Last week in world oil:
Oil prices steadied this week, with a weaker dollar supporting prices amid signs that OPEC’s output cut might hold despite some niggles. Brent crude edged above US$55/b, while WTI was at US$52/b. The focus this week is on the dollar, with Donald Trump being inaugurated as President.
Upstream & Midstream
True to their word, Saudi Arabia has slashed its output to less than 10 million barrels, the lowest level in two years as it prepares to lead OPEC’s efforts to enforce a supply cut. Under the OPEC agreement, Saudi Arabia was to cut 486 kb/d off production to 10.058 mmb/d, but has gone even further to offset inertia in other OPEC members like Iraq. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih has stated that he will consider renewing the supply freeze in six months when the next OPEC meeting is scheduled. Fellow OPEC member Algeria has also pledged to reduce its output by more than its quota.
Halliburton and Petrobras have announced a technology cooperation partnership that will focus on complex reservoirs. The multi-year pact is aimed at assisting Petrobras in its deepwater presalt and mature fields over the long-term. The project portfolio will have three main objectives: reducing well construction investment, long-term reservoir monitoring and increasing well productivity.
Unusually, the US oil rig count fell last week, shedding seven sites to finish at 522. Offsetting a single gain in gas rigs, the total operating rig count in the US is now 659, perhaps a sign that producers are pausing in their zeal to monitor the oil price situation and OPEC’s commitment to it.
Kinder Morgan’s attempt to expand an oil pipeline in western Canada has cleared its final regulatory hurdle, with the British Columbia province giving environmental approval for part of the project’s profit. Some 37 conditions were attached to the approval of the Trans Mountain project, with Kinder Morgan agreeing to pay B.C as much as C$1 billion over 20 years in revenue sharing that will go towards environmental protection.
Russia’s Rosneft has agreed to supply up to 55 million tons of crude over a five year period to QHG Trading, a trading company linked to commodities giant Rosneft and Qatar. The deal follows the acquisition of a 19.5% stake in Rosneft by Qatar Investment Authority and Glencore last month for US$11.8 billion, with both companies now getting crude in return. Glencore, specifically, will receive an additional 220 kb/d to trade.
Natural Gas & LNG
A bitter, freezing winter is sweeping across Europe, boosting LNG demand and triggering the highest spot LNG prices in France’s southern gas hub since December 2013. The cold winter has boosted Europe’s requirements of natural gas, which has benefitted Russia’s Gazprom, recording its highest ever piped gas volumes to Western Europe on January 6, at some 615.5 million cubic metres.
Last week in Asian oil:
Upstream & Midstream
Thailand national upstream company PTTEP, part of the PTT empire, has slashed its capex spending this year. Plans for 2017 will involve investment of US$2.903 billion, more than 50% than envisioned two years ago, as its acknowledges the difficulties of securing overseas upstream assets. The primary focus going forward will be on natural gas, and the company has also slashed its production forecasts, leaving Thailand increasingly reliant on imports for its crude requirements.
In a rare bright spot, Chinese upstream giant CNOOC has started production at its Penglai 19-9 field. Located in the Bohai Bay, the new field is small, with peak production of some 13 kb/d expected in 2019. The joint venture between CNOOC and ConocoPhillips China will not be enough to halt the steady decline in Chinese crude production, but will help meet the country’s new objective of stabilising output.
Downstream & Shipping
Indian fuel demand grew by its fastest pace in 16 years in 2016, as a low price environment kicked off growth in passenger car and flights, supporting gasoline and aviation fuels. Total fuel consumption grew by 10.7%, but the demonetisation drive impacted demand in December and will hold growth back in 2017, as consumers defer large purchases. State giant Indian Oil Corp (IOC) intends to support the demand growth by purchasing upstream assets, with the aim of ensuring that at least a tenth of its refining capacity be fed by crude from fields that it owns outright or has a partial state in, requiring a tenfold boost in crude production to 210 kb/d over the next eight year.
