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Last week in World oil:

Prices

  • Despite OPEC’s best efforts to insist the ‘supply freeze is working’, crude oil prices continue to dawdle as the market instead focuses on continued oversupply, particularly with US production returning from Hurricane Harvey closures. Brent is trading at US$55/b, and WTI at US$49/b.

Upstream

  • In a potential landmark decision, Brazil’s oil regulator ANP approved Petrobras’ request to source a rig platform from abroad, skirting the country’s obligation to source from domestic producers. Meant to explore the oil-rich pre-salt Libra area, the waiver to strict local content rules was granted due to a lack of domestic capacity, potentially paving the way to opening up the Brazilian services sector to international competition.
  • Total, Eni and Statoil are courting buyers for their stake in the Teesside oil terminal, which receives crude from Norway’s Ekofisk fields. A price of up to US$400 million is expected for the trio’s joint 70.5% stake, with ConocoPhillip intent on remaining as operator through its 29.3% stake.
  • Ties between Venezeula and Russia continue to deepen out of necessity as the former moves to stave off a domestic financial crunch by consorting with Rosneft. The Russian energy firm currently holds 49.9% collateral in PDVSA’s American refining subsidiary Citgo, and Venezuela is negotiating to swap that for shares in its oilfield assets and a fuel supply deal to provide some much need energy products for the cash-strapped nation.
  • US drillers reduced active rigs by 4 – two oil, two gas – with energy firms delaying spending plans as prices remain weak.

Downstream & Midstream

  • TransCanada has given up on the Energy East pipeline, which would have delivered oil sands crude from landlocked Alberta to Canada’s eastern seaboard ports. Facing stiff opposition from environmental groups, the C$15 billion project is less important than it once was, now that the Keystone XL pipeline – which will send Alberta crude down to the US Gulf Coast – is resuming.
  • Shell and Vitol subsidiary Varo Energy have agreed to discontinue talks to sell Shell’s 37.5% stake in the 220 kb/d PCK refinery in Scwedt, Germany to the latter. The deal would have included the Arhem terminal in the Netherlands, then seen as part of Shell’s global divestment drive.

Natural Gas and LNG

  • Statoil and its partners on the Troll gas field, Norway’s largest, are working to increase its output. Work to allow oil and gas to be produced simultaneously from the Troll West reservoir will introduce some much-needed flexibility to a field that represents 40% of Norway’s gas resources. Output is expected to reach a record high of 36 bcm this year.
  • The BRUA natural gas pipeline in Eastern Europe is back on track after an earlier hiccough in summer when Hungary doubted the commercial viability of the pipeline that will connect Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. All four countries have now agreed to resume the project, which will deliver an initial 1.75 bcm of gas from Bulgaria and Romania in 2019


Last week in Asian oil

Upstream

  • Reliance is selling a Marcellus shale oil and gas block it acquired in 2010 for US$126 million, almost a third of the price it paid seven years ago. It illustrates how highly competitive the US shale industry has become, and many majors that invested are now backing out due to low oil prices. Reliance sold the asset to BKV Chelsea LLC, with Carrizo Oil & Gas – the operator of the asset – also selling out. This cuts Reliance’s US shale assets to two, acquired in the 2010 US$2 billion spending spree, and Reliance is likely to cut the other two loose as well.

Downstream & Midstream

  • India’s Reliance has purchased US crude for the first time, as the widening differential between US WTI and Brent prompts the owner of the largest refining complex in the world to capitalise on crude spreads. Capable of processing even the most challenging crudes, the Jamnagar refinery bought a million barrels of West Texas Intermediate Midland crude and a smaller cargo of Eagle Ford Crude – a light, sweet mix that is slightly unusual for its configuration. Reliance itself may be giving up on upstream assets in the US, but cheaper American crude has prompted it to join IndianOil, HPCL and BPCL in buying American cargoes, with year-to-date purchases of 7.85 million barrels so far, a record high.

