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Last Updated: June 14, 2017
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Last week in the world oil:

Prices

  • Oil prices remain weak, but edged up at the start of the week on news that US inventories had declined and that Saudi Arabia would limit crude sales to Asia in July and slash shipments to the US. However, simmering geopolitical tensions in the Arabian Gulf and increased US drilling activity is likely to keep a lid on prices below US$50/b for a while.

Upstream & Midstream

  • Shell has lifted its declared force majeure on Forcados crude exports, bringing all of Nigeria’s oil export facilities online for the first time in 16 months, after local militants disrupted operations through a sustained series of sabotage. With Nigeria exempt from the OPEC supply cuts, it can now raise its production back to expected levels of 1.8 mmbpd.
  • After previous talks with the South Sudan government collapsed, France’s Total says that the country has reapproached the French major to resume talks on developing the B1 and B2 oil blocks. Tullow Oil is also involved in the negotiations as South Sudan seeks foreign investment to unlock its hydrocarbon potential. B1 and B2 are part of the three blocks that make up the former Block B, the largest untapped oil deposit in South Sudan and central to the government’s plans to raise production from 130 kb/d to 200 kb/d by end-2017 and 300 kb/d by end-2018.
  • Commercial production from Eni’s offshore Sankofa field in Ghana will start in July, three months ahead of schedule with production of 45 kb/d. This is Phase 1 of the US$7.9 billion Offshore Cape Three Points project, which includes expected 180 mcf/d output at the Gye Nyame gas reserve.
  • Libya’s major Sharara field has reopened and should resume normal production levels of 270 kb/d within the week after a short workers’ strike over medical treatment coverage for employees.
  • Total operational oil rigs in the USA reached 741 last week, adding 8 new units. Along with 3 new gas rigs, that brings the American total to 927.

Downstream

  • Utilisation rates at Venezuela’s 187 kb/d Puerto la Cruz refinery has dropped down to 16%, as the Mesa 30 crude it depends on is redirected to Cuba and Curacao. Mesa 30 is a superlight crude used to dilute heavy Orinoco oil, but also prized by PDVSA’s foreign clients. Cuba, in particular, has taken up to 1.4 mmbpd of Mesa 30 since March, providing valuable foreign currency but exacerbating Venezuela’s refining crisis.

Natural Gas and LNG

  • While the gas world focuses on selling LNG to Asia, France’s Total is also looking at alternatives to grow its gas business by investing directly in gas-consuming industries. It has identified Morocco and South Africa as key countries to invest in gas and power projects, which will support an LNG portfolio that is expected to double to 15 million tons by 2020. Total will be looking to get involved in a US$4.6 billion Moroccan LNG import project and a US$3.9 billion gas-to-power development in South Africa.
  • Greece will be launching a tender this month for the privatisation of the country’s natural gas grid operator DESFA, part of a condition of Greece’s bailout agreement with the EU and IMF. Azerbaijan’s SOCAR originally agreed to buy 66% of DESFAfor €400 million, but the deal later collapsed.

Last week in Asian oil

Upstream

  • Pakistan’s OGDC has struck oil in the Chabaro-1 well in Pakistan’s Khewari block. Test drilling has shown flows of 15 mcf/d and a tiny 20 bpd of condensate. This adds on to the Chhutto-1 well, also in the province of Sindh, with flows of 8.66 mcf/d of gas and 285 bpd of condensate. While small, the finds are also a signal that OGDC’s aggressive exploration is paying off, adding to its production level of 50 kb/d – representing half of Pakistan’s current oil output.

Downstream

  • In an unusual and coordinated move, an alliance of more than 20 of China’s largest independent oil refiners have urged the ‘teapots’ to work closely as a group to adhere to government rules on oil quotas and fuel taxes. Previously pursuing individual agendas, the importance of the teapots in domestic fuels and exports expanded in 2015 when they were first allowed to import crude directly. But with that came extra scrutiny. Accused by Sinopec and Petrochina of evading or under-paying taxes, the move is an attempt to band together and act as a single block to preserve and defend their interests as a whole, since the actions of a single errant member could cause negative consequences for all.
  • Iraq is planning to triple its refining capacity by 2021 to reduce its reliance on refined product imports. Capitalising on its vast crude reserves, Iraq is planning a second refinery in Basra (300kb/d), a 70 kb/d plant in Kirkuk, and a 150 kb/d facility with two Chinese companies, as well as upgrades to existing refineries in Basra and Daura. Assuming all projects are completed as scheduled by 2021, processing capacity in Iraq will rise from 500 kb/d to 1.5 mmb/d.
  • Financing issues have caused Indonesia’s Pertamina to rethink its schedule of upcoming refinery upgrades and its ventures with Rosneft and Saudi Aramco. Unable to juggle so many projects within a short period, the timeline will now be expanded to ensure that cost is not a burden concentrated within 1 or 2 years. The Balikpapan project, which would boost capacity to 360 kb/d from 260 kb/d has been pushed back to 2020 from 2019, with a second stage – aimed at improving fuel quality – delayed to 2021. The Cilacap upgrade project will be pushed to 2023 from 2021, pending Saudi Aramco sign-off, while the grassroots 300 kb/d Tuban refinery with Rosneft is likely to be moved to 2024 from 2021. All this will mean that Indonesia will remain highly dependent on fuel imports for the time being.

