Last week in the world oil:
- With news filtering out that major OPEC members were preparing to enforce the new supply quotas, crude oil prices are marching upwards to the mid-US$50/b level, raising hopes that the trajectory was on the mend and US$60/b levels could be seen in the first half of 2017
Upstream & Midstream
- Libya’s National Oil Corporation has confirmed that the Sharara and El Feel oil field pipelines have re-opened after two years, adding 175 kb/d to national production in January and up to 270 kb/d by May 2017. Production in Libya has been hampered by political conflict, with output languishing at 600 kb/d, far off average figures of 1.6 mmb/d in 2011.
- Faced with a stubborn Saudi Arabia refusing to resume shipments of oil products, Egypt is looking for alternatives to solve it energy deficiency. It is now speaking with Iraq to directly import crude amounting to 1-2 million barrels per month, hoping to finalise the details by Q12017.
- Another 16 rigs came online in the US, 13 of which were oil rigs, as American shale producers happily respond to the positive price signals.
- Mexico has set a timetable for fuel price liberalisation, beginning in March to roll out on a staggered basis over the rest of the year. Gasoline and diesel prices have been set by the government for decades and the move is part of a larger energy reform movement that began in 2013. The rollout begin in the northwestern Baja California and Sonora states, then move south to the main consumption areas and finally to the Yucatan.
- Shell continues its divestment at a rapid pace, last week agreeing to sell its 20% stake in Vivo Energy to Vitol Africa for US$250 million. Vivo Energy will retain the rights to marketing and distributing fuels in 16 African nations under the Shell brand.
Natural Gas & LNG
- BP seems to be aggressively expanding on the natural gas front. After purchasing a stake in the Zohr field in Egypt and sanctioning an expansion in Indonesia’s Tangguh LNG last month, BP has now purchased stakes in West African licences held by US player Kosmos Energy. In a deal worth US$916 million, BP has acquired interest in offshore blocks in Mauritania and Senegal, as it tries to play catch-up with rival Shell.
- France’s Total is also pushing ahead, acquiring a stake in Houston-based Tellurian share, that will see it partner with Tellurian to develop the Driftwood LNG terminal in Lousiana due to start up in 2022.
- Phillips 66 has started up its Freeport LPG Export Terminal, loading its first cargo on a VLGC last week. The startup is part of a wider expansion of the US natural gas liquids infrastructure, including ethane and LPG (propane and butane), which much of the volumes destined for Asia.
- BP has agreed to take a 10% stake in the Adco onshore oil concession for 40 years, with Abu Dhabi government gaining a 2% stake in the supermajor. The deal is part of Adnoc’s aim to secure 40% foreign funding in the Adco concession, with stakes already held by France’s Total (10%), Japan’s Inpex (5%) and South Korea’s GS Caltex (3%).
Last week in Asian oil:
Upstream & Midstream
- The shine seems to be coming off Australian upstream. The results of the country’s latest licensing round are out, and only nine of the 29 offshore oil and gas exploration permits have been taken up. With some of sites in the prodigious Bonaparte, Browse, Carnarvon and Roebuck basins, the low take up is symptomatic of the recent more cautious approach in E&P.
Downstream & Shipping
- A major Chinese independent refiner is opening up a trading office in Singapore next year, as the teapots leverage the opportunity granted to them by crude import quotas this year to go global. A Singapore trading desk would make it easier for Sinochem Hongrun Petrochemical to acquire crude on the open market, and could also have allowed it to trade refined products, although the Chinese government has clamped down on that by rescinding export quotas for the teapots next year. Another teapot, Shandong Hengyuan Petrochemical, acquired a 51% stake in Shell’s 156 kb/d Port Dickson refinery in Malaysia for US$66.3 million.
- Mongolia is seeking funds from India to build an oil refinery and associated pipeline infrastructure, hoping to garner US$1 billion from the Import-Export Bank of India in an infrastructure funding pact sealed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. Of the number, US$700 million is earmarked for building the refinery and US$264 million for oil pipelines.
- Vietnam has allowed retail prices of gasoline, diesel and other products to rise for a second time in less than a month, hiking controlled prices by 6.7% last week due to increases in crude prices. Retail fuel prices are controlled by the government in Vietnam, implemented by state distributor Petrolimex, though prices are still relatively lower than the global average, with diesel and gasoline at 12,670 and 17,590 dong (US$0.56 and US$0.77) per litre with the latest hike.
