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Last Updated: March 29, 2017
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Last week in World Oil:

Prices

  • Crude oil seems stuck in its current range – US$48/b for WTI and US$51/b for Brent – as traders remain pessimistic of an extension to the OPEC supply freeze that, even if implemented, may not have much effect given the rise in American drilling that is sure to follow.

Upstream & Midstream

  • Permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline has been issued by President Donald Trump. The battleground now shifts to courtroom, where activists and landowners are plotting regulatory and legal challenges to keep the TransCanada pipeline from moving ahead.
  • The 29th offshore licensing round in the UK North Sea has been completed, with 25 licences handed out to mostly majors, including Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and Statoil. Centred on frontier areas off the Hebrides and Shetlands, the success of the round indicates renewed vigour that has been gaining over the last year in what was once a declining area.
  • The US active rig count jumped by a massive 20 last week, led mainly by oil rig gains, as American drillers put faith in steady crude oil prices. The bulk of the gains were in the onshore Permian Basin, with gains in Eagle Ford and Marcellus shale plays as well.

Downstream

  • A shakeup is happening at PDVSA, where high-level managers across all refining and downstream divisions have been removed recently. Ostensibly to battle corruption, the changes while Venezuela is struggling to provide fuel for its citizens, with reports of long queues to buy gasoline as PDVSA struggles with debt, imports and distribution woes.
  • Shell has completed talks with Tesoro to lease its capacity at an oil terminal in Panama. The three-year agreement at Petroterminal de Panama, which has 14 million barrels of capacity, and a pipeline network connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific, bolsters Shell’s storage capacity in the Gulf and Caribbean, which anchors its crude trading operations.
  • The US government is considering retaliatory actions against Argentina and Indonesia over biodiesel dumping. Between 2014 and 2016, biodiesel imports from both countries have risen by 464%, prompting complaints by American biodiesel producers of underpricing. Indonesia, facing similar complaints from the EU, plans to protest together with Argentina.

Natural Gas and LNG

  • Unable to rely on Saudi Arabia to supply its energy needs, Egypt has been looking elsewhere, issuing a flurry of tenders late last year. The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company has signed an agreement with Russia’s Rosneft to buy 10 LNG cargoes this year, starting in May, up from three cargoes bought in 2016. Until Egypt’s natural gas discoveries, including Zohr, begin producing, tenders such as this will be more common. 

Corporate

  • Petrobras has raised its target for divestitures, aiming to raise US$21 billion over 2017 and 2018 in a bid to pare down debt. Despite legal challenges in Brazilian courts that have blocked several of attempted sales, Petrobras intends to accelerate its asset sales plan, while expanding joint ventures in key areas such as refining and E&P.

Last week in Asian oil:

Upstream & Midstream

  • A trend is emerging, as Japan’s Inpex has decided to exit the Natuna Sea in Indonesia. Selling its entire stake in subsidiary Inpex Natuna to Indonesia’s PT Medco Daya Sentosa (a subsidiary of PT Medco Energi Internasional), the sale will see Inpex leave the South Natuna Sea Block B. This follows ConocoPhillips’ decision to exit the Natuna Sea block last year, with PT Medco also gaining in that case. Inpex has been involved in the prodigious Natuna Sea since 1977, but returns have been dwindling recently with little replenishment, leading to declining interest.
  • Petronas is beefing up its presence in Myanmar, farming into two ultra-deep water exploration permits operated by Shell in the Rakhine basin of the Bay of Bengal. Petronas already operates the Yetagun field in Myanmar, and plans to boost involvement in Myanmar as it seeks to deepen its external asset base. With the upstream business in the country heating up, UK oilfield services firm James Fisher and Sons last week signed an MoU with Myanmar’s Royal Marine Technology to expand the country’s marine services industry.

Downstream & Shipping

  • China’s Sinopec has officially acquired its first major refining operation in Africa, following in the footsteps of its upstream division by paying almost US$1 billion for a 75% stake in Chevron’s South African downstream assets, which includes the 100 kb/d Cape Town refinery, the Durban lubricants plant and operations in Botswana. Sinopec will retain the Caltex brand for six years for all retail operations, before rebranding.
  • Indian Oil has inked an agreement with the government of Nepal to supply the landlocked Himalayan nation’s refined product demand for the next five years. This extends a supply agreement dating back to 1974, with the new contract involving 1.3 million tons of refined products, principally gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and LPG for cooking. A natural gas pipeline is also being considered, as well as a refined products pipeline linking Motihari in the Indian state of Bihar to Amlekhgunj in Nepal.

