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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Headline crude prices for the week beginning 12 August 2019 – Brent: US$58/b; WTI: US$54/b
Headlines of the week
The momentum for crude prices abated in the second quarter of 2019, providing less cushion for the financial results of the world’s oil companies. But while still profitable, the less-than-ideal crude prices led to mixed results across the boards – exposing gaps and pressure points for individual firms masked by stronger prices in Q119.
In a preview of general performance in the industry, Total – traditionally the first of the supermajors to release its earnings – announced results that fell short of expectations. Net profits for the French firm fell to US$2.89 billion from US$3.55 billion, below analyst predictions. This was despite a 9% increase in oil and gas production – in particularly increases in LNG sales – and a softer 2.5% drop in revenue. Total also announced that it would be selling off US$5 billion in assets through 2020 to keep a lid on debt after agreeing to purchase Anadarko Petroleum’s African assets for US$8.8 billion through Occidental.
As with Total, weaker crude prices were the common factor in Q219 results in the industry, though the exact extent differed. Russia’s Gazprom posted higher revenue and higher net profits, while Norway’s Equinor reported falls in both revenue and net profits – leading it to slash investment plans for the year. American producer ConocoPhillips’ quarterly profits and revenue were flat year-on-year, while Italy’s Eni – which has seen major success in Africa – reported flat revenue but lower profits.
After several quarters of disappointing analysts, ExxonMobil managed to beat expectations in Q219 – recording better-than-expected net profits of US$3.1 billion. In comparison, Shell – which has outperformed ExxonMobil over the past few reporting periods – disappointed the market with net profits halving to US$3 billion from US$6 billion in Q218. The weak performance was attributed (once again) to lower crude prices, as well as lower refining margins. BP, however, managed to beat expectations with net profits of US$2.8 billion, on par with its performance in Q218. But the supermajor king of the quarter was Chevron, with net profits of US$4.3 billion from gains in Permian production, as well as the termination fee from Anadarko after the latter walked away from a buyout deal in favour of Occidental.
And then, there was a surprise. In a rare move, Saudi Aramco – long reputed to be the world’s largest and most profitable energy firm – published its earnings report for 1H19, which is its first ever. The results confirmed what the industry had long accepted as fact: net profit was US$46.9 billion. If split evenly, Aramco’s net profits would be more than the five supermajors combined in Q219. Interestingly, Aramco also divulged that it had paid out US$46.4 billion in dividends, or 99% of its net profit. US$20 billion of that dividend was paid to its principle shareholder – the government of Saudi Arabia – up from US$6 billion in 1H18, which makes for interesting reading to potential investors as Aramco makes a second push for an IPO. With Saudi Aramco CFO Khalid al-Dabbagh announcing that the company was ‘ready for the IPO’ during its first ever earnings call, this reporting paves the way to the behemoth opening up its shares to the public. But all the deep reservoirs in the world did not shield Aramco from market forces. As it led the way in adhering to the OPEC+ club’s current supply restrictions, weaker crude prices saw net profit fall by 11.5% from US$53 billion a year earlier.
So, it’s been a mixed bunch of results this quarter – which perhaps showcases the differences in operational strategies of the world’s oil and gas companies. There is no danger of financials heading into the red any time soon, but without a rising tide of crude prices, Q219 simply shows that though the challenges facing the industry are the same, their approaches to the solutions still differ.
Supermajor Financials: Q2 2019
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, CEDIGAZ, Global Trade Tracker
Australia is on track to surpass Qatar as the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, according to Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science (DIIS). Australia already surpasses Qatar in LNG export capacity and exported more LNG than Qatar in November 2018 and April 2019. Within the next year, as Australia’s newly commissioned projects ramp up and operate at full capacity, EIA expects Australia to consistently export more LNG than Qatar.
Australia’s LNG export capacity increased from 2.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2011 to more than 11.4 Bcf/d in 2019. Australia’s DIIS forecasts that Australian LNG exports will grow to 10.8 Bcf/d by 2020–21 once the recently commissioned Wheatstone, Ichthys, and Prelude floating LNG (FLNG) projects ramp up to full production. Prelude FLNG, a barge located offshore in northwestern Australia, was the last of the eight new LNG export projects that came online in Australia in 2012 through 2018 as part of a major LNG capacity buildout.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL), trade press
Note: Project’s online date reflects shipment of the first LNG cargo. North West Shelf Trains 1–2 have been in operation since 1989, Train 3 since 1992, Train 4 since 2004, and Train 5 since 2008.
Starting in 2012, five LNG export projects were developed in northwestern Australia: onshore projects Pluto, Gorgon, Wheatstone, and Ichthys, and the offshore Prelude FLNG. The total LNG export capacity in northwestern Australia is now 8.1 Bcf/d. In eastern Australia, three LNG export projects were completed in 2015 and 2016 on Curtis Island in Queensland—Queensland Curtis, Gladstone, and Australia Pacific—with a combined nameplate capacity of 3.4 Bcf/d. All three projects in eastern Australia use natural gas from coalbed methane as a feedstock to produce LNG.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
Most of Australia’s LNG is exported under long-term contracts to three countries: Japan, China, and South Korea. An increasing share of Australia’s LNG exports in recent years has been sent to China to serve its growing natural gas demand. The remaining volumes were almost entirely exported to other countries in Asia, with occasional small volumes exported to destinations outside of Asia.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL)
For several years, Australia’s natural gas markets in eastern states have been experiencing natural gas shortages and increasing prices because coal-bed methane production at some LNG export facilities in Queensland has not been meeting LNG export commitments. During these shortfalls, project developers have been supplementing their own production with natural gas purchased from the domestic market. The Australian government implemented several initiatives to address domestic natural gas production shortages in eastern states.
Several private companies proposed to develop LNG import terminals in southeastern Australia. Of the five proposed LNG import projects, Port Kembla LNG (proposed import capacity of 0.3 Bcf/d) is in the most advanced stage, having secured the necessary siting permits and an offtake contract with Australian customers. If built, the Port Kembla project will use the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) Höegh Galleon starting in January 2021.