Last week in the world oil:
- Though unexpected, the OPEC deal reached last week is certainly welcome news for the oil markets, sending crude oil rising to its highest level in nearly two years, reaching US$55/b today. OPEC producers agreed to shave 1.2 mb/d from January onwards, with non-OPEC contributing an additional 600 kb/d of cuts, numbers that could (if adhered to) reduce considerably the current global supply glut.
Upstream & Midstream
- Justin Trudeaus administration in Canada has been delicately maintaining a balance between the environmental and energy lobbies. His decision to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion is an example of this. While Kinder Morgan will be allowed to build a second pipeline as an upgrade to the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to bring more oil to the West Coast to send to Asia, Trudeau has also blocked Enbridge from moving ahead with the Northern Gateway pipeline that would transport oil sands to the Pacific Coast directly through pristine rainforest.
- Japans Mitsui has agreed to buy Shells stakes in four US Gulf of Mexico oil blocks. The deal, for an undisclosed amount, will see the Japanese trading house acquire 20% stakes in four Mississippi Canyon blocks, which have an estimated recoverable volume of 100 million barrels of oil equivalent. The move represents bold steps for Mitsui, after it signed off on developing the Greater Enfield reserves in Western Australia and the third train of Tangguh LNG in Indonesia earlier this year.
- Supermajor ExxonMobil has relinquished 60 deepwater blocks in the Gulf of Mexico, including 20 that were part of a joint venture with Russias Rosneft, citing disappointing exploration results alongside persistent low crude oil prices. The two companies joined forces in 2013, when Rosneft bought a 30% stake in the 20 blocks.
- The US rig count is up again. Three new oil rigs and one new gas rig was added last week, bringing the total up to 477 and 119, respectively, as US oil players saw the OPEC decision as a lead-in to higher prices.
- Brazil wants to further reduce its gasoline imports by stimulating domestic ethanol production. Sugar (from sugarcane) is the main source of biofuels in Brazil, but mills have been prioritising sugar production over ethanol owing to the tight global supply of sugar. All gasoline sold in Brazil now contains 27% sugarcane-derived ethanol, and the proposed new ethanol program is aimed to stimulating output to increase this.
Natural Gas & LNG
- Nigeria and Morocco has signed an agreement that could see a gas pipeline built linking Africa to Europe. The joint venture was reached as the Moroccan King visited Nigeria, with the project aimed at linking the gas resources of Nigeria and surrounding West African nations, and piping it north to Morocco with the intent of connecting to European demand centres via Spain or Portugal.
Last week in Asian oil:
Upstream & Midstream
- Less than a year after re-joining OPEC, Indonesia has once again suspended its membership in the cartel, as it was unable or unwilling to agree to a supply cut. Though its crude output is dwindling, Indonesia still depends heavily on oil to fund its government and the proposed 37 kb/d cut in Indonesian production was unacceptable, leading to the countrys second withdrawal from OPEC.
- India has invited initial bids to begin filling its Karnataka strategic petroleum storage facility. The Padur facility will be the third such site in India, and is the largest with 2.5 million tons of storage space. If experience at the previous two facilities in Vizag and Mangalore are to go by, then the crude oil sources are likely to be Iraq and Iran, which have helped India boost its strategic reserves to 10 days a small number by global standards of at least 50 days, but far better than the precariously tight position the country was in previously.
- Just months after Shell cancelled its US$4.6 billion order for three FLNG vessels, Samsung Heavy Industries has been hit with another major cancellation, this time for a US$777 million FLNG substructure for a European firm. The order was cancelled as the client did not issue a work order, with the low crude oil price environment possibly being the main concern. South Korean shipbuilders have been in trouble recently, and will be hoping that the recent upswing in prices will continue.
Downstream & Shipping
- The cheap price environment of LPG is causing a few Asian petrochemical crackers to turn to propane as a feedstock. Idemitsu in Japan is embarking on an expansion to boost propane processing by up to four times at its joint venture with Mitsui Chemicals in Q317, relying on imported LPG brought into the neighbouring LPG facility at the Chiba refinery.
Gas & LNG
- Chinas CNPC the parent company of PetroChina will separate its natural gas sales and transportation divisions. CNPC currently supplies nearly 80% of Chinas gas market, and the Chinese government wants to open the sector up to more competition, compelling CNPC to separate its gas sales and transportation arms, which should encourage investment in areas that were previously monopolised by CNPC.
- BP has acquired Repsols 3.06% stake in the Tangguh LNG project for US$313 million, bringing the UK operators stake to just over 40%. This consolidates BPs control over Tangguh, which has been given the go-ahead for the US$8 billion expansion of the Tangguh third LNG train.
- The Azerbaijan state oil company SOCAR is beefing up its crude trading division in London, targeting China. Specifically, Socar wants to sell crude directly to the independent Chinese refiners the so-called teapots that were given licences to import crude directly this year.