Natural Gas & LNG

  • As Australia aims to ease the gas shortage in its populous east coast, the Northern Territory has ok-ed the building of the Jemena A$800 million gas pipeline (owned by the State Grid Corp of China and Singapore Power), which will link the gasfields in northern Australia with consuming markets in Queensland. Meanwhile, further south, the state of Victoria is backing a floating LNG import project with AGL Energy to beef up its local gas supply. This is required since onshore gas drilling has been barred in Victoria, forcing the state to compete with LNG export projects pulling natural gas out of the country’s manufacturing hub.

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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
From Certain Doom To Cautious Optimism

A month ago, the world witnessed something never thought possible – negative oil prices. A perfect storm of events – the Covid-19 lockdowns, the resulting effect on demand, an ongoing oil supply glut, a worrying shortage of storage space and (crucially) the expiry of the NYMEX WTI benchmark contract for May, resulted in US crude oil prices falling as low as -US$37/b. Dragging other North American crude markers like Louisiana Light and Western Canadian Select along with it, the unique situation meant that crude sellers were paying buyers to take the crude off their hands before the May contract expired, or risk being stuck with crude and nowhere to store it. This was seen as an emblem of the dire circumstances the oil industry was in, and although prices did recover to a more normal US$10-15/b level after the benchmark contract switched over to June, there was immense worry that the situation would repeat itself.

Thankfully, it has not.

On May 19, trade in the NYMEX WTI contract for June delivery was retired and ticked over into a new benchmark for July delivery. Instead of a repeat of the meltdown, the WTI contract rose by US$1.53 to reach US$33.49/b, closing the gap with Brent that traded at US$35.75b. In the space of a month, US crude prices essentially swung up by US$70/b. What happened?

The first reason is that the market has learnt its lesson. The meltdown in April came because of an overleveraged market tempted by low crude oil prices in hope of selling those cargoes on later at a profit. That sort of strategic trading works fine in a normal situation, but against an abnormal situation of rapidly-shrinking storage space saw contract holders hold out until the last minute then frantically dumping their contracts to avoid having to take physical delivery. Bruised by this – and probably embarrassed as well – it seems the market has taken precautions to avoid a recurrence. Settling contracts early was one mechanism. Funds and institutions have also reduced their positions, diminishing the amount of contracts that need to be settled. The structural bottleneck that precipitated the crash was largely eliminated.

The second is that the US oil complex has adjusted itself quickly. Some 2 mmb/d of crude production has been (temporarily) idled, reducing supply. The gradual removal of lockdowns in some US states, despite medical advisories, has also recovered some demand. This week, crude draws in Cushing, Oklahoma rose for the second consecutive week, reaching a record figure of 5.6 million barrels. That increase in demand and the parallel easing of constrained storage space meant that last month’s panic was not repeated. The situation is also similar worldwide. With China now almost at full capacity again and lockdowns gradually removed in other parts of the world, the global crude marker Brent also rose to a 2-month high. The new OPEC+ supply deal seems to be working, especially with Saudi Arabia making an additional voluntary cut of 1 mmb/d. The oil world is now moving rapidly towards a new normal.

How long will this last? Assuming that the Covid-19 pandemic is contained by Q3 2020, then oil prices could conceivably return to their previous support level of US$50/b. That is a big assumption, however. The Covid-19 situation is still fragile, with major risks of additional waves. In China and South Korea, where the pandemic had largely been contained, recent detection of isolated new clusters prompted strict localised lockdowns. There is also worry that the US is jumping the gun in easing restrictions. In Russia and Brazil – countries where the advice to enforce strict lockdowns was ignored as early warning signs crept in – the number of cases and deaths is still rising rapidly. Brazil is a particular worry, as President Jair Bolosnaro is a Covid-19 skeptic and is still encouraging normal behaviour in spite of the accelerating health crisis there. On the flip side, crude output may not respond to the increase in demand as easily, as many clusters of Covid-19 outbreaks have been detected in key crude producing facilities worldwide. Despite this, some US shale producers have already restarted their rigs, spurred on by a need to service their high levels of debt. US pipeline giant Energy Transfer LP has already reported that many drillers in the Permian have resumed production, citing prices in the high-US$20/b level as sufficient to cover its costs.

