Last week in the world oil:
-News of a strong recovery in US oil drilling offset optimism that OPEC and its non-OPEC allies were on track to meet their output reduction goals, leading oil prices to start the week slightly lower after gains last week. Saudi Arabia notched up its highest exports in 13 years in November, but numbers are expected to fall by nearly 400 kb/d in January as the supply cuts kick in. The push-pull relationship between OPEC and free market producers in the US highlights the difficulties in the race to raise prices.
Upstream & Midstream
-In a move that could potentially revolutionise oil trading, Mercurialis testing out an oil cargo contract sale based on the digital blockchain technology. Working together with banks ING and Societe Generale, the cargo of African crude sold to ChemChina is based on the technology that powers bitcoins a permanent digital ledger of all transaction history known as a blockchain that could replace the current complex system of clearing and settlement that require massive amounts of paperwork.
-The US oil rig count leapt by 35 last week, the largest rise since 2011, as US drillers responded to price signals, potentially hampering OPECs attempt to strengthen prices. Some 29 new oil rigs and 6 new gas rigs were restarted, and more additions are expected.
-A fire has halted output at Adnocs Ruwais refinery in Abu Dhabi, shutting down half of the sites 800 kb/d capacity. The outage at the newer section, is expected to be short, with production resuming next week.
Natural Gas & LNG
-In an attempt to reduce heavy reliance on Russian natural gas, Serbia and Bulgaria are cooperating on a natural gas pipeline project. The 150km pipeline is scheduled to begin construction in May 2019 and operational by the end of 2020, linking Sofia with the Serbian city of Nis. This could draw supplies from pipelines in Greece and Turkey, and possibly volumes from Israels Leviathan field. Poland, too, is plotting reducing dependence on Russia, aiming to have a gas pipeline to Norway in place by 2022.
-Brazil's Odebrecht group, embroiled in the country's largest ever graft scandal, has missed a financing deadline that will see it exit a US$5 billion natural gas pipeline in Peru, potentially derailing the entire project. The bribery scandal has brought the once powerhouse to its knees, which will now see it focus on divesting assets in all but two sectors to survive, retaining only its construction arm and petrochemical producer Braskem.
-Frances Technip and FMC Technologies have completed their merger, now operating as unified service provider TechnipFMC. The merger comes partially due to the slump in upstream investment, but also to consolidate developing technology to access hard-to-reach assets.
-Shell will have a new Head of Exploration next month, with current upstream strategy vice president Marc Gerrits taking over the role from Ceri Powell, who moves on to become the managing director of Brunei Shell Petroleum. The move is part of a broader reshuffle of executives following the acquisition of the BG Group, with upstream moving away from risky frontier areas like Alaska to existing production sites like Brunei and Malaysia.
Last week in Asian oil:
Upstream & Midstream
-Indonesia's Pertamina has unveiled an ambitious plan to invest US$54 billion in upstream production through 2025, aiming to raise its oil, gas and geothermal output by 185% to 1.91 million barrels. Pertamina's upstream output has slumped over the last decade, hitting its lowest point of 670 kb/d in November 2016, with the company struggling to acquire even domestic fields. The goals are at odds with OPECs wider objectives, leading Indonesia to withdraw temporarily from the organisation in November to focus on an upstream spending spree.
-A week after extending a storage deal with Saudi Aramco, Japan has done the same with the UAEs Adnoc. The two-year extension will allow Adnoc to continue storing up to 6.29 million barrels of crude oil in theKiireterminal in Kagoshima until 2019 at no cost in return for first dibs on the supplies in the case of emergencies. Adnoc uses the storage facilities as a convenient way to distribute crude across East Asia.
Downstream & Shipping
-Iran and China have agreed to a US$3 billion deal that will see China support Iran financially as its moves to upgrade its ailing oil refining infrastructure. The agreement will focus on the 430 kb/d Abadan refinery, Irans largest, that is in dire need of upgrades after years of sanctions prevented access to parts and new technology. It is an indication that the rest of the world is still prepared to deal with Iran, even as the new American administration is prepared to be more hostile.
-Bangladesh has reversed its decision to slash fuel prices as global crude prices rise. The phased prices cuts which would reduce the controlled prices of gasoline, diesel and LPG began in April 2015, after a two-year freeze to help state-owned player Bangladesh Petroleum Corp recover losses and were meant to be extended over 2017. However, the government has now decided that raising oil prices pose too much of a risk to move ahead with another 10% cut, freezing gasoline prices at around 86 taka (US$1.10) per litre.
-Singapore's struggling Jurong Aromatic Corp (JAC) might have found a buyer in South Koreas Lotte Chemical Corp. After going into receivership in September 2015 due to debt issues as global commodity prices were routed, JAC also had to deal with an 18-month outage as its petrochemical complex to fix issues and has been searching for a possible suitor. Lotte, which currently operates two naphtha crackers in Daesan and Yeosu along with a condensate splitter shared with Hyundai Oilbank, has been looking at potential overseas assets and JAC would be a suitable target to establish itself as one of Asia's largest condensate buyers.
Natural Gas & LNG
-Pakistan is in need of natural gas, a reason why Asian LNG prices have spiked over the last two weeks. While there is no short-term solution, it has secured some long-term security with a Gunvor deal to receive 60 LNG cargoes over the next five years and an Eni deal for 180 cargoes over the next 15 years. More tenders are expected, as Pakistan works towards bringing two more LNG terminals online over the next two years.
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
In April 2019, Venezuela's crude oil production averaged 830,000 barrels per day (b/d), down from 1.2 million b/d at the beginning of the year, according to EIA’s May 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook. This average is the lowest level since January 2003, when a nationwide strike and civil unrest largely brought the operations of Venezuela's state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), 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.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Baker Hughes
Venezuela’s oil production has decreased significantly over the last three years. Production declines accelerated in 2018, decreasing by an average of 33,000 b/d each month in 2018, and the rate of decline increased 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 crude oil production will have limited effects on the United States, as U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil have decreased over the last several years. EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in 2018 averaged 505,000 b/d and were the lowest since 1989.
EIA expects Venezuela's crude oil production to continue decreasing in 2019, and declines may accelerate as sanctions-related deadlines pass. These deadlines include provisions that third-party entities using the U.S. financial system stop 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, among other factors, will contribute to a further decrease in production.
Additionally, U.S. sanctions, as outlined in the January 25, 2019 Executive Order 13857, immediately banned U.S. exports of petroleum products—including unfinished oils that are blended with Venezuela's heavy crude oil for processing—to Venezuela. The Executive Order also required payments for PdVSA-owned petroleum and petroleum products to be placed into an escrow account inaccessible by the company. 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 receive Venezuela's crude oil, according to data published by ClipperData Inc. Venezuela is likely keeping some crude oil cargoes intended for exports in floating storageuntil it finds buyers for the cargoes.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, and Clipper Data Inc.
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 before the oil is sent by pipeline to domestic refineries or export terminals. Venezuela’s upgraders, complex processing units that upgrade the extra-heavy crude oil to help facilitate transport, were shut down in March during the power outages.
If Venezuelan crude or upgraded oil cannot flow as a result of a lack of power to the pumping infrastructure, 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.
EIA forecasts that Venezuela's crude oil production will continue to fall through at least the end of 2020, reflecting 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 EIA currently assumes would change this forecast.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 May 2019 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$61/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
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