Easwaran Kanason

Co - founder of PetroEdge
Last Updated: September 26, 2016
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Business Trends
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Last week in the world oil

Oil Prices. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia threatening to scupper any deal tabled at the OPEC meeting in Algiers caused crude prices to weaken last week, though a comment from Algeria’s energy minister that ‘all options were are open’ for an output cut or freeze lifted prices slightly today. 

ExxonMobil is reportedly selling some of its Norwegian North Sea oil fields in a deal worth more than US$1 billion. The supermajor currently operates the Ringhorne, Balder, Sigyn and Jotun fields in the North Sea, producing some 64 kb/d, but with the fields maturing, it may be on the look out for greener pastures, as Norway falls down the priority list. 

With US crude oil inventories falling sharply last week, a signal that might push up prices to trigger more supply, more US oil rigs are coming back into production. Two more rigs started up again, bringing the total operating count to 418 oil rigs, with an additional 92 gas rigs operational. 

The government of Curacao has reportedly signed an agreement with China’s Guangdong Zhenrong Energy allowing the latter to operate and upgrade the island’s aging Isla refinery. Opened in 1918 and operated by Venezuela’s PDVSA for decades under a lease agreement as a strategic site to store and ship crude to Asia on VLCCs, the deal appears to phase out PDVSA’s involvement after the Curacao Prime Minister stated that ‘all efforts to reach a new contract with Venezuela did not yield positive results.’ PDVSA has hit back with a statement that its refinery lease was not yet up for negotiation, though the company does not have the pockets to invest the US$1.5 billion required to modernise the 335 kb/d facility. 

France’s Technip has been awarded the contract to increase ENOC’s Jebel Ali refinery capacity by 50%. The project is budgeted at US$1 billion, and will increase the UAE site’s refining capacity to 210 kb/d from 140 kb/d when completed in late 2019. 

Petrobras is planning to exit the biofuels sector as part of a sweeping suite of asset sales aimed at paring down the company’s swelling debt, which would allow it to focus on investing in its core business of oil and gas. Petrobras has a significant biofuels portfolio, including three biodiesel plants  and stakes in several mills, all in Brazil. 

Upstream giant ConocoPhillip’s Alaskan unit has entered into an agreement with the Alaskan state government to form a venture to market Alaskan LNG to global markets. Given the geography of the state, the venture would be focusing on shipping LNG to East Asia, focusing on North Slope gas suppliers in co-operations with other producers. 

In a sign that the oil majors is expecting oil prices to remain in prolonged weakness, France’s Total is cutting back its expenditure by US$2 billion, now aiming to spend only US$15-17 billion from 2017 to 2020. The firm is also targeting cost savings of US$2-4 billion by 2018, most of which will come from upstream. 

India’s BPCL is changing the way it approaches upstream investment, moving away from focusing on new sites to buying more stakes in existing, producing assets. Having just spent US$1.5 billion in overseas exploration assets, the Indian major is now looking at buying into operating oilfields in Russia to speed up investment returns. BPCL was the first Indian state refiner to venture into upstream, buying stakes in Brazilian and Mozambique oil and gas blocks in 2007 and 2008, but returns have been slow and the company has now earmarked US$2-3 billion to speed up the buildup of its upstream portfolio.
 
Indonesia will eliminate taxes on oil and gas exploration immediately in an effort to stimulate investment in the country’s waning upstream industry. Once a production powerhouse with some of the largest oil and gas fields in the world – Duri, Minas, Natuna – enthusiasm for upstream has been flagging in Indonesia over a combination of few significant discoveries and a fiscal/policy framework unfriendly to foreign investors. State oil company Pertamina cannot bear the burden of increasing oil and gas output alone, though it is bravely trying to, so the government must now improve the investment environment to attract foreign companies. 

A new giant refinery in China may be taking shape. Rongsheng Petrochemical Co. has cleared more than 10,000 acres of land in Zhoushan island in Zhejiang to build a 400 kb/d refinery that is budgeted at US$24 billion. Ambitiously slated for completion by 2018, with capacity doubling in 2020, the project is aimed at plastics rather than petrol, maximising the naphtha yield to produce petrochemicals over oil products. The project is one of several petrochemical-focused ones announced in recent weeks, signalling a renewed confidence in the manufacturing industry in China that will consume growing amounts of petrochemicals like paraxylene and ethylene. 

Better late than never as India is starting to fill up its strategic crude storage in Mangalore. Most large crude-consuming countries in the world have a strategic storage capacity of at least 50 days, with China aiming for 90 days, but India has a mere 10 days. Only the Vizag storage site is currently operational, with 1.33 million tons of capacity, though Mangalore (1.5 million tons) and Padur (2.5 million tons) are on the horizon. India has begun talks with Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to secure supplies for Mangalore, with Vizag being filled with Basra crude from Iraq. Iran is expected to contribute half of the supply required for Mangalore, with the other half expected from ADNOC and Saudi Aramco. 

