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Last Updated: February 23, 2017
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Last Week in World Oil:


-       Oil prices inched up at the start of the week, buoyed by the effective implementation of the OPEC producer cuts. However, the rising prices have also encouraged rising production in the US, keeping gains in check along with stubbornly high US stockpile levels.

-       The Brent crude benchmark, which forms the bulk of global oil trade, is being overhauled for the first time in a decade to account for declining production in the North Sea. Effective immediately, pricing agency Platts has added the Norwegian Troll crude grade to the basket of four British and one Norwegian crudes (Brent, Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk) that form Brent to expand the physical volume of crude underpinning the benchmark, making it less vulnerable to manipulation.

Upstream & Midstream

-       TransCanada has re-filed an application with Nebraska to route the proposed Keystone XL pipeline through the state. The original application was withdrawn after President Obama vetoed the pipeline project, but with a friendlier administration in the White House, this brings Keystone XL one step closer to implementation and  operational reality.

-       Iraq and Iran have agreed to explore the possibility of a pipeline linking the two nations, expanding export options for Kirkuk crude in northern Iraq as well as provide crude for the Abadan refinery in Iran. Currently Kirkuk crude is transported through Kurdish territory, complicating matters as the Kurds have interrupted Kirkuk transit in the past.

-       Thirteen new onshore oil and gas rigs were added to the US rig count last week, offsetting a loss of three offshore rigs to bring the total active rig count up to 751. It is the fifth consecutive week of rises, leading to the EIA forecasting a rise in domestic oil output to 4.87 mbpd in March, which would be the fastest rise since October, underpinned by shale oil plays.


-       The Ras Laffan Refinery 2, which began production in late 2016, will be geared towards producing aviation fuel, with a dedicated pipeline connecting it to the Doha International Airport expected to be completed in 2018. Ras Laffan 2 runs on condensate, with a capacity of 146 kb/d, and will also produce naphtha for petrochemical processing and ultra low-sulphur diesel for export to Europe.

Natural Gas and LNG

-        Petronas and the government of British Columbia are offering an additional C$145 million to two First Nation groups that would allow a US$27 billion LNG project to go ahead. Federal approval for the project was given last September for the Pacific Northwest LNG, but additional amendments are proposed to quell environmental and native group opposition to the project. Politics is now also in the fray, with the opposition candidate for the BC premiership opposing the current site of the planned facility, with elections due in May 2017.

Last Week in Asian oil:

Upstream & Midstream

-       Petronas may be selling a large minority stake in a prized upstream gas asset in Sarawak, to raise cash and cut development costs as the Malaysian state player seeks to improve its financials. Petronas will retain a majority stake in the SK316 offshore gas block, but up to 49% of the asset may be sold off. The block is currently home to the NC3 field, which feeds the LNG9 joint venture export project with JX Nippon, as well as the Kasawari field. Likely buyers would be Japanese and Korean gas importers.

-       Chevron has secured an offshore permit in Western Australia for AUS$3 million, the first cash bid permit to be awarded since 2014. The cash bid permit was reintroduced to drive interest‘in mature areas or areas known to contain petroleum accumulations’, essentially a cost-effective way of driving interest in areas that have a high percentage of recoverable resources. The WA-526-P permit is in a gas-rich area of the Northern Carnarvon basin close to the Gorgon and Pluto LNG projects, and is the first success of a series of disappointing cash bid auction results. 

Downstream & Shipping

-        Thailand’s largest oil refiner ThaiOil set out its operational plans for 2017 last week, aiming to runs its 275 kb/d refinery at within 100-103% capacity with no major maintenance shutdowns planned. Productivity rates exceeding 100% are common in Thailand where official refinery capacity is underestimated, with the Sriracha refinery reaching rates of 108% last year, almost all of which was consumed domestically.

Natural Gas & LNG

-       More LNG will be entering Singapore as natural gas contracts supplied via pipeline from Malaysia and Indonesia near expiration. To mitigate this, Shell and Pavilion Gas will deliver their first LNG cargoes to Singapore later this year, under contracts awarded in October 2016 for three years or a maximum of 1 million tons per year. Singapore will also be allowing for up to 10% of imports coming from the spot market, to even out supply and bolster its ambitions of becoming the LNG trading hub for Asia 

-       Weak LPG prices are boosting demand in South Korea. Traditionally used as a transport fuel, LPG consumption in South Korea has declined significantly since 2010 as vehicles switched to gasoline and diesel, leaving major importers SK Gas and E1 scrambling for new customers. With a glut in natural gas liquids leading to low prices and a recovery in consumer plastics strengthening Asian petrochemical margins, LPG demand has jumped, benefitting American exporters. In 2016, South Korea’s LPG demand rose to 9.4 million tons while imports jumped to 7 million tons, more than half of which was supplied by US Gulf exporters. LPG usage in petrochemicals more than doubled to 3.3 million tons. 