Natural Gas & LNG
Thailand’s PTT continues its march to secure natural gas supplies, choosing a Marubeni-Itochu joint venture to fed its Chavalit Punthong pipeline. The pipeline, PTT’s fifth, stretches 430km from coastal Rayong to Nonthaburi near Bangkok, supplying the Thai capital with natural gas for power generation.
Vietnam has moved a step closer to realising its Blue Whale natural gas project, with PetroVietnam signing an agreement with ExxonMobil to develop the project. With an estimated 150 billion cubic metres of reserves, Blue Whale is Vietnam’s largest natural gas project, with the volumes aimed at powering the country’s electricity grid. First gas is expected by 2023, contributing US$20 billion to the national budget.
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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 February 2019 – Brent: US$61/b; WTI: US$52/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
Global liquid fuels
Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions
2018 was a year that started with crude prices at US$62/b and ended at US$46/b. In between those two points, prices had gently risen up to peak of US$80/b as the oil world worried about the impact of new American sanctions on Iran in September before crashing down in the last two months on a rising tide of American production. What did that mean for the financial health of the industry over the last quarter and last year?
Nothing negative, it appears. With the last of the financial results from supermajors released, the world’s largest oil firms reported strong profits for Q418 and blockbuster profits for the full year 2018. Despite the blip in prices, the efforts of the supermajors – along with the rest of the industry – to keep costs in check after being burnt by the 2015 crash has paid off.
ExxonMobil, for example, may have missed analyst expectations for 4Q18 revenue at US$71.9 billion, but reported a better-than-expected net profit of US$6 billion. The latter was down 28% y-o-y, but the Q417 figure included a one-off benefit related to then-implemented US tax reform. Full year net profit was even better – up 5.7% to US$20.8 billion as upstream production rose to 4.01 mmboe/d – allowing ExxonMobil to come close to reclaiming its title of the world’s most profitable oil company.
But for now, that title is still held by Shell, which managed to eclipse ExxonMobil with full year net profits of US$21.4 billion. That’s the best annual results for the Anglo-Dutch firm since 2014; product of the deep and painful cost-cutting measures implemented after. Shell’s gamble in purchasing the BG Group for US$53 billion – which sparked a spat of asset sales to pare down debt – has paid off, with contributions from LNG trading named as a strong contributor to financial performance. Shell’s upstream output for 2018 came in at 3.78 mmb/d and the company is also looking to follow in the footsteps of ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP in the Permian, where it admits its footprint is currently ‘a bit small’.
Shell’s fellow British firm BP also reported its highest profits since 2014, doubling its net profits for the full year 2018 on a 65% jump in 4Q18 profits. It completes a long recovery for the firm, which has struggled since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, allowing it to focus on the future – specifically US shale through the recent US$10.5 billion purchase of BHP’s Permian assets. Chevron, too, is focusing on onshore shale, as surging Permian output drove full year net profit up by 60.8% and 4Q18 net profit up by 19.9%. Chevron is also increasingly focusing on vertical integration again – to capture the full value of surging Texas crude by expanding its refining facilities in Texas, just as ExxonMobil is doing in Beaumont. French major Total’s figures may have been less impressive in percentage terms – but that it is coming from a higher 2017 base, when it outperformed its bigger supermajor cousins.
So, despite the year ending with crude prices in the doldrums, 2018 seems to be proof of Big Oil’s ability to better weather price downturns after years of discipline. Some of the control is loosening – major upstream investments have either been sanctioned or planned since 2018 – but there is still enough restraint left over to keep the oil industry in the black when trends turn sour.
Supermajor Net Profits for 4Q18 and 2018
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$6 billion (-28%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$20.8 (+5.7%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$5.69 billion (+32.3%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$21.4 billion (+36%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.73 billion (+19.9%);
- 2018 – Net profit US$14.8 billion (+60.8%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.48 billion (+65%);
- 2018 - Net profit US$12.7 billion (+105%)
- 4Q18 – Net profit US$3.88 billion (+16%);
- 2018 - Net profit US$13.6 billion (+28%)