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Last Updated: January 3, 2017
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DOHA, Qatar (Bloomberg) -- Energy companies in the Middle East reduced their borrowing by 26% in 2016 as an increase in oil prices late in the year provided revenue needed for exploration and production.

Bonds and loans issued by energy producers in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council declined 26 percent to $17.5 billion from a record $23.7 billion in 2015, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Oil trader BB Energy Gulf DMCC in Dubai was the only borrower in the final six months last year, taking out $200 million to refinance debt.

Crude oil rallied 16% in the final three months of 2016 as oil producers from OPEC and 11 non-OPEC nations agreed to cut output this year. Before the rally, lending had surged as energy companies turned to banks and investors for cash as borrowing costs fell and oil prices declined. The drop in lending later in the year was a boon to those who did borrow, with BB Energy increasing its refinancing from $175 million as the deal was oversubscribed.

“If oil prices go up a few notches, it will help them rely less on international borrowing,” John Sfakianakis, director of economics research at Jeddah-based Gulf Research Center, said by phone from Athens. “There’s more money available for oil companies to keep within rather than go out and borrow.”

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Your Weekly Update: 22 - 26 April 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 22 April 2019 – Brent: US$75/b; WTI: US$65/b

  • A chill ran through the oil market Monday as the US announced that it was eliminating sanction waivers on Iranian crude, causing crude oil futures to leap to its highest level in six months as traders worried about a supply shortfall
  • The US move, which will negate waivers granted to eight large oil importers back in November, was partially expected as a winding down instead of a hard-stop, although the US said it would announce crude supply offsets through Saudi Arabia and the UAE
  • Most of the importers – China, India, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Greece, Turkey and Taiwan – had stopped or wound down their purchase of Iranian crude ahead of the expiry in early May; with key importer India turning to Iraq, Mexico and the US to attempt to offset the loss
  • This will place the current OPEC supply deal under pressure ahead of the upcoming Vienna meeting, with key supporters like Russia or Iraq likely to flout the quotas, along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE
  • Also supporting prices is a surprising loss streak in the active US rig count, which fell again by a net 10 rigs last week – 8 oil, 2 gas – despite rising WTI prices; the active rig count is now merely 1 above the total this time last year
  • The wind is in the sales for crude prices, with the end of Iranian waivers and troubles in Venezuela and Libya likely to push Brent up to a trading range of US$74-75/b and WTI to US$65-66/b


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • The hit don’t seem to stop coming from Guyana, with ExxonMobil announcing a new oil discovery at the Yellowtail-1 well, the 13th discovery in the prolific Stabroek Block and the fifth in its Turbot area
  • The young nation of South Sudan is aiming to reach crude output levels of 200,000 b/d – up from a current 168,000 b/d – by restarting blocks left dormant over the past five years due to its civil war
  • While discoveries are piling up in Guyana, international majors are also betting on Brazil’s massive pre-salt Santos Basin, with Total being the latest, announcing a four well drilling campaign in its Campo de Lapa asset
  • Eni has signed an agreement with UAE emirate Ras al Khaimah over the offshore Block A, covering an E&P sharing agreement with RAK GAS
  • BP and its partners have officially sanctioned the 100,000 b/d Azeri Central East (ACE) project in Azerbaijan, the next stage of the giant ACG oilfield
  • In Argentina’s recently concluded first offshore bid round, ExxonMobil and its partner Qatar Petroleum have won three blocks in the Malvinas Basin offshore Tierra del Fuego, adding 2.6 million net acres to ExxonMobil’s holdings
  • In the same Argentine bid round, Equinor won 7 blocks – five as a sole operator and two with partners, one with Total and one with YPF
  • ConocoPhillips has finalised the sale of its two UK upstream subsidiaries to Chrysaor E&P for a reported US$2.68 billion
  • Gazprom is exploiting oil-bearing tracts in the Western Siberia, tasking two of its subsidiaries to access the Yamburg, Pestsovoye and En-Yakhinskoye field

