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Last week in the world oil:

Prices

  • As it turns out, an extension of the OPEC and non-OPEC supply cuts wasn’t enough, even if it ‘gave clarity until March 2018’ according to French major Total. Traders and investors were expecting deeper cuts to quotas, and when those failed to materialise, sent oil prices down by almost 5% to US$51/b for Brent and US$49/b for WTI.

Upstream & Midstream

  • Norway’s Statoil will start up its Gina Krog oil and gas field in June, after receiving consent from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate. Originally expected to start up in April, Gina Krog is estimated to hold some 106 million barrels of oil, 11.8 bcm of natural gas and 3.2 million tons of NGLs. Operator Statoil owns 58.7% of the field, while Total’s 15% stake has been sold to Norwegian startup Okea for US$350 million. With new output expected, Norway has declined to enforce a cut in its output, despite being approached by Saudi Arabia to join in the OPEC-led freeze.
  • The worst disruption in Nigeria’s oil-producing Delta are over, with output expected to climb back to 2.2 mmb/d entering the second half of 2017 and Forcados expected back by end June. This would add pressure on global oil prices, as Nigeria is currently exempt from the OPEC supply freeze. This could be further exarcebated by the passing of the country’s Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, part of the Petroleum Industry Bill that will overhaul Nigeria’s upstream sector to boost investment.
  • With the OPEC cuts extended for another nine months, US drillers are sensing opportunity to sell more volumes, adding another seven new sites to bring the total up to 908. Last week, however, added only two new oilrigs, the slowest expansion rate in three months – perhaps a sign that US onshore shale drilling is reaching a ceiling.

Downstream

  • Saudi Aramco has been making major downstream steps recently, strengthening up its portfolio ahead of its planned IPO. Fresh from ending its partnership with Shell over its US refining subsidiary Motiva, Saudi Aramco has announced plans to spend some US$18 billion through 2022, investing in expanding Port Arthur – the largest refinery in America – adding new petrochemical capacity and expanding marketing operations.
  • Uganda and Tanzania have agreed to move ahead with the proposed US$3.55 billion crude pipeline that will bring landlocked Ugandan crude in the country’s west to Tanzania’s port of Tanga by 2020. Fiscal terms, timelines, routing and mechanical details of the pipeline have been agreed, with the 1,445km, 24inch pipeline being the longest electrically-heated crude pipeline in the world when operational.

Natural Gas and LNG

  • Another first for Cheniere, as the Netherlands received its first ever LNG cargo from the US, expanding Sabine Pass’ LNG footprint in Europe. Cheniere is currently the only company exporting large LNG cargoes from the US Gulf, and its increasing volumes sent to Europe proves the case for international viability of US LNG exports; and a boon to European countries keen to reduce their reliance on cunning Russia.

Last week in Asian oil

Upstream

  • Shell has been given the green light by Petronas to sell its 50% stake in the 2011 North Sabah Enhanced Oil Recovery PSC to Malaysian player Hibiscus Petroleum. The clears the way for the stake to exchange hands for US$25 million, with Petronas Carigali waiving it pre-emption rights. The PSC includes the Labuan Crude Oil Terminal and the offshore fields of St. Joseph, South Furious, SF30 and Barton, lumped together to eke additional production out of the aging fields. Petronas has 50% of the PSC, with Shell holding the remainder through two subsidiaries – split evenly between Sabah Shell Petroleum and Shell Sabah Selatan.

Downstream

  • China has signalled that private companies will eventually be allowed to invest in Chinese oil and gas storage sector, part of a larger plan to streamline the country’s complex and lumbering state players and stimulate competition. Foreign participation in upstream is also on the cards, filtering down to pipeline and other midstream distribution.
  • Vietnam’s sole operational refinery in Dung Quat will sell off 5-6% of its shares in late 2017 via an IPO aimed that reducing government ownership in state-run enterprises. An additional 36% is also earmarked to be sold to ‘strategic partners’ – which reportedly include Gazprom, PTT and Kuwait Petroleum – after flotation, as the refinery struggles to maintain consistent operations.