The recovery is ongoing. But what is likely to happen is an erratic recovery, with intermittent bouts of mini-booms and mini-busts. Consultancy IHS Markit Energy Advisory envisions a choppy recovery with ‘stop-and-go rallies’ over 2020 – particularly in the winter flu season – heading towards a normalisation only in 2021. It predicts that the market will only recover to pre-Covid 19 levels in the second half of 2021, and a smooth path towards that only after a vaccine is developed and made available, which will be late 2020 at the earliest. The oil market has moved from certain doom to cautious optimism in the space of a month. But it will take far longer for the entire industry to regain its verve without any caveats.

Market Outlook:

  • Crude price trading range: Brent – US$33-37/b, WTI – US$30-33/b
  • Demand recovery has underpinned a rally in oil prices, on hopes that the worst of the demand destruction is over
  • Chinese oil demand is back to the 13 mmb/d level, almost on par year-on-year
  • News that development of potential Covid-19 vaccines are reaching testing phase also cheered the market
  • The US active oil and gas rig count lost another 35 rigs to 339, down 648 sites y-o-y

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May, 23 2020
EIA expects record liquid fuels inventory builds in early 2020, followed by draws

quarterly global liquid fuels productionand consumption balance

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), May 2020

As mitigation efforts to contain the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continue to lead to rapid declines in petroleum consumption around the world, the production of liquid fuels globally has changed more slowly, leading to record increases in the amount of crude oil and other petroleum liquids placed into storage in recent months. In its May Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects global inventory builds will be largest in the first half of 2020. EIA estimates that inventory builds rose at a rate of 6.6 million barrels per day (b/d) in the first quarter and will increase by 11.5 million b/d in the second quarter because of widespread travel limitations and sharp reductions in economic activity.

After the first half of 2020, EIA expects global liquid fuels consumption to increase, leading to inventory draws for at least six consecutive quarters and ultimately putting upward pressure on crude oil prices that are currently at their lowest levels in 20 years.

As with the March and April STEO, EIA’s forecast reductions in global oil demand arise from three main drivers: lower economic growth, less air travel, and other declines in demand not captured by these two categories, largely related to reductions in travel because of stay-at-home orders. Based on incoming economic data and updated assessments of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders across dozens of countries, EIA has further lowered its forecasts for global oil demand in 2020 in the May STEO. The STEO is based on macroeconomic projections by Oxford Economics (for countries other than the United States) and by IHS Markit (for the United States).

changes in quarterly global petroleum liquids consumption

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), May 2020

In the May STEO, EIA forecasts global liquid fuels consumption will average 92.6 million b/d in 2020, down 8.1 million b/d from 2019. EIA forecasts both economic growth and global consumption of liquid fuels to increase in 2021 but remain lower than 2019 levels. Any lasting behavioral changes to patterns in transportation and other forms of oil consumption once COVID-19 mitigation efforts end, however, present considerable uncertainty to the increase in consumption of liquid fuels, even if gross domestic product (GDP) growth increases.

Members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and partner countries (OPEC+) agreed to new production cuts in early April that will remain in place throughout the STEO forecast period ending in 2021. EIA assumes OPEC members will mostly adhere to announced cuts during the first two months of the agreement (May and June) and that production compliance will relax later in the forecast period as stated production cuts are reduced and global oil demand begins growing.

EIA forecasts OPEC crude oil production will fall to less than 24.1 million b/d in June, a 6.3 million b/d decline from April, when OPEC production increased following an inconclusive meeting in March. If OPEC production declines to less than 24.1 million b/d, it would be the group’s lowest level of production since March 1995. The forecast for June OPEC production does not account for the additional voluntary cuts announced by Saudi Arabia’s Energy Ministry on May 11.

EIA expects OPEC production will begin increasing in July 2020 in response to rising global oil demand and prices. From that point, EIA expects a gradual increase in OPEC crude oil production through the remainder of the forecast and for production to rise to an average of 28.5 million b/d during the second half of 2021.

changes in quarterly global petroleum liquids production

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), May 2020

EIA forecasts the supply of non-OPEC petroleum and other liquid fuels will decline by 2.4 million b/d in 2020 compared with 2019. The steep decline reflects lower forecast oil prices in the second quarter as well as the newly implemented production cuts from non-OPEC participants in the OPEC+ agreement. EIA expects the largest non-OPEC production declines in 2020 to occur in Russia, the United States, and Canada.

May, 20 2020