude producers is set to expire at the end of the first quarter in 2018.

We are going to be relatively range-bound

“I think we are going to be relatively range-bound unless we see some kind of weather or political event,” said Tariq Zahir, managing member at commodity-trading advisor Tyche Capital Advisors.

Zahir said oil futures would be sensitive to any news, given its recent uptrend. He said U.S. traded oil has the potential to hit $51, if any supply disruptions or bullish news emerges.

Late Wednesday, the EIA reported a 1.5 million barrel drop in crude inventories last week, below analysts’ expectations. However, “a strong increase in demand was enough to appease the bullish investors,” said ANZ Bank. Refiners’ capacity utilization jumped to 95.4% last week, the government also said.

American Petroleum Institute out on Tuesday

“I think we are going to be relatively range-bound unless we see some kind of weather or political event,” said Tariq Zahir, managing member at commodity-trading advisor Tyche Capital Advisors.

Zahir said oil futures would be sensitive to any news, given its recent uptrend. He said U.S. traded oil has the potential to hit $51, if any supply disruptions or bullish news emerges.

Late Wednesday, the EIA reported a 1.5 million barrel drop in crude inventories last week, below analysts’ expectations. However, “a strong increase in demand was enough to appease the bullish investors,” said ANZ Bank. Refiners’ capacity utilization jumped to 95.4% last week, the government also said.

ANZ sees tightness coming in the fourth quarter

Data from the American Petroleum Institute out on Tuesday showed stockpiles unexpectedly increased last week.

The mixed signals on U.S. supply come as market players globally await signs that production caps led by OPEC and Russia are making notable dents into still-historically high global supplies. ANZ sees tightness coming in the fourth quarter, pushing oil prices into the high-$50s.

Among refined products, September gasoline RBU7, -0.79% was up 0.2% at $1.649 a gallon.

Meanwhile, natural gas for September NGU17, -0.18% climbed 0.4% to $2.821 per million British thermal units.
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Man or machine?

Vehicle-makers are introducing more wearable equipment to alleviate stresses and strains, giving assembly workers a somewhat cyborg look. AMS reports on the latest innovations being rolled out by Audi and BMW

As the robots used in automotive manufacturing become more human, able to work collaboratively and intelligently, in one sense human operatives are becoming more machine-like. Wearable technology such as ‘medical’ gloves or scanner gloves, plus exoskeletons for the upper and lower body are starting to give line workers a distinctly cyborg look. Of course, it’s not about aesthetics but ergonomics; the alleviation of stresses and strains plus the fatigue which makes errors more likely, therefore improving production efficiency and quality.

Persistent modernisation


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In March this year, BMW announced the “persistent modernisation” of its working environments to “further reduce ergonomically unfavourable and strenuous tasks, giving workers an opportunity to apply their unique cognitive skills to the best effect”.

The OEM already uses exoskeletons in assembly but will boost the number of upper-body supports from 24 to 64 in 2017. This is a response to high demand at the Spartanburg plant, South Carolina, which operates the existing 24 devices and has a history of “innovative value creation”, says Christian Dahmen, specialist for exoskeletons in production, BMW. “We tested the exoskeletons in Spartanburg in a pilot project in 2016 and got them ready for use in series production,” he states. “Following the consistently positive experience in Spartanburg, the next step will be rollout at our German automotive plants.”

He describes the upper-body support as being like a T-shirt, available in different standard sizes but modifiable for specific requirements.

BMW has worked with both major manufacturers and small start-ups to develop the exoskeletons and Dahmen says that weight, wearing comfort and the time it takes to put on or remove them are important considerations, alongside the operational advantages they deliver.

“The material mustn’t chafe, create pressure points or cause excessive sweating, and can’t be too heavy,” he explains.

This is one reason why BMW uses ‘passive’ upper-body exoskeletons which rely on mechanical springs rather than servomotors to support the arms. “This saves weight and makes the exoskeleton more comfortable to wear for longer periods,” states Dahmen. Acceptance among personnel is critical to the effective deployment of the devices, and so BMW is careful to consult its workers from the conceptual design phase through pilot projects to implementation. According to Dahmen, the company is currently exploring other applications for its exoskeletons.

Golden Gate Bridge

Strauss was chief engineer in charge of overall design and construction of the bridge project.However, because he had little understanding or experience with cable-suspension designs, responsibility for much of the engineering and architecture fell on other experts.
Strauss’s initial design proposal (two double cantilever spans linked by a central suspension segment) was unacceptable from a visual standpoint. The final graceful suspension design was conceived and championed by Leon Moisseiff, the engineer of the Manhattan Bridge in New York City.

Irving Morrow, a relatively unknown residential architect, designed the overall shape of the bridge towers, the lighting scheme, and Art Deco elements, such as the tower decorations, streetlights, railing, and walkways. The famous International Orange color was originally used as a sealant for the bridge. The US Navy had wanted it to be painted with black and yellow stripes to ensure visibility by passing ships.

Senior engineer Charles Alton Ellis, collaborating remotely with Moisseiff, was the principal engineer of the project. Moisseiff produced the basic structural design, introducing his “deflection theory” by which a thin, flexible roadway would flex in the wind, greatly reducing stress by transmitting forces via suspension cables to the bridge towers. Although the Golden Gate Bridge design has proved sound, a later Moisseiff design, the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, collapsed in a strong windstorm soon after it was completed, because of an unexpected aeroelastic flutter. Ellis was also tasked with designing a “bridge within a bridge” in the southern abutment, to avoid the need to demolish Fort Point, a pre-Civil War masonry fortification viewed, even then, as worthy of historic preservation. He penned a graceful steel arch spanning the fort and carrying the roadway to the bridge’s southern anchorage.

Below Golden Gate Bridge
Ellis was a Greek scholar and mathematician who at one time was a University of Illinois professor of engineering despite having no engineering degree. He eventually earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois prior to designing the Golden Gate Bridge and spent the last twelve years of his career as a professor at Purdue University. He became an expert in structural design, writing the standard textbook of the time. Ellis did much of the technical and theoretical work that built the bridge, but he received none of the credit in his lifetime. In November 1931, Strauss fired Ellis and replaced him with a former subordinate, Clifford Paine, ostensibly for wasting too much money sending telegrams back and forth to Moisseiff. Ellis, obsessed with the project and unable to find work elsewhere during the Depression, continued working 70 hours per week on an unpaid basis, eventually turning in ten volumes of hand calculations.

With an eye toward self-promotion and posterity, Strauss downplayed the contributions of his collaborators who, despite receiving little recognition or compensation, are largely responsible for the final form of the bridge. He succeeded in having himself credited as the person most responsible for the design and vision of the bridge. Only much later were the contributions of the others on the design team properly appreciated. In May 2007, the Golden Gate Bridge District issued a formal report on 70 years of stewardship of the famous bridge and decided to give Ellis major credit for the design of the bridge.

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