The news coming out of Chinese shipyards regarding deliveries of the 87 jackups they still have under construction is that there is precious little news. All is silent with the occasional revelation that individual rigs remain under construction or have been launched.
Currently there are seventy (70) jackups under construction as various Chinese yards. Of these there are twenty-five (25) that have been ordered by bona-fide drilling contractors such as Seadrill, Northern Offshore, COSL, Dynamic, KS Drilling, Shengli and Apexindo. The remaining forty-five (45) have all been ordered on pure speculation with the intention of flipping them for a profit.
Deliveries on some of the seventy (70) have already been officially pushed back into late 2016 or later or were naturally behind schedule anyway. Twenty-seven (27) units were to have been delivered in 2015 and first quarter of 2016 according to their original construction schedule but have not appeared in the market. A high percentage of these are probably ready for delivery but are yet to be accepted by their owners. Not much information is being made available on these units.
Even for the twenty-five (25) rigs ordered by drilling companies there is no certainty that the drillers will accept delivery of the rigs they have ordered, although Shengli and Northern Offshore appear set to accept their rigs when ready. Seadrill have announced that they will not take delivery of any of their eight jackups in 2016 and then further announced that they consider the eight (8) rigs under construction at DSIC to be “an option to buy” which sounds ominous for DSIC. It would be a surprise if Dynamic, Apexindo and KS Drilling took delivery of their rigs without a contract in place, a remote event at this juncture. Paragon has continually stated that accepting delivery of the three Prospector rigs still under construction is unlikely. Some of the threats are probably posturing as the rigs are likely to be accepted once the market improves. Its just that the owners do not want to pay for them until then.
But the real question is what will happen to the other forty-five (45) jackups whose chances of being flipped for a profit are currently absolutely zero and whose chances of making any sale at all would depend on how much of a hit they are prepared to take on the original shipyard price. As most have only made a down payment of 5% they have relatively little to lose by walking away as compared to paying the $180-200m to the shipyard, taking delivery, and then perhaps only being able to sell on for $140m. This though is a moot point as the owners would not be able to get financing from the banks without a contract for the rig and in such a cut throat market as this one it is highly unlikely that they would win any contracts when competing against bone-fide drillers, themselves desperate for work.
Of course we have John Fredriksen sniffing around with his Sandbox venture with the stated intention of buying up distressed assets. Maersk Drilling has indicated they are in a position to move in on any opportunities but they will only aim for high spec harsh environment unit of which there are very few under construction. There are also rumours of a certain offshoot US drilling company in talks with CMIC to examine the possibility of taking over operatorship of their unsold jackup inventory on some sort of a lease purchase deal, presumably they would then be able to start a fleet replenishment exercise and condemn their old jackups to the scrapyard. There is no doubt there are other clever deals being thought through at present.
The emergence of Iran, allowed back into the international market, is seen by many of the speculators as The Opportunity, but it has been so since the building boom started and very few units were actually picked up by Iran, mostly 300ft rated smaller units. The National Iranian Drilling Company is said to be in negotiations with domestic and international investors from Asia and Europe with a view to acquiring five (5) jackups with a budget at $200 million for each and is said to have signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese companies apparently based on a lease purchase scenario. Owners may be salivating but five (5) out of forty-five (45) is hardly encouraging. The other great hope was Mexico but that market has collapsed completely.
However, it is known that most of the Chinese yards are being very lenient with the owners, allowing completed units to remain in the yard at no cost and offering to help find buyers for the rigs at which point they would refund the down payment to the original owners, But this is certainly not a seller’s market. Patently this shows the yards are taking a very patient and long term view, albeit knowing they have government guarantees in their back pocket in case things don’t go as planned.
Although there are twelve (12) shipyards in China currently constructing jackups, three (3), namely CMHI, SWS and DSIC, have the most exposure and account for forty (40) of the seventy (70)) units under construction with CMHI most exposed with eighteen (18). With little prospects of sales in the near future it is not surprising there is little news nor that they are showing leniency to owners when the alternative is dumping them on the market at fire sale prices.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 18 March 2019 – Brent: US$67/b; WTI: US$58/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
Risk and reward – improving recovery rates versus exploration
A giant oil supply gap looms. If, as we expect, oil demand peaks at 110 million b/d in 2036, the inexorable decline of fields in production or under development today creates a yawning gap of 50 million b/d by the end of that decade.
How to fill it? It’s the preoccupation of the E&P sector. Harry Paton, Senior Analyst, Global Oil Supply, identifies the contribution from each of the traditional four sources.
1. Reserve growth
An additional 12 million b/d, or 24%, will come from fields already in production or under development. These additional reserves are typically the lowest risk and among the lowest cost, readily tied-in to export infrastructure already in place. Around 90% of these future volumes break even below US$60 per barrel.
2. pre-drill tight oil inventory and conventional pre-FID projects
They will bring another 12 million b/d to the party. That’s up on last year by 1.5 million b/d, reflecting the industry’s success in beefing up the hopper. Nearly all the increase is from the Permian Basin. Tight oil plays in North America now account for over two-thirds of the pre-FID cost curve, though extraction costs increase over time. Conventional oil plays are a smaller part of the pre-FID wedge at 4 million b/d. Brazil deep water is amongst the lowest cost resource anywhere, with breakevens eclipsing the best tight oil plays. Certain mature areas like the North Sea have succeeded in getting lower down the cost curve although volumes are small. Guyana, an emerging low-cost producer, shows how new conventional basins can change the curve.