Papua New Guinea has laid out its vision for its LNG industry, now backing a new export facility by Total to operate alongside the existing PNG LNG project led by ExxonMobil, which will undergo a US$19 billion expansion. The fate of the second project was up in the air when ExxonMobil conclude a sale to buy InterOil, whose Elk-Antelope gas field was meant to feed to second project, but the PNG government is confident that it has enough reserves to support both export sites. 

Have a productive week ahead!

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Crude Oil Prices: Changing Gear

In the last week, global crude oil price benchmarks have leapt up by some US$5/b. Brent is now in the US$66/b range, while WTI maintains its preferred US$10/b discount at US$56/b. On the surface, it would seem that the new OPEC+ supply deal – scheduled to last until April – is working. But the drivers pushing on the current rally are a bit more complicated.

Pledges by OPEC members are the main force behind the rise. After displaying some reticence over the timeline of cuts, Russia has now promised to ‘speed up cuts’ to its oil production in line with other key members of OPEC. Saudi Arabia, along with main allies the UAE and Kuwait, have been at the forefront of this – having made deeper-than-promised cuts in January with plans to go a bit further in February. After looking a bit shaky – a joint Saudi Arabia-Russia meeting was called off at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos in January – the bromance of world’s two oil superpowers looks to have resumed. And with it, confidence in the OPEC+ club’s abilities.

Russia and Saudi Arabia both making new pledges on supply cuts comes despite supply issues elsewhere in OPEC, which could have provided some cushion for smaller cuts. Iranian production remains constrained by new American sanctions; targeted waivers have provided some relief – and indeed Iranian crude exports have grown slightly over January and February – but the waivers expire in May and there is uncertainty over their extension. Meanwhile, the implosion in Venezuela continues, with the USA slapping new sanctions on the Venezuelan crude complex in hopes of spurring regime change. The situation in Libya – with the Sharara field swinging between closure and operation due to ongoing militant action – is dicey. And in Saudi Arabia, a damaged power repair cable has curbed output at the giant 1.2 mmb/d Safaniuyah field.

So the supply situation is supportive of a rally, from both planned and unplanned actions. But crude prices are also reacting to developments in the wider geopolitical world. The USA and China are still locked in an impasse over trade, with a March 1 deadline looming, after which doubled US tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports would kick in. Continued escalation in the trade war could lead to a global recession, or at least a severe slowdown. But the market is taking relief that an agreement could be made. First, US President Donald Trump alluded to the possibility of pushing the deadline by 2 months to allow for more talks. And now, chatter suggests that despite reservations, American and Chinese negotiators are now ‘approaching a consensus’. The threat of the R-word – recession – could be avoided and this is pumping some confidence back in the market. But there are more risks on the horizon. The UK is set to exit the European Union at the end of March, and there is still no deal in sight. A measured Brexit would be messy, but a no-deal Brexit would be chaotic – and that chaos would have a knock-on effect on global economies and markets.

But for now, the market assumes that there must be progress in US-China trade talks and the UK must fall in line with an orderly Brexit. If that holds – and if OPEC’s supply commitments stand – the rally in crude prices will continue. And it must. Because the alternative is frightening for all.

Factors driving the current crude rally:

  • Renewed supply cut pledges from Russia and Saudi Arabia
  • Unplanned supply outages in Saudi Arabia
  • Supply issues in Venezuela, Iran and Libya
  • Optimism over a new US-China trade deal
February, 22 2019
“Lubricants Shelf” to Assess Engine Oil Market

Already, lubricant players have established their footholds here in Bangladesh, with international brands.

However, the situation is being tough as too many brands entered in this market. So, it is clear, the lubricants brands are struggling to sustain their market shares.

For this reason, we recommend an impression of “Lubricants shelf” to evaluate your brand visibility, which can a key indicator of the market shares of the existing brands. 

Every retailer shop has different display shelves and the sellers place different product cans for the end-users. By nature, the sellers have the sole control of those shelves for the preferred product cans.

The idea of “Lubricants shelf” may give the marketer an impression, how to penetrate in this competitive market. 

The well-known lubricants brands automatically seized the product shelves because of the user demand. But for the struggling brands, this idea can be a key identifier of the business strategy to take over other brands.

The key objective of this impression of “Lubricants shelf” is to create an overview of your brand positioning in this competitive market.

