KEY POINTS COVERED IN THIS PODCAST
- The hashtag that became a trusted symbol of reliable oil industry news
- What oil traders tend to miss when navigating the market
- How oil tanker tracking can assist players in the oil space
Sam Madani is the co-founder of oil tanker tracking service TankerTrackers.com and the #OOTT (Organization of Oil Traders of Twitter). Originally in sales and marketing roles in IT and telecoms, Sam gradually moved into oil trading and specifically tracking oil vessels to provide a useful resource for a range of industry players.
In this edition of our podcast Trading Global Markets Decoded, our host Tyler Yell talks to Sam about how oil tracking can assist oil industry traders in their decision making. Benefit from the oil trading discussion with Sam Madani and listen to the podcast by clicking on the link.
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Sam worked within the IT and telecoms industries for the first 20 years of his career and, after stints in sales and marketing, decided to build on the geopolitical knowledge he acquired growing up in the Middle East.
After dabbling in oil trading, he began tracking vessel movements using satellite imagery before launching TankerTrackers.com. The site assists oil industry players, from traders to academics, in understanding the latest developments in oil logistics, providing timely data to combat the misinformation that can be abundant in the sector.
The hashtag #OOTT came about when Sam looked to aggregate the news and oil trading strategies on Twitter, and it grew to become a bustling community on the platform. ‘Originally I tweeted and retweeted OOTT, which was a wordplay on OPEC, and other oil institutions started doing it too,’ he explains.
‘Now, you can throw it up on Tweetdeck and follow research, opinions, and news on oil industry developments.’
Using Satellite Imagery for Oil Market Insights
For TankerTrackers.com, reliable satellite imagery is useful for providing statistics as many countries are reluctant to share full information when it comes to oil exports/imports. ‘I’ve seen pretty much every possible thing that countries want to hide,’ Sam says.
He cites Kurdish exports from northern Iraq into Israel as an example of this. ‘When vessels arrive with crude oil, they are instructed to switch off their AIS (Automatic Identification System) transponder, meaning it isn’t well known how much oil is leaving Iraq and entering Israel,’ Sam says. ‘We managed to identify these vessels visually and I started to understand there were other places in the world where we could solve the puzzle through satellite imagery.’
The site is also able to identify storage space and its occupation percentage. ‘We look at the lid of storage tanks, which rise and fall depending on how much oil there is, so you look at the shadow inside the storage tank to see if it’s grown or not.’
Transparency in the Oil Industry
Sam sees a lack of transparency in the oil market as a big problem. ‘Countries are opting out of the publicly available data run by the International Energy Forum,’ he says. ‘That scares me because these countries themselves say they want a transparent market but then they’re no longer providing any data to it, so it’s up to additional sources to gather this data.
‘That’s what we’re doing, we are that source and we’re trying to cater to a community that can’t normally afford the very expensive data.’
Another problem is a shortage of heavy crude oil. ‘If you look at Venezuela, a country people associate heavy crude with, their production and exports are in a really painful decline and this heavy crude is quite high in demand right now.
‘Given how many products you can make out of heavy crude oil, it’s obvious that’s the first thing clients would want to pick up right now.
‘If you want to expand your economy and infrastructure you’ll need things like asphalt which you get from heavy crude oil.’