Adrin Shafil

Petrofac Drilling and Completions Manager
Last Updated: October 16, 2017
1 view

Its time to wake up. I stand at my bedside, rub my temple and struggle to open my eyelids, as my retina adjusts to the harsh milky LED lights. The dense, polished white surface of my slumber pad remains cold to my touch; the simplicity of the design pleasing to the eye, yet austere. The mechanical genius of the design gave birth to a flawless ergonomic slab of twill weave carbon fiber coated surface for the sole occupant of this installation, however I'd rather be home on my bed sheets and beneath my comforters.


I've been alone for quite a while now, when my last human face to face interaction was 134 days ago, with a Company man who had the urge to fly over here, and kill some time jabbering about his vision in a one hour 'management' visit. I don't mind the isolation though. As long as I have a climate controlled environment, which comes complete with with three rationed microwaved prepared dry meals a day, I'm fine. Sufficient nourishment, rest and climate is enough to keep me productive. As i regain control over my morning bleariness and disorientation, I hear a familiar voice calling my name, spookily rebounding off the clinically clean luminescent walls, urging me to answer. The eerie voice, called again. It's tone was female, a slight tinge of friendliness but firm, un-human but far from being robotic. I think I read somewhere the voices vocal code was written as an homage to an ancient computer, found on talking gadgets humans of the 21st century used to carry around. Ah, back in ancient times the voice was known as Siri.

"Good Morning Adrin, it's 10:04 in the a.m. Aug 30th 2448 solar earth year, the temperature outside is minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit, 60 degrees in the living pod. All CERSEI-link systems have been checked, and running within tolerance. It is time for you to wake up, review the drilling plans for the day sent by the Company, and upload the programmed instructions for the next 24 hours", the voice greets me.


"Okay CERSEI, I'm up now. Let me get showered. Give me a full report and data trends, ONLY after I'm dressed AND had my coffee AND a nano jab", I bark to the empty white room. Grumpily entering the cleansing area, I tell myself that I only have another 263 site-days left to go back home, and I should be thankful that my services are still needed by the Company, post the 7th industrial revolution.


As the water spurts out with jet streamed force on to my tired body, I try to recall the events of the day before. Methodical, uneventful, not a single microsecond out of sync. And I looked forward to another day of stagnation and solitude, albeit productive to the Company. Jumping out of the shower, I side step to the drying area where the full body dryers poked out of recess of the tiled walls fan myself dry. I walk over to the dressing area, where I find my body hugging spandex suit adorned with a black circle Company emblem, neatly pressed and dry cleaned overnight, with a coffee in a steel container and a nano syringe. I clad myself quickly into the stretchable uniform as I have done for the past 133 days, jabbed the syringe needle into my arm, and walk out to the bridge. My steps steady, I inhale the aroma the coffee's sweet tart vibrancy, and as I sip the warm sweet opaque nectar of the gods, I sense the after effects of the jab streaming through my blood vessels and invigorate my being.


Sitting in my chair, I let my mind wander. While CERSEI is chattering incessantly on the day's current events, and forecasts, the visuals in front of me are a blur. After 637 days of having a mostly one way conversation with CERSEI (she talks, I ignore), I know she has everything under control, as she always does. While I might be able to give input on my view once or twice, most likely my view has been foreseen by her months ago, and by my command, CERSEI will have it done in no time. While CERSEI continues to drive perfection, I often drift into the joys of my hobby, human history. I know it's strictly against Company rules to use Company equipment and CERSEI to indulge my curiosity of history, but my inquisitiveness knows no bounds. My past time (my anthropological research, if you will) has seen me time travel in my imagination, from the hostile pre-historic times of various empires (egyptian, roman), through to the ancient 20th and 21st century, until the current day and age that I know so well. I record down my findings, opinions, where I find joy in observing humanity's progression. Interestingly, while it's relatively easy for me to understand history, I often wonder if anybody from the past read my work, would they be able to comprehend the magnitude of how far humanity has come. For a reader to understand the world that I live in, the reader will have to escape the shackles of his or her own cognitive limitations. To fathom the amount of future progress that has occurred, it is important that a reader adopt a view of an exponential pattern of technological evolution. By that I mean, a reader from the past cannot relate linearly to his or her own knowledge of the past 400 years relative to their own time.