3. Contingent resource
These existing discoveries could deliver 11 million b/d, or 22%, of future supply. This cohort forms the next generation of pre-FID developments, but each must overcome challenges to achieve commerciality.
Last, but not least, yet-to-find. We calculate new discoveries bring in 16 million b/d, the biggest share and almost one-third of future supply. The number is based on empirical analysis of past discovery rates, future assumptions for exploration spend and prospectivity.
Can yet-to-find deliver this much oil at reasonable cost? It looks more realistic today than in the recent past. Liquids reserves discovered that are potentially commercial was around 5 billion barrels in 2017 and again in 2018, close to the late 2030s ‘ask’. Moreover, exploration is creating value again, and we have argued consistently that more companies should be doing it.
But at the same time, it’s the high-risk option, and usually last in the merit order – exploration is the final top-up to meet demand. There’s a danger that new discoveries – higher cost ones at least – are squeezed out if demand’s not there or new, lower-cost supplies emerge. Tight oil’s rapid growth has disrupted the commercialisation of conventional discoveries this decade and is re-shaping future resource capture strategies.
To sustain portfolios, many companies have shifted away from exclusively relying on exploration to emphasising lower risk opportunities. These mostly revolve around commercialising existing reserves on the books, whether improving recovery rates from fields currently in production (reserves growth) or undeveloped discoveries (contingent resource).
Emerging technology may pose a greater threat to exploration in the future. Evolving technology has always played a central role in boosting expected reserves from known fields. What’s different in 2019 is that the industry is on the cusp of what might be a technological revolution. Advanced seismic imaging, data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, the cloud and supercomputing will shine a light into sub-surface’s dark corners.
Combining these and other new applications to enhance recovery beyond tried-and-tested means could unlock more reserves from existing discoveries – and more quickly than we assume. Equinor is now aspiring to 60% from its operated fields in Norway. Volume-wise, most upside may be in the giant, older, onshore accumulations with low recovery factors (think ExxonMobil and Chevron’s latest Permian upgrades). In contrast, 21st century deepwater projects tend to start with high recovery factors.
If global recovery rates could be increased by a percentage or two from the average of around 30%, reserves growth might contribute another 5 to 6 million b/d in the 2030s. It’s just a scenario, and perhaps makes sweeping assumptions. But it’s one that should keep conventional explorers disciplined and focused only on the best new prospects.
Global oil supply through 2040
Things just keep getting more dire for Venezuela’s PDVSA – once a crown jewel among state energy firms, and now buried under debt and a government in crisis. With new American sanctions weighing down on its operations, PDVSA is buckling. For now, with the support of Russia, China and India, Venezuelan crude keeps flowing. But a ghost from the past has now come back to haunt it.
In 2007, Venezuela embarked on a resource nationalisation programme under then-President Hugo Chavez. It was the largest example of an oil nationalisation drive since Iraq in 1972 or when the government of Saudi Arabia bought out its American partners in ARAMCO back in 1980. The edict then was to have all foreign firms restructure their holdings in Venezuela to favour PDVSA with a majority. Total, Chevron, Statoil (now Equinor) and BP agreed; ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips refused. Compensation was paid to ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, which was considered paltry. So the two American firms took PDVSA to international arbitration, seeking what they considered ‘just value’ for their erstwhile assets. In 2012, ExxonMobil was awarded some US$260 million in two arbitration awards. The dispute with ConocoPhillips took far longer.
In April 2018, the International Chamber of Commerce ruled in favour of ConocoPhillips, granting US$2.1 billion in recovery payments. Hemming and hawing on PDVSA’s part forced ConocoPhillips’ hand, and it began to seize control of terminals and cargo ships in the Caribbean operated by PDVSA or its American subsidiary Citgo. A tense standoff – where PDVSA’s carriers were ordered to return to national waters immediately – was resolved when PDVSA reached a payment agreement in August. As part of the deal, ConocoPhillips agreed to suspend any future disputes over the matter with PDVSA.
The key word being ‘future’. ConocoPhillips has an existing contractual arbitration – also at the ICC – relating to the separate Corocoro project. That decision is also expected to go towards the American firm. But more troubling is that a third dispute has just been settled by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes tribunal in favour of ConocoPhillips. This action was brought against the government of Venezuela for initiating the nationalisation process, and the ‘unlawful expropriation’ would require a US$8.7 billion payment. Though the action was brought against the government, its coffers are almost entirely stocked by sales of PDVSA crude, essentially placing further burden on an already beleaguered company. A similar action brought about by ExxonMobil resulted in a US$1.4 billion payout; however, that was overturned at the World Bank in 2017.
But it might not end there. The danger (at least on PDVSA’s part) is that these decisions will open up floodgates for any creditors seeking damages against Venezuela. And there are quite a few, including several smaller oil firms and players such as gold miner Crystallex, who is owed US$1.2 billion after the gold industry was nationalised in 2011. If the situation snowballs, there is a very tempting target for creditors to seize – Citgo, PDVSA’s crown jewel that operates downstream in the USA, which remains profitable. And that would be an even bigger disaster for PDVSA, even by current standards.
Infographic: Venezuela oil nationalisation dispute timeline