Natural Gas & LNG

  • LNG output has begun at Chevron’s Wheatstone in Australia, with the first cargo expected at the end of October. Operational after six years of construction, Wheatstone has faced less hurdles in achieving operation than Chevron’s larger Gorgon LNG, but also suffered a similar cost blowout. Only the first liquefaction train is operational; the second will join within eight months, with a total capacity of 8.9 mtpa of LNG, most of which is destined for East Asia. Wheatstone is the sixth of Australia’s mammoth LNG projects to start up, with the only two remaining being Shell’s Prelude floating LNG unit and Inpex’s Ichthys project.
  • Kazakhstan will begin exporting natural gas to China by pipeline on October 15, shipping an initial 5 bcm to PetroChina over a year for a reported price of US$1 billion. It is the first such deal between China and Kazakhstan, which has until now shipped its gas to Russia as additional pipelines were required to connected to the main pipeline linking China and the three main Central Asia energy producers.
  • Shell has cancelled its US$900 million deal to sell its Thai gas field stakes to the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company. Originally announced in January this year as part of Shell’s ongoing divestment drive to reduce debt, the collapse of the sale looks to be linked to Shell having reached its US$30 billion divestment target early, which has led it to retain some of the smaller jewels it had put on sale. Through its local subsidiaries, Shell has a 22.22% stake in the Bongkot natural gas field, whose concession is set to expire in 2023.  

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Your Weekly Update: 12 - 16 August 2019

Market Watch 

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 12 August 2019 – Brent: US$58/b; WTI: US$54/b

  • Saudi Arabia’s overtures to further stabilise prices was met with a largely positive response by the market, allowing crude prices to claw back some ground after being hammered by demand concerns
  • Saudi officials reportedly called other members in the OPEC and OPEC+ producer clubs to discuss options on how to stem the recent rout in prices, with an anonymous official quoted as saying that it ‘would not tolerate continued price weakness’
  • Reports suggest that Saudi Arabia plans to keep its oil exports at below 7 mmb/d in September according to sales allocations, which was seen as a stabilising factor in crude price trends
  • This came after crude prices fell as the US-China trade war entered a new front, causing weakness in the Chinese Yuan, although President Trump has floated the idea of delaying the new round of tariffs beyond the current implementation timeline of September 1
  • Crude had also fallen in response to a slide in American crude oil stockpiles and a receding level of tensions in the Persian Gulf
  • In a new report, the International Energy Agency said that the outlook for global oil demand is ‘fragile’ on signs of an economic slowdown; there is also concern that China will target US crude if the US moves ahead with its tariff plan
  • The US active rig count lost another 8 rigs – 6 oil and 2 gas – the sixth consecutive weekly loss that brought the total number of active rigs to 934
  • Demand fears will continue to haunt the market, which will not be offset so easily of Saudi-led efforts to limit production; as a result, crude prices will trade rangebound with a negative slant in the US$56-58/b range for Brent and US$52-54/b for WTI


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Nearly all Anadarko shareholders have approved the Occidental Petroleum deal, completing the controversial takeover bid despite investor Carl Icahn’s attempts to derail the purchase
  • Crude oil inventories in Western Canada have fallen by 2.75 million barrels m-o-m to its lowest level since November 2017, as the production limits in Alberta appear to be doing their job in limiting a supply glut while output curbs are slowly being loosened on the arrival of more rail and pipeline capacity
  • Mid-sized Colorado players PDC Energy and SRC Energy – both active in the Denver-Julesburg Basin – are reportedly in discussion to merge their operations
  • Pemex has been granted approval by the National Hydrocarbon Commission to invest US$10 billion over 25 years to develop onshore and offshore exploration opportunities in Mexico
  • Qatar Investment Authority has acquired a ‘significant stake’ in major Permian player Oryx Midstream Services from Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners for some US$550 million, as foreign investment in the basin increases
  • PDVSA and CNPC’s Venezuelan joint venture Sinovensa has announced plans to expand blending capacity – lightening up extra-heavy Orinoco crude to medium-grade Merey – from a current 110,000 b/d to 165,000 b/d
  • BHP has approved an additional US$283 million in funding for the Ruby oil and gas project in Trinidad and Tobago, with first production expected in 2021
  • CNPC, ONGC Videsh and Petronas have reportedly walked away from their onshore acreage in Sudan, blaming unpaid oil dues on production from onshore Blocks 2A and 4 that have already reached more than US$500 million