Gas & LNG
- ExxonMobil’s bid to take over InterOil as part of its grand plans for Papua New Guinea LNG has hit more road blocks. Although most InterOil shareholders approved the deal, founder Phil Mulacek is not happy and has launched (successful) legal bids to scupper the deal, with the Court of Appeal in Yukon, Canada halting the deal. ExxonMobil’s offer to raise its bid to as high as US$3.9 billion does not seem to have satisfied Mulacek and the parties now have until March 31, 2017 to rescue the deal.
- Idemitsu has completed it purchase of a stake in rival refiner Showa Shell Sekiyu. However, due to opposition from the founding family of Idemitsu, the purchase was trimmed to just under a third of the shares, and places the longer-term goal of a merger as less possible given the obstruction.
- Chevron is divesting its geothermal assets in Southeast Asia. Once a promising area of investment, low oil prices have removed some of the shine from geothermal energy. The Ayala Corporation of the Philippines has agreed to acquire Chevron’s geothermal assets in Indonesia and the Philippines, valued at US$3 billion. Ayala is in the power generation business in the Philippines, and this would also represent its first investment in Indonesia.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 7 January 2019 – Brent: US$57/b; WTI: US$49/b
Headlines of the week
At some point in 2019, crude production in Venezuela will dip below the 1 mmb/d level. It might already have occurred; estimated output was 1.15 mmb/d in November and the country’s downward trajectory for 2018 would put December numbers at about 1.06 mmb/d. Financial sanctions imposed on the country by the US, coupled with years of fiscal mismanagement have triggered an economic and humanitarian meltdown, where inflation has at times hit 1,400,000% and forced an abandonment of the ‘old’ bolivar for a ‘new bolivar’. PDVSA – once an oil industry crown jewel – has been hammered, from its cargoes being seized by ConocoPhillips for debts owed to the loss of the Curacao refinery and its prized Citgo refineries in the US.
The year 2019 will not see a repair of this chronic issue. Crude production in Venezuela will continue to slide. Once Latin America’s largest oil exporter – with peak production of 3.3 mmb/d and exports of 2.3 mmb/d in 1999 – it has now been eclipsed by Brazil and eventually tiny Guyana, where ExxonMobil has made massive discoveries. Even more pain is on the way, as the Trump administration prepares new sanctions as Nicolas Maduro begins his second term after a widely-derided election. But what is pain for Venezuela is gain for OPEC; the slack that its declining volumes provides makes it easier to maintain aggregate supply levels aimed at shoring up global oil prices.
It isn’t that Venezuela doesn’t want to increase – or at least maintain its production levels. It is that PDVSA isn’t capable of doing so alone, and has lost many deep-pocketed international ‘friends’ that were once instrumental to its success. The nationalisation of the oil industry in 2007 alienated supermajors like Chevron, Total and BP, and led to ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil suing the Venezuelan government. Arbitration in 2014 saw that amount reduced, but even that has not been paid; ConocoPhillips took the extraordinary step of seizing PDVSA cargoes at sea and its Caribbean assets in lieu of the US$2 billion arbitration award. Burnt by the legacies of Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro, these majors won’t be coming back – forcing Venezuela to turn to second-tier companies and foreign aid to extract more volumes. Last week, Venezuela signed an agreement with the newly-formed US-based Erepla Services to boost production at the Tia Juana, Rosa Mediano and Ayacucho 5 fields. In return, Erepla will receive half the oil produced – generous terms that still weren’t enough to entice service giants like Schlumberger and Halliburton.
Venezuela is also tapping into Russian, Chinese and Indian aid to boost output, essentially selling off key assets for necessary cash and expertise. This could be a temporary band-aid, but nothing more. Most of Venezuela’s oil reserves come from the extra-heavy reserves in the Orinoco Belt, where an estimated 1.2 trillion barrels lies. Extracting this will be extremely expensive and possibly commercially uneconomical – given the refining industry’s move away from heavy grades to middle distillates. There are also very few refineries in the world that can process such heavy crude, and Venezuela is in no position to make additional demands from them. In a world where PDVSA has fewer and fewer friends, recovery will be extremely tough and extremely far-off.
Infographic: Venezuelan crude production:
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 31 December 2018 – Brent: US$54/b; WTI: US$46/b
Headlines of the week