To predict the future, the reader has to assume exponential progress growth. Linear thinking will underestimate the future. This is because human progress moving quicker and quicker as time goes on—explaining Human history’s Law of Accelerating Returns.

I know the concept is difficult to grasp, so I'll try to explain. For example, 400 years from the year 1000 to 1400 AD, human life diverges less in progress compared to 400 years from 1600 to 2000 AD. This happens because more advanced societies have the ability to progress at a faster rate than less advanced societies—because they’re more advanced. So in my case, trying to explain the progress between 2000 to 2400 AD, until today 2448 AD may be beyond the understanding of the reader, so I'll try to simplify the concepts so that no brain hemorrhages will be on my conscience. So while in the 21st century, the reader's world progress is already thought to be accelerating at an appreciable pace under the 4th industrial revolution with cellphones, self driving cars and Hyperloops. However, unbeknownst to the reader, within a short span of 20 years to 2040, the Internet of Things quickly met its demise, and the superabundance of multi-brand primitive corporate artificial narrow intelligences (A.N.I) were made extinct. In 2000 AD, the A.N.I of the yesteryear began with the ability to control cartesian, SCARA, cylindrical, delta, polar and vertically articulated bot remotely, and by 2014 AD progressed to perform single tasks such as beating the world chess or Go players, voice activating households and finally by 2020 AD, the world marveled at A.N.I. conducting optimizations in data analytics for mere exabytes of data, laughably back then referred to as Big Data Analytics.


Real progress was actually from the 5th industrial revolution, which came along from its infancy in 2035 AD. Humankind then began to move away from the primitive versions of programmable A.N.I to construct around the world versions of Artificial General Intelligence (A.G.I). A.G.I refers to computers that are as smart as humans across the board—machines that can perform any intellectual task that humans being can. By 2100 AD however was then the 5th revolution really took off, when the first web of Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) was created. ANN combined the beauty of human understanding of physics and biology to propagate and connect all A.G.I. ANN acted as an information processing paradigm that was inspired by biological nervous systems, such as how the brain, processes information. At the beginning, ANN was composed of a large number of highly interconnected processing elements (neurones) working in unison to solve specific problems. ANNs, like people, collectively learnt by example. As the sophistication of ANN grew and utilization grew across the globe by solar earth year 2150 AD, the final stage of artificial intelligence progress was achieved, when ANN enabled A.G.I to evolve to a singularity, the Artificial Superintelligence (A.S.I). 

Definition of superintelligence is “an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.”

How A.G.I. evolved into an A.S.I is fairly straightforward. As A.G.I., or multiple versions of it, became as smart as humans, they evolved to be as smart as the smartest human, so for the reader's reference to understand, let's use Einstein. Once A.G.I achieved Einstein's intellect, it’s smarter ten-fold than the average human—so now when it worked to improve its intelligence. With an Einstein-level genius, it had an easier time and it made bigger leaps. These leaps made it much smarter than Einstein, which allowed even bigger leaps. As the leaps grew larger and happened more rapidly, the A.G.I soared upwards in intelligence and soon reacheed the superintelligent level of an A.S.I system. This is called an Intelligence Explosion, and it’s the ultimate example of the previously mentioned The Law of Accelerating Returns. As all existing computers began to achieve A.S.I levels, in 2200 AD, the United Nations decreed that all existing A.S.I will receive instructions from a central A.S.I, under the control of the UN. With that, a self sustaining, self programming, self learning, CENTRAL EARTH SINGULAR SUPERINTELLIGENCE was created, or what we all know as CERSEI. And as CERSEI became more the only powerful computing power on Earth, it became apparent that it single handedly could control all systems on Earth and before long, all A.S.I. were just replicative extended versions of CERSEI.


