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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 5 March 2017 – Brent: US$65/b; WTI: US$62/b

  • Crude oil prices began the week on a stronger note, bouncing back from market jitters of American plans to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports to trade on indications that US crude inventories continue to fall.
  • Tanks at the important storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma are at their lowest levels since 2014, as a booming American economy and backwardisation structure in futures trading encouraging drawdowns.
  • However, despite the fall in Cushing, overall US crude stockpiles rose more than expected – up by a preliminary estimate of 5.66 million barrels - providing some drag to the market.
  • The US is expected to become the world’s largest oil producer in 2019, overtaking Russia, with Saudi Arabia remaining the world’s largest exporter for the foreseeable future.
  • The upward march of American output remains the single largest drag on crude prices, and a key variable in determining direction, as the EIA confirmed that American production shattered a 47-year old output record last November, hitting 10.044 mmb/d.
  • OPEC commented that while it was committed to ensuring the market was rebalance by mid-2018, it warned that there was a risk of an ‘upcoming energy crisis’, sown by the current seeds of under-investment.
  • The US active oil rig count hit 800 for the first time in almost three years, gaining a single site. Along with 2 new gas rigs, the US rig count stands at 981 as of last Friday.
  • Crude price outlook: Crude prices should stay steady this week, with prices in the US$65-66/b range for Brent and US$62-63/b for WTI.

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • The hits keep coming for ExxonMobil in Guyana, as it and partner Hess made a seventh major offshore discovery in two years in the Pacora-1 well. Development will be folded into the plans for the Payara field, which should bring Guyanese output up to a potential 500,000 bpd.
  • While Turkey squabbles with Cyprus over gas fields, Greece is hoping to make its own discoveries, sanctioning development of four blocks in the west of the country by Total, Italy’s Edison and Hellenic Petroleum.
  • Mexico will be hoping that the shale revolution can begin within its borders, as it offers up nine onshore areas in Tamaulipas state that will be awarded to private firms for the first time in September.
  • Thawing relations with China, The Philippines has identified two offshore sites – SC-57 and SC-72 at Reed Bank – which could be prototypes for proposed joint upstream activities with China.
  • Bolivia’s YPFB has reportedly signed an MoU with Dubai’s Kampac Oil and London’s Milner Capital to jointly invest US$2.5 billion to developing the Madre de Dios oil and gas basin in northern Bolivia.
  • Japan’s Inpex has been awarded a 10% interest in Abu Dhabi’s Lower Zakum concession for 40 years; separately, Inpex’s stake in the Satah and Umm al Dalkh concession has also been extended for 25 years.

Downstream

  • After years of delays, Vietnam’s second oil refinery in Nghi Son is ready for commercial startup in April, processing Kuwaiti crude. The country’s third refinery, in Long Son, also broke ground last week.
  • Total is aiming to build and operate a 150 kb/d greenfield refinery in Iraq, which would be linked to the Nassirya oilfield. Originally planned for 300 kb/d, PetroChina and Lukoil are also reportedly interested.
  • Poland’s plan to push for a merger of its two state oil refiners – PKN Orlen and Lotos – has met with intense political opposition once again.
  • Tullow Oil and its partners expects to finalise the construction of an export pipeline – linking the inland Amosing and Ngamia fields to the port of Lamu – by mid-2018, clearing the way for output to begin in 2022.

Natural Gas/LNG

  • While there has been no damage to ExxonMobil’s gas pipeline in Papua New Guinea after a 7.5 magnitude quake, it will take 8 weeks to repair and restore production at the PNG LNG plant, with ExxonMobil declaring force majeure on all exports as it continues to assess damage to gas fields.
  • Dominion Energy’s Cove Point export terminal in Maryland, USA has been cleared for commercial startup, shipping its first LNG cargo to Europe, becoming the second American LNG export facility to operate.
  • Timor Leste and Australia are on the verge of agreeing on a permanent maritime border at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, paving the way to develop the Greater Sunrise offshore gas field that had been shelved previously due to disputed oceanic borders. 
  • There may finally be some movement in the Philippines’ planned LNG import facility, as four potential investors – including Tokyo Gas and domestic power player First Gen – have reportedly expressed interest.
  • Japan’s Jera and Marubeni are reportedly teaming up with Australia’s Fortescue Metals to build a 2 mtpa LNG import terminal in New South Wales, which would help ease the east coast natural gas crunch.
  • India has begun to receive its first US LNG as Cheniere begins its 20-year contract with GAIL, supplying 3.5 mtpa of LNG per year.

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September, 16 2021
The New Wave of Renewable Fuels

In 2021, the makeup of renewables has also changed drastically. Technologies such as solar and wind are no longer novel, as is the idea of blending vegetable oils into road fuels or switching to electric-based vehicles. Such ideas are now entrenched and are not considered enough to shift the world into a carbon neutral future. The new wave of renewables focus on converting by-products from other carbon-intensive industries into usable fuels. Research into such technologies has been pioneered in universities and start-ups over the past two decades, but the impetus of global climate goals is now seeing an incredible amount of money being poured into them as oil & gas giants seek to rebalance their portfolios away from pure hydrocarbons with a goal of balancing their total carbon emissions in aggregate to zero.

