Supply Chain Challenges: BIOMASS

Over the last decade, biomass of various kinds has become an increasingly commonly used fuel for electricity generation, particularly in the European Union, which mandated ambitious threshold targets for the share of renewables in total electricity generation.

Wood chips and pellets have taken a large share of biomass production, not just in Europe, but also parts of Asia as well. In fact, according to the US International Trade Commission, production of wood pellets in the US for export to these locations increased 400% between 2008 and 2014 to help meet the increased demand. The US International Trade Commission further states that, “estimates of global wood pellet consumption vary, but are currently in the range of 22 – 25 million metric tons (Mt) annually. This projected to rise to between 50 and 80 million Mt by 2020. At 19 million Mt in 2013, the EU accounted for 85 percent of global consumption of wood pellets.”

This white paper examines some of the challenges around managing and optimizing biomass supply chains and discusses Generation 10’s Commodity Manager as a comprehensive software solution to these challenges.

Read the document online or download it from the CTRM Center Supply Chain Challenges: BIOMASS

CTRM/CM as an Architecture – An Approach to A 20-year old Conundrum

Wholesale commodity trading and risk management can encompass any number of business processes and strategies, from brokered trades in which the buyer purchases some quantity of commodity and then immediately resells it at the same point for (hopefully) a profit – to multi-commodity transactions involving global supply chains, transformations, and complex financial hedging strategies. Vendor provided software to service this wide-ranging market, commonly known as Commodity Trading and Risk Management or CTRM software, will similarly vary in possible functional coverage, with some CTRM solutions addressing specific functional components (such as deal capture or risk analysis for a specific commodity), while others will attempt to model and provide wide-ranging functional coverage for all possible commodity classes and the unique physical operations associated with each and every possible combination in between.

Given this, the Commodity Trading and Risk Management (CTRM) software category is very difficult to define except in the broadest of terms. When the term “CTRM” was first coined, it was essentially used to expand the breadth of the software category known as Energy Trading and Risk Management (ETRM). Both terms broadly mean the same thing, with ETRM reflecting software solutions that address the capture, position management and accounting for any wholesale energy trade; and CTRM reflecting a wider reach (including energy in some cases) and encompassing other commodity categories including ags, softs, and metals. In the last few years, CTRM has been increasingly regarded as a component of an even larger software category called Commodity Management (CM), further muddying the classification of the types of software that address the needs of the wholesale commodity marketplace. Commodity Management solutions are most commonly utilized in the mid- and downstream commodity markets, including food processing and packaging companies, agricultural merchants, and manufacturers. Additionally, there are a number of terms used to describe different aspects of Commodity Management such as ‘ERP for Commodities’.

Read the document online or download it from the CTRM Center CTRM/CM as an Architecture – An Approach to A 20-year old Conundrum

ComTech Analyst Briefing Note – EKA Update 2017

Eka recently announced their 2016 year end results, providing the opportunity to review the company’s progress in developing and marketing its Commodity Analytics Cloud, a new product announced in 2015. Additionally we will also review the company’s overall performance since our last full update, released in November of 2014.

For a more complete coverage of Eka, see our analyst briefing note released in July 2015 for detailed review of the company’s Commodity Analytics Cloud. Also see our ComTech Analyst Briefing Note released in November 2014, for a complete corporate overview, strategy discussion and products overview by ComTech analysts.

Read the document online or download it from the CTRM Center ComTech Analyst Briefing Note – EKA Update 2017

The Era of ETRM in the Cloud

Commodity Technology Advisory (ComTech) has been tracking the rise of ETRM solutions delivered in the cloud over many years. While the potential benefits and cost savings associated with ETRM in the cloud have always appeared to be robust, uptake across the industry has proven to be quite slow until relatively recently. Although many other industries migrated to the cost efficiencies of the cloud, the energy industry lagged behind. The key concern quoted by the industry was usually data security, despite companies often having back-up and recovery procedures in place that result in trade and position data being stored off-site. Then, commodity prices collapsed generally, led by energy, and costs began to rise inexorably as new regulations progressively came into force. Margins were squeezed and structural changes have occurred across the industry so that profitable trades are a good deal harder to find.