Midstream & Downstream

  • In a major move, Saudi Aramco is in ‘serious discussions’ to acquire up to a 25% stake in Reliance’s massive Jamnagar refining complex in India, which could be worth up to US$10-15 billion
  • After India, Saudi Arabia continues on its downstream investment spree, signing an agreement to acquire 17% in South Korean refinery Hyundai Oilbank
  • After buying out Shell from its US refining venture Motiva, Saudi Aramco is now reportedly aiming to acquire Shell’s 50% stake in the 305 kb/d SASREF refinery in Saudi Arabia’s Jubail Industrial City
  • Iraq has announced that it plans to construct a 150 kb/d oil refinery in its northern oil-rich province of Kirkuk
  • Chinese refiner Shandong Tianhong Chemical has signed a 3-year crude deal with BP for annual delivery of 8 mmb of crude beginning this year

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Israeli player Energean Oil and Gas announced a ‘significant gas discovery’ at its Karish North exploration well, with initial estimates of natural gas flowing at some 1-1.5 trillion cubic feet
  • In Australia, Santos has struck new gas at the Corvus appraisal well in the offshore Carnarvon Basin in Western Australia, with estimates suggesting a 2.5 tcf natural gas and 25-million-barrel condensate asset
  • Eagle LNG Partners has received approval from the US government to begin construction of the 3-train, 1 mtpa Jacksonville LNG project in Florida
  • Qatar is preparing for its massive North Field expansion project by issuing tenders for four mega-LNG trains with total capacity of some 33 mtpa
  • The US LNG rush continues, with Venture Global LNG now planning to add a third LNG train to its Delta LNG export project in Louisiana
April, 26 2019
Venezuelan crude oil production falls to lowest level since January 2003

In March 2019, Venezuela's crude oil production (excluding condensate) averaged 840,000 barrels per day (b/d), down from 1.1 million b/d in February, according to estimates in the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) April 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook(STEO, Figure 1). This average is the lowest level since January 2003, when a nationwide strike and civil unrest largely brought Venezuela's state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A.'s (PdVSA), operations to a halt. Widespread power outages, mismanagement of the country's oil industry, and U.S. sanctions directed at Venezuela's energy sector and PdVSA have all contributed to the recent declines. Venezuela's production decreased by an average of 33,000 b/d each month in 2018, and the rate of decline accelerated to an average of over 135,000 b/d per month in the first quarter of 2019. The number of active oil rigs—an indicator of future oil production—also fell from nearly 70 rigs in the first quarter of 2016 to 24 rigs in the first quarter of 2019. The declines in Venezuelan production will have limited effects on the United States, as U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil have decreased over the last several years, with average 2018 imports the lowest since 1989. However, there may be upward pressure on the prices of other crude oils imported into the United States.

Figure 1. Venezuela's crude oil production and oil rig count

Venezuela's production is expected to continue decreasing in 2019 and declines may accelerate as sanctions-related deadlines approach. These deadlines include provisions that third-party entities that use the U.S. financial system must cease transactions with PdVSA by April 28 and that U.S. companies, including oil service companies, involved in the oil sector must cease operations in Venezuela by July 27. Venezuela's chronic shortage of workers across the industry and the departure of U.S. oilfield service companies will likely contribute to a further step-level decrease in production.

Additionally, U.S. sanctions, as outlined in the January 25, 2019, Executive Order 13857, immediately banned exporting petroleum products—including unfinished oils that are blended with Venezuela's heavy crude oil for processing—from the United States to Venezuela and required payments for PdVSA-owned petroleum and petroleum products to be placed into an escrow account inaccessible by the company. The imposition of these sanctions has already affected oil trade between the United States and Venezuela in both directions. Preliminary weekly estimates indicate a significant decline in U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in February and March, as without direct access to cash payments, PdVSA had little reason to export crude oil to the United States. India, China, and some European countries continued to take Venezuela's crude oil, according to data published by ClipperData Inc., while the destinations of some vessels carrying Venezuelan crude oil remain unknown (Figure 2). Venezuela is likely keeping some crude oil cargoes intended for exports in floating storage until it finds buyers for the cargoes.