Midstream/Downstream

  • Expected completion of Nigeria’s huge planned 650 kb/d Dangote refinery has been delayed to the end of 2020, with issues importing steel and equipment cited
  • Saudi Aramco’s US refining arm Motiva announced plans to shut several key units at its 607 kb/d Port Arthur facility in Texas for a 2-month planned maintenance, affecting its 325 kb/d CDU and the naphtha processing plant
  • ADNOC has purchased a 10% stake in global terminal operator VTTI, expanding its terminalling capacity in Asia, Africa and Europe
  • A little-known Chinese contractor Wison Engineering Services has reportedly agreed to refurbish Venezuela’s main refineries in a barter deal for oil produced, in a bid for Venezuela to evade the current US sanctions on its crude exports
  • Swiss downstream player Varo Energy will increase its stake in the 229 kb/d Bayernoil complex in Germany to 55% after purchasing BP’s 10% stake
  • India has raised the projected cost estimate of its giant planned refinery in Maharashtra – a joint venture between Indian state oil firms with Saudi Aramco and ADNOC – to US$60 billion, after farmer protests forced a relocation

Natural Gas/LNG

  • The government of Australia’s New South Wales has given its backing to South Korea’s Epik and its plan to build a new LNG import terminal in Newcastle
  • Kosmos Energy is proposing to build two new LNG facilities to tap into deepwater gas resources offshore Mauritania and Senegal under development
  • In the middle of the Pacific, the French territory of New Caledonia has started work on its Centrale Pays Project, a floating LNG terminal with an accompanying 200-megawatt power plant, with Nouvelle-Caledonia Energie seeking a 15-year LNG sales contract for roughly 200,000 tons per year
August, 16 2019
The State of the Industry: Q2 2019

The momentum for crude prices abated in the second quarter of 2019, providing less cushion for the financial results of the world’s oil companies. But while still profitable, the less-than-ideal crude prices led to mixed results across the boards – exposing gaps and pressure points for individual firms masked by stronger prices in Q119.

In a preview of general performance in the industry, Total – traditionally the first of the supermajors to release its earnings – announced results that fell short of expectations. Net profits for the French firm fell to US$2.89 billion from US$3.55 billion, below analyst predictions. This was despite a 9% increase in oil and gas production – in particularly increases in LNG sales – and a softer 2.5% drop in revenue. Total also announced that it would be selling off US$5 billion in assets through 2020 to keep a lid on debt after agreeing to purchase Anadarko Petroleum’s African assets for US$8.8 billion through Occidental.

As with Total, weaker crude prices were the common factor in Q219 results in the industry, though the exact extent differed. Russia’s Gazprom posted higher revenue and higher net profits, while Norway’s Equinor reported falls in both revenue and net profits – leading it to slash investment plans for the year. American producer ConocoPhillips’ quarterly profits and revenue were flat year-on-year, while Italy’s Eni – which has seen major success in Africa – reported flat revenue but lower profits.

 After several quarters of disappointing analysts, ExxonMobil managed to beat expectations in Q219 – recording better-than-expected net profits of US$3.1 billion. In comparison, Shell – which has outperformed ExxonMobil over the past few reporting periods – disappointed the market with net profits halving to US$3 billion from US$6 billion in Q218. The weak performance was attributed (once again) to lower crude prices, as well as lower refining margins. BP, however, managed to beat expectations with net profits of US$2.8 billion, on par with its performance in Q218. But the supermajor king of the quarter was Chevron, with net profits of US$4.3 billion from gains in Permian production, as well as the termination fee from Anadarko after the latter walked away from a buyout deal in favour of Occidental.

And then, there was a surprise. In a rare move, Saudi Aramco – long reputed to be the world’s largest and most profitable energy firm – published its earnings report for 1H19, which is its first ever. The results confirmed what the industry had long accepted as fact: net profit was US$46.9 billion. If split evenly, Aramco’s net profits would be more than the five supermajors combined in Q219. Interestingly, Aramco also divulged that it had paid out US$46.4 billion in dividends, or 99% of its net profit. US$20 billion of that dividend was paid to its principle shareholder – the government of Saudi Arabia – up from US$6 billion in 1H18, which makes for interesting reading to potential investors as Aramco makes a second push for an IPO. With Saudi Aramco CFO Khalid al-Dabbagh announcing that the company was ‘ready for the IPO’ during its first ever earnings call, this reporting paves the way to the behemoth opening up its shares to the public. But all the deep reservoirs in the world did not shield Aramco from market forces. As it led the way in adhering to the OPEC+ club’s current supply restrictions, weaker crude prices saw net profit fall by 11.5% from US$53 billion a year earlier.