Natural Gas & LNG

  • The Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) has established talks with Shell to build a grassroots LNG import plant in Batangas. It is the latest in a series of planned LNG import projects in the area, including one by Shell on its own, with Batangas being the main transmission point to Metro Manila. PNOC has been trying to establish an LNG terminal for almost a decade to cope with increasing power demands, but cannot handle the project alone, hence the need to seek out experienced partners.
  • The state government of Sarawak is negotiating with Petronas to acquire a 10% stake in the LNG Train 9 at the Petronas LNG complex in Bintulu. With a capacity of 3.6 million tons of LNG, Train 9 is the latest liquefaction facility in Bintulu, which began operations in January and raised total capacity at the site to 30 million tons per year. Petronas is the operator and main shareholder in Train 9, with Japan’s JX Nippon Oil & Energy also a significant stakeholder. The state government has been pushing to derive more direct revenues from Sarawak’s vast natural gas industry, and is also asking for a larger equity share in the operational Malaysian Liquefied Natural Gas (MLNG) Dua plant.

Corporate

  • China’s Sinochem and ChemChina are on the verge of merging. The deal would create the world’s largest industrial chemicals firm, dwarfing BASF, in the world’s largest chemicals market. Sinochem chief Ning Gaoning is earmarked to be the head of the new firm, which Beijing sees as a blueprint for streamlining its vast and complex state entreprises holdings, creating international champions in the process.

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Your Weekly Update: 11 - 15 March 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 11 March 2019 – Brent: US$66/b; WTI: US$56/b

  • Global crude oil prices continue to remain rangebound despite bearish factors emerging
  • News that Libya was restarting its 300,000 b/d Sharara field could weaken the ability of OPEC to control supply, while a report from the US EIA hints that the market was moving into a glut
  • The EIA report showed that commercial crude inventories in the US rose by 7.1 million barrels, far higher than the 1.6 million barrel increase predicted, with a 873,000 barrel increase at Cushing and a 12% y-o-y drop in crude imports
  • By the end of 2019, with American output surging and Saudi Arabia curtailing production, the US could export more oil and liquids than the world’s largest exporter
  • Meanwhile in OPEC, PDVSA has received some aid from Russia with Rosneft agreeing to send heavy naphtha to Venezuela – a product necessary to thin heavy Venezuela crude to move by pipeline to the coast that have been affected by the American sanctions
  • On the demand side, Morgan Stanley has predicted that China’s oil consumption will peak in 2025, some 5-8 years earlier than most expectations, driven by a shift in cars towards electric vehicles and high-speed rail
  • The US active rig count fell for a third consecutive week, following a 9 rig fall with an 11 rig drop last week, with nine oil sites and two gas sites scrapped
  • Despite the bearish factors, it looks like crude has found a new comfortable range with Brent at US$65-67/b and WTI at US$56-58/b for the week


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Despite security concerns, Libya has restarted its largest oil field, with output at 300,000 b/d Sharara expected to reach 80,000 b/d initially, throwing a new spanner in the OPEC goal of controlling supply
  • A one-year delay to Enbridge’s Line 3 conduit in Canada due to regulatory issues has thrown new troubles onto Alberta’s beleaguered crude industry
  • ExxonMobil is planning a major acceleration of its Permian assets, aiming to produce more than 1 mmboe/d by 2024, an increase of nearly 80%
  • China has announced plans to form a national oil and pipeline company, part of a natural energy industry overhaul that will give the new firm control over at least 112,000 km of oil, gas and fuel pipelines currently held by other state firms
  • Equinor, with Petoro, ConocoPhillips and Repsol, have announced a new oil discovery in the North Sea, with the Telesto well on the Visund A platform potentially yielding 12-28 million barrels of recoverable oil
  • Aker Energy has reported a new oil discovery at the Pecan South-1A well offshore Ghana, with the Pecan field expected to hold 450-550 mboe of oil
  • Production declines at Kazakhstan’s three main oil fields will see the country slash crude exports by 2% to 71 million tons this year, with cuts mostly to China

Midstream & Downstream

  • Canadian Natural Resources is looking to ease pressure on the Alberta crude complex by bringing its 80 kb/d North West Redwater refinery online this year
  • Work has begun on the upgrade and expansion of Egypt’s Middle East Oil Refinery near Alexandria, with the project expected to boost capacity to 160 kb/d and quality to Euro V through the installation of a new CDU and VDU
  • Bahrain’s BAPCO has announced plans to expand its Sitra oil refinery by early 2023, growing capacity from 267 kb/d to 360 kb/d

