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Last week in the world oil:

Prices

  • News that a group of non-OPEC producers would join OPEC in implementing a supply cut has jolted oil prices into optimism, rising to US$55/b, with producers hoping it will test the US$60 barrier soon. Mexico, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Oman have joined Russia to agree to implement a 600 kb/d cut, with Russia contributing half of the total.

Upstream & Midstream

  • The rise in oil prices has revived interest in Canadian oil sands, moribund since the price slump. Cenovus Energy and Canadian Natural Resources have announced a go-ahead with their expansion projects, adding 50 kb/d to Christina Lake and 40 kb/d to Kirby North in capacity, respectively.
  • Despite a Brazilian court ordering Petrobras to halt the sale of its fuel distribution subsidiary over labour concerns, the Brazilian state giant says it is pushing ahead with its ambitious divestment program that includes inking some US$4 billion in asset sales this month. The apparent speed at which the deals are taking place has triggered legal concerns that rigging and bribery may have been part of the divestment negotiations.
  • It was to be expected. With prices rising, American producers are capitalising on the expectation of higher prices by restarting rigs. The US rig count jumped by 27 last week, with 21 of those being oil rigs. Last minute drilling to maintain leases may have also contributed to the spike, with the market largely shrugging off the increase.

Downstream

  • Saudi Arabia has begun telling its customers that they will receive reduced crude shipments beginning January, affecting refineries that have long-term contracts with the Kingdom. The curbs are focused on Europe and North America, with Asian refineries largely spared the cull, where Saudi Arabia is battling Iran and Russia for market share.
  • The EUs biofuels push is evolving to reduce dependence on crop-based feeds, aiming to reduce plant-based biofuels from 7% in 2021 to 3.8% in 2030 to assuage concerns of deforestation. Instead, the EU wants to focus on advanced biofuels, involving agriculture and forestry waste.
  • Once a major player in both upstream and downstream, Venezuelas PDVSA is facing trying times. Chronic underinvestment and low oil prices have slashed operating rates at its giant Paraguana, Amuay and Cardon refineries to some 40-45%, while it appears to have been elbowed out of its toll-refining arrangements in Curacao and possibly Aruba. Meanwhile, PDVSA is asking a US court for some US$600 million in compensation from a bribery scheme of two businessmen that bribed PDVSA officials over US$1 billion in supply contracts.

Natural Gas & LNG

  • Anadarko and Eni will now be allowed to sell the Mozambique governments share of gas from their projects in the Rovuma Basin. The countrys government has approved an amendment to its LNG contracts to relinquish its rights to natural gas quotas and gas production tax in an attempt to boost the viability of the projects in the coming era of LNG oversupply. The contracts involved are Anadarkos Dolphin Tuna and Enis South Coral sites, both due for FID next year.

Last week in Asian oil:

Upstream & Midstream

  • Japans state-run JOGMEC has extended its contract with Saudi Aramco to allow the latter to store up to 6.3 million barrels of crude oil in Okinawa for the next three years. Japan allows Saudi Aramco (as well as Abu Dhabis ADNOC) to store crude in Okinawa as a distribution hub for East Asia, in exchange for priority claims on the stock during emergencies.
  • Australias Origin Energy is spinning off its upstream oil and gas unit in an IPO worth at least US$1 billion. The new company, NewCo, has a upstream assets in Australia and the gas market in New Zealand, but will remain smaller than Santos and Woodside, triggering speculation that it could be acquired by an Asian producer, with an eye towards Origins stake in the APLNG plant as it returns to being a gas/power retailer.

Downstream & Shipping

  • Chinas independent teapot refineries are confident that Beijing will keep their 2017 import quotas steady at 2016 level or possibly just a little higher. The teapots were one of the brighter spots in Asia refining this year, sucking up large amounts of crude in the first year they were allowed to directly import crude, and are looking to import more in 2017, a move that would help ease the crude supply glut but contribute to the refined products oversupply in Asia.

