Easwaran Kanason

Co - founder of PetroEdge
Last Updated: August 30, 2017
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Business Trends
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Pakistan’s new Prime Minister loves skydiving and he is bringing that adrenaline-seeking attitude in a bid to reshape a country that has long languished from crippled energy infrastructure. Fuel demand is soaring – gasoline volumes alone has tripled between 2010 and 2016 – but aging domestic refineries means much of this has to be imported. Rolling blackouts across the country are common, product of a power grid that is old and underfed.

One of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s first moves as Prime Minster, after Nawaz Sharif was barred from public office by the Supreme Court over Panamagate corruption charges, was to merge the country’s petroleum and power ministries. The new Ministry of Energy, headed by Abbasi himself, acknowledges the intrinsic link between all aspects of the country’s energy industry in an attempt to prevent the in-fighting and cross-purposes that the old bureaucratic structure promoted.

The solution, according to Abbasi, is to champion the use of LNG and promote foreign investment in the oil sector to move the onus away from beleaguered state companies. The LNG slant is nothing new; Abbasi served in the Pakistan cabinet under the PML-N party and promoted LNG as a solution to Pakistan’s ailing electricity network. To that end, his position as Prime Minister merely hastens a transition that was originally in the works. His vision is to depend on import LNG and domestic coal in a two-pronged approach to boost power generation and reduce dependence on imported gasoil/fuel oil, with an ambitious deadline to end blackouts by November 2017, giving his party a boost ahead of elections due in 2018.

To that end, Pakistan needs to be to import and re-gas LNG. Pakistan has signed two LNG supply contracts so far this year – a five-year deal with Gunvor and a 15-year deal with Italy’s Eni that will bring 3.6 million tons and 11 million tons (across 60 and 180 cargoes) to Pakistan. Competition for the tender was stiff, with all major traders including Glencore, Trafigura, Shell and Petronas taking part. This adds to Pakistan’s existing contracts with Gunvor and Qatargas, which began when LNG imports first started in 2015. On the receiving end, Pakistan is n a multi-billion spending spree that includes the construction of a second and third LNG import terminal and pipelines linking coastal Karachi with inland Lahore, the country’s industrial heartland. Up to five more terminals are being considered – in Karachi and in Gwadar – which could conceivably make Pakistan one of the world’s top five LNG importers by 2022.

The massive influx of LNG would help in providing power to a fast-growing population – especially when combined with domestic coal power expansion – but the other side of the equation is oil. The 120 kb/d Balochistan refinery – the largest in Pakistan – has been out of commission since 2015 due to fire damage. Aging refineries elsewhere have curbed the ability to provide domestic sources of fuel. This is a gap that foreign traders have exploited. Vitol bought a stake in local retailer Hascol Petroleum in 2015, recently increasing its share from 15% to 25%, followed by Trafigura (via subsidiary Puma Energy) this month through the purchase of a stake in the Admore Gas fuel retail network – capitalising on a gap in the market that requires imported supply to fill.

The longer term solution will be to beef up refining capabilities. Byco Petroleum has restarted operations at the Balochistan refinery after two years of repairs, supplying its own retail network as well as others owned by Pakistan State Oil, Shell, Hascol and Admore. Beyond that, Pakistan is looking to the usual suspect – China – for more capacity. The WAK Group and Guangdong Electrical Design Institute are building a US$3.58 billion 100 kb/d refinery for private player Falcon Oil, expected to be ready by 2020.

Almost all of the crude required to run these refineries will have to be imported. Domestic crude supplies are drying up, with Pakistan’s state-owned firms focusing on new exploration activities. Oil & Gas Development Co and Pakistan Petroleum have both doubled well drilling and seismic activity in the last two years, capitalising on cheaper costs, though this is bringing them to areas of the country rife with insurgent activity. And once again, it is China to the rescue. Chinese firms Poly-GCL and Sino-PEC have agreed to invest in Pakistan’s upstream sector, tempted by oil and shale gas reserves in Sindh and Balochistan. If successful, increased domestic production could reduce Pakistan’s dependence on imports. But that’s in the long run. 

