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Last Updated: April 27, 2017
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Last week in world oil:

Prices

  • After a flurry of support over supply disruptions in Libya and the extension of OPEC supply cuts, crude oil prices have returned to their previous levels, at US$52/b for Brent and US$49/b for WTI. While analysts and traders remain reasonably confident that OPEC will agree to extend the freeze, there are jitters over non-OPEC commitments to the move, with Russia indicating it could begin lifting output. 

Upstream & Midstream

  • ExxonMobil’s attempt to apply for a waiver that would allow it to override existing sanctions to drill for oil in Russia has been refused by the Trump administration. Perhaps an indication that the White House does not want to show overt favouritism, the decision comes during a time when the US government is probing Russian influence in US elections. 
  • Suncor’s Syncrude Canada oil sands project will resume production in May and June, but at reduced rates, after output was knocked out completely by a fire in March. The 350 kb/d plant produces light synthetic crude, necessary to be mixed with heavy oil sands to enable flow through pipeline. The unavailability of Syncrude has hampered oil sands production in Alberta over April, and will only pick up in late May. 
  • The active US oil and gas rig count continues to rise, hitting 857 sites last week. Ten new rigs – five apiece between oil and gas – entered production, though this was offset by a loss of 19 rigs in Canada.  

Downstream

  • ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabia’s petrochemicals firm SABIC have selected a site in Corpus Christi, Texas as the site for their joint venture petrochemical complex. One of the 11 projects proposed by ExxonMobil as part of its US$20 billion US Gulf Coast investment drive, the ethylene-focused plant will have a capacity of 1.8 million tons per annum. 
  • Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the largest refiner on the US East Coast, will no longer receive rail deliveries of Bakken crude in June, a sign that the impending Dakota Access Pipeline is changing trade flows – diverting volumes from North Dakota down to the US Gulf Coast, and possibly ending the crude-by-rail boom that has sustained East Coast refiners. 
  • As negotiations between the UK and the EU over Brexit continue, British negotiators should aim to secure continue participation in the EU energy market, according to energy minister Greg Clark. The UK has deep connections in the energy sector, particularly in LNG and in Ireland, in the arena of electricity transmission and grid connections.
  • Chevron has sold its downstream assets in Canada’s British Columbia to Parkland Fuel Corp, for US$1.09 billion. The assets include 129 fuel stations, three terminals and the 52 kb/d Burnaby oil refinery, which will held boost Parkland’s extensive existing operations in Canada. 

Natural Gas and LNG

  • American natural gas transmission company William Partners is divesting its interest in the Nova Chemicals olefins plant, for US$2.1 billion, as it prepares to focus more on its core product. Williams Partners will continue to work with Nova, supplying natural gas in long-term supply deals to the ethylene-focused plant. 

Last week in Asian oil:

Upstream & Midstream

  • Iraq will build three new plants to capture natural gas at its southern oil fields. The gas is currently being flared, a chronic problem in the country as it lacks the necessary infrastructure to isolate and process gas hydrocarbons. Only one gas processing company exists – the Basrah Gas Company – and Iraq thinks three more are necessary to convert all gas (at the fields controlled by the government) into fuel for power generation. 
  • China is making a second attempt at launching a domestic crude oil futures contract after failing in 2014, as domestic stock volatility and the depression in commodity markets hit. The International Energy Exchange in Shanghai is now aiming to relaunch the contract in the third quarter of 2017, in what could eventually become the Asian crude oil benchmark. 
  • China’s CNOOC will be offering 22 open blocks covering an area of 47,270 square kilometres as the state upstream players attempts to attract foreign investments through relaxed terms and rules. All 22 blocks are offshore, concentrated southeast in the waters off Guangdong and Hainan. 
  • After rhetorical belligerence during his campaign period, Donald Trump’s administration admitted that Iran was complying with the nuclear deal struck by his predecessor. Some sanctions were reapplied in January, but the US is not yet ready to lift them, but placing them under ‘review’.