So, it’s been a mixed bunch of results this quarter – which perhaps showcases the differences in operational strategies of the world’s oil and gas companies. There is no danger of financials heading into the red any time soon, but without a rising tide of crude prices, Q219 simply shows that though the challenges facing the industry are the same, their approaches to the solutions still differ.

Supermajor Financials: Q2 2019

  • ExxonMobil – Revenue (US$69.1 billion, down 6% y-o-y), Net profit (US$3.1 billion, down 22.5% y-o-y)
  • Shell - Revenue (US$90.5 billion, down 6.5% y-o-y), Net profit (US$3 billion, down 50% y-o-y)
  • Chevron – Revenue (US$36.3 billion, down 10.4% y-o-y), Net profit (US$4.3 billion, up 26% y-o-y)
  • BP - Revenue (US$73.7 billion, down 4.11% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.8 billion, flat y-o-y)
  • Total - Revenue (US$51.2 billion, down 2.5% y-o-y), Net profit (US$2.89 billion, down 18.6% y-o-y)
August, 14 2019
TODAY IN ENERGY: Australia is on track to become world’s largest LNG exporter

LNG exports from selected countries

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, CEDIGAZ, Global Trade Tracker

Australia is on track to surpass Qatar as the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, according to Australia’s Department of Industry, Innovation, and Science (DIIS). Australia already surpasses Qatar in LNG export capacity and exported more LNG than Qatar in November 2018 and April 2019. Within the next year, as Australia’s newly commissioned projects ramp up and operate at full capacity, EIA expects Australia to consistently export more LNG than Qatar.

Australia’s LNG export capacity increased from 2.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2011 to more than 11.4 Bcf/d in 2019. Australia’s DIIS forecasts that Australian LNG exports will grow to 10.8 Bcf/d by 2020–21 once the recently commissioned Wheatstone, Ichthys, and Prelude floating LNG (FLNG) projects ramp up to full production. Prelude FLNG, a barge located offshore in northwestern Australia, was the last of the eight new LNG export projects that came online in Australia in 2012 through 2018 as part of a major LNG capacity buildout.

Australia LNG export capacity

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL), trade press
Note: Project’s online date reflects shipment of the first LNG cargo. North West Shelf Trains 1–2 have been in operation since 1989, Train 3 since 1992, Train 4 since 2004, and Train 5 since 2008.

Starting in 2012, five LNG export projects were developed in northwestern Australia: onshore projects Pluto, Gorgon, Wheatstone, and Ichthys, and the offshore Prelude FLNG. The total LNG export capacity in northwestern Australia is now 8.1 Bcf/d. In eastern Australia, three LNG export projects were completed in 2015 and 2016 on Curtis Island in Queensland—Queensland Curtis, Gladstone, and Australia Pacific—with a combined nameplate capacity of 3.4 Bcf/d. All three projects in eastern Australia use natural gas from coalbed methane as a feedstock to produce LNG.

Australia LNG projects

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Most of Australia’s LNG is exported under long-term contracts to three countries: Japan, China, and South Korea. An increasing share of Australia’s LNG exports in recent years has been sent to China to serve its growing natural gas demand. The remaining volumes were almost entirely exported to other countries in Asia, with occasional small volumes exported to destinations outside of Asia.

Australia LNG exports by destination country

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL)

For several years, Australia’s natural gas markets in eastern states have been experiencing natural gas shortages and increasing prices because coal-bed methane production at some LNG export facilities in Queensland has not been meeting LNG export commitments. During these shortfalls, project developers have been supplementing their own production with natural gas purchased from the domestic market. The Australian government implemented several initiatives to address domestic natural gas production shortages in eastern states.

Several private companies proposed to develop LNG import terminals in southeastern Australia. Of the five proposed LNG import projects, Port Kembla LNG (proposed import capacity of 0.3 Bcf/d) is in the most advanced stage, having secured the necessary siting permits and an offtake contract with Australian customers. If built, the Port Kembla project will use the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) Höegh Galleon starting in January 2021.

August, 14 2019