-       The Elk-Antelope LNG project in Papua New Guinea is now targeted at the end of 2018, a delay from its original date of late 2017. One of the largest undeveloped gas assets in Asia, the Elk and Antelope fields are operated by Total, partnering with InterOil on the LNG export project. The ExxonMobil acquisition of InterOil would have streamlined the natural gas scene in PNG, but some ownership quibbles have delayed the acquisition until the Supreme Court of Yukon confirmed that the sale could go ahead on Sunday.  

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BP & The Expansion of the Caspian

The vast Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan’s portion of the South Caspian Sea marked several milestones in 2018. It has now produced a cumulative total of 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas since the field started up in 2006, with daily output reaching a new peak, growing by 12.5% y-o-y. At a cost of US$28 billion, Shah Deniz – with its estimated 1.2 trillion cubic metres of gas resources – has proven to be an unparalleled success, being a founding link of Europe’s Southern Gas Corridor and coming in relatively on budget and on time. And now BP, along with its partners, is hoping to replicate that success with an ambitious exploration schedule over the next two years.

Four new exploration wells in three blocks, along with a seismic survey of a fourth, are planned for 2019 and an additional three wells in 2020. The aggressive programme is aimed at confirming a long-held belief by BP and SOCAR there are more significant pockets of gas swirling around the area. The first exploratory well is targeting the Shafag-Asiman block, where initial seismic surveys suggest natural gas reserves of some 500 billion cubic metres; if confirmed, that would make it the second-largest gas field ever discovered in the Caspian, behind only Shah Deniz. BP also suspects that Shah Deniz itself could be bigger than expected – the company has long predicted the existence of a second, deeper reservoir below the existing field, and a ‘further assessment’ is planned for 2020 to get to the bottom of the case, so to speak.

Two wells are planned to be drilled in the Shallow Water Absheron Peninsula (SWAP) block, some 30km southeast of Baku, where BP operates in equal partnership with SOCAR, with an additional well planned for 2020. The goal at SWAP is light crude oil, as is a seismic survey in the deepwater Caspian Sea Block D230 where a ‘significant amount’ of oil is expected. Exploration in the onshore Gobustan block, an inland field 50km north of Baku, rounds up BP’s upstream programme and the company expects that at least one seven wells of these will yield a bonanza that will take Azerbaijan’s reserves well into the middle of the century.

Developments in the Caspian are key, as it is the starting node of the Southern Gas Corridor – meant to deliver gas to Europe. Shah Deniz gas currently makes its way to Turkey via the South Caucasus Gas pipeline and exports onwards to Europe should begin when the US$8.5 billion, 32 bcm/y Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) starts service in 2020. Planned output from Azerbaijan currently only fills half of the TANAP capacity, meaning there is room for plenty more gas, if BP can find it. From Turkey, Azeri gas will link up to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline in Greece and connect into Turkey, potentially joined by other pipelines projects that are planned to link up with gas production in Israel. This alternate source of natural gas for Europe is crucial, particularly since political will to push through the Nordstream-2 pipeline connecting Russian gas to Germany is slackening. The demand is there and so is the infrastructure. And now BP will be spending the next two years trying to prove that the supply exists underneath Azerbaijan.

BP’s upcoming planned exploration in the Caspian:

  • Shafag-Asiman, late 2019, targeting natural gas
  • SWAP, 3 sites, late 2019/2020, targeting oil
  • ‘Onshore gas project’, end 2019, targeting natural gas’
  • Block D230, 2019 (seismic assessment)/2020 (drilling), targeting oil
  • Shah Deniz ‘further assessment’, 2020, targeting natural gas
January, 22 2019

When it was first announced in 2012, there was scepticism about whether or not Petronas’ RAPID refinery in Johor was destined for reality or cancellation. It came at a time when the refining industry saw multiple ambitious, sometimes unpractical, projects announced. At that point, Petronas – though one of the most respected state oil firms – was still seen as more of an upstream player internationally. Its downstream forays were largely confined to its home base Malaysia and specialty chemicals, as well as a surprising venture into South African through Engen. Its refineries, too, were relatively small. So the announcement that Petronas was planning essentially, its own Jamnagar, promoted some pessimism. Could it succeed?

