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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 29 January 2017 – Brent: US$69/b; WTI: US$65/b

  • Oil remains near its recent highs, correcting slightly at the start of this week with a rebound in the dollar and positive US crude output data.
  • The US dollar has been sliding since December, boosting prices – since crude oil is priced in US$. With the US seemingly signalling that a weak dollar might be beneficial, this could further fuel the crude rally.
  • Solidarity within OPEC and its NOPEC allies, led by Russia, is reassuring markets that the group will act beyond 2018 if necessary.
  • A tenth consecutive fall in weekly US crude inventories boosted prices last week, but consensus within the industry is that stockpiles will gain this week, while American output is expected to hit 10 mmb/d ‘soon.’
  • However, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry stood with energy ministers from Russia and Saudi Arabia at Davos last week, stating that he believes the US will not become a ‘spoiler’ for oil markets as new production gets absorbed by global demand, which has returned to healthy growth.
  • Hedge funds have also reportedly bet big on Brent and WTI continuing to rise, as the price future curve is moving in backwardisation all the way through 2022, indicating either rising demand, tightening supply, or both.
  • Confidence has returned, as a poll by DNV GL shows that 63% of 813 industry executives were positive for 2018, with Europe showing the largest improvement (25% to 64%) and Asia at 57% (up from 30%).
  • The active US oil and gas rig count jumped by 11 last week, as the addition of 12 new oil rigs – particularly in the Permian, where the number grew by 18 – offset the loss of a single gas rig.
  • Crude price outlook: The week started with a small correction, but there is enough confidence to keep oil prices at recent levels. US data may temper rises, but Brent should remain within range of US$70/b and WTI at US$66/b.


Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • BP has announced two more new major finds in the UK North Sea; the Capercaillie and Achmelvich discoveries join 18 expected new North Sea startups this year, while boosting BP’s output to 200,000 barrels by 2020.
  • The first export cargo of 500,000 barrels out of the North Sea Catcher Area are been sold a premium to Brent, surprising analysts.
  • China’s CNOOC and Norway’s Petoro has relinquished their interest in the last remaining exploration licence in Iceland; with only a minor junior partner left, this is likely to end of Iceland’s dream of finding oil.
  • Eni has begun exploratory drilling in the Black Sea with Rosneft, but keeping an eye out that it does not circumvent US sanctions on Russia.
  • Russia has remained China’s top crude oil supplier for a 10th month in December 2017, capping off its second year ahead of Saudi Arabia. Russian exports to China hit 1.194 mmb/d over 2017.

Downstream

  • Gunvor has received provisional approval from The Netherlands to add a fuel upgrading unit at its 88 kb/d Rotterdam refinery to meet strict new emission standards for shipping fuels.
  • Russia’s Tatneft has started up a naphtha hydrotreater and isomerisation unit at its TANEKO refinery to improve gasoline quality and gasoil yield.
  • The UAE’s Mubadala Petroleum has announced plans to double the capacity of the Pak Arab refinery in Karachi, Pakistan to 200 kb/d.

Natural Gas/LNG

  • The first Russian LNG cargo has landed in the USA, with the Gaselys tanker dropping off Siberia-sourced LNG in Boston. A second shipment, also by France’s Engie, may be on its way, heading to Massachusetts.
  • Nigeria is seeking to amend its law on gas-flaring penalty, moving it from a charge to a fine, as the former enjoys a tax relief which potentially cost the government billions in gas flaring penalty revenue.
  • Hess Midstream Partners and Targa Resources have formed a joint venture to build a 300 mscf/d dry gas processing plant in Little Missouri, North Dakota to capture gas that is currently being flared in the Bakken.
  • Bangladesh and Indonesia have signed an agreement on LNG imports, as the South Asian country seeks to plug its domestic shortage of natural gas. Bangladesh has several FSRU projects in the pipeline, signing its first ever LNG import deal with Qatar last September.
  • Mubadala Petroleum is aiming to finalise the FID on the Pegaga offshore gas condensate project in Malaysia within this quarter.
  • The government of Sarawak has acquired a 10% stake in the Bintulu LNG complex’s new Train 9, with Petronas acquiescing to the state’s demands.

