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Last Updated: June 22, 2016
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  1. Oil had a jittery week, with the dominant theme being fears of Brexit – the upcoming referendum in the UK on whether to remain or leave the European Union; fears over the economic impact if the UK was to vote ‘Leave’ sent crude prices down earlier in the week, then regaining to float just under US$50/b as ‘Remain’ gained momentum. The country goes to vote this Thursday.

  2. Ties between Asia and Iran continue to warm; China and Iran are reportedly developing an oil terminal project on Oeshm Island, a US$550 million project that will help ramp up Iranian crude exports, much of which will be destined for China as it attempts to diversify crude sources away from dependence of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

  3. As the race to satisfy Asian crude demand heats up with Iran upping the ante, traditional suppliers are looking to lock in with long-term customers; Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC visited the company’s client base in South Korea and Japan, aimed at securing and retaining the business of the NOC’s reliable clients in the East.

  4. Shell’s deepwater Malikai development in Sabah, Malaysia took one step closer to completion with the completion of the onshore fabrication and commissioning of the Malikai TLP. Operations are expected to commence in 2017 on schedule, with peak production of 60,000 b/d, opening up a new forefront of deepwater development in Malaysia.

  5. Vladimir Putin is reportedly weighing selling part of Rosneft and other government-owned oil ‘jewels’ to China and India as the Russian governments attempt to cover budget shortfalls triggered by falling oil prices and tensions with the EU and US over geopolitical interventions ahead of his re-election in two years.

  6. Gazprom has abandoned attempts to expand crude deliveries to India, due to ‘difficult’ logistics but left the door open if market conditions improve.

  7. In more Russia-Asian news, Vietnam’s PV Oil secured a long-term crude contract with Rosneft last week. PV Oil is the subsidiary of PetroVietnam that handles crude sourcing for Vietnam’s sole refinery Dung Quat, and also lifts refined products from the refinery.

  8. Indonesia is at it again; Pertamina has announced that it intends to build two new refineries of 300 kb/d each by 2023 to ease the country’s chronic oil product import issue. One of them will be the Tuban refinery, in partnership with Russia’s Rosneft, while Pertamina is still searching for a partner for its planned Bontang site. 

  9. As the world’s largest imported of natural gas, Japan is attempted to use the current supply glut as an opportunity to rewrite the rules of Asian natural gas pricing. Japan, which traditionally pays huge premiums for LNG, wants to move Asian LNG pricing away from the rigid, opaque market based on individual contract pricing towards embracing Japan as a trading hub where prices are set on the market. Part of this will include removing restrictions on reselling LNG cargoes; Tokyo Electric Power and Chubu Electric signed Japan’s first resale deal last month.

  10. India’s GAIL is looking at re-aligning the route of a proposed gas pipeline in the state of Tamil Nadu to run in parallel to motor highways. Debates over the course of the pipeline have hindered the start-up of the Petronet’s Kochi LNG terminal, which opened three years ago.

  11. The cost of falling oil prices has been tabulated: consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimates that the upstream industry has responded by cancelling and deferring projects to the tune of some US$740 billion over 2015-2020 since crude prices first starting tumbling in Q42014

  12. The fires have been put out; after wildfires in Alberta sent Canadian oil sands production way down last month, producers have returned and the IEA expects Canadian production to return to normal by mid-July, removing a supply factor that has supported stronger prices recently.

  13. There was only a single attack by the Niger Delta Avengers in Nigeria last week – on June 16 at the NNPC Oruk Anam crude pipeline – as the military thwarted a planned sabotage at an Eni pipeline and arrested 19 suspects, fighting back against the sustained disruption that has made Nigeria the third most expensive country in which to produce oil.

  14. The US oil rig count rose up again last week, with nine more sites coming online, bringing the total number t o 337. All of the gains are coming from onshore projects – offshore rigs remain static at 21. The gas rig count rose by one to 86.

  15. Lukoil is reportedly looking into spinning off or selling its downstream assets in Western Europe, as improving crude prices is pushing the Russian giant to focus on expanding upstream at home and abroad. Lukoil has some refining assets in Italy and the Netherlands, as well as a retail network across east Europe.

  16. The trend back to upstream is echoed by other oil majors, with Chevron and Shell both putting some of their smaller refineries – Chevron’s Burnaby in Canada and Shell’s Martinez in California – up for sale, am attempt to rationalise their downstream portfolio.

  17. Russia’s Gazprom and Belgium’s Fluxys are in discussions to develop LNG facilities across western Europe, including LNG bunkering, as Europe’s appetite for LNG increases and more import facilities are required. 

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In 2018, the United States consumed more energy than ever before

U.S. total energy consumption

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Primary energy consumption in the United States reached a record high of 101.3 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2018, up 4% from 2017 and 0.3% above the previous record set in 2007. The increase in 2018 was the largest increase in energy consumption, in both absolute and percentage terms, since 2010.

Consumption of fossil fuels—petroleum, natural gas, and coal—grew by 4% in 2018 and accounted for 80% of U.S. total energy consumption. Natural gas consumption reached a record high, rising by 10% from 2017. This increase in natural gas, along with relatively smaller increases in the consumption of petroleum fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear electric power, more than offset a 4% decline in coal consumption.

U.S. total energy consumption

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Petroleum consumption in the United States increased to 20.5 million barrels per day (b/d), or 37 quadrillion Btu in 2018, up nearly 500,000 b/d from 2017 and the highest level since 2007. Growth was driven primarily by increased use in the industrial sector, which grew by about 200,000 b/d in 2018. The transportation sector grew by about 140,000 b/d in 2018 as a result of increased demand for fuels such as petroleum diesel and jet fuel.