Gas & LNG

  • As Papua New Guinea tries to figure out its LNG export strategy, the countrys Prime Minister is now leaning to a single export site, which would require Totals Papua LNG project to export its gas through ExxonMobils existing PNG LNG facility. The merits of having two or a single site have been debated extensively, but concerns over cost are pushing the stakeholders towards having a single large site.
  • The Thai energy policy committee has given its consent to a PTT proposal to acquire LNG from Malaysias Petronas over a 15 year period, beginning with 1 mtpa in 2017 and 2018, then rising to 1.2 mtpa from 2019. Thailand is highly dependent on natural gas for its power infrastructure, and declining domestic production is forcing it to turn to imports.
  • Indonesia has ordered natural gas contractors to cut prices in the fertiliser, steel and petrochemicals sectors beginning January, replacing oil with the more plentiful natural gas to boost economic growth.
  • Malaysias Petronas has inked a deal with Japans Hokuriku Electric Power to supply up to six cargoes of LNG per year to the power provider in northwestern Honshu. The contract will begin March 2018. Petronas is aiming to boost its LNG business, with its PFLNG Satu the first floating LNG unit in the world producing its first cargo last week.

Corporate

  • As part of Beijings attempt to reform the oil and gas industry in China to boost competitiveness, Sinopec has sold a 50% stake in its Sichuan-East China gas pipeline to China Life Insurance and SDIC for some US$6.6 billion. Sinopec will retain a stake in the pipeline, aiming to use proceeds from the sale to expand its other gas pipeline and storage infrastructure. Gas pipeline are increasing in importance in China, with CNPC recently starting up the eastern portion of its third East-West cross-country pipeline, eventually connecting to CNOOCs network in Fujian.

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Your Weekly Update: 13 - 17 May 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 May 2019 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$61/b

  • Crude oil prices are holding their ground, despite the markets showing nervousness over the escalating trade dispute between the USA and China, as well as brewing tensions in the Middle East over the Iranian situation
  • China retaliated against President Trump’s decision to raise tariffs from 10% to 25% on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports by raising its own tariffs; crucially, China has also slapped taxes on US LNG imports at a time when American export LNG projects banking on Chinese demand are coming online
  • In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia reported that two of its oil tankers were attacked in the Persian Gulf, with the ‘sabotage attack’ near the UAE speculated to be related to Iran; with the US increasing its military presence in the area, the risk of military action has escalated
  • The non-extension of US waiver on Iranian crude is biting hard on Iran, with its leaders calling it ‘unprecedented pressure’, setting the stage for a contentious OPEC meeting in Vienna
  • In a move that is sure to be opposed by Iran, Saudi Arabia has said it is willing to meet ‘all orders’ from former Iranian buyers through June at least; Saudi Aramco is also responding to requests by Asian buyers to provide extra oil
  • The see-saw trend in US drilling activity continues; after a huge gain two weeks ago, the active US rig count declined for a second consecutive rig, with the loss of two oil rigs bringing the total site count to 988, below the equivalent number of 1,045 last year
  • There is considerably more upside to crude prices at the moment, with jitters over the health of the global economy and a delicate situation in the Middle East likely to keep Brent higher at US$71-73/b and WTI at US$62-64/b


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Occidental Petroleum and Warren Buffet have triumphed, as Chevron bowed out of a bidding war for Anadarko Petroleum; Occidental will now acquire Anadarko for US$57 billion, up significantly from Chevron’s US$33 billion bid
  • The deal means that Occidental’s agreement to sell Anadarko’s African assets to Total for US$8.8 billion will also go through, covering the Hassi Berkine, Ourhoud and El Merk fields in Algeria, the Jubilee and TEN fields in Ghana, the Area 1 LNG project in Mozambiuqe and E&P licences in South Africa
  • BP has sanctioned the Thunder Horse South Expansion Phase 2 deepwater project in the US Gulf of Mexico, which is expected to add 50,000 boe/d of production at the Thunder Horse platform beginning 2021
  • Africa is proving to be very fruitful for Eni, as it announced a new gas and condensate discovery offshore Ghana; the CTP-Block 4 in the Akoma prospect is estimated to hold some 550-650 bcf of gas and 18-20 mmbl of condensate
  • In an atypical development, South Africa has signed a deal for the B2 oil block in South Sudan, as part of efforts to boost output there to 350,000 b/d
  • Shell expects to drill its first deepwater well in Mexico by December 2019 after walking away with nine Mexican deepwater blocks last year

