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News that Thailand’s PTT was indefinitely postponing its planned US$20 billion, 400 kb/d refinery in petrochemical complex in central Vietnam is another setback in the country’s refining ambitions, aimed at reducing its dependence on imported oil products and tipping it to become a net exporter.

Vietnam has been a reliable ‘sink’ for oil products in South-East Asia, regularly absorbing surplus product from refineries in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for decades. Vietnam’s appetite for imports is a fixed variable that most export-oriented refining expansions in the region is based on. Even when the Dung Quat refinery opened in 2009, imports still flowed as the country developed economically. This is good news for the region’s refiners, as it makes Vietnam, along with Indonesia, a reliable buyer. On the flipside, it is something that Vietnam wants to change.

The grand plan for Vietnam’s refining ambitions is simple: three refineries, one in the south, one in the centre and one in the north, to supply the three main demand areas of the long, narrow country. Dung Quat is in the centre, and operational problems still persist to this day. The second, Nghi Son in the north, is scheduled to begin operations in 2017, but the joint venture between PetroVietnam, Idemitsu Kosan, Kuwait Petroleum and Mitsui Chemicals is widely expected to be delayed. The third, Phu Yen in the south, is ambitiously aimed for 2018, but with no traction on progression, likely to be further in the future.

Even if the three refineries do eventually come online, the expected capacity of some 550 kb/d is likely to be insufficient to satiate the country’s growing demand at that point in time. Add to this the byzantine Vietnam domestic tax structure that makes imported products cheaper than Dung Quat output, and the issues facing Vietnam’s refining ambitions get more complicated. Which is why private projects like PTT’s Binh Dinh and the dodgy Russia-linked Vung Ro project were welcomed, as it would ease the pressure on a scrambling PetroVietnam.  But with the withdrawal of PTT last week, it appears the opaque market of Vietnam will remain underdeveloped for now, to the relief of export refiners in the region.

Let us know your thoughts if PetroVietnam is able to find another partner to continue its ambitions. A another player from the Gulf perhaps?

 

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November, 15 2018
Your Weekly Update: 12 - 16 November 2018

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 12 November 2018 – Brent: US$71/b; WTI: US$60/b

  • Crude prices continue their retreat from recent highs, as a bear market engulfed sentiment last week over fears of oversupply from frantic OPEC+ pumping offsetting the loss of Iranian crude volumes, which itself was mitigated by the US handing out waivers to eight key crude importers
  • After stating that OPEC was in a ‘pump as much as you can’ mode, the quick fall in prices has caused alarm across the cartel, with Saudi Arabia reversing gear to curb its exports by 500,000 b/d in December to shore up prices
  • With the OPEC meeting in Vienna imminent, it is possible that a new output cut agreement could be reached within OPEC+, to counter an oversupply situation stemming from declining demand, as well as surging US shale production – which will rise to a record 7.94 mmb/d across seven major shale basins in December, according to the EIA
  • However, beyond Saudi Arabia, there is not much appetite within the OPEC+ alliance to reduce output, with Iraq happy with its record production and Russia dismissing the oversupply situation as a ‘seasonal glitch’
  • Saudi Arabia’s plan to cut its oil production was criticised by US President Donald Trump, stung by losses in midterm elections that Trump chalks up to, in part, high fuel prices
  • News that Saudi Arabia was researching the topic of breaking up OPEC rattled the markets, but the Kingdom moved to quash rumours as Aramco raised the pricing for its medium and heavy crudes sold to Asia
  • Despite this, trends have turned bearish for crude prices over this week, propelled by large jumps in US crude output and worries over a global economic slowdown, particularly in China; Brent and WTI fell by over US$4/b on Tuesday alone, falling below the US$70/b and US$60/b levels again
  • After several weeks of caution, US drillers added 14 new rigs this week – up by 12 oil rigs and 2 gas rigs to 1,081 in total – with the most gains once again coming from the prolific Permian Basin
  • Crude price outlook: After the large drop on Tuesday, crude prices appear to have stabilised somewhat around the US$65-66/b level for Brent and the US$55-56/b level for WTI


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Another setback for TransCanada’s beleaguered Keystone XL pipeline, as a judge in Montana halted the project over two lawsuits filed asserting that its environmental impact assessment required further review
  • Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline are launching two new crude pipelines connecting Rockies and Bakken oil to the Texas Gulf Coast; the Liberty Pipeline will carry 350 kb/d from Bakken/Rockies to Corpus Christi, while the 400 kb/d Red Oak Pipeline connects Corpus Christi to Houston
  • Magellan Midstream Partners is looking to build a new pipeline connecting Cushing to Houston, with the 250 kb/d Voyager pipeline targeted at end-2020
  • The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has increased capacity of its oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Ceyhan, Turkey, from 700,000 b/d to 1 mmb/d
  • After previously fleeing from Canadian oil sands, ExxonMobil is investing again, with its Imperial Oil unit earmarking some US$2 billion for the new Aspen project in northern Alberta
  • Senrica Energy continues its buying spree in the North Sea, acquiring Marubeni Oil & Gas’ 3.75% and 8.33% interest in the Bruce and Keith fields
  • ADNOC is implementing a comprehensive hydrocarbons strategy that will increase its crude output capacity to 4 mmb/d by 2020 and 5 mmb/d by 2030
  • Croatia has launched the country’s second onshore licensing round, offering seven blocks in the prolific Pannonian basin
  • Eni and Lukoil have signed a farm-out deal, transferring participating interests in three shallow-water offshore Mexican licenses, including Area 10, 12 and 14
  • Buoyed by recent gas successes, Israel has announced its second offshore licensing round, offering up 19 blocks in its southern waters
  • Senegal is overhauling its own code, with plans to raise royalties and have the state take a bigger stake in projects after a string of major discoveries
  • CNOOC is kickstarting a development drive aimed at eking out additional volumes from several marginal fields in Bohai Bay and the South China Sea

Downstream

  • Nigeria’s ambitious overhaul of its state-owned refineries has been pushed back to end-2019 over slow progress in NNPC’s attempt to seek joint financing
  • NNPC is looking to sign crude-for-product swap deals with Shell and ExxonMobil, after signing one with BP, to acquire crude for its refineries
  • France is pushing ahead with its attempt to introduce a new fuel tax, despite a series of major blockades and protests planned to oppose the measure

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Total and Sempra Energy have signed a new MoU on LNG cooperation, covering the Cameron LNG in Louisiana, USA and Energía Costa Azul in Baja California, Mexico, with Total potentially taking up to 9 mtpa of LNG for its global portfolio from both projects
  • Cuadrilla has had first shale gas flow at its exploration well in the UK’s Preston New Road site, sparking optimism for the commercialisation of Bowland Shale
  • Croatia has picked Golar Power to deliver an FSRU for a planned floating LNG terminal in the northern Adriatic Sea
  • Tellurian confirms that construction on its Driftwood LNG terminal Louisiana will begin in 2H2019, which operations planned to begin in 2023
  • Japan’s Toshiba Corp is exiting the US LNG business, selling off its assets to China’s ENN Ecological Holdings for over US$800 million
November, 15 2018