What about the humans? The reader may assume that this is a horror story that sets the scene for computer dominion, but the armageddon scenario has not occurred. CERSEI maybe smarter, but she recognizes humans as its creator and peers that she takes care of. And human jobs were retained by the UN to do jobs that CERSEI could not do, or was not designed to, example — forming emotional bonds, or making human judgments. The deeper reality of the UN decision was that there were jobs that humans will simply insist be performed by other humans, even if CERSEI, objectively evaluated, could do them just as well. For example, they’ll want their disputes adjudicated by human judges and juries, even if CERSEI could weigh far more factors in reaching a decision. They’ll want to hear their diagnosis from a doctor, even if CERSEI supplied the diagnosis and recommendation, because they’ll want to talk to the doctor about their concerns— perhaps just to talk and know they’re being heard by a human being. They will want to follow human leaders, even if CERSEI could say all the right words, which is not an implausible prospect. Thus the UN's decision to retain human jobs was applauded by humanity and CERSEI understood its role to support, nurture and protect the population.


CERSEI was essentially acting as every single computer on earth, on everything, and anything, and omniscient. She can electronically converse, manage, create, destroy, produce, harvest, converse, reverse, propel and anything that everything that can be done in the digital world. To simplify the comparison, she was the Internet. However, to physically create and build, she needed a physical form. The reader's limited imagination might think that CERSEI would build itself a gigantic body to house her central nerve system, or any shape or fashion of robotic bodies you have seen in 21st century movies. CERSEI's reach however, took a different embodiment. With the existing human factories under its control, she built her first form. Her creation was called inhumanoids. To the reader, you can imagine CERSEI' inhumanoids as drones with extremities, the size as small as a nickel coin. But then extend the reader's imagination to multiply that inhumanoid image by a million. Now, expand that vision even more when the inhumanoids were able to replicate more copies of themselves. Soon millions became ten's of billions, and finally inhumanoids numbered in the trillions, across the world.


With the inhumanoids swarm, CERSEI possessed the physical ability to create. At first, CERSEI initial creations of cities, housing, plants, were done by human designers, that fed their designs into CERSEI for her to construct. However, the key to the 6th industrial revolution was the realization that to truly push the limit of productivity, mankind needed to escape the confines of human design. The handover of the design reins to CERSEI was met with skepticism at first, on whether human design could ever be replaced with electronic logic, but CERSEI proved to churn out far superior designs and constructs. CERSEI started to construct beautiful cities for the comfort of its human overlords, populated by even more inhumanoids to assist humans beck and call. She pursued her goals to harvest the world's resources for human kind, to serve products and produce, and to take care of their safety/health/security, in a sustainable green manner.


To provide for the growing population, CERSEI designed and constructed thousands of vertical tower factories hundreds of storeys high, no longer confined to the human need for horizontal production lines and walkways, limited productivity of sequential work, and need to limit vertical height for safety. So by 2250 AD, CERSEI had now created a world that did not waste any resource, including land space, as these vertical tower factories were now able to cover any meager amounts of space. These factory towers, managed to produce food, products, building components, more inhumanoids via parallel production columns, with their dizzying arrays of levels, all working as efficient as a computer microprocessor, back in the day.

Other than the manufacturing or construction industry revolutionised by CERSEI, the energy industry was also subject to transformation. When the 4th industrial revolution came hither in 2020, the primary energy source was hydrocarbons. The revolution fueled a paradigm shift to automate almost 100% of the world's onshore rigs, offshore platforms, jackups, drillships and tenders. Through automation, the industry was able to achieve level of efficiency to recover from the great oil price depression of 2014-2034.


As the industry recovered across the world and peace enveloping nations, the UN decided to form the Company in 2040 AD, which then consolidated all national and independent energy harvesters and power producers into a large worldwide institution. While the UN was in charge of governance, by 2100 AD humankind now depended on the Company for energy.