Midstream & Downstream

  • China’s domestic crude imports surged to a record 10.64 mmb/d in April, as refiners stocked up on an Iranian crude bonanza due to uncertainty over US policy, which has been confirmed as crude waivers were not renewed
  • Having had to close the Druzhba pipeline and Ust-Luga port for contaminated crude, Russia says it will fully restore compliant crude by end May shipments, including cargoes to Poland and the Czech Republic
  • Mexico’s attempt to open up its refining sector has seemingly failed, with Pemex taking over the new 340 kb/d refinery as private players balked at the US$8 billion price tag and 3-year construction deadline
  • Ahead of India’s move to Euro VI fuels in April 2020, CPCL is partially shutting down its 210 kb/d Manali refinery for a desulfurisation revamp
  • China’s Hengli Petrochemical is reportedly now stocking up on Saudi Arabian crude imports as it prepares to ramp up production at its new 400 kb/d Dalian refinery alongside its 175 kb/d site in Brunei
  • South Korea’s Lotte Chemical Corp expects its ethane cracker in Louisiana to start up by end May, adding 1 mtpa of ethylene capacity to its portfolio
  • Due to water shortage, India’s MRPL will be operating its 300 kb/d refinery in Katipalla at 50% as drought causes a severe water shortage in the area

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Partners in the US$30 billion Rovuma LNG project in Mozambique now expect to sanction FID by July, even after a recent devastating cyclone
  • Also in Mozambioque, Anadarko is set to announce FID on its Mozambique LNG project on June 18, calling it a ‘historic day’
  • After talks of a joint LNG export complex to develop gas resources in Tanzania, Shell and Equinor now appear to be planning separate projects
  • Gazprom has abandoned plans to build an LNG plant in West Siberia to compete with Novatek, focusing instead on an LNG complex is Ust-Luga
  • First LNG has begun to flow at Sempra Energy’s 13.5 mtpa Cameron LNG project in Louisiana, with exports expected to begin by Q319
May, 17 2019
Shell Eclipses ExxonMobil Once Again

The world’s largest oil & gas companies have generally reported a mixed set of results in Q1 2019. Industry turmoil over new US sanctions on Venezuela, production woes in Canada and the ebb-and-flow between OPEC+’s supply deal and rising American production have created a shaky environment at the start of the year, with more ongoing as the oil world grapples with the removal of waivers on Iranian crude and Iran’s retaliation.

The results were particularly disappointing for ExxonMobil and Chevron, the two US supermajors. Both firms cited weak downstream performance as a drag on their financial performance, with ExxonMobil posting its first loss in its refining business since 2009. Chevron, too, reported a 65% drop in the refining and chemicals profit. Weak refining margins, particularly on gasoline, were blamed for the underperformance, exacerbating a set of weaker upstream numbers impaired by lower crude pricing even though production climbed. ExxonMobil was hit particularly hard, as its net profit fell below Chevron’s for the first time in nine years. Both supermajors did highlight growing output in the American Permian Basin as a future highlight, with ExxonMobil saying it was on track to produce 1 million barrels per day in the Permian by 2024. The Permian is also the focus of Chevron, which agreed to a US$33 billion takeover of Anadarko Petroleum (and its Permian Basin assets), only for the deal to be derailed by a rival bid from Occidental Petroleum with the backing of billionaire investor guru Warren Buffet. Chevron has now decided to opt out of the deal – a development that would put paid to Chevron’s ambitions to match or exceed ExxonMobil in shale.

Performance was better across the pond. Much better, in fact, for Royal Dutch Shell, which provided a positive end to a variable earnings season. Net profit for the Anglo-Dutch firm may have been down 2% y-o-y to US$5.3 billion, but that was still well ahead of even the highest analyst estimates of US$4.52 billion. Weaker refining margins and lower crude prices were cited as a slight drag on performance, but Shell’s acquisition of BG Group is paying dividends as strong natural gas performance contributed to the strong profits. Unlike ExxonMobil and Chevron, Shell has only dipped its toes in the Permian, preferring to maintain a strong global portfolio mixed between oil, gas and shale assets.

For the other European supermajors, BP and Total largely matched earning estimates. BP’s net profits of US$2.36 billion hit the target of analyst estimates. The addition of BHP Group’s US shale oil assets contributed to increased performance, while BP’s downstream performance was surprisingly resilient as its in-house supply and trading arm showed a strong performance – a business division that ExxonMobil lacks. France’s Total also hit the mark of expectations, with US$2.8 billion in net profit as lower crude prices offset the group’s record oil and gas output. Total’s upstream performance has been particularly notable – with start-ups in Angola, Brazil, the UK and Norway – with growth expected at 9% for the year.