Natural Gas & LNG

  • As the gigantic Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects, collectively costing US$88 billion, approached completion, Chevron has signalled that it does not intend to sanction any further expansion. Instead, it will focus on boosting returns and perhaps smaller, linked developments, as the LNG industry adjusts to the slump in oil prices.
  • South Korea’s KOGAS has signed an agreement with Japan’s JERA and China’s CNOOC, as the world’s largest LNG buyers aim to boost cooperation as bargaining power in the LNG industry increasingly shifts from sellers to buyers. Jointly, the three companies buy a third of global LNG, and the agreement potentially creates an influential buyers’ club that could demand more favourable contracts and clauses.

Corporate

  • Indonesian President Joko Widodo has named Elia Massa Manik as the new CEO of Pertamina, tasked with turning around the beleaguered state giant. A relative outsider to the country’s vast oil and gas bureaucracy, Elia lands in the position with a solid reputation for restructuring state-owned firms, including turning around operations at his previous position as head of PTPN III, Indonesia’s state plantation company, and at PT Elnusa, Pertamina’s oil services subsidiary.
  • Malaysia’s oilfield services firm Sapura Kencana will now be known as Sapura Energy Berhad. Proposed in early February and adopted at the recent AGM, the name was chosen to reflect the firm’s ‘global corporate identity.’

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The Impact of COVID 19 In The Downstream Oil & Gas Sector

Recent headlines on the oil industry have focused squarely on the upstream side: the amount of crude oil that is being produced and the resulting effect on oil prices, against a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. But that is just one part of the supply chain. To be sold as final products, crude oil needs to be refined into its constituent fuels, each of which is facing its own crisis because of the overall demand destruction caused by the virus. And once the dust settles, the global refining industry will look very different.

Because even before the pandemic broke out, there was a surplus of refining capacity worldwide. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, global oil demand was some 99.85 mmb/d. However, this consumption figure includes substitute fuels – ethanol blended into US gasoline and biodiesel in Europe and parts of Asia – as well as chemical additives added on to fuels. While by no means an exact science, extrapolating oil demand to exclude this results in a global oil demand figure of some 95.44 mmb/d. In comparison, global refining capacity was just over 100 mmb/d. This overcapacity is intentional; since most refineries do not run at 100% utilisation all the time and many will shut down for scheduled maintenance periodically, global refining utilisation rates stand at about 85%.

Based on this, even accounting for differences in definitions and calculations, global oil demand and global oil refining supply is relatively evenly matched. However, demand is a fluid beast, while refineries are static. With the Covid-19 pandemic entering into its sixth month, the impact on fuels demand has been dramatic. Estimates suggest that global oil demand fell by as much as 20 mmb/d at its peak. In the early days of the crisis, refiners responded by slashing the production of jet fuel towards gasoline and diesel, as international air travel was one of the first victims of the virus. As national and sub-national lockdowns were introduced, demand destruction extended to transport fuels (gasoline, diesel, fuel oil), petrochemicals (naphtha, LPG) and  power generation (gasoil, fuel oil). Just as shutting down an oil rig can take weeks to complete, shutting down an entire oil refinery can take a similar timeframe – while still producing fuels that there is no demand for.

Refineries responded by slashing utilisation rates, and prioritising certain fuel types. In China, state oil refiners moved from running their sites at 90% to 40-50% at the peak of the Chinese outbreak; similar moves were made by key refiners in South Korea and Japan. With the lockdowns easing across most of Asia, refining runs have now increased, stimulating demand for crude oil. In Europe, where the virus hit hard and fast, refinery utilisation rates dropped as low as 10% in some cases, with some countries (Portugal, Italy) halting refining activities altogether. In the USA, now the hardest-hit country in the world, several refineries have been shuttered, with no timeline on if and when production will resume. But with lockdowns easing, and the summer driving season up ahead, refinery production is gradually increasing.

But even if the end of the Covid-19 crisis is near, it still doesn’t change the fundamental issue facing the refining industry – there is still too much capacity. The supply/demand balance shows that most regions are quite even in terms of consumption and refining capacity, with the exception of overcapacity in Europe and the former Soviet Union bloc. The regional balances do hide some interesting stories; Chinese refining capacity exceeds its consumption by over 2 mmb/d, and with the addition of 3 new mega-refineries in 2019, that gap increases even further. The only reason why the balance in Asia looks relatively even is because of oil demand ‘sinks’ such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan. Even in the US, the wealth of refining capacity on the Gulf Coast makes smaller refineries on the East and West coasts increasingly redundant.

Given this, the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis will be the inevitable hastening of the current trend in the refining industry, the closure of small, simpler refineries in favour of large, complex and more modern refineries. On the chopping block will be many of the sub-50 kb/d refineries in Europe; because why run a loss-making refinery when the product can be imported for cheaper, even accounting for shipping costs from the Middle East or Asia? Smaller US refineries are at risk as well, along with legacy sites in the Middle East and Russia. Based on current trends, Europe alone could lose some 2 mmb/d of refining capacity by 2025. Rising oil prices and improvements in refining margins could ensure the continued survival of some vulnerable refineries, but that will only be a temporary measure. The trend is clear; out with the small, in with the big. Covid-19 will only amplify that. It may be a painful process, but in the grand scheme of things, it is also a necessary one.

