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Last Updated: December 21, 2017
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 18 December 2017 – Brent: US$63/b; WTI: US$57/b

  • Suspension of a planned strike of Nigeria’s Pengassan oil union eased prices back, although talks deferred to January could still break down.
  • The hairline crack that prompted the shutdown of the Forties Pipeline System has not propagated, and repairs should be completed by the New Year, also easing speculative pressure on prices.
  • OPEC announced that it expects the market to be balanced by late 2018, underscoring that there will be no more extensions to its current supply deal.
  • The US EIA sees crude output at major American shale plays reaching 6.41 mmb/d a day in January
  • American domestic oil inventories slid by 5.2 million barrels last week, exceeding a forecast of 3.15 million barrels – an indication of healthy demand even with rising supply.
  • Active US rig sites fell by a net one last week; loss of 4 oil rigs offset a 3-site gain in gas rigs. Canadian rig count jumped by 19, all oil additions.
  • European gas prices spiked up after fire broke out at the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria, after jumping on the closure of the UK Forties pipeline system. Asian LNG spot prices followed suit, jumping to US$10.50 mmBtu for January deliveries.
  • Saudi Arabia will raise its capital spending to US$414 billion through 2027. Some US$134 billion will be spent on drilling/well services, US$78 billion on maintaining reserves and the remainder focused on expanding infrastructure and new businesses.
  • Crude price outlook: As supply threats abate and the market prepares for the long year-end break, no dramatic movement is expected in prices. Prices should drift down to US$62/b for Brent and US$56/b for WTI – a good way to start 2018.

Headlines of the week


  • Repairs at the Forties Pipeline System is expected to take up to four weeks to complete, as Ineos declared force majeure on Forties deliveries.
  • Aker BP has unveiled plans to spend US$1 billion to develop the Ærfugl, Valhall Flank West and Skogul fields in Norway.
  • Interest in the UK North Sea continues with a new player on the scene – Spirit Energy, a joint venture between Centrica and Bayerngas Norge.
  • Lebanon has approved a consortium formed by Total, Eni and Russia’s Novatek to begin exploring for oil and gas in its waters, where the country hopes to extend the streak of big eastern Mediterranean discoveries.
  • ADNOC has been polling its Asian buyers on whether it should maintain its current system of retroactive pricing, or change to forward pricing as part of a major review of Abu Dhabi’s monthly crude pricing mechanism.
  • Fresh off its onshore success Uganda and Kenya, Tullow Oil is now adding South Sudan as a market of interest, owing to similar geology.


  • A new processing unit has been added to Iraq’s Kirkuk refinery, increasing capacity to 56 kb/d, part of a push to have more Kirkuk crude processed locally instead of exported by pipeline.
  • PDVSA’s woes means that it is losing grip on a refining system created in its own backyard, pulling out of the Cienfuegos refinery in Cuba. PDVSA’s 49% stake in Cienfuegos, supplied by Venezuelan crude, has been transferred to the Cuban government as debt settlement.
  • BP is emerging as one of the early leaders in Mexico’s deregulated downstream, opening its 100th retail station last week and on target to achieve a network of 500 by the end of 2018.

Natural Gas/LNG

  • First gas has been produced from Eni’s Zohr field in Egypt less than two and a half years after discovery, transforming Egypt from a hungry net importer to a potentially powerful exporter.
  • After acquiring a 25% stake in the gas-rich Area 4 block in Mozambique from Eni, ExxonMobil confirms that it will now lead midstream operations and all liquefaction (plus related) facilities at Area 4. Eni, in return, will take the lead on all upstream operations and Coral FLNG.
  • Indonesia is aiming to sign off on final development of the Abadi LNG project in mid-2018, pushing for a start-up as early as 2023.
  • Rosneft has gained the licences to develop two major offshore gas fields in the country. With total reserves of 180 bcm, Rosneft holds the Patao and Mejillones licences for the next 30 years.


Petrobras and ExxonMobil has formed a strategic alliance, aimed to cooperating on global energy projects across exploration, production and chemicals.

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