All in all, the volatile environment over the first quarter of 2019 has seen some shift among the supermajors. Shell has eclipsed ExxonMobil once again – in both revenue and earnings – while Chevron’s failed bid for Anadarko won’t vault it up the rankings. Almost ten years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP is now reclaiming its place after being overtaken by Total over the past few years. With Q219 looking to be quite volatile as well, brace yourselves for an interesting earnings season.

Supermajor Financials: Q1 2019

  • ExxonMobil – Revenue (US$63.6 million, down 6.7% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.35 billion, down 49.5% y-o-y)
  • Shell - Revenue (US$85.66 billion, down 5.9% y-o-y), Net profit (US$5.3 billion, down 2% y-o-y)
  • Chevron – Revenue (US$35.19 billion, down 5% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.65 billion, down 27.2% y-o-y)
  • BP - Revenue (US$67.4 billion, down 2.51% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.36 billion, down 9.2% y-o-y)
  • Total - Revenue (US$51.2billion, up 3.2% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.8 billion, down 4.0% y-o-y)
May, 15 2019
EIA revises its crude oil price forecast upward as supply expectations change

monthly average Brent crude spot price

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January, April, and May 2019 editions

In its May 2019 edition of the Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA revised its price forecast for Brent crude oil upward, reflecting price increases in recent months, more recent data, and changing expectations of global oil markets. Several supply constraints have caused oil markets to be generally tighter and oil prices to be higher so far in 2019 than previous STEOs expected.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had agreed at a December 2018 meeting to cut crude oil production in the first six months of 2019; compliance with these cuts has been more effective than EIA initially expected. In the January STEO, OPEC’s crude oil and petroleum liquids production was expected to decline by 1.0 million b/d in 2019 compared with the 2018 level, but EIA now forecasts OPEC production to decline by 1.9 million b/d in the May STEO.

Within OPEC, EIA expects Iran’s liquid fuels production and exports to also decline. On April 22, 2019, the United States issued a statement indicating that it would not reissue waivers, which previously allowed eight countries to continue importing crude oil and condensate from Iran after their waivers expired on May 2. Although EIA’s previous forecasts had assumed that the United States would not reissue waivers, the increased certainty regarding waiver policy and enforcement led to lower forecasts of Iran’s crude oil production.

Venezuela—another OPEC member—has experienced declines in production and exports as a result of recurring power outages, political instability, and U.S. sanctions. In addition to supply constraints that have already materialized in 2019, political instability in Libya may further affect global supply. Any further escalation in conflict may damage crude oil infrastructure or result in a security environment where oil fields are shut in. Either situation could reduce global supply by more than EIA currently forecasts.

In the May STEO, total OPEC crude oil and other liquids supply was estimated at 37.3 million b/d in 2018, and EIA forecasts that it will average 35.4 million b/d in 2019. EIA assumes that the December 2018 agreement among OPEC members to limit production will expire following the June 2019 OPEC meeting.

annual changes in global liquids production

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January, April, and May 2019 editions

U.S. crude oil and other liquids production is sensitive to changes in crude oil prices, taking into account a lag of several months for drilling operations to adjust. As crude oil prices have increased in recent months, so too have EIA’s domestic liquid fuels production forecasts for the remaining months of 2019.

U.S. crude oil and other liquids production, which grew by 2.2 million b/d in 2018, is forecast in EIA’s May STEO to grow by 2.0 million b/d in 2019, an increase of 310,000 b/d more than anticipated in the January STEO. In 2019, EIA expects overall U.S. crude oil and liquids production to average 19.9 million b/d, with crude oil production alone forecast to average 12.4 million b/d.

Relative to these changes in forecasted supply, EIA’s changes in forecasted demand were relatively minor. EIA expects that global oil markets will be tightest in the second and third quarters of 2019, resulting in draws in global inventories. By the fourth quarter of 2019, EIA expects that inventories will build again, and Brent crude oil prices will fall slightly.

More information about changes in STEO expectations for crude oil prices, supply, demand, and inventories is available in This Week in Petroleum.

May, 15 2019