Traditionally, the European players have led this drive. Which is unsurprising, since the EU has been the most driven in this acceleration. But even the US giants are following suit. In the past year, Chevron has poured an incredible amount of cash and effort in pioneering renewables. Its motives might be less than altruistic, shareholders across America have been particularly vocal about driving this transformation but the net results will be positive for all.

Chevron’s recent efforts have focused on biomethane, through a partnership with global waste solutions company Brightmark. The joint venture Brightmark RNG Holdings operations focused on convert cow manure to renewable natural gas, which are then converted into fuel for long-haul trucks, the very kind that criss-cross the vast highways of the US delivering goods from coast to coast. Launched in October 2020, the joint venture was extended and expanded in August, now encompassing 38 biomethane plants in seven US states, with first production set to begin later in 2021. The targeting of livestock waste is particularly crucial: methane emissions from farms is the second-largest contributor to climate change emissions globally. The technology to capture methane from manure (as well as landfills and other waste sites) has existed for years, but has only recently been commercialised to convert methane emissions from decomposition to useful products.

This is an arena that another supermajor – BP – has also made a recent significant investment in. BP signed a 15-year agreement with CleanBay Renewables to purchase the latter’s renewable natural gas (RNG) to be mixed and sold into select US state markets. Beginning with California, which has one of the strictest fuel standards in the US and provides incentives under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard to reduce carbon intensity – CleanBay’s RNG is derived not from cows, but from poultry. Chicken manure, feathers and bedding are all converted into RNG using anaerobic digesters, providing a carbon intensity that is said to be 95% less than the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of pure fossil fuels and non-conversion of poultry waste matter. BP also has an agreement with Gevo Inc in Iowa to purchase RNG produced from cow manure, also for sale in California.

But road fuels aren’t the only avenue for large-scale embracing of renewables. It could take to the air, literally. After all, the global commercial airline fleet currently stands at over 25,000 aircraft and is expected to grow to over 35,000 by 2030. All those planes will burn a lot of fuel. With the airline industry embracing the idea of AAF (or Alternative Aviation Fuels), developments into renewable jet fuels have been striking, from traditional bio-sources such as palm or soybean oil to advanced organic matter conversion from agricultural waste and manure. Chevron, again, has signed a landmark deal to advance the commercialisation. Together with Delta Airlines and Google, Chevron will be producing a batch of sustainable aviation fuel at its El Segundo refinery in California. Delta will then use the fuel, with Google providing a cloud-based framework to analyse the data. That data will then allow for a transparent analysis into carbon emissions from the use of sustainable aviation fuel, as benchmark for others to follow. The analysis should be able to confirm whether or not the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s estimates that renewable jet fuel can reduce lifecycle carbon intensity by up to 80%. And to strengthen the measure, Delta has pledged to replace 10% of its jet fuel with sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.

In a parallel, but no less pioneering lane, France’s TotalEnergies has announced that it is developing a 100% renewable fuel for use in motorsports, using bioethanol sourced from residues produced by the French wine industry (among others) at its Feyzin refinery in Lyon. This, it believes, will reduce the racing sports’ carbon emissions by an immediate 65%. The fuel, named Excellium Racing 100, is set to debut at the next season of the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans 2022 race.

But Chevron isn’t done yet. It is also falling back on the long-standing use of vegetable oils blended into US transport fuels by signing a wide-ranging agreement with commodity giant Bunge. Called a ‘farmer-to-fuelling station’ solution, Bunge’s soybean processing facilities in Louisiana and Illinois will be the source of meal and oil that will be converted by Chevron into diesel and jet fuel. With an investment of US$600 million, Chevron will assist Bunge in doubling the combined capacity of both plants by 2024, in line with anticipated increases in the US biofuels blending mandates.

Even ExxonMobil, one of the most reticent of the supermajors to embrace renewables wholesale, is getting in on the action. Its Imperial Oil subsidiary in Canada has announced plans to commercialise renewable diesel at a new facility near Edmonton using plant-based feedstock and hydrogen. The venture does only target the Canadian market – where political will to drive renewable adoption is far higher than in the US – but similar moves have already been adopted by other refiners for the US market, including major investments by Phillips 66 and Valero.

Ultimately, these recent moves are driven out of necessity. This is the way the industry is moving and anyone stubborn enough to ignore it will be left behind. Combined with other major investments driven by European supermajors over the past five years, this wider and wider adoption of renewable can only be better for the planet and, eventually, individual bottom lines. The renewables ball is rolling fast and is only gaining momentum.

End of Article

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Market Outlook:

  • Crude price trading range: Brent – US$71-73/b, WTI – US$68-70/b
  • Global crude benchmarks have stayed steady, even as OPEC+ sticks to its plans to ease supply quotas against the uncertainty of rising Covid-19 cases worldwide
  • However, the success of vaccination drives has kindled hope that the effect of lockdowns – if any – will be mild, with pockets of demand resurgence in Europe; in China, where there has been a zero-tolerance drive to stamp out Covid outbreaks, fuel consumption is strengthening again, possibly tightening fuel balances in Q4
  • Meanwhile, much of the US Gulf of Mexico crude production remains hampered by the effects of Hurricane Ida, providing a counter-balance on the supply side

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