Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2017
Global natural gas consumption is expected to grow from 340 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2015 to 485 Bcf/d by 2040, primarily in countries in Asia and in the Middle East, based on projections in EIA’s latest International Energy Outlook 2017 (IEO2017). China accounts for more than a quarter of all global natural gas consumption growth between 2015 and 2040.
The projected growth in natural gas consumption in China is driven by environmental policies, relative cost competiveness of natural gas in the industrial and transportation sectors, and relatively high economic growth.
China’s environmental policies are designed to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions by promoting natural gas in the country’s energy mix—replacing some coal and oil use with natural gas. In China’s 13th Five-Year Plan and the latest Energy Production and Consumption Revolution Strategy (2016-30), the Chinese government set targets to increase the share of natural gas in the primary energy mix from 5.9% in 2015 to 10% by 2020 and 15% by 2030.
EIA projects China’s natural gas consumption to grow from 19 Bcf/d in 2015 to 57 Bcf/d in 2040, surpassing all other countries except the United States. In the IEO2017 Reference case, U.S. natural gas consumption is projected to grow at a more modest rate, from 75 Bcf/d in 2015 to 88 Bcf/d in 2040, with the United States remaining the world’s largest natural gas consumer.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2017, China Development and Reform Commission, China Customs
China’s domestic natural gas production reached 13 Bcf/d in 2016, accounting for 64% of China’s total natural gas supply. The IEO2017 Reference Case projects that China’s domestic natural gas production will reach 39 Bcf/d by 2040, driven primarily by the development of shale gas resources. EIA estimates that China holds the largest reserves of technically recoverable shale gas in the world, and China was among the first countries outside of North America to develop its shale resources.
The IEO2017 Reference case projects China’s shale gas production will grow from 0.7 Bcf/d in 2016 to 10 Bcf/d by 2030 and 19 Bcf/d by 2040, when shale gas is projected to account for a third of China’s total natural gas supply. China’s natural gas production from other sources, such as coalbed methane, tight formations, and more traditional natural gas reservoirs, is projected to increase more modestly, from 12 Bcf/d from these sources in 2016 to 20 Bcf/d by 2040.
Pipeline natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports make up the rest of China’s supply, collectively accounting for 36% of the 2016 total and projected to account for 32% of the 2040 total. China’s LNG imports tripled between 2010 and 2016, reaching 3.5 Bcf/d (17% of total supply) in 2016. By 2018, China is projected to surpass South Korea as the world’s second-largest LNG importer. By 2040, China is expected to import about 11 Bcf/d, as much as the world’s largest LNG importer, Japan.
China’s pipeline imports increased to 3.7 Bcf/d in 2016, accounting for 19% of the total natural gas supply. Although the IEO2017 Reference Case expects China’s imports of natural gas by pipeline to rise in absolute terms to 7.3 Bcf/d in 2040, their share of China’s total supply is projected to fall to 12% by that year. China began importing natural gas by pipeline from Turkmenistan in 2010 and has since begun importing natural gas from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar. EIA expects natural gas imports from Russia on the new 3.7 Bcf/d Power of Siberia pipeline to begin in late 2019.
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
In April 2019, Venezuela's crude oil production averaged 830,000 barrels per day (b/d), down from 1.2 million b/d at the beginning of the year, according to EIA’s May 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook. This average is the lowest level since January 2003, when a nationwide strike and civil unrest largely brought the operations of Venezuela's state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), to a halt. Widespread power outages, mismanagement of the country's oil industry, and U.S. sanctions directed at Venezuela's energy sector and PdVSA have all contributed to the recent declines.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Baker Hughes
Venezuela’s oil production has decreased significantly over the last three years. Production declines accelerated in 2018, decreasing by an average of 33,000 b/d each month in 2018, and the rate of decline increased to an average of over 135,000 b/d per month in the first quarter of 2019. The number of active oil rigs—an indicator of future oil production—also fell from nearly 70 rigs in the first quarter of 2016 to 24 rigs in the first quarter of 2019. The declines in Venezuelan crude oil production will have limited effects on the United States, as U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil have decreased over the last several years. EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in 2018 averaged 505,000 b/d and were the lowest since 1989.
EIA expects Venezuela's crude oil production to continue decreasing in 2019, and declines may accelerate as sanctions-related deadlines pass. These deadlines include provisions that third-party entities using the U.S. financial system stop transactions with PdVSA by April 28 and that U.S. companies, including oil service companies, involved in the oil sector must cease operations in Venezuela by July 27. Venezuela's chronic shortage of workers across the industry and the departure of U.S. oilfield service companies, among other factors, will contribute to a further decrease in production.
Additionally, U.S. sanctions, as outlined in the January 25, 2019 Executive Order 13857, immediately banned U.S. exports of petroleum products—including unfinished oils that are blended with Venezuela's heavy crude oil for processing—to Venezuela. The Executive Order also required payments for PdVSA-owned petroleum and petroleum products to be placed into an escrow account inaccessible by the company. Preliminary weekly estimates indicate a significant decline in U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in February and March, as without direct access to cash payments, PdVSA had little reason to export crude oil to the United States.
