Easwaran Kanason

Co - founder of PetroEdge
Last Updated: September 25, 2016
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At this time of writing, a 27,500 ton Tension Leg Platform (TLP) is being installed in waters 500m deep off the coast of Sabah. When full installed, the stage will be set for first oil to flow in 2017 at the Malikai deepwater project. Led by Shell, Malikai represents several firsts for upstream in Malaysia and leads the path forward for the industry in the country.

First sanctioned in 2013, Malikai consists of two main reservoirs – Kinarut and Kamunsu-2, with peak production of 60 kb/d a day expected. Shell has a 35% stake in the project, together with ConocoPhillips (35%) and Petronas Carigali (30%). Malikai received its FID (final investment decision) during the heady days of US$100/b oil. And though crude oil prices have more than halved since, Malikai is the blueprint for the future of Malaysian upstream. 

The deep waters off Sabah hold plenty of hydrocarbons, and with offshore production off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia dwindling, new crude output must come from Sabah and Sarawak to keep production up. With shallow water blocks well surveyed, players – Malikai’s three partners, as well as Murphy Oil, JX Nippon and others – are venturing into deeper water. Malikai is the second of two mega deepwater projects to come onstream, after Gumusut-Kakap (another Shell project) in 2012. 

The TLP used in Malikai is believed to be the first  fabricated in Malaysia, by France’s Technip in Pasir Gudang, and the first in the world outside of Gulf of Mexico. The skills and expertise for deepwater platforms are now in Malaysia, and can therefore be used for future projects – both within Malaysia, and also deepwater potential fields in Brunei and Indonesia.

Malikai also marks the maturation of Malaysia’s planned oil and gas hub. Malikai crude will be partially processed by the TLP, before being evacuated to the Kebabangan shallow water platform – an offshore hub for collating oil and gas from various fields – then sent onshore to the Sabah Oil & Gas Terminal for storage and loading onto tankers. In the decades to come, the vision is that of deepwater fields in the waters all connecting back to Kebabangan as a central repository and channel to onshore storage, an elegant situation that reduces costs for all parties and possible only under the encompassing eye of Petronas. 

So when Malikai oil begins to flow next year, it will be heralded as a new dawn for upstream in Malaysia. Are there any pitfalls? Certainly. Low oil prices does make operating Malikai a challenge, to say nothing of also curbing exploration activities in other promising deepwater areas. Petronas believes deepwater is the future for Malaysia and is still untapped, with Shell in agreement, making deepwater a focus for its upstream activities despite a reduction of overall upstream capex. Between Petronas and Shell, a healthy eco-system for deepwater is being nurtured in Sabah. Which is good for the industry as a whole, but there is also another thorn – all the deepwater fields in Sabah skirt perilously close to China’s vague ‘nine-dashed line’ that the country claims as its territorial waters. That, however, is a bilateral argument for the future and until it rears its head, the upstream industry in Malaysia will keep going deeper and deeper.

Are you part of the Malikai Project?  Share your story in NrgEdge or simply tag yourself to this prestigious project here: https://www.nrgedge.net/project/malikai-deepwater-project

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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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April, 17 2019
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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