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In 2021, the makeup of renewables has also changed drastically. Technologies such as solar and wind are no longer novel, as is the idea of blending vegetable oils into road fuels or switching to electric-based vehicles. Such ideas are now entrenched and are not considered enough to shift the world into a carbon neutral future. The new wave of renewables focus on converting by-products from other carbon-intensive industries into usable fuels. Research into such technologies has been pioneered in universities and start-ups over the past two decades, but the impetus of global climate goals is now seeing an incredible amount of money being poured into them as oil & gas giants seek to rebalance their portfolios away from pure hydrocarbons with a goal of balancing their total carbon emissions in aggregate to zero.
Traditionally, the European players have led this drive. Which is unsurprising, since the EU has been the most driven in this acceleration. But even the US giants are following suit. In the past year, Chevron has poured an incredible amount of cash and effort in pioneering renewables. Its motives might be less than altruistic, shareholders across America have been particularly vocal about driving this transformation but the net results will be positive for all.
Chevron’s recent efforts have focused on biomethane, through a partnership with global waste solutions company Brightmark. The joint venture Brightmark RNG Holdings operations focused on convert cow manure to renewable natural gas, which are then converted into fuel for long-haul trucks, the very kind that criss-cross the vast highways of the US delivering goods from coast to coast. Launched in October 2020, the joint venture was extended and expanded in August, now encompassing 38 biomethane plants in seven US states, with first production set to begin later in 2021. The targeting of livestock waste is particularly crucial: methane emissions from farms is the second-largest contributor to climate change emissions globally. The technology to capture methane from manure (as well as landfills and other waste sites) has existed for years, but has only recently been commercialised to convert methane emissions from decomposition to useful products.
This is an arena that another supermajor – BP – has also made a recent significant investment in. BP signed a 15-year agreement with CleanBay Renewables to purchase the latter’s renewable natural gas (RNG) to be mixed and sold into select US state markets. Beginning with California, which has one of the strictest fuel standards in the US and provides incentives under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard to reduce carbon intensity – CleanBay’s RNG is derived not from cows, but from poultry. Chicken manure, feathers and bedding are all converted into RNG using anaerobic digesters, providing a carbon intensity that is said to be 95% less than the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of pure fossil fuels and non-conversion of poultry waste matter. BP also has an agreement with Gevo Inc in Iowa to purchase RNG produced from cow manure, also for sale in California.
But road fuels aren’t the only avenue for large-scale embracing of renewables. It could take to the air, literally. After all, the global commercial airline fleet currently stands at over 25,000 aircraft and is expected to grow to over 35,000 by 2030. All those planes will burn a lot of fuel. With the airline industry embracing the idea of AAF (or Alternative Aviation Fuels), developments into renewable jet fuels have been striking, from traditional bio-sources such as palm or soybean oil to advanced organic matter conversion from agricultural waste and manure. Chevron, again, has signed a landmark deal to advance the commercialisation. Together with Delta Airlines and Google, Chevron will be producing a batch of sustainable aviation fuel at its El Segundo refinery in California. Delta will then use the fuel, with Google providing a cloud-based framework to analyse the data. That data will then allow for a transparent analysis into carbon emissions from the use of sustainable aviation fuel, as benchmark for others to follow. The analysis should be able to confirm whether or not the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s estimates that renewable jet fuel can reduce lifecycle carbon intensity by up to 80%. And to strengthen the measure, Delta has pledged to replace 10% of its jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.
In a parallel, but no less pioneering lane, France’s TotalEnergies has announced that it is developing a 100% renewable fuel for use in motorsports, using bioethanol sourced from residues produced by the French wine industry (among others) at its Feyzin refinery in Lyon. This, it believes, will reduce the racing sports’ carbon emissions by an immediate 65%. The fuel, named Excellium Racing 100, is set to debut at the next season of the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans 2022 race.
But Chevron isn’t done yet. It is also falling back on the long-standing use of vegetable oils blended into US transport fuels by signing a wide-ranging agreement with commodity giant Bunge. Called a ‘farmer-to-fuelling station’ solution, Bunge’s soybean processing facilities in Louisiana and Illinois will be the source of meal and oil that will be converted by Chevron into diesel and jet fuel. With an investment of US$600 million, Chevron will assist Bunge in doubling the combined capacity of both plants by 2024, in line with anticipated increases in the US biofuels blending mandates.
Even ExxonMobil, one of the most reticent of the supermajors to embrace renewables wholesale, is getting in on the action. Its Imperial Oil subsidiary in Canada has announced plans to commercialise renewable diesel at a new facility near Edmonton using plant-based feedstock and hydrogen. The venture does only target the Canadian market – where political will to drive renewable adoption is far higher than in the US – but similar moves have already been adopted by other refiners for the US market, including major investments by Phillips 66 and Valero.
Ultimately, these recent moves are driven out of necessity. This is the way the industry is moving and anyone stubborn enough to ignore it will be left behind. Combined with other major investments driven by European supermajors over the past five years, this wider and wider adoption of renewable can only be better for the planet and, eventually, individual bottom lines. The renewables ball is rolling fast and is only gaining momentum.
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