India, China, and some European countries continued to receive Venezuela's crude oil, according to data published by ClipperData Inc. Venezuela is likely keeping some crude oil cargoes intended for exports in floating storageuntil it finds buyers for the cargoes.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, and Clipper Data Inc.
A series of ongoing nationwide power outages in Venezuela that began on March 7 cut electricity to the country's oil-producing areas, likely damaging the reservoirs and associated infrastructure. In the Orinoco Oil Belt area, Venezuela produces extra-heavy crude oil that requires dilution with condensate or other light oils before the oil is sent by pipeline to domestic refineries or export terminals. Venezuela’s upgraders, complex processing units that upgrade the extra-heavy crude oil to help facilitate transport, were shut down in March during the power outages.
If Venezuelan crude or upgraded oil cannot flow as a result of a lack of power to the pumping infrastructure, heavier molecules sink and form a tar-like layer in the pipelines that can hinder the flow from resuming even after the power outages are resolved. However, according to tanker tracking data, Venezuela's main export terminal at Puerto José was apparently able to load crude oil onto vessels between power outages, possibly indicating that the loaded crude oil was taken from onshore storage. For this reason, EIA estimates that Venezuela's production fell at a faster rate than its exports.
EIA forecasts that Venezuela's crude oil production will continue to fall through at least the end of 2020, reflecting further declines in crude oil production capacity. Although EIA does not publish forecasts for individual OPEC countries, it does publish total OPEC crude oil and other liquids production. Further disruptions to Venezuela's production beyond what EIA currently assumes would change this forecast.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 May 2019 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$61/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
The world’s largest oil & gas companies have generally reported a mixed set of results in Q1 2019. Industry turmoil over new US sanctions on Venezuela, production woes in Canada and the ebb-and-flow between OPEC+’s supply deal and rising American production have created a shaky environment at the start of the year, with more ongoing as the oil world grapples with the removal of waivers on Iranian crude and Iran’s retaliation.
The results were particularly disappointing for ExxonMobil and Chevron, the two US supermajors. Both firms cited weak downstream performance as a drag on their financial performance, with ExxonMobil posting its first loss in its refining business since 2009. Chevron, too, reported a 65% drop in the refining and chemicals profit. Weak refining margins, particularly on gasoline, were blamed for the underperformance, exacerbating a set of weaker upstream numbers impaired by lower crude pricing even though production climbed. ExxonMobil was hit particularly hard, as its net profit fell below Chevron’s for the first time in nine years. Both supermajors did highlight growing output in the American Permian Basin as a future highlight, with ExxonMobil saying it was on track to produce 1 million barrels per day in the Permian by 2024. The Permian is also the focus of Chevron, which agreed to a US$33 billion takeover of Anadarko Petroleum (and its Permian Basin assets), only for the deal to be derailed by a rival bid from Occidental Petroleum with the backing of billionaire investor guru Warren Buffet. Chevron has now decided to opt out of the deal – a development that would put paid to Chevron’s ambitions to match or exceed ExxonMobil in shale.
Performance was better across the pond. Much better, in fact, for Royal Dutch Shell, which provided a positive end to a variable earnings season. Net profit for the Anglo-Dutch firm may have been down 2% y-o-y to US$5.3 billion, but that was still well ahead of even the highest analyst estimates of US$4.52 billion. Weaker refining margins and lower crude prices were cited as a slight drag on performance, but Shell’s acquisition of BG Group is paying dividends as strong natural gas performance contributed to the strong profits. Unlike ExxonMobil and Chevron, Shell has only dipped its toes in the Permian, preferring to maintain a strong global portfolio mixed between oil, gas and shale assets.
For the other European supermajors, BP and Total largely matched earning estimates. BP’s net profits of US$2.36 billion hit the target of analyst estimates. The addition of BHP Group’s US shale oil assets contributed to increased performance, while BP’s downstream performance was surprisingly resilient as its in-house supply and trading arm showed a strong performance – a business division that ExxonMobil lacks. France’s Total also hit the mark of expectations, with US$2.8 billion in net profit as lower crude prices offset the group’s record oil and gas output. Total’s upstream performance has been particularly notable – with start-ups in Angola, Brazil, the UK and Norway – with growth expected at 9% for the year.
All in all, the volatile environment over the first quarter of 2019 has seen some shift among the supermajors. Shell has eclipsed ExxonMobil once again – in both revenue and earnings – while Chevron’s failed bid for Anadarko won’t vault it up the rankings. Almost ten years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP is now reclaiming its place after being overtaken by Total over the past few years. With Q219 looking to be quite volatile as well, brace yourselves for an interesting earnings season.
Supermajor Financials: Q1 2019