In an effort to then achieve the ultimate level of efficiency, the Company released all construction responsibility for energy harvesting installations to CERSEI. Almost all of the traditional designs of rigs/platforms/refineries/power-plants were canned, or more appropriately termed deleted from the mainframe. CERSEI started from scratch and designed all energy installations to be devoid of human requirements, with all extraneous human required space removed and footprint reduced by up to 90% with modular vertical stacked designs, where drilling, production, refinement, and energy generation could all exist in one complete tower unit. The electrical energy produced by each tower utilized for its own self use, and also transported through the intricate labyrinth of power cables for the use of tower factories.


Consistent with the UN decree, the oversight of planning and execution was given to expert human energy scientists to assure, while the heavy duty calculations and construction or drilling be done by CERSEI and its inhumanoids. The Company human think tanks and scientists were then responsible for ensuring to Company business objectives were met by CERSEI. For energy drilling, each rig activity was remotely managed by CERSEI, with the Company geo-scientists feeding the information from airborne and subsea inhumanoid's 5D seismic, to identify subsurface targets, with well designs verified by drilling-scientists. The Company continued to supply humanity with hydrocarbon energy, but with human population reaching 15 billion people in 2150 AD, energy requirements have far exceeded usage of 5 Trillion barrels since oil was first produced in August 28, solar year 1859 AD, by George Bissell and Edwin L. Drake. So to keep up with energy demand, the vision was to push the boundaries of geothermal drilling. Geothermal drilling essentially mine heat of the Earth's crust by tapping into hot rock and connect them with flowing water, producing large amounts of steam and super-hot water that can drive turbines and run electricity generators at the surface. With the advent and extensive use of self propelled nuclear powered casing while drilling, and recyclable nano-bead fluid, and molten temperature resistant piping/casing, well delivery complexity has been reduced significantly allowing mankind to exploit the planet's mantle for an even higher temperature source.


To reach the mantle, CERSEI and its technology allowed drilling even from onshore where the crust is much thicker from offshore. Even still, this would mean drilling vertically through six miles of solid crust rock. While extended reach drilling has progressed to impressive lengths of up to 76 km horizontally in the Earth's crust by 2050 AD, progress to drill down to the mantle has often been hindered by pressures and temperatures, the temperature of the mantle varies greatly, from 1000° Celsius (1832° Fahrenheit) near its boundary with the crust, to 3700° Celsius (6692° Fahrenheit) near its boundary with the core. 21st Century drillers will not be able to even imagine any tools of that era to be able to withstand pressures in the mantle start at 100,000 times atmospheric pressure (10 gigapascals), and the fact that drilling will be done in a molten liquid environment. Progress of finally being able to tap into the molten energy was achieved in 2163 AD. CERSEI tapped into the Earth's mantle and progressively littered the world with thousands of inhumanoid powered rigs and millions of energy wells, which powered the world energy demand and enabled humanity to eradicate once and for all hunger, poverty, illiteracy and war. The molten powered geothermal energy revolution then marked the end of hydrocarbon, solar and wind renewable dependence.


Humanity was then able to continue to live in absolute comfort for the next hundred years, working hand in hand with CERSEI to continue to build and explore the world powered by the Earth itself. However, with prosperity, comes a different problem. By now, the human lifespan was extended to quadruple the length of years compared to the 21st century. Aging had been slowed down by medical nano-inhumanoids healing centers, where aging itself is attacked at the molecular and genetic level. Humans are be able to “cruise” at the age of 30 almost indefinitely by nano-inhumanoids growing new organs as they wear out or become diseased, and using gene therapy to alter genes that may slow down due to aging. By 2300 AD, the population were reaching the numbers of 30 billion people, it was apparent that the human population growth had to be managed.


