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Norway’s petroleum sector is its most important industry. The petroleum sector accounts for 21.5% of its GDP, and almost half (48.9%) of total exports. In 2013 Norway was ranked the 15th-largest oil producer, and the 11th-largest oil exporter in the world. It is also the biggest oil producer in western Europe.

Oil is therefore regarded as a vital national resource and is the backbone of the Norwegian economy, though just like in the UK, its best years are in the past. Production levels have been dropping since the turn of the century, peaking at 3.5m barrels per day in 2001 to less than 1.9m in 2014.

Norway is not a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC), and in principle it sets prices based on the current market. But with OPEC having a virtual monopoly on global pricing, Norway in effect remains subject to the cartel’s pricing decisions. Norway is thus vulnerable to the volatility in oil pricing, and with regard to the structure of the sector and its role in the Norwegian economy, this vulnerability is extended throughout the society as a whole.

With the unsettling and dramatic slide in oil prices since June 2014, Norway has of course been substantially affected. Two months ago, Statistics Norway cut this year’s GDP forecast from 2.1% to 1% on the back of lower prices. A few days later the central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates to an all-time low of 1.25% to help stimulate the economy. Some 12,000 jobs are being cut as the oil industry pares back about 10% of its workforce, and there are fears that nearly 30,000 more could follow.

Statoil and the oil industry

Oil in Norway is dominated by Statoil, the largely state-owned oil company, which controls about 70% of the country’s petroleum production. It reported staggering losses in the third and fourth quarter of 2014 that were partly the result of the lower oil price – the company’s first loss since it listed on the stock market in 2001. Its share price is also down about a quarter on last summer. The majority of job losses in the sector are due to cost-cutting and reductions to capital expenditure that are aimed at steadying the ship.

Experts regard the low price as a difficulty mainly for the profitability of specific expansion projects, meaning that they could be postponed or even cancelled. High oil prices have made certain investments possible, which are now in trouble. For instance Statoil has held off on decisions on a US$6bn investment into the Snorre field in the North Sea and the huge Johan Castberg field in the Barents Sea.

Consultancy Wood Mackenzie is forecasting that petroleum investments in Norwegian waters will be down 25% this year, with foreseeable cuts in subsequent years too. There is at least one consolation for the industry: the huge Johan Sverdrup field, which is due to begin output in 2019, appears to be viable at prices beneath US$40 a barrel.

The Norwegian government also recently announced that by way of stimulus it would award a tranche of new oil and gas drilling licences next year, including opening up the first new area for exploration since the 1990s. It has also called for the sector to adapt, suggesting that the height of exploration and development has been achieved for oil exploitation, and the sector must now consolidate its position. However, so far there have been few specifics.

The national budget

Unlike in the UK, the main narrative in the Norwegian media is not about cutting producer taxes but worry about the state failing to obtain its expected revenue as outlined in the country’s budget. Some experts believe that if the trend continues the actual revenue collected for the pension fund this year could be as low as half of what was budgeted, which would doubtless be a blow.

Last month, Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg and finance minister Siv Jensen held a press conference on the situation, underlining that the government is prepared to take action if this becomes necessary, but that for the time being, the state budget is sufficiently capable of containing the situation. This means there are currently no plans to make cuts to the budget to cope with lower revenues.

Sovereign wealth

The big advantage that Norway has is the US$860bn (£565bn) Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global into which the oil money is deposited. Intended as an investment for future generations, it is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.

Norway owns an estimated 1% of global stocks and is considered to be the largest state owner of European stocks. For a country with a population just over 5m, this is a position of remarkable economic strength – thanks primarily to petroleum. The revenue of the sector is not only important as an economic boost, but also as the foundation of the Norwegian welfare state.

The government is able to spend up to 4% of the fund every year to finance its budget, albeit for investments rather than direct spending. This year, despite a substantial increase to the level of spending, it will still only run to about 3% of the total. This is also a country in which unemployment is very low – below 4%.

In short, the fall in oil prices is problematic but by no means catastrophic for Norway. The general reaction is a pragmatic one: Norway is in the hands of the global market, and will do what it can to maintain a profitable and responsible petroleum sector that serves the interests of the country. There are no illusions that the oil will last forever, or that prices must remain unnaturally high, and it is perhaps precisely these kinds of vulnerabilities that the Norwegian system safeguards against. Short-term losses are expected, but there is continued optimism for long-term gains.

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RAPID Rises

When it was first announced in 2012, there was scepticism about whether or not Petronas’ RAPID refinery in Johor was destined for reality or cancellation. It came at a time when the refining industry saw multiple ambitious, sometimes unpractical, projects announced. At that point, Petronas – though one of the most respected state oil firms – was still seen as more of an upstream player internationally. Its downstream forays were largely confined to its home base Malaysia and specialty chemicals, as well as a surprising venture into South African through Engen. Its refineries, too, were relatively small. So the announcement that Petronas was planning essentially, its own Jamnagar, promoted some pessimism. Could it succeed?