For now, Abbasi has set an achievable path to energy optimisation for Pakistan. All that’s left is to implement it successfully. Which is always the harder part of that equation.

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LNG Is Coming To The Philippines

It seems to have been a topic that has been discussed for years, but a decision could finally be made. The Philippines has short-listed three different groups who are in the running to build the country’s first LNG import terminal, whittling them down from an initial 18 that submitted project proposals. The final three consist of the Philippines National Oil Company (PNOC), a joint venture between Tokyo Gas and domestic firm First Gen Corp and China’s CNOOC. The Philippines hopes to choose the final group by the end of November – an optimistic decision that belies that many, many complications that have come before. And those still to come.

First of all, the make-up of only one of the groups has been finalised. A local partner is a requirement for this project; CNOOC has yet to officially tie-up, although it has been talking to Manila-based Phoenix Petroleum, while state oil firm PNOC does not have a (deep-pocketed) partner yet. Firms including Chevron, Dubai’s Lloyds Energy Group and Japan’s JERA have reportedly contacted PNOC to express their interest, but a month before the Philippines wants to make a decision, its own home-grown hero hasn’t yet got its ducks lined up in a row.

And time is of essence. The once giant Malampaya gas field is running out of resources. Supplying piped natural gas to three power plants that feeds some 45% of Luzon’s electricity requirements, the Shell-operated field is expected to be completely depleted by 2024. With the country aiming to move away from burning coal or (imported) gasoil for power, gas is needed to replace gas. Even though the Philippines is pushing for a bilateral agreement with China to pave to way for joint exploration activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea – to the consternation of its citizens – any discovery in the Palawan basin or Scarborough Shoal will be years from commercialisation.

So LNG is the answer. And LNG has been the answer since 2008, when the need for an LNG import terminal was first identified. And it is not like no projects have been proposed – Australia’s Energy World Corp (EWC) has been wanting to build an LNG receiving terminal and power station in the Quezon province near Manila for years, but the project has been described as ‘trapped in a bureaucratic quagmire’ due to hurdles from various government agencies, or stymied by groups with competing interests.

PNOC itself has been wanting to build its own terminal in Batangas, within range of existing gas and power transmission facilities currently drawing Malampaya gas. But, just like Pertamina in Indonesia, it is cash-strapped and unable to drive the project on its own, hence the requirement for a partner/s. First Gen Corp and Phoenix Petroleum are both private players, with First Gen already operating four of the country’s five gas-fired plants while Phoenix Petroleum has close ties with CNOOC Gas.

Many announcements have been made and gone, but with this shortlist of three groups, it does finally look like the Philippines will be able to get its LNG ambitions of the ground. And it is thinking even bigger; wanting the terminal to become a LNG trading hub for the region – capitalising on the existing habit of ship-to-ship transfers of LNG cargoes into smaller parcels in the Philippine waters for delivery into southern China – challenging existing ambitions in Japan, South Korea and Singapore. But perhaps that is getting a bit ahead of themselves. Getting a project – any LNG project – off the ground is the first priority. And the rest can come after that.

Other Proposed LNG Projects In The Philippines:

  • Shell’s LNG import terminal in Batangas, near the Shell Batangas refinery
  • Glencore’s FSRU project, connected to an onshore power plant
  • South Korea’s SK Group’s 5 mtpa LNG import terminal in Luzon
  • Energy World Corp’s integrated LNG-power project in Quezon
November, 13 2018
Your Weekly Update: 5 - 9 November 2018

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 5 November 2018 – Brent: US$72/b; WTI: US$62/b