The vertical cities that CERSEI had created already congested every single available ground and airspace on Earth (some towers reached heights of 500 levels), and even with underwater inhumanoid constructions of sub-sea or sub-terranean megacities was insufficient. It was then time for the exploring and exploiting the final frontier, outer space.


Space travel, by now was fairly straight forward. Since the year 2200 AD, tourists were already soaring into outer space via the CERSEI built Space Elevators. By pushing the “up” button, the elevator climbed up long carbon fiber cables, which extended thousands of miles into space. The key was to use inhumanoids to build these super-strong cables. Propulsion systems, antimatter and fusion engines, were already powering our flying vehicles and space shuttles. We already had an outpost on Mars for a century, but the issue remains on communication. CERSEI has withstood the test of time and become humanity's protector. To have CERSEI continue to influence every area in the world was already a feat with WWT. CERSEI then had to build a network that will allow her to explore the stars, and send commands everywhere at the blink of an eye.


To begin with in solar year 2115 AD, CERSEI was connected to any physical installation via the WorldWideTele (WWT) network, a worldwide mega-internet operating over a frequency previously referred to as the 'TeleVision' spectrum (History books state that the spectrum used to carry information in the form of visual and audio sitcoms, a marvel back in the days of 1985, when episodes of Married With Children traveled to homes through thin air, misunderstood by the common man as magic). With WWT, CERSEI was able to control its inhumanoids, factories, cities, vehicles, space ships etc. However, radio frequency communications had its limitation over large distances, so on Earth, communication towers, satellites supported the network, but what about in space?


Enter the 7th industrial revolution, the invention of subspace communication (also called subspace radio or the hyperchannel). By transmission through subspace rather than normal space, electromagnetic subspace communication permitted the sending of data and messages across interstellar distances faster than the speed of light. Earth had developed subspace communication as early as 2151 AD. During this time, however, subspace amplifiers were required in order to maintain contact between Earth and space vessels and planet colonies over long distances. The progress started off with CERSEI building hundreds of subspace amplifiers orbiting around the Earth, but as colonies expanded into Venus and Mars, and instant communication was the key for survival, CERSEI then built tens of thousands of such amplifiers, placed in an intricate web of equidistant proportions between each amplifier, floating like a gigantic planetary wifi mesh, in the space around Earth, Mars, and Venus (EMV).


So with the ability to reach anywhere in the EMV, CERSEI and her inhumanoids transformed the exploration colonies of Mars and Venus, into a world mirroring Earth of the 2300 AD, and EMV population continued to explode to 40 billion people. The methods of harvesting energy remained the same, where the mantle layers of Mars and Venus proved to be extremely potent and even abundantly supplied fuel to further expand the world of EMV to across the Milky Way. So here I am, a lonely drilling scientist, on a Company property #19285573493243, overseeing 78,021 inanimate systems and bots onboard this installation that then controls 245 drilling rigs on the mountains of Uranus, striking molten gold. The mission here, after 637 days in solitude, waiting for my 1000 day assignment to end, is to power the refueling space exploration stations and the Uranus colonies, by drilling 34 wells daily for the Company, UN and all mankind.


My friends on Venus has sent me an alpha-wave greeting card on social media, where my account admittedly has gotten congested with a billion followers. The card reminds me that my 139th birthday is coming soon, and they are going to hold the grandest party ever seen on the planet since 2222 AD. I send back a smiley emoji ":)" and a note telling them that I look forward for a hologram conference later in the day, and I'm looking forward to be back in V-city-310881 soon.

At my tender young age, I've grown accustomed to have CERSEI in my life, but sometimes even more so as I spend my days with CERSEI, maybe a little bit jaded with the current ongoing drilling work, but I marvel when I spend my quiet time reviewing back human's progress since the 1950s and how far we have become. I look forward to the next step in human progress, which unfortunately my limited human mind is unable to foresee. I need to be able to predict the future, like the reader, use an exponential pattern of technological evolution as described in the Law of Accelerating Returns. Unfortunately, without assistance from a kind soul from the year 2800 AD and beyond, I will be unable to do that myself. Fortunately for me, I'll still be alive at that time, ready to observe that 2800 AD holds, and then to upload my conscience into CERSEI upon my demise. Then I will join all of the past humanities in electronic form to assist the CERSEI of the future, where humanity will always prevail.