It has. The RAPID refinery – part of a larger plan to turn the Pengerang district in southern Johor into an oil refining and storage hub capitalising on linkages with Singapore – received its first cargo of crude oil for testing in September 2018. Mechanical completion was achieved on November 29 and all critical units have begun commissioning ahead of the expected firing up of RAPID’s 300 kb/d CDU later this month. A second cargo of 2 million barrels of Saudi crude arrived at RAPID last week. It seems like it’s all systems go for RAPID. But it wasn’t always so clear cut. Financing difficulties – and the 2015 crude oil price crash – put the US$27 billion project on shaky ground for a while, and it was only when Saudi Aramco swooped in to purchase a US$7 billion stake in the project that it started coalescing. Petronas had been courting Aramco since the start of the project, mainly as a crude provider, but having the Saudi giant on board was the final step towards FID. It guaranteed a stable supply of crude for Petronas; and for Aramco, RAPID gave it a foothold in a major global refining hub area as part of its strategy to expand downstream.

But RAPID will be entering into a market quite different than when it was first announced. In 2012, demand for fuel products was concentrated on light distillates; in 2019, that focus has changed. Impending new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations are requiring shippers to switch from burning cheap (and dirty) fuel oil to using cleaner middle distillate gasoils. This plays well into complex refineries like RAPID, specialising in cracking heavy and medium Arabian crude into valuable products. But the issue is that Asia and the rest of the world is currently swamped with gasoline. A whole host of new Asian refineries – the latest being the 200 kb/d Nghi Son in Vietnam – have contributed to growing volumes of gasoline with no home in Asia. Gasoline refining margins in Singapore have taken a hit, falling into negative territory for the first time in seven years. Adding RAPID to the equation places more pressure on gasoline margins, even though margins for middle distillates are still very healthy. And with three other large Asian refinery projects scheduled to come online in 2019 – one in Brunei and two in China – that glut will only grow.

The safety valve for RAPID (and indeed the other refineries due this year) is that they have been planned with deep petrochemicals integration, using naphtha produced from the refinery portion. RAPID itself is planned to have capacity of 3 million tpa of ethylene, propylene and other olefins – still a lucrative market that justifies the mega-investment. But it will be at least two years before RAPID’s petrochemicals portion will be ready to start up, and when it does, it’ll face the same set of challenging circumstances as refineries like Hengli’s 400 kb/d Dalian Changxing plant also bring online their petchem operations. But that is a problem for the future and for now, RAPID is first out of the gate into reality. It won’t be entering in a bonanza fuels market as predicted in 2012, but there is still space in the market for RAPID – and a few other like in – at least for now.

 

RAPID Refinery Factsheet:

  • Ownership: Petronas (50%), Saudi Aramco (50%)
  • Capacity: 300 kb/d CDU/3 mtpa olefins plant
  • Other facilities: 1.22 Gigawatt congeneration plant, 3.5 mtpa regasification terminal
  • Expected commissioning: March 2019
January, 21 2019
Forecasting Bangladesh Tyre Market | Zulker Naeen

Tyre market in Bangladesh is forecasted to grow at over 9% until 2020 on the back of growth in automobile sales, advancements in public infrastructure, and development-seeking government policies.

The government has emphasized on the road infrastructure of the country, which has been instrumental in driving vehicle sales in the country.

The tyre market reached Tk 4,750 crore last year, up from about Tk 4,000 crore in 2017, according to market insiders.

The commercial vehicle tyre segment dominates this industry with around 80% of the market share. At least 1.5 lakh pieces of tyres in the segment were sold in 2018.

In the commercial vehicle tyre segment, the MRF's market share is 30%. Apollo controls 5% of the segment, Birla 10%, CEAT 3%, and Hankook 1%. The rest 51% is controlled by non-branded Chinese tyres.

However, Bangladesh mostly lacks in tyre manufacturing setups, which leads to tyre imports from other countries as the only feasible option to meet the demand. The company largely imports tyre from China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.

Automobile and tyre sales in Bangladesh are expected to grow with the rising in purchasing power of people as well as growing investments and joint ventures of foreign market players. The country might become the exporting destination for global tyre manufacturers.

Several global tyre giants have also expressed interest in making significant investments by setting up their manufacturing units in the country.

This reflects an opportunity for local companies to set up an indigenous manufacturing base in Bangladesh and also enables foreign players to set up their localized production facilities to capture a significant market.

It can be said that, the rise in automobile sales, improvement in public infrastructure, and growth in purchasing power to drive the tyre market over the next five years.