  • It’s down, down, down for crude oil prices as the impact of American sanctions on Iranian crude exports was muted by increased supply from OPEC+ nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and Russia
  • America granted waivers to eight nations – including India, Japan, South Korea and possibly China – which would allow them to continue importing Iranian crude after November 3, though the exact terms of the waivers are still in discussion
  • The number of waivers issued was larger than the market expected, but traders also remain worried about the growing trade spat between the US and China, although President Donald Trump has struck a more conciliatory tone recently
  • However, the midterm elections in the US resulted in the Democrats seizing the House but losing ground in the Senate – an imperfect result that could nonetheless still frustrate Trump’s economic and trade agenda
  • With the impact of Iranian sanctions proving to be less dramatic than expected – although fireworks should be expected at the upcoming OPEC meeting Vienna next month – crude prices have lost much of the supply-risk premium it gained over the past three months
  • With crude prices abated, American drillers are following suit, reducing the active American rig count by one with the closure of one oil rig
  • Crude price outlook: Prices should continue to head downwards as the risk of a supply crunch abates; Brent will test the US$70/b level again, with WTI likely to maintain its US$10/b discount to Brent

 

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • BP has completed its US$10.5 billion acquisition of BHP Billiton’s US unconventional assets, which will add some 190,000 boe/d of production and 4.6 billion oil equivalent barrels in reserves to BP’s coffers
  • Total reports that its upstream production in the Republic of Congo has exceeded expectations, with current production at some 200,000 b/d
  • ConocoPhillips has completed the sales of its Barnett shale assets in North Texas to Lime Rock Resources for US$230 million
  • Apache is accelerating plans from its Garten discovery in the UK North Sea, bringing it forward from Q119 to Q418, with 1 million barrels recoverable
  • Also in the North Sea, the UK Oil and Gas Authority has approve Senrica Energy’s Field Development Plan for the Columbus Development, with target start-up aimed at mid-2021 with peak output at 7,800 boe/d
  • Total has received consent from Petroleum Safety Authority Norway to extend the operational life of the Skirne and Byggve fields to March 2024
  • Equinor has made a ‘significant new oil discovery’ at the Barents Sea Skruis well in the Johan Castberg licence, with 12-25 million recoverable barrels of oil
  • Algeria’s Sonatrach has signed two new agreements – with Total and Eni – in an exclusive partnership for offshore exploration in Algeria
  • Argentina has launched its first-ever offshore licensing round, putting up 38 blocks in the Austral Marine, West Malvinas and Argentina basins

Downstream

  • As Saudi Aramco prepares to buy a controlling stake in SABIC, the two Saudi Arabian giants have announced the development of an integrated 400 kb/d crude-to-chemicals project, to be located at Yanbu on the Red Sea
  • A spat of fuel thefts in Mexico has curtailed gasoline and diesel supply in Mexico, with BP, Total and Pemex all reporting shortages across the country
  • ExxonMobil has started up a new coker unit at its Antwerp refinery in Belgium, expanding capacity for heavy conversion by some 50,000 b/d
  • BASF has signed a new MoU with China’s Sinopec to build a steam cracker in Nanjing, the chemical giant’s second major Chinese investment in four months

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Yet another US LNG facility has received its environmental impact statement from the US FERC, with Texas LNG’s Brownsville site receiving it just days after Venture Global LNG’s Calcasieu Pass LNG received theirs
  • The Cameron LNG project has begun the commissioning Phase 1 of its LNG export site in Hackberry, Louisiana, the first of a planned five phases that would have an eventual capacity of up to 24.92 mtpa
  • TransCanada Corporation has greenlit the US$1.5 billion NOVA Gas Transmission expansion, which will connect markets in North America to natural gas production sites in Alberta and British Columbia
  • Noble Energy announced that the Leviathan project is at 67% completion, and first gas from the Israeli gas project is expected by the end of 2019
  • India’s Petronet LNG and ONGC Videsh are reportedly in talks to buy a stake in the proposed Driftwood LNG project by Tellurian in Louisiana
  • Japan’s Osaka Gas says it will begin evaluating expanding its operations to developing markets in Southeast Asia like Vietnam, where shrinking demand supply and growing demand is creating a huge potential market for LNG
November, 09 2018
Risks of working in Oil and Gas sector

It is a well-known fact that the oil and gas industry has a lot to offer in terms of opportunities - paycheck, lifestyle, and work-life balance. However, like everything else in life, it has a flip side as well. If you are planning to make a career in oil and gas industry, it is important to know the cons as well. Here is a list of risks associated with working in oil and gas industry that you must know to make an informed decision.