It has. The RAPID refinery – part of a larger plan to turn the Pengerang district in southern Johor into an oil refining and storage hub capitalising on linkages with Singapore – received its first cargo of crude oil for testing in September 2018. Mechanical completion was achieved on November 29 and all critical units have begun commissioning ahead of the expected firing up of RAPID’s 300 kb/d CDU later this month. A second cargo of 2 million barrels of Saudi crude arrived at RAPID last week. It seems like it’s all systems go for RAPID. But it wasn’t always so clear cut. Financing difficulties – and the 2015 crude oil price crash – put the US$27 billion project on shaky ground for a while, and it was only when Saudi Aramco swooped in to purchase a US$7 billion stake in the project that it started coalescing. Petronas had been courting Aramco since the start of the project, mainly as a crude provider, but having the Saudi giant on board was the final step towards FID. It guaranteed a stable supply of crude for Petronas; and for Aramco, RAPID gave it a foothold in a major global refining hub area as part of its strategy to expand downstream.

But RAPID will be entering into a market quite different than when it was first announced. In 2012, demand for fuel products was concentrated on light distillates; in 2019, that focus has changed. Impending new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations are requiring shippers to switch from burning cheap (and dirty) fuel oil to using cleaner middle distillate gasoils. This plays well into complex refineries like RAPID, specialising in cracking heavy and medium Arabian crude into valuable products. But the issue is that Asia and the rest of the world is currently swamped with gasoline. A whole host of new Asian refineries – the latest being the 200 kb/d Nghi Son in Vietnam – have contributed to growing volumes of gasoline with no home in Asia. Gasoline refining margins in Singapore have taken a hit, falling into negative territory for the first time in seven years. Adding RAPID to the equation places more pressure on gasoline margins, even though margins for middle distillates are still very healthy. And with three other large Asian refinery projects scheduled to come online in 2019 – one in Brunei and two in China – that glut will only grow.

The safety valve for RAPID (and indeed the other refineries due this year) is that they have been planned with deep petrochemicals integration, using naphtha produced from the refinery portion. RAPID itself is planned to have capacity of 3 million tpa of ethylene, propylene and other olefins – still a lucrative market that justifies the mega-investment. But it will be at least two years before RAPID’s petrochemicals portion will be ready to start up, and when it does, it’ll face the same set of challenging circumstances as refineries like Hengli’s 400 kb/d Dalian Changxing plant also bring online their petchem operations. But that is a problem for the future and for now, RAPID is first out of the gate into reality. It won’t be entering in a bonanza fuels market as predicted in 2012, but there is still space in the market for RAPID – and a few other like in – at least for now.


RAPID Refinery Factsheet:

  • Ownership: Petronas (50%), Saudi Aramco (50%)
  • Capacity: 300 kb/d CDU/3 mtpa olefins plant
  • Other facilities: 1.22 Gigawatt congeneration plant, 3.5 mtpa regasification terminal
  • Expected commissioning: March 2019
January, 21 2019
Forecasting Bangladesh Tyre Market | Zulker Naeen

Tyre market in Bangladesh is forecasted to grow at over 9% until 2020 on the back of growth in automobile sales, advancements in public infrastructure, and development-seeking government policies.

The government has emphasized on the road infrastructure of the country, which has been instrumental in driving vehicle sales in the country.

The tyre market reached Tk 4,750 crore last year, up from about Tk 4,000 crore in 2017, according to market insiders.

The commercial vehicle tyre segment dominates this industry with around 80% of the market share. At least 1.5 lakh pieces of tyres in the segment were sold in 2018.

In the commercial vehicle tyre segment, the MRF's market share is 30%. Apollo controls 5% of the segment, Birla 10%, CEAT 3%, and Hankook 1%. The rest 51% is controlled by non-branded Chinese tyres.

However, Bangladesh mostly lacks in tyre manufacturing setups, which leads to tyre imports from other countries as the only feasible option to meet the demand. The company largely imports tyre from China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.

Automobile and tyre sales in Bangladesh are expected to grow with the rising in purchasing power of people as well as growing investments and joint ventures of foreign market players. The country might become the exporting destination for global tyre manufacturers.

Several global tyre giants have also expressed interest in making significant investments by setting up their manufacturing units in the country.

This reflects an opportunity for local companies to set up an indigenous manufacturing base in Bangladesh and also enables foreign players to set up their localized production facilities to capture a significant market.

It can be said that, the rise in automobile sales, improvement in public infrastructure, and growth in purchasing power to drive the tyre market over the next five years.

January, 18 2019