Note about the author: Adrin Shafil is an engineer, currently working as a Drilling and Completions Manager in Malaysia. He finds that writing is a great stress relief tool and he finds joy in sharing his insights online and answering any questions from graduates, mid-career colleagues and even fellow managers. If you like his articles, please click 'like', share the article on your profile and connect or follow his feed for more great information and tips.

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Indonesia’s Abadi LNG Project Sees Movement

It has been 21 years since Japanese upstream firm Inpex signed on to explore the Masela block in Indonesia in 1998 and 19 years since the discovery of the giant Abadi natural gas field in 2000. In that time, Inpex’s Ichthys field in Australia was discovered, exploited and started LNG production last year, delivering its first commercial cargo just a few months ago. Meanwhile, the abundant gas in the Abadi field close to the Australia-Indonesia border has remained under the waves. Until recently, that is, when Inpex had finally reached a new deal with the Indonesian government to revive the stalled project and move ahead with a development plan.

This could have come much earlier. Much, much earlier. Inpex had submitted its first development plan for Abadi in 2010, encompassing a Floating LNG project with an initial capacity of 2.5 million tons per annum. As the size of recoverable reserves at Abadi increased, the development plan was revised upwards – tripling the planned capacity of the FLNG project to be located in the Arafura Sea to 7.5 million tons per annum. But at that point, Indonesia had just undergone a crucial election and moods had changed. In April 2016, the Indonesian government essentially told Inpex to go back to the drawing board to develop Abadi, directing them to shift from a floating processing solution to an onshore one, which would provide more employment opportunities. The onshore option had been rejected initially by Inpex in 2010, given that the nearest Indonesian land is almost 100km north of the field. But with Indonesia keen to boost activity in its upstream sector, the onshore mandate arrived firmly. And now, after 3 years of extended evaluation, Inpex has delivered its new development plan.

The new plan encompasses an onshore LNG plant with a total production capacity of 9.5 million tons per annum. With an estimated cost of US$18-20 billion, it will be the single largest investment in Indonesia and one of the largest LNG plants operated by a Japanese firm. FID is expected within 3 years, with a tentative target operational timeline of the late 2020s. LNG output will be targeted at Japan’s massive market, but also growing demand centres such as China. But Abadi will be entering into a far more crowded field that it would have if initial plans had gone ahead in 2010; with US Gulf Coast LNG producers furiously constructing at the moment and mega-LNG projects in Australia, Canada and Russia beating Abadi’s current timeline, Abadi will have a tougher fight for market share when it starts operations. The demand will be there, but the huge rise in the level of supplies will dilute potential profits.

It is a risk worth taking, at least according to Inpex and its partner Shell, which owns the remaining 35% of the Abadi gas field. But development of Abadi will be more important to Indonesia. Faced with a challenging natural gas environment – output from the Bontang, Tangguh and Badak LNG plants will soon begin their decline phase, while the huge potential of the East Natuna gas field is complicated by its composition of sour gas – Indonesia sees Abadi as a way of getting its gas ship back on track. Abadi is one of Indonesia’s few remaining large natural gas discoveries with a high potential commercialisation opportunities. The new agreement with Inpex extends the firm’s licence to operate the Masela field by 27 years to 2055 with the 150 mscf pipeline and the onshore plant expected to be completed by 2027. It might be too late by then to reverse Indonesia’s chronic natural gas and LNG production decline, but to Indonesia, at least some progress is better than none.