While ETRM and other IT initiatives were put on hold or scaled back to reduce costs, rapid market changes necessitated ETRM functional changes – compelling energy companies to seek more cost effective ways to procure the right ETRM platform. As their ETRM and related solutions have quickly become outdated, these systems are effectively deadweight – holding those businesses back from responding to change and streamlining business processes. In this environment, ETRM in the cloud has become a popular alternative to “traditional” on-premises software given its low cost of entry, potential lower total cost of ownership and promise of cheaper maintenance and upgrades. Confirming this trend, a recent survey conducted by ComTech looking at trends in a lower energy price environment found that around 30% of surveyed European energy traders had an increased urgency to upgrade or replace their current ETRM, and that almost 50% would consider ETRM in the cloud as a way forward.

Read the document online or download it from the CTRM Center The Era of ETRM in the Cloud

PROVE IT OR ELSE! Traceability – regulation and consumer demands on your data management

The commodity business has always been fraught with complexity, but under increasing scrutiny from legislators, regulators, consumers, and therefore auditors, that complexity is growing steadily and inexorably. One significant challenge in which complexity is increasing, is the need to track commodities, consumables, and fuels, from source to market. It is no longer the case that buyers can simply pick the best price in choosing a supplier as concerns over issues like food safety, as well as an increasingly savvy consumer that is concerned over abusive labor practices, workers rights, and environmental issues, for example, are increasing the traceability complexity across almost all supply chains.

The recent Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, for example, has tightened import controls into the US allowing customs to detain and seize any product thought to have been produced with child labor. The legislation has already been used to detain a shipment entering the US. In order to release a shipment, the owner is required to prove that the custom’s suspicions are incorrect. This is a good example of how a myriad of new rules and regulations are forcing commodity firms to pay much closer attention to traceability. Increasingly, the onus is on the owner of the commodity or product to prove compliance with standards for environment, labor and sustainability etc.

Read the document online or download it from the CTRM Center PROVE IT OR ELSE! Traceability – regulation and consumer demands on your data management

ETRM in a Low Commodity Price Environment

The collapse in wholesale energy prices, which began in earnest mid-year 2014, has resulted in a prolonged period of declining profits, declining trading volumes, bankruptcies in the up-stream markets, and a general malaise in the global wholesale energy markets. Though low prices are a benefit for consumers, this period has been extremely challenging for many in the energy industry, particularly those that produce and trade energy commodities.

Though oil prices have recently begun to rise off their 13 year low set in January of 2016, other energy commodity prices, such as power and natural gas, continue to be moribund – in a persistent oversupplied condition and with unpredictable volatilities. Given these conditions, Commodity Technology Advisory, with the support and coordination of study sponsors FIS and Capco, sought to examine the impact on the usefulness, utility, and capabilities of Energy Trading and Risk Management (ETRM) systems to improve financial performance and profitability, mitigate risks, and help find market opportunity for companies that operate in this difficult market.

Read the document online or download it from the CTRM Center ETRM in a Low Commodity Price Environment

Next Generation Integrated Treasury and Trading for Energy and Commodity Companies

Commodity markets have always been uncertain and have often exhibited extended periods of volatility. Events such as the collapse of Enron and other marketers, the financial crisis, and more recently, BREXIT, have all had massive impact, and yet, after each event, measures have been put in place, both regulatory and in terms of controls, to protect markets, margins and profits. Each tumultuous event has brought learning, innovation and improvements in business processes. The energy industry has also learned from these experiences; adopting better and improved risk controls, systems and tools to predict, protect and profit. Yet, now may be the time to innovate once again to better protect margins amid increasing costs and lower commodity prices.

Energy producers, traders and consumers today face a challenging trading environment with more regulatory oversight, lower prices, increasing costs and almost constant volatility. As a result forward thinking energy companies are already adopting a more closely integrated treasury and trading approach, a potentially overlooked opportunity by many. Typically, trading and treasury are separate areas of business with limited or no integration between them. The traders work to sell commodities at the best price or to profit from trading, while the treasury function with its concern over available cash, navigating future investments and doing so in the right currency and at the right location, has a range of responsibilities, including FX and IR hedging, broader credit management, debt and capital management and more. Usually, the treasury department gets a fixed time view of trading positions to work with and can miss opportunities to protect profits or control costs as a result as these exposures change rapidly. Even large oil and gas majors have experienced the situation where trading has a good month but FX rates moved against them to give an entirely different result. Despite believing that they were hedged, FX markets went against the company leaving it with significantly eroded traded profits.

Read the document online or download it from the CTRM Center Next Generation Integrated Treasury and Trading for Energy and Commodity Companies