Natural gas consumption in the United States reached a record high 83.1 billion cubic feet/day (Bcf/d), the equivalent of 31 quadrillion Btu, in 2018. Natural gas use rose across all sectors in 2018, primarily driven by weather-related factors that increased demand for space heating during the winter and for air conditioning during the summer. As more natural gas-fired power plants came online and existing natural gas-fired power plants were used more often, natural gas consumption in the electric power sector increased 15% from 2017 levels to 29.1 Bcf/d. Natural gas consumption also grew in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors in 2018, increasing 13%, 10%, and 4% compared with 2017 levels, respectively.

Coal consumption in the United States fell to 688 million short tons (13 quadrillion Btu) in 2018, the fifth consecutive year of decline. Almost all of the reduction came from the electric power sector, which fell 4% from 2017 levels. Coal-fired power plants continued to be displaced by newer, more efficient natural gas and renewable power generation sources. In 2018, 12.9 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity were retired, while 14.6 GW of net natural gas-fired capacity were added.

U.S. fossil fuel energy consumption by sector

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Renewable energy consumption in the United States reached a record high 11.5 quadrillion Btu in 2018, rising 3% from 2017, largely driven by the addition of new wind and solar power plants. Wind electricity consumption increased by 8% while solar consumption rose 22%. Biomass consumption, primarily in the form of transportation fuels such as fuel ethanol and biodiesel, accounted for 45% of all renewable consumption in 2018, up 1% from 2017 levels. Increases in wind, solar, and biomass consumption were partially offset by a 3% decrease in hydroelectricity consumption.

U.S. energy consumption of selected fuels

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Nuclear consumption in the United States increased less than 1% compared with 2017 levels but still set a record for electricity generation in 2018. The number of total operable nuclear generating units decreased to 98 in September 2018 when the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey was retired. Annual average nuclear capacity factors, which reflect the use of power plants, were slightly higher at 92.6% in 2018 compared with 92.2% in 2017.

More information about total energy consumption, production, trade, and emissions is available in EIA’s Monthly Energy Review.

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A New Frontier for LNG Pricing and Contracts

How’s this for a first? As the world’s demand for LNG continues to grow, the world’s largest LNG supplier (Shell) has inked an innovative new deal with one of the world’s largest LNG buyers (Tokyo Gas), including a coal pricing formula link for the first time in a large-scale LNG contract. It’s a notable change in an industry that has long depended on pricing gas off crude, but could this be a sign of new things to come?

Both parties have named the deal an ‘innovative solution’, with Tokyo Gas hailing it as a ‘further diversification of price indexation’ and Shell calling it a ‘tailored solutions including flexible contract terms under a variety of pricing indices.’ Beneath the rhetoric, the actual nuts and bolts is slightly more mundane. The pricing formula link to coal indexation will only be used for part of the supply, with the remainder priced off the conventional oil & gas-linked indexation ie. Brent and Henry Hub pricing. This makes sense, since Tokyo Gas will be sourcing LNG from Shell’s global portfolio – which includes upcoming projects in Canada and the US Gulf Coast. Neither party provided the split of volumes under each pricing method, meaning that the coal-linked portion could be small, acting as a hedge.

However, it is likely that the push for this came from Tokyo Gas. As one of the world’s largest LNG buyers, Tokyo Gas has been at the forefront of redefining the strict traditions of LNG contracts. Reading between the lines, this deal most likely does not include any destination restriction clauses, a change that Tokyo Gas has been particularly pushing for. With the trajectory for Brent crude prices uncertain – owing to a difficult-to-predict balance between OPEC+ and US shale – creating a third link in the pricing formula might be a good move. Particularly since in Japan, LNG faces off directly with coal in power generation. With the general retreat from nuclear power in the country, the coal-LNG battle will intensify.

What does this mean for the rest of the industry? Could coal-linked contracts become the norm? The industry has been discussing new innovations in LNG contracts at the recent LNG2019 conference in Shanghai, while the influx of new American LNG players hungry to seal deals has unleashed a new sense of flexibility. But will there be takers?

I am not a pricing expert but the answer is maybe. While Tokyo Gas predominantly uses natural gas as its power generation fuel (hence the name), it is competing with other players using cheaper coal-based generation. So in Japan, LNG and coal are direct competitors. This is also true in South Korea and much of Southeast Asia. In the two rising Asian LNG powerhouses, however, the situation is different. In China – on track to become the world’s largest LNG buyer in the next two decades – LNG is rarely used in power generation, consumed instead by residential heating. In India – where LNG imports are also rising sharply – LNG is primarily aimed at petrochemicals and fertiliser. LNG based power generation in China and India could see a surge, of course, but that will take plenty of infrastructure, and time, to build. It is far more likely that their contracts will be based off existing LNG or natural gas benchmarks, several of which are being developed in Asia alone.

If it takes off  the coal-link LNG formula is likely to remain a Asian-based development. But with the huge volumes demanded by countries in this region, that’s still a very big niche. Enough perhaps for the innovation to slowly gain traction elsewhere, next stop -  Europe?

The Shell-Tokyo Gas Deal:

Contract – April 2020-March 2030 (10 Years)

Volume – 500,000 metric tons per year

Source – Shell global portfolio

Pricing – Formula based on coal and oil & gas-linked indexes

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