Infographic: Global oil consumption and refining capacity (BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019)

Region
Consumption (mmb/d)*
Refining Capacity (mmb/d)
North America

22.71

22.33

Latin America

6.5

5.98

Europe

14.27

15.68

CIS

4.0

8.16

Middle East

9.0

9.7

Africa

3.96

3.4

Asia-Pacific

35

34.75

Total

95.44

100.05

*Extrapolated to exclude additives and substitute fuels (ethanol, biodiesel)

Market Outlook:

  • Crude price trading range: Brent – US$33-37/b, WTI – US$30-33/b
  • Crude oil prices hold their recent gains, staying rangebound with demand gradually improving as lockdown slowly ease
  • Worries that global oil supply would increase after June - when the OPEC+ supply deal eases and higher prices bring back some free-market production - kept prices in check
  • Russia has signalled that it intends to ease back immediately in line with the supply deal, but Saudi Arabia and its allies are pushing for the 9.7 mmb/d cut to be extended to end-2020, putting the two oil producers on another collision course that previously resulted in a price war
  • Morgan Stanley expects Brent prices to rise to US$40/b by 4Q 2020, but cautioned that a full recovery was only likely to materialise in 2021

End of Article

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May, 31 2020
North American crude oil prices are closely, but not perfectly, connected

selected North American crude oil prices

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Bloomberg L.P. data
Note: All prices except West Texas Intermediate (Cushing) are spot prices.

The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) front-month futures contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the most heavily used crude oil price benchmark in North America, saw its largest and swiftest decline ever on April 20, 2020, dropping as low as -$40.32 per barrel (b) during intraday trading before closing at -$37.63/b. Prices have since recovered, and even though the market event proved short-lived, the incident is useful for highlighting the interconnectedness of the wider North American crude oil market.

Changes in the NYMEX WTI price can affect other price markers across North America because of physical market linkages such as pipelines—as with the WTI Midland price—or because a specific price is based on a formula—as with the Maya crude oil price. This interconnectedness led other North American crude oil spot price markers to also fall below zero on April 20, including WTI Midland, Mars, West Texas Sour (WTS), and Bakken Clearbrook. However, the usefulness of the NYMEX WTI to crude oil market participants as a reference price is limited by several factors.

pricing locations of selected North American crudes

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

First, NYMEX WTI is geographically specific because it is physically redeemed (or settled) at storage facilities located in Cushing, Oklahoma, and so it is influenced by events that may not reflect the wider market. The April 20 WTI price decline was driven in part by a local deficit of uncommitted crude oil storage capacity in Cushing. Similarly, while the price of the Bakken Guernsey marker declined to -$38.63/b, the price of Louisiana Light Sweet—a chemically comparable crude oil—decreased to $13.37/b.

Second, NYMEX WTI is chemically specific, meaning to be graded as WTI by NYMEX, a crude oil must fall within the acceptable ranges of 12 different physical characteristics such as density, sulfur content, acidity, and purity. NYMEX WTI can therefore be unsuitable as a price for crude oils with characteristics outside these specific ranges.

Finally, NYMEX WTI is time specific. As a futures contract, the price of a NYMEX WTI contract is the price to deliver 1,000 barrels of crude oil within a specific month in the future (typically at least 10 days). The last day of trading for the May 2020 contract, for instance, was April 21, with physical delivery occurring between May 1 and May 31. Some market participants, however, may prefer more immediate delivery than a NYMEX WTI futures contract provides. Consequently, these market participants will instead turn to shorter-term spot price alternatives.

Taken together, these attributes help to explain the variety of prices used in the North American crude oil market. These markers price most of the crude oils commonly used by U.S. buyers and cover a wide geographic area.

Principal contributor: Jesse Barnett

May, 28 2020
Financial Review: 2019

Key findings

  • Brent crude oil daily average prices were $64.16 per barrel in 2019—11% lower than 2018 levels
  • The 102 companies analyzed in this study increased their combined liquids and natural gas production 2% from 2018 to 2019
  • Proved reserves additions in 2019 were about the same as the 2010–18 annual average
  • Finding plus lifting costs increased 13% from 2018 to 2019
  • Occidental Petroleum’s acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum contributed to the largest reserve acquisition costs incurred for the group of companies since 2016
  • Refiners’ earnings per barrel declined slightly from 2018 to 2019

See entire annual review

May, 26 2020