Corporate

  • Preparing for the future, BP has invested US$5 million in US electric vehicle charging firm FreeWire and is also reportedly considering a US$1.8 billion bid for Italian solar firm Rete Rinnovabile.
  • Malaysia’s Sapura Energy – its largest oil and gas services company – is evaluating a potential public listing of its E&P business on the KLSE.

Thailand’s PTTEP reported a 60% jump in full year 2017 net profits, up to US$594 million from US$ US$372 million, while keeping an eye out to acquire oil and gas assets in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

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U.S. refineries running at near-record highs

U.S. gross refinery inputs

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Petroleum Status Report

For the week ending July 6, 2018, the four-week average of U.S. gross refinery inputs surpassed 18 million barrels per day (b/d) for the first time on record. U.S. refineries are running at record levels in response to robust domestic and international demand for motor gasoline and distillate fuel oil.

Before the most recent increases in refinery runs, the last time the four-week average of U.S. gross refinery inputs approached 18 million b/d was the week of August 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey made landfall the following week, resulting in widespread refinery closures and shutdowns along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Despite record-high inputs, refinery utilization as a percentage of capacity has not surpassed the record set in 1998. Rather than higher utilization, refinery runs have increased with increased refinery capacity. U.S. refinery capacity increased by 862,000 barrels per calendar day (b/cd) between January 1, 2011, and January 1, 2018.

The record-high U.S. input levels are driven in large part by refinery operations in the Gulf Coast and Midwest regions, the Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDs) with the most refinery capacity in the country. The Gulf Coast (PADD 3) has more than half of all U.S. refinery capacity and reached a new record input level the same week as the record-high overall U.S. capacity, with four-week average gross refinery inputs of 9.5 million b/d for the week ending July 6. The Midwest (PADD 2) has the second-highest refinery capacity, and the four-week average gross refinery inputs reached a record-high 4.1 million b/d for the week ending June 1.

Gulf Coast and Midwest gross refinery inputs


U.S. refineries are responding currently to high demand for petroleum products, specifically motor gasoline and distillate. The four-week average of finished motor gasoline product supplied—EIA’s proxy measure of U.S. consumption—typically hits the highest level of the year in August. Weekly data for this summer to date suggest that this year’s peak in finished motor gasoline product supplied is likely to match that of 2016 and 2017, the two highest years on record, at 9.8 million b/d. The four-week average of finished motor gasoline product supplied for the week ending August 3, 2018, was at 9.7 million b/d.

U.S. distillate consumption, again measured as product supplied, is also relatively high, averaging 4.0 million b/d for the past four weeks, 64,000 b/d lower than the five-year average level for this time of year. In addition to relatively strong domestic distillate consumption, U.S. exports of distillate have continued to increase, reaching a four-week average of 1.2 million b/d as of August 3, 2018. For the week ending August 3, 2018, the four-week average of U.S. distillate product supplied plus exports reached 5.2 million b/d.

In its August Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA forecasts that U.S. refinery runs will average 16.9 million b/d and 17.0 million b/d in 2018 and 2019, respectively. If achieved, both would be new record highs, surpassing the 2017 annual average of 16.6 million b/d.

August, 14 2018
Offshore discoveries in the Mediterranean could increase Egypt’s natural gas production


Egypt natural gas fields and select infrastructure

Natural gas production in Egypt has been in decline, falling from a 2009 peak of 5.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) to 3.9 Bcf/d in 2016, based on estimates in BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy. The startup of a number of natural gas development projects located offshore in the eastern Mediterranean Sea near Egypt’s northern coast has significantly altered the outlook for the region’s natural gas markets. Production from these projects could offset the growing need for natural gas imports to meet domestic demand, according to the Egyptian government.