Natural Gas & LNG

  • Australia’s LNG boom has not benefitted its major population centres in the southeast, with most of the natural gas produced earmarked for exports. Now, the country’s competition regulator is ordering a review over the ability of LNG projects to export gas that should be earmarked for domestic consumption in Victoria and New South Wales. The recent purchase by Santos of 20% of natural gas available for consumption in the east coast to fuel LNG production for export at the Gladstone plant over internal gas shortages sparked the ordered review. This has caused a domestic dichotomy, with Australia’s internal spot LNG prices soaring while it exports record amounts of gas overseas. As an attempt to ease the problem, ConocoPhillips has said it is open to diverting gas from its northern Australian fields to the planned transcontinental Trans-Australia gas pipeline, linking production in the north to the major domestic markets in the southeast. 
  • ConocoPhillips and its partners are mulling over an expansion of the Darwin LNG plant in Australia’s Northern Territory. Supply from its current gas source, the Bayu-Undan field, is expected to run out in 2022 and ConocoPhillips is looking beyond developing its own fields for US$10 billion to incorporate output from other currently undeveloped gas resources in the area. There are currently five joint ventures with undeveloped resources in the Northern Territory backing ConocoPhillips’ study, including Shell, Petronas, Eni, Santos and Origin. 
  • Pakistan has approved construction of a new US$1 billion gas pipeline to transport LNG volumes from the port of Karachi inland to Lahore. The project by Sui Northern Gas Pipelines is part of the government’s plans to add 1.2 bcf per day of LNG volumes, and will be constructed in two phases – a 780km pipeline from Sawan to Lahore, and a 130km tie-in to the existing transmission  network. 

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Your Weekly Update: 13 - 17 May 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 May 2019 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$61/b

  • Crude oil prices are holding their ground, despite the markets showing nervousness over the escalating trade dispute between the USA and China, as well as brewing tensions in the Middle East over the Iranian situation
  • China retaliated against President Trump’s decision to raise tariffs from 10% to 25% on US$200 billion worth of Chinese imports by raising its own tariffs; crucially, China has also slapped taxes on US LNG imports at a time when American export LNG projects banking on Chinese demand are coming online
  • In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia reported that two of its oil tankers were attacked in the Persian Gulf, with the ‘sabotage attack’ near the UAE speculated to be related to Iran; with the US increasing its military presence in the area, the risk of military action has escalated
  • The non-extension of US waiver on Iranian crude is biting hard on Iran, with its leaders calling it ‘unprecedented pressure’, setting the stage for a contentious OPEC meeting in Vienna
  • In a move that is sure to be opposed by Iran, Saudi Arabia has said it is willing to meet ‘all orders’ from former Iranian buyers through June at least; Saudi Aramco is also responding to requests by Asian buyers to provide extra oil
  • The see-saw trend in US drilling activity continues; after a huge gain two weeks ago, the active US rig count declined for a second consecutive rig, with the loss of two oil rigs bringing the total site count to 988, below the equivalent number of 1,045 last year
  • There is considerably more upside to crude prices at the moment, with jitters over the health of the global economy and a delicate situation in the Middle East likely to keep Brent higher at US$71-73/b and WTI at US$62-64/b


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Occidental Petroleum and Warren Buffet have triumphed, as Chevron bowed out of a bidding war for Anadarko Petroleum; Occidental will now acquire Anadarko for US$57 billion, up significantly from Chevron’s US$33 billion bid
  • The deal means that Occidental’s agreement to sell Anadarko’s African assets to Total for US$8.8 billion will also go through, covering the Hassi Berkine, Ourhoud and El Merk fields in Algeria, the Jubilee and TEN fields in Ghana, the Area 1 LNG project in Mozambiuqe and E&P licences in South Africa
  • BP has sanctioned the Thunder Horse South Expansion Phase 2 deepwater project in the US Gulf of Mexico, which is expected to add 50,000 boe/d of production at the Thunder Horse platform beginning 2021
  • Africa is proving to be very fruitful for Eni, as it announced a new gas and condensate discovery offshore Ghana; the CTP-Block 4 in the Akoma prospect is estimated to hold some 550-650 bcf of gas and 18-20 mmbl of condensate
  • In an atypical development, South Africa has signed a deal for the B2 oil block in South Sudan, as part of efforts to boost output there to 350,000 b/d
  • Shell expects to drill its first deepwater well in Mexico by December 2019 after walking away with nine Mexican deepwater blocks last year

Midstream & Downstream

  • China’s domestic crude imports surged to a record 10.64 mmb/d in April, as refiners stocked up on an Iranian crude bonanza due to uncertainty over US policy, which has been confirmed as crude waivers were not renewed
  • Having had to close the Druzhba pipeline and Ust-Luga port for contaminated crude, Russia says it will fully restore compliant crude by end May shipments, including cargoes to Poland and the Czech Republic
  • Mexico’s attempt to open up its refining sector has seemingly failed, with Pemex taking over the new 340 kb/d refinery as private players balked at the US$8 billion price tag and 3-year construction deadline
  • Ahead of India’s move to Euro VI fuels in April 2020, CPCL is partially shutting down its 210 kb/d Manali refinery for a desulfurisation revamp
  • China’s Hengli Petrochemical is reportedly now stocking up on Saudi Arabian crude imports as it prepares to ramp up production at its new 400 kb/d Dalian refinery alongside its 175 kb/d site in Brunei
  • South Korea’s Lotte Chemical Corp expects its ethane cracker in Louisiana to start up by end May, adding 1 mtpa of ethylene capacity to its portfolio
  • Due to water shortage, India’s MRPL will be operating its 300 kb/d refinery in Katipalla at 50% as drought causes a severe water shortage in the area