A discussion on Lubricants Shelves; from the evaluation perspective, a discussion ground has been created to solely represent this trade, as well as its other stakeholders.

Why “Lubricants shelf” is key to monitor engine oil market?

The lubricants shelves of the overall market have already placed more than 100 brands altogether and the number of brands is increasing day by day.

And the situation is being worsened while so many by name products are taking the different shelves of different clusters. This market has become more overstated in terms of brand names and local products.

You may argue with us; lubricants shelves have no more space to place your new brands. You might get surprised by hearing such a statement. For your information, it’s not a surprising one.

Regularly, lubricants retailers have to welcome the representatives of newly entered brands.

And, business Insiders has depicted this lubricants market as a silent trade with a lot of floating traders.

On an assumption, the annual domestic demand for lubricants oils is around 100 million litres, whereas base oil demand around 140 million litres.

However, the lack of market monitoring and the least reporting makes the lubricants trade unnoticeable to the public.

February, 20 2019
Your Weekly Update: 11 - 15 February 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 February 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b

  • Oil prices remains entrenched in their trading ranges, with OPEC’s attempt to control global crude supplies mitigated by increasing concerns over the health of the global economy
  • Warnings, including from The Bank of England, point to a global economic slowdown that could be ‘worse and longer-lasting than first thought’; one of the main variables in this forecast are the trade tensions between the US and China, which show no sign of being solved with President Trump saying he is open to delaying the current deadline of March 1 for trade talks
  • This poorer forecast for global oil demand has offset supply issues flaring up within OPEC, with Libya reporting ongoing fighting at the country’s largest oilfield while the current political crisis in Venezuela could see its crude output drop to 700,000 b/d by 2020
  • The looming new American sanctions on Venezuelan crude has already had concrete results, with US refiner Marathon Petroleum moving to replace Venezuelan crude with similar grades from the Middle East and Latin America
  • While Nicolas Maduro holds on to power, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido has promised to scrap requirements that PDVSA keep a controlling stake in domestic oil joint ventures and boost oil production through an open economy when his government-in-power takes over
  • Despite OPEC’s attempts to stabilise crude prices, the US House has advanced the so-called NOPEC bill – which could subject the cartel to antitrust action – to a vote, with a similar bill currently being debated in the US Senate
  • The see-saw pattern in the US active rig count continues; after a net loss of 14 rigs last week, the Baker Hughes rig survey reported a gain of 7 new oil rigs and a loss of 3 gas rigs for a net gain of 4 rigs
  • While demand is a concern, global crude supply remains delicate enough to edge prices up, especially with Saudi Arabia going for deeper-than-expected cuts; this should push Brent up towards US$64/b and WTI towards US$55/b in trading this week


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Egypt is looking to introduce a new type of oil and gas contract to attract greater upstream investment into the country, aiming to be ‘less bureaucratic and more efficient’ with faster cost-recovery, ahead of a planned Red Sea bid round encompassing over a dozen concession sites
  • Lukoil has commenced on a new phase at the West Qurna-2 field in Iraq, with 57 production wells planned at the Mishrif and Yamama formation that could boost output by 80,000 boe/d to 480,000 boe/d in 2020
  • Aker BP has hit oil and natural gas flows at well 24/9-14 in the Froskelår Main prospect in the Alvheim area of the Norwergian Continental Shelf
  • Things continue to be rocky for crude producers in Canada’s Alberta province; production limits were increased last week after being previously slashed to curb a growing glut on news that crude storage levels dropped, but now face trouble being transported south as pipelines remain at capacity and crude-by-rail shipments face challenging economics

Midstream & Downstream

  • The Caribbean island of Curacao is now speaking with two new candidates to operate the 335 kb/d Isla refinery after its preferred bidder – said to be Saudi Aramco’s American arm Motiva Enterprises – withdrew from consideration to replace the current operatorship under PDVSA
  • America’s Delta Air Lines is now reportedly looking to sell its oil refinery in Pennsylvania outright, after attempts to sell a partial stake in the 185 kb/d plant failed to attract interest, largely due to its limited geographical position

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Total reports that it has made a new ‘significant’ gas condensate discovery offshore South Africa at the Brulpadda prospect in Block 11B/12B in the Outeniqua Basin, with the Brulpadda-deep well also reporting ‘successful’ flows of natural gas condensate
  • Italy’s Eni and Saudi Arabia’s SABIC have signed a new Joint Development Agreement to collaborate on developing technologies for gas-to-liquids and gas-to-chemicals applications
  • The Rovuma LNG project in Mozambique is charging ahead with development, with Eni looking to contract out subsea operations for the Mamba gas project by mid-March and ExxonMobil choosing its contractor for building the complex’s LNG trains by April
February, 15 2019