Figure 2. Venezuela's crude oil exports, March 2017-March 2019

A series of ongoing nationwide power outages in Venezuela that began on March 7 cut electricity to the country's oil-producing areas, likely damaging the reservoirs and associated infrastructure. In the Orinoco Oil Belt area, Venezuela produces extra-heavy crude oil that requires dilution with condensate or other light oils produced using complex processing units, or upgraders, to upgrade the crude oil before it is sent via pipeline to domestic refineries or export terminals. These upgraders were shut down in March during the power outages. If the crude or upgraded oil cannot flow as a result of a lack of power to the pumping infrastructure, the heavier molecules sink and form a tar-like layer in the pipelines that can hinder the flow from resuming even after the power outages are resolved. However, according to tanker tracking data, Venezuela's main export terminal at Puerto José was apparently able to load crude oil onto vessels between power outages, possibly indicating that the loaded crude oil was taken from onshore storage. For this reason, EIA estimates that Venezuela's production fell at a faster rate than its exports.

In 2019, Venezuela's crude oil production decline has resulted from a combination of disruptions and lost capacity. EIA differentiates among voluntary production reductions; unplanned production outages, or disruptions; and expected declines in production. For the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), voluntary cutbacks count toward spare capacity. EIA defines spare crude oil production capacity as potential oil production that could be brought online within 30 days and sustained for at least 90 days, consistent with sound business practices.

For all countries, involuntary disruptions do not count as spare capacity. Events that could cause a disruption include, but are not limited to, sanctions, armed conflict, labor actions, natural disasters, or unplanned maintenance. In contrast, EIA considers production capacity declines that result from irreparable damage to be lost capacity and not a disruption. EIA no longer counts the lost production because it is very unlikely that it could return within one year and add to global supplies.

Because the power outages in Venezuela resulted from a lack of maintenance of the electricity grid, associated crude oil production declines are considered lost production capacity resulting from mismanagement. As of the April 2019 STEO, EIA includes the portion of Venezuela's production decline that resulted from U.S. sanctions—approximately 100,000 b/d beginning in February—as a disruption (Figure 3). If sanctions persist, the country will likely be unable to restart the disrupted portion of production and the 100,000 b/d will become lost capacity. Although EIA does not forecast unplanned production outages, its forecast for OPEC production totals will reflect declines in Venezuelan production.

Figure 3. OPEC unplanned crude oil production disruptions, October 2018-March 2019

As Venezuelan crude oil has come off the global market and as other countries—including the United States—have produced more light, sweet crude oil, the price discount of heavy, sour crudes has narrowed. U.S. refineries are among the most complex in the world, making them well-suited for the physical properties of Venezuelan crude oil (with high sulfur content and heavier API gravity). Heavier, more sour crude oil is typically priced lower than other crude oils because of differences in crude oil quality. Mars—a medium, sour crude oil produced in the U.S. Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico—traded at a five-year (2014–18) average discount to Light Louisiana Sweet (LLS) of $3.94 per barrel (b). The Mars-LLS discount has narrowed in 2019, averaging $0.62/b in March, and even reached parity on March 27 (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Mars–LLS crude oil price spreads

Venezuela's crude oil production is forecasted to continue to fall through at least the end of 2020, reflecting an expectation of further declines in crude oil production capacity. Although EIA does not publish forecasts for individual OPEC countries, it does publish total OPEC crude oil and other liquids production. Further disruptions to Venezuela's production beyond what is currently included would change this forecast.

U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel fuel prices increase

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price increased more than 1 cent from a week ago to $2.84 per gallon on April 22, more than 4 cents higher than the same time last year. The Rocky Mountain price increased nearly 12 cents to $2.76 per gallon, the West Coast price rose 5 cents to $3.63 per gallon, and the East Coast price increased nearly 2 cents to $2.73 per gallon. The Midwest price decreased more than 1 cent to $2.72 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast price fell slightly, remaining virtually unchanged at $2.54 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price increased nearly 3 cents to $3.15 per gallon on April 22, more than 1 cent higher than the same time last year. The Rocky Mountain price increased 6 cents to $3.14 per gallon, the West Coast price increased nearly 5 cents to $3.70 per gallon, the Midwest price increased more than 3 cents to $3.04 per gallon, and the East Coast and Gulf Coast prices increased 2 cents to $3.17 per gallon and $2.92 per gallon, respectively.