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Partners in the US$30 billion Rovuma LNG project in Mozambique now expect to sanction FID by July, even after a recent devastating cyclone
  • Also in Mozambioque, Anadarko is set to announce FID on its Mozambique LNG project on June 18, calling it a ‘historic day’
  • After talks of a joint LNG export complex to develop gas resources in Tanzania, Shell and Equinor now appear to be planning separate projects
  • Gazprom has abandoned plans to build an LNG plant in West Siberia to compete with Novatek, focusing instead on an LNG complex is Ust-Luga
  • First LNG has begun to flow at Sempra Energy’s 13.5 mtpa Cameron LNG project in Louisiana, with exports expected to begin by Q319
May, 17 2019
Shell Eclipses ExxonMobil Once Again

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

  • ExxonMobil – Revenue (US$63.6 million, down 6.7% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.35 billion, down 49.5% y-o-y)
  • Shell - Revenue (US$85.66 billion, down 5.9% y-o-y), Net profit (US$5.3 billion, down 2% y-o-y)
  • Chevron – Revenue (US$35.19 billion, down 5% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.65 billion, down 27.2% y-o-y)
  • BP - Revenue (US$67.4 billion, down 2.51% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.36 billion, down 9.2% y-o-y)
  • Total - Revenue (US$51.2billion, up 3.2% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.8 billion, down 4.0% y-o-y)
May, 15 2019
EIA revises its crude oil price forecast upward as supply expectations change

monthly average Brent crude spot price

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January, April, and May 2019 editions

In its May 2019 edition of the Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA revised its price forecast for Brent crude oil upward, reflecting price increases in recent months, more recent data, and changing expectations of global oil markets. Several supply constraints have caused oil markets to be generally tighter and oil prices to be higher so far in 2019 than previous STEOs expected.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had agreed at a December 2018 meeting to cut crude oil production in the first six months of 2019; compliance with these cuts has been more effective than EIA initially expected. In the January STEO, OPEC’s crude oil and petroleum liquids production was expected to decline by 1.0 million b/d in 2019 compared with the 2018 level, but EIA now forecasts OPEC production to decline by 1.9 million b/d in the May STEO.

Within OPEC, EIA expects Iran’s liquid fuels production and exports to also decline. On April 22, 2019, the United States issued a statement indicating that it would not reissue waivers, which previously allowed eight countries to continue importing crude oil and condensate from Iran after their waivers expired on May 2. Although EIA’s previous forecasts had assumed that the United States would not reissue waivers, the increased certainty regarding waiver policy and enforcement led to lower forecasts of Iran’s crude oil production.

Venezuela—another OPEC member—has experienced declines in production and exports as a result of recurring power outages, political instability, and U.S. sanctions. In addition to supply constraints that have already materialized in 2019, political instability in Libya may further affect global supply. Any further escalation in conflict may damage crude oil infrastructure or result in a security environment where oil fields are shut in. Either situation could reduce global supply by more than EIA currently forecasts.

In the May STEO, total OPEC crude oil and other liquids supply was estimated at 37.3 million b/d in 2018, and EIA forecasts that it will average 35.4 million b/d in 2019. EIA assumes that the December 2018 agreement among OPEC members to limit production will expire following the June 2019 OPEC meeting.

annual changes in global liquids production

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, January, April, and May 2019 editions

U.S. crude oil and other liquids production is sensitive to changes in crude oil prices, taking into account a lag of several months for drilling operations to adjust. As crude oil prices have increased in recent months, so too have EIA’s domestic liquid fuels production forecasts for the remaining months of 2019.

U.S. crude oil and other liquids production, which grew by 2.2 million b/d in 2018, is forecast in EIA’s May STEO to grow by 2.0 million b/d in 2019, an increase of 310,000 b/d more than anticipated in the January STEO. In 2019, EIA expects overall U.S. crude oil and liquids production to average 19.9 million b/d, with crude oil production alone forecast to average 12.4 million b/d.

Relative to these changes in forecasted supply, EIA’s changes in forecasted demand were relatively minor. EIA expects that global oil markets will be tightest in the second and third quarters of 2019, resulting in draws in global inventories. By the fourth quarter of 2019, EIA expects that inventories will build again, and Brent crude oil prices will fall slightly.

More information about changes in STEO expectations for crude oil prices, supply, demand, and inventories is available in This Week in Petroleum.

May, 15 2019