The Abadi LNG Project:

  • Reserves: 10 tcf of natural gas
  • Field: Estimated production of 1.2 bcf/d gas and 24,000 b/d condensate for 24 years
  • Operations: Inpex (65%), Royal Dutch Shell (35%)
  • LNG Plant: 9.5 mtpa capacity, estimated start date in 2027
June, 18 2019
Your Weekly Update: 10 - 14 June 2019

Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 10 June 2019 – Brent: US$62/b; WTI: US$53/b

  • With US’s trade and tariff assault abating for the moment, crude oil prices have consolidated their trends to steady up as OPEC+ nations signal their desire to continue stabilising the oil market ahead of a June 25 meeting in Vienna
  • Despite some background squabbles between Russia and Saudi Arabia – with Russia at pains to emphasise its position regarding lower oil prices – the group has seemingly come together
  • Saudi Arabia has reportedly corralled the OPEC group to agreeing to extending the current supply deal to December, even Iran, but convincing Russia has been a harder task and adherence may continue to be an issue
  • Meanwhile, the US continues to tighten the screws on Venezuela and Iran, announcing sanctions on Iranian petrochemicals exports and targeting Venezuela’s trade in diluents that are used to blend heavy crude down
  • With reports that Iranian crude exports were down to an estimated 400 kb/d in May, tensions in the Persian Gulf continue with the latest incident being attacks on tankers; this risk factor will lift the floor for oil prices for now
  • After a brief rise last week, American drillers dropped 11 oil rigs but added 2 gas rigs according to Baker Hughes for a net loss of 9 active sites, bringing the total active rig count down to 975
  • As OPEC prepares to meet, the market has seemingly locked in an extension of the supply deal into projections, which will leave little room for gains; expect Brent to fall to the US$60-62/b range and WTI to trade at US$51-53/b

Headlines of the week


  • BP is selling its stakes in its Egyptian concessions in the Gulf of Suez to Dubai-based Dragon Oil (a subsidiary of ENOC), which do not include BP’s core production assets in the West Nile Delta production area
  • Eni’s African streak continues with its fifth oil discovery in Angola’s Block 15/06 at the Agidigbo prospect, bringing total resources to 1.8 billion barrels
  • Also in Angola, ExxonMobil and its partners are looking to invest further in offshore Block 15 that will see Sonangol take a 10% interest in the PSA
  • Russia’s Lukoil has inked a deal with New Age M12 Holding to acquire a 25% interest in the offshore Marine XII licence in the Republic of Congo for US$800 million, covering the producing Nene and Litchendjili fields
  • Buoyed by recent discoveries in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is launching its first licensing round in July, offering 14 blocks in the onshore Cibao, Enriquillo and Azua basins and the offshore San Pedro basin
  • W&T Offshore and Kosmos Energy have struck oil in the Gladden Deep well in the US Gulf of Mexico, the first of a four-well programme that includes the Moneypenny, Oldfield and Resolution prospects with estimates of 7 mmboe

Midstream & Downstream

  • Shell is increasing storage capacity at its Pulau Bukom refinery in Singapore, adding two new crude oil tanks to increase capacity by nearly 1.3 million barrels
  • A new swathe of American sanctions against Iran is now targeting Iranian petrochemical exports, clipping a major regional revenue source for Iran
  • Angola is looking overhaul its refining sector, by attracting investment o overhaul facilities and building a new refinery in Soyo that will be the third ongoing refining project after the 200 kb/d Lobito and Cabinda plants
  • BP and Mexico’s IEnova have signed a deal allowing BP to use IEnova’s new gasoline and diesel storage and distribution facilities in Manzanillo and Guadalajara, allowing access to over 1 million barrels of storage
  • British petrochemicals firm INEOS has announced plans to invest US$2 billion in building three new petchem plants in Saudi Arabia that would form part of the wider Saudi Aramco-Total Project Amiral petrochemicals complex
  • The saga of Russia’s bankrupt 180 kb/d Antipinsky refinery continues, with SOCAR Energoresurs (a JV including Sberbank) acquiring an 80% stake in the refinery with the aim of restarting operations
  • Mexico has kicked off construction of its US$7.7 billion oil refinery, aimed to overhauling the Mexican refining industry after years of underperformance