The West Nile Delta, Nooros, Atoll, and Zohr fields were fast-tracked for development by the Egyptian government and have begun production, providing a substantial increase to Egypt’s natural gas supply. The Zohr field’s estimated recoverable natural gas reserves of up to 22 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) would make it the largest natural gas field in the Mediterranean, based on company reports gathered by IHS Markit. The Zohr field is currently producing 1.1 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day and is expected to increase to 2.7 Bcf per day by the end of 2019.

Natural gas production in Egypt has declined largely as a result of relatively low investment, according to Business Monitor International research. Meanwhile, domestic demand for energy has grown, driven by economic growth, increased natural gas use for power generation, and energy subsidies. With the exception of small declines in 2013 and 2014, natural gas consumption has increased every year since at least 1990, and it is up 19% from 2009, when domestic production peaked.

Faced with growing demand and declining supply, Egypt had to close its liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals to divert supply to domestic consumption. Egypt became a net natural gas importer in 2015, and although LNG exports resumed in 2016, Egypt’s net imports of natural gas continued to increase.

Egypt dry natural gas production, consumption, and trade

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy

The Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) indicated that Egypt will still need to import small volumes of natural gas in the coming years, particularly for the power sector. MEES reported that the state-owned Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) awarded contracts that would add 25 gigawatts (GW) to total generation capacity, 70% of which would come from natural gas-fired projects. Three combined-cycle natural gas turbine power plants with a total capacity of 14.4 GW will collectively require as much as 2.0 Bcf/d of natural gas when they become fully operational in 2020.

August, 15 2018
US Energy Exports Spared the Wrath of the Middle Kingdom

A threat. And then a backing off. As the trade war between the US and China escalates, both countries are moving into politically sensitive areas as they ratchet up the scale of the standoff. When the US first introduced tariffs earlier this year, they were limited to washing machines and solar panels. Then as President Trump moved into a broader range of goods, China responded with tariffs that were designed to maximise impact on Trump’s voter base. That meant the agriculture heartlands of the US in the Midwest where soybeans are grown and shipped in record numbers to China last year to feed its massive demand for animal feed and edible oils. Last week, the US imposed tariffs on an additional US$16 billion worth of Chinese imports, targeting technological sectors, and of course, China replied. The list included for the first time US crude exports, demonstrating China’s willingness to hit one of America’s most vibrant industries. And then, a few days later, it backed down, removing crude oil from the list. 

What happened?

Chatter among the industry suggests that Sinopec had lobbied for the removal. Even though growth has slowed down nominally, China’s fuel demand is still growing massively on an absolute level. In a year where Iranian crude exports are being squeezed by new American sanctions, China needs oil. It may have defied a request by the US to completely halt Iranian exports, but it has also promised not to ramp up orders as well. China imported some 650,000 b/d of crude from Iran last year. To replace even some of that will be challenging without tapping into growing American production, particularly since Sinopec and Petrochina are in a tiff with Saudi Aramco over prices, and the government wants to diversify its crude sources away from overreliance on Russia.

So crude was removed from the tariff list. Leaving only refined fuels and petrochemical feedstocks – tiny in demand except for propane, which has become a key feedstock for China’s petrochemicals producers through PDH plants. But since President Trump has mooted more tariffs, this time on US$200 billion worth of imports, China may have backpedalled for strategic reasons this time – Sinopec’s trading arm had suspended all US purchases until the ‘uncertainty passed’- but can still wield its potent weapon in the future. And not just on crude, but tariffs on LNG as well. The latter is more sensitive, given that many of the LNG projects springing up along the Gulf Coast are depending on projected Chinese demand. Cheniere just signed a 25-year LNG deal with CNPC and is hoping for more to come. That hope burns bright for now, but if the trade war continues escalating at its current pace, the forecast could get a lot cloudier. For now, US energy exports have been spared from the wrath of the Middle Kingdom. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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August, 14 2018