January, 18 2019
Your Weekly Update: 14 - 18 January 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 14 January 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$51/b

  • After a rally, crude oil prices took a breather at the start of this week, as the market moved from a bullish mood to a cautious one as slowing Chinese trade data spooked the market
  • The US government shutdown – now the longest ever in history – continues with no end in sight, with Republicans and President Donald Trump at a stalemate with energised Democrats
  • That ended a week-long rally that allowed crude oil to bounce back from sub-US$50/b levels in December over OPEC+’s implementation of a new deal to shrink supplies and Saudi Arabia’s promise to ‘do more if needed’
  • Even Russia, which showed some reluctance in implementing a speedy cut, has made strides in reducing output, releasing data that showed that production fell by 30,000 b/d in December and is on track for a decrease of 50,000 b/d in January relative to October levels
  • However, the OPEC+ group is now reportedly struggling to set a date for their next meeting, where the supply deal will be reviewed; the review is set for April, ahead of OPEC’s usual Vienna meeting in June/July, but an April review is necessary to assess the expiration of American waivers on Iranian crude
  • Some downside to price trends is that the waivers on Iranian crude exports have nullified the impact of American sanctions; both Turkey and India have recently resumed imports of Iranian crude after a brief hiatus, with India electing to pay for all its crude in rupees
  • Although WTI prices have improved, American drillers are still reticent to add sites, wary of changing market conditions; Baker Hughes indicates that the active American drill count was flat last week, with the loss of 4 oil rigs offset by a gain of 4 gas ones
  • Crude price outlook: Upward momentum should continue with crude price this week, but at a more gradual pace, as fears of a slowing global economy weigh on the market. Brent should stay in the US$61-63/b range and WTI in the US$52-54/b range


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • BP is proceeding with a major US$1.3 billion expansion of the Atlantis Phase 3 in the Gulf of Mexico, aimed at adding 38,000 b/d of additional output
  • Venezuela has announced plans to remap its Caribbean oil and gas prospects, a move that potentially puts it on collision course with ExxonMobil over the country’s long-disputed borders with the now oil-rich Guyana
  • New seismic studies at BP have identified a billion more barrels of oil in place at the deepwater Thunder Horse platform in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Saudi Arabia has published an updated figure of its oil reserves – its first in 40 years – pegging total volumes at 268.5 billion barrels
  • Norway has cut its crude production forecast, predicting the output will be 1.42 mmb/d in 2019, the lowest level since 1988
  • BP is reportedly looking to sell its 28% stake in the North Sea Shearwater assets to offset its recent US$10.6 billion acquisition of US shale fields
  • The Unity fields in South Sudan have resumed production, after being halted for five years over a civil war, with initial production targeted at 20,000 b/d
  • Eni and Thailand’s PTTEP have secured exploration rights to an oil and gas concession in Abu Dhabi, with Adnoc participating at 60% if oil is struck
  • TransCanada Corp – ahead of name change to TC Energy – is planning to start construction on the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline in June, even in the face of continued social and legal setbacks
  • Spirit Energy’s Oda field in the Norwegian North Sea has received permission from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate to start up
  • Aker Energy has completed successful appraisal of the offshore Pecan field in Ghana, estimating some 450-550 mmboe of resources in place
  • Shell and BP have submitted plans to begin exploratory drilling in Brazil’s Pau Brasil and Saturno pre-salt areas in early 2020

Downstream

  • Saudi Arabia has reiterated plans to build a US$10 billion oil refinery in Pakistan’s deepwater port of Gwadar, part of the larger China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plan that is part of the Belt and Road initiative
  • Shell Chemicals has started up its fourth alpha olefins unit at in Geismar, Louisiana, adding 425,000 tpa of capacity to a new total of 1.3 mtpa
  • After being idled over the paralysis between PDVSA and ConocoPhillips, the 335,000 b/d Isla refinery in Curacao has restarted, with operations likely to shift from PDVSA to Saudi Aramco’s Motiva US refining subsidiary

Natural Gas/LNG

  • After seemingly receiving official go-ahead from all levels of government and even indigenous groups, Shell’s US$31 billion Kitimat LNG project in Canada has now been blockaded by a group of protesting First Nation holdouts
  • Completion of major LNG projects in Australia’s west coast have allowed its LNG exports to increase by 23% in 2018, with greater growth expected in 2019
  • The NordStream 2, long championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, now faces new opposition in Germany over Russian global political interference – which could result in the controversial pipeline being delayed or cancelled
  • Shell has completed its acquisition of a 26% stake in the Hazira LNG and port venture in India from Total, bringing its equity interest to full ownership
  • BP has announced plans to drill six new exploration wells in Azerbaijan by 2020, hoping to strike a new natural gas play to rival its giant Shah Deniz field
January, 18 2019