Propane/propylene inventories rise

U.S. propane/propylene stocks increased by 1.0 million barrels last week to 57.8 million barrels as of April 19, 2019, 10.6 million barrels (22.5%) greater than the five-year (2014-2018) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Midwest inventories increased by 0.6 million barrels, while East Coast and Gulf Coast inventories each increased by 0.3 million barrels. Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories decreased by 0.2 million barrels. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 10.4% of total propane/propylene inventories.

April, 25 2019
The Rise of a New Ultramajor?

A tremor ran through the oil & gas industry last week. It wasn’t a by-product of fracking activity, but it is certainly linked. Supermajor Chevron agreed to purchase US independent Anadarko Petroleum for US$33 billion, a 39% premium to Anadarko’s last traded price. It’s the largest industry deal since Shell’s US$61 billion takeover of the BG Group in 2015. That deal catapulted Shell to become the world’s largest LNG trader, expanding its reach in the fast-evolving industry. Chevron will be looking to do the same.

The purchase of Anadarko gets Chevron into two prolific areas: the Permian Basin in the US and LNG. Chevron is already one of the largest supermajors operating in the Permian, with 2.3 million acres in the area. In this respect, the purchase is strategic. Combined with Anadarko’s assets, Chevron would now have a 120 sq.km corridor in the sweet spot of the shale basin –  Delaware, which straddles the Texas-New Mexico border. It’s a major salvo fired and a great boost to Chevron’s ambitions, which named investment in the Permian as its major focus last year. But more than just extracting oil, the purchase plugs a hole in Chevron’s portfolio. Through Anadarko, Chevron will gain major US midstream space, including a 55% stake in the Western Midstream Partners whose pipelines crosses all over Texas, linking the Permian to the processing and exporting base on the Gulf.

Internationally, the acquisition also boosts Chevron’s presence in LNG, which had recently  lagged behind other supermajors like Shell, ExxonMobil and Total. Anadarko’s Mozambique LNG project is neck-in-neck to become the African nation’s first LNG project with ExxonMobil. Drawing on Mozambique’s prolific Rovuma basin, the LNG export project has a nameplate capacity of 12.88 mtpa, of which 8.5 mtpa has already been committed through sales and purchase agreements. With FID scheduled for this year and operations expected in the 2023/24 timeframe, it complements Chevron’s current LNG portfolio – including the massive projects in Western Australia – nicely.

Together with recent investments in the upper echelon of energy companies, it seems the moniker supermajor may not be enough. Within the supermajor category, there was already a hierarchy, with ExxonMobil and Shell outpacing the rest. With this Anadarko apurchase, Chevron leaps into that tier, which analysts are calling ultramajors. That is, if there isn’t a spanner in the works. Occidental Petroleum, which is also focused on the Permian, had previously made a US$70 per share bid for Anadarko. It is now considering a counter proposal. The battle for Anadarko will go on, but we expect that Chevron will prevail, seeing how Anadarko’s operations fit so neatly into its own portfolio.

But more than just Chevron, could this be a preview of the future? The US shale revolution was kickstarted by plucky companies and ambitious independents, while the majors lost out. With this Chevron deal – along with ExxonMobil’s expansion and BP’s recent purchase of BHP assets – this could kick off another round of industry consolidation, centred around buying the way into the Permian and other shale basins. This might be a major purchase that shakes up the status quo, but if the signs are correct, there is more of this to come.

Infographic: The Chevron-Anadarko deal

  • US$33 billion 25% cash- 75% stock deal
  • Chevron to acquire Anadarko shares for US$65 per share
  • Chevron will assume net debt of US$15 billion
  • Chevron will sell some US$15 billion of assets to offset the purchase
April, 24 2019