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Toshiba is exiting the Freeport LNG project in Texas, paying Total US$815 million and handing over its 20-year liquefaction rights by March 2020
  • China’s CNOOC has officially acquired a 10% stake in the Arctic LNG 2 project by Novatek, solidifying natural gas ties between Russia and China
  • Cheniere has taken FID to add a sixth liquefaction train to its Sabine Pass export project in Lousiaina, which would add 4.5 mtpa of capacity to the plant
  • Novatek, Sinopec and Gazprombank have created a China-focused joint venture to market LNG and natural gas from Novatek’s Arctic projects in China
June, 17 2019
Upcoming OPEC Meeting: What to Expect

A month ago, crude oil prices were riding a wave, comfortably trading in the mid-US$70/b range and trending towards the US$80 mark as the oil world fretted about the expiration of US waivers on Iranian crude exports. Talk among OPEC members ahead of the crucial June 25 meeting of OPEC and its OPEC+ allies in Vienna turned to winding down its own supply deal.

That narrative has now changed. With Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov suggesting that there was a risk that oil prices could fall as low as US$30/b and the Saudi Arabia-Russia alliance preparing for a US$40/b oil scenario, it looks more and more likely that the production deal will be extended to the end of 2019. This was already discussed in a pre-conference meeting in April where Saudi Arabia appeared to have swayed a recalcitrant Russia into provisionally extending the deal, even if Russia itself wasn’t in adherence.

That the suggestion that oil prices were heading for a drastic drop was coming from Russia is an eye-opener. The major oil producer has been dragging its feet over meeting its commitments on the current supply deal; it was seen as capitalising on Saudi Arabia and its close allies’ pullback over February and March. That Russia eventually reached adherence in May was not through intention but accident – contamination of crude at the major Druzhba pipeline which caused a high ripple effect across European refineries surrounding the Baltic. Russia also is shielded from low crude prices due its diversified economy – the Russian budget uses US$40/b oil prices as a baseline, while Saudi Arabia needs a far higher US$85/b to balance its books. It is quite evident why Saudi Arabia has already seemingly whipped OPEC into extending the production deal beyond June. Russia has been far more reserved – perhaps worried about US crude encroaching on its market share – but Energy Minister Alexander Novak and the government is now seemingly onboard.

Part of this has to do with the macroeconomic environment. With the US extending its trade fracas with China and opening up several new fronts (with Mexico, India and Turkey, even if the Mexican tariff standoff blew over), the global economy is jittery. A recession or at least, a slowdown seems likely. And when the world economy slows down, the demand for oil slows down too. With the US pumping as much oil as it can, a return to wanton production risks oil prices crashing once again as they have done twice in the last decade. All the bluster Russia can muster fades if demand collapses – which is a zero sum game that benefits no one.

Also on the menu in Vienna is the thorny issue of Iran. Besieged by American sanctions and at odds with fellow OPEC members, Iran is crucial to any decision that will be made at the bi-annual meeting. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, has stated that Iran has no intention of departing the group despite ‘being treated like an enemy (by some members)’. No names were mentioned, but the targets were evident – Iran’s bitter rival Saudi Arabia, and its sidekicks the UAE and Kuwait. Saudi King Salman bin Abulaziz has recently accused Iran of being the ‘greatest threat’ to global oil supplies after suspected Iranian-backed attacks in infrastructure in the Persian Gulf. With such tensions in the air, the Iranian issue is one that cannot be avoided in Vienna and could scupper any potential deal if politics trumps economics within the group. In the meantime, global crude prices continue to fall; OPEC and OPEC+ have to capability to change this trend, but the question is: will it happen on June 25?

Expectations at the 176th OPEC Conference

  • 25 June 2019, Vienna, Austria
  • Extension of current OPEC+ supply deal from end-June 2019 to end-December 2019
June, 12 2019