Natural Gas/LNG

  • India has started up its first LNG regasification facility on the east coast, with the Ennore terminal expected to service the major cities of Chennai and Madurai
  • Total has signed an agreement with Russia’s Novatek for the formal acquisition of a 10% stake in the Arctic LNG 2 project, bringing its total economic interest in the 19.8 mtpa project in the Yamal and Gydan peninsuals to 21.6%
  • Thailand’s PTTEP has announced a new offshore gas find in Australia’s portion of the Timor Sea, with the Orchid-1 well striking gas and expected to be incorporated into the Cash-Maple field with 3.5 tcf of resources
  • Crescent Petroleum and Dana Gas’s joint venture Pearl Petroleum Company is aiming to boost gas production at Khor Mor block in Iraq’s Kurdistan region by 63% with an additional 250 mmscf/d of output
  • Petronas’ 1.2 mtpa PFLNG Satu – the world’s first floating LNG vessel – has completed its stint at the Kanowit field and will now head to its second destination, the Kebabangan gas field offshore Sabah
  • Chevron is looking to revisit its Ubon wet gas project in Thailand after a period of hiatus as the supermajor recalibrated its development costs
  • Nigeria’s NLNG Train 7 LNG project is expected to reach FID in the third quarter of the year after multiple delays
  • ExxonMobil and BP have agreed to collaborate with the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation to advance the Alaska LNG project
  • Energean Oil and Gas has started its 2019 drilling programme in Israel, focusing on four wells, including one in Karish North near the Karish discovery
March, 15 2019
Latest issue of GEO ExPro magazine covers New Technologies and Training Geoscientists, with a geographical focus on Australasia and South East Asia

GEO ExPro Vol. 16, No. 1 was published on 4th March 2019 bringing light to the latest science and technology activity in the global geoscience community within the oil, gas and energy sector.

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March, 14 2019
Norway’s Retreat in Oil Investments – Politics or Economics?

In 2017, Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global – also known as the Oil Fund – proposed a complete divestment of oil and gas shares from its massive portfolio. Last week, the Norwegian government partially approved that request, allowing the Fund to exclude 134 upstream companies from the wealth fund. Players like Anadarko Petroleum, Chesapeake Energy, CNOOC, Premier Oil, Soco International and Tullow Oil will now no longer receive any investment from the Fund. That might seem like an inconsequential move, but it isn’t. With over US$1 trillion in assets – the Fund is the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world – it is a major market-shifting move.

Estimates suggest that the government directive will require the Oil Fund to sell some US$7.5 billion in stocks over an undefined period. Shares in the affected companies plunged after the announcement. The reaction is understandable. The Oil Fund holds over 1.3% of all global stocks and shares, including 2.3% of all European stocks. It holds stakes as large as of 2.4% of Royal Dutch Shell and 2.3% of BP, and has long been seen as a major investor and stabilising force in the energy sector.

It is this impression that the Fund is trying to change. Established in 1990 to invest surplus revenues of the booming Norwegian petroleum sector, prudent management has seen its value grow to some US$200,000 per Norwegian citizen today. Its value exceeds all other sovereign wealth funds, including those of China and Singapore. Energy shares – specifically oil and gas firms – have long been a major target for investment due to high returns and bumper dividends. But in 2017, the Fund recommended phasing out oil exploration from its ‘investment universe’. At the time, this was interpreted as yielding to pressure from environmental lobbies, but the Fund has made it clear that the move is for economic reasons.

Put simply, the Fund wants to move away from ‘putting all its eggs in one basket’. Income from Norway’s vast upstream industry – it is the largest producing country in Western Europe – funds the country’s welfare state and pays into the Fund. It has ethical standards – avoiding, for example, investment in tobacco firms – but has concluded that devoting a significant amount of its assets to oil and gas savings presents a double risk. During the good times, when crude prices are high and energy stocks booming, it is a boon. But during a downturn or a crash, it is a major risk. With typical Scandinavian restraint and prudence, the Fund has decided that it is best to minimise that risk by pouring its money into areas that run counter-cyclical to the energy industry.

However, the retreat is just partial. Exempt from the divestment will be oil and gas firms with significant renewable energy divisions – which include supermajors like Shell, BP and Total. This is touted as allowing the Fund to ride the crest of the renewable energy wave, but also manages to neatly fit into the image that Norway wants to project: balancing a major industry with being a responsible environmental steward. It’s the same reason why Equinor – in which the Fund holds a 67% stake – changed its name from Statoil, to project a broader spectrum of business away from oil into emerging energies like wind and solar. Because, as the Fund’s objective states, one day the oil will run out. But its value will carry on for future generations.

The Norway Oil Fund in a Nutshell

  • Valued at NOK8.866 trillion/US$1.024 trillion (February 2019)
  • Invested in 9,138 companies in over 73 countries
  • Holds 1.3% of all global stocks
  • Holds 2.3% of all European stocks
  • Holds 2.4% of Shell, 2.3% of BP
March, 13 2019