For the second consecutive year,oil companies worldwide produced more oil and natural gas than they added to their proved reserves, excluding revisions to existing proved reserves and purchases of reserves in place. This is not necessarily an indication of fewer available resources, but rather that at current prices, there are fewer resources that can be turned into proved reserves, which are underground oil and gas that can be commercially produced at current prices using currently available technology.
Based on analysis of recently released annual reports, 85 publicly traded companies added a total of 13.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) to their reserves base,three-quarters of the amount the same group of companies produced in 2015. A combination of reductions in exploration and development (E&D) investment and fewer extensions and discoveries contributed to the decline. Of the companies that submitted first-quarter 2016 financial results, capital expenditures declined 35% from first-quarter 2015, suggesting continued reductions in E&D investment, which could reduce reserves additions in 2016.
The reserves replacement ratio—the ratio of proved reserves added during a given year to production for that year—indicates the extent to which a company is replacing its produced reserves (Figure 1). The group of 85 companies as a whole had a reserves replacement ratio of approximately 100% in 2012 and 2013, and around 75% for 2014 and 2015. However, the ratios vary significantly by company type. Only the U.S. onshore companies added more reserves to their collective portfolio than they produced in 2015, but the effect on the global reserves base is modest because these companies hold a relatively small share of proved reserves and production.
Each company grouping differs by its area of operations and the types of assets in its portfolio. State-owned companies are mostly national oil companies outside of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The international/integrated oil companies are large producers that have refining and midstream assets, with global portfolios of onshore and offshore oil production. The North American mixed companies are U.S. and Canadian exploration and production (E&P) companies that are smaller producers but with fairly broad portfolios geographically and by production type, including shale, oil sands, and offshore. The U.S. onshore producers are smaller E&P companies that focus mainly on onshore production in the United States. Collectively, the 85 companies produced 50 million BOE per day in 2015, two-thirds of which was crude oil and the remainder being natural gas and hydrocarbon gas liquids.
Analysis by major area of operations and production portfolio also reveals volumetric differences in reserves additions (Figure 2). State-owned companies and international/integrated oil companies increased reserves additions in 2015,while North American companies with a mixed production portfolio and U.S.onshore companies added less than in 2014. Companies can add proved reserves through new discoveries, enlargement of a reservoir's proved area (extensions),improvements in the recovery of existing reserves, purchases of another company's proved reserves, or revisions of existing reserves for economic or technical reasons. For the purposes of this analysis, purchases of reserves in place and reserves revisions are excluded from the calculation of reserves additions.
Expenditures for E&D constitute most of a company's upstream capital investment. When calculated on a reserve addition per barrel basis, these expenditures represent the cost of finding and developing a barrel of oil. Finding and developing costs declined$10.23/BOE in 2015 (Figure 3). Since there may be a timing mismatch between when an expenditure is made and when a proved reserve addition is formally recognized, standard practice is to average the results over several years.Finding and developing costs for these companies were $25.69/BOE in 2015, the lowest in the 2012-15 period and lower than the four-year average of $29.25/BOE.
Similar to the reserves additions and the reserves replacement ratio, finding and developing costs differed across the company groupings. In recent years, U.S. onshore companies tended to have lower E&D expenditures per reserve addition compared with the other groups, as many reserves additions came from geologically familiar shale basins in the United States. Other producers typically operate in areas where it is more challenging to find reserves, such as deep water offshore or in more mature fields that are the foundation of legacy production (such as in China or Russia). The decline in E&D expenditures for national oil companies and international/integrated companies suggests a reduction in exploration activity in such high-cost areas.
With most companies indicating continued reductions in E&D budgets absent a meaningful increase in crude oil prices, proved reserves additions will likely continue to decline.
U.S. average regular gasoline retail and diesel fuel prices increase
The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price increased six cents from the previous week to $2.30 per gallon on May 23, down 47 cents from the same time last year. The Midwest price increased 10 cents to $2.28 per gallon, followed by the Gulf Coast, up eight cents to$2.06 per gallon. The Rocky Mountain price rose six cents to $2.30 per gallon,the East Coast price increased three cents to $2.25 per gallon, and the West Coast price rose one cent to $2.66 per gallon.
The U.S. average diesel fuel price increased six cents from a week ago to $2.36 per gallon, down 56 cents from the same time last year. The Gulf Coast price rose eight cents to $2.23 per gallon, followed by the West Coast price, which increased seven cents to$2.60 per gallon. The East Coast price increased six cents to $2.38 per gallon,the Midwest price rose five cents to $2.33 per gallon, and the Rocky Mountain price was up three cents to $2.36 per gallon.
Propane inventories fallslightly
U.S. propane stocks decreased by 0.1 million barrels last week to 74.1 million barrels as of May 20, 2016, 0.9 million barrels (1.2%) higher than a year ago. East Coast and Gulf Coast inventories decreased by 0.2 million barrels and 0.1 million barrels,respectively. Midwest inventories increased by 0.2 million barrels, while Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories remained unchanged. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 5.4% of total propane inventories.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 18 March 2019 – Brent: US$67/b; WTI: US$58/b
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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