Highly competitive: survival of the fittest 

Oil and gas industry is highly competitive and dynamic in nature. The job requires high level of expertise and productivity. With digitization and automation of the industry, the work functions are changing rapidly. The employees who cannot cope up and upskill with changing time and need will be automatically pushed out of the system. The foremost challenge in oil and gas industry is to stay relevant and keep upskilling.

Long work hours

Some job functions in oil industry like offshore rig workers have to work in 12-hours shift, seven days a week and for seven to 28 days in one stretch. Sometimes, overtime is also expected due to emergency or to manage the project deadlines. However, the oil companies do give equal amount of resting period to the rig workers to compensate for the long working hours. Even then, the continuous long hours is strenuous for the workforce.

The accident-prone work environment

Although rigorous safety trainings are provided to the workforce along with numerous safety measures and laws in place; accidents do occur. Sometimes, these accidents can be life-threatening. Here is quick overview of the possible accidents that you might encounter:

  • Vehicle accident- It is considered as the number 1 cause of fatality in oil and gas industry. It can happen while driving to pipelines, gas sites, pumping stations, transit between sites and any other place due to heavy loads, rash driving, fatigue or extreme weather conditions.
  • Explosion & fire- Oil companies are extremely cautious about fire and explosion safety and follow strict guidelines and standards to prevent fire hazard on drilling sites and injuries related to it. Emergency exits, action plans and fire prevention plan along with flame-resistant clothing are ensured. However, it is in best interest to stay updated about the latest in the safety measures.

Risk of confined space and fall- The line workers in oil and gas industry sometimes work in confined spaces like mud pits, reserve pits, storage tanks, sand storage, and other excavated areas, where they are exposed to potential risk of ignition of inflammable vapors, exposure to harmful chemicals, and asphyxiation. Additionally, these kinds of workplaces involve risk of falls, slips and trips too which can cause severe injuries and can even turn fatal. Though the companies are extremely careful and take all safety precautions, but the risk cannot be ruled out.

  • Chemical exposure- Chemical exposure at oil and gas industry is hazardous and it includes risk due to:
  • Mixed exposures of silica, DPM, VOCs, etc.
  • Multiple exposure through various routes like inhalation and ingestion
  • Dermal exposures risk due to Pb, Solvents, PAH’s

Additionally, frequent exposure to chemicals used in refineries and drilling operations can impact long-term health. To offset these dangers, oil and gas companies provide comprehensive training to employees to ensure safety protocols and site-specific features.

Working in remote location

The oil and gas professionals have to work on remote location for exploration, offshore duties, pumping stations, gas plants and more. The workers in remote location often feel isolated and they are on their own to cope up with numerous work-related accidents and health hazards.

Working in oil and gas industry is extremely rewarding in terms of career growth, travelling opportunities and compensation. However, the above points must also be considered before stepping into this industry. It is important to mention here that majority of oil and gas companies are aware of the risks associated and thus have sound safety measures in place to avoid any contingency. Moreover, the government and regulatory bodies also impose strict regulations for safety and security of the workforce. Therefore, in many cases, the risk associated is considerably reduced. So, before you accept any offer from any oil and gas companies, you must carefully verify the safety measures and policies of the company. Once, you are assured, your career in oil and gas will be highly rewarding.

If you are looking for relevant opportunities, check out NrgEdge.com to kickstart your career in oil and gas industry.

November, 12 2018