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Last Updated: March 22, 2018
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 19 March 2018 – Brent: US$66/b; WTI: US$62/b

  • While swelling shale output continues to weigh on crude prices, geopolitical trends have taken over to add some volatility to the market.
  • With ex-ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson fired as the US Secretary of State and Venezuela’s alarming drop in crude oil, the market injected some risk premiums in crude prices over last week.
  • Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran has also heightened, with Saudi Arabia criticising the Iranian nuclear deal in 2015 as ‘flawed’ as President Donald Trump meets with the Saudi King.
  • Coupled with Trump’s pronouncements possibly leading to a trade war – especially with China and the EU – and Saudi Aramco’s planned IPO on shaky ground, macro elements have created a more unpredictable environment for oil to trade in.
  • While this has bounced prices up, continued gains in US crude have capped the rise. US crude production is now at 10.38 mmb/d, and could hit 11 mmb/d by 3Q18. Output from Canada and Brazil has also risen.
  • American oil and gas rigs gained 6 active sites last week, growing to 967. Oil rigs hit 800 again, with 4 additions, helping to contributing to the growth in American crude stock last week, according to the EIA.
  • Crude price outlook: With geopolitical tensions aflame and data pointing to a surprise drop in US crude stocks, the direction for prices this week should be upwards. Brent could end the week at US$69/b, with WTI trailing behind at US$65/b.

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Indonesia is reportedly expecting strong interest for its upcoming auction round – which includes blocks that failed to find a buyer over the last three years – as its new revenue split model, which switches from cost-recovery to gross-split, has heightened interest among companies.
  • Egypt’s upstream fortunes continue to grow, as SDX Energy announce a heavy oil discovery at the onshore Rabul 5 well in West Gharib.
  • Iraq is ramping up efforts to expand its crude output, with an ambitious US$4 billion plan to seawater into its fields to dislodge crude and a man-made island in the Persian Gulf to serve as an export facility hub.
  • Production has begun at the Ochigufu deepwater project in Block 15/06, Angola, with Eni and Sonangol expecting production to hit 25,000 b/d. Eni also has the UM8 reservoir, Mpungi field subsea system and the Vandumbu field in development for 2019, adding another 30,000 b/d.
  • PetroVietnam has sold a 5% working interest in the 15-1/05 PSC in the offshore Cuu Long basin to Murphy Oil, who will jointly develop the small field with PetroVietnam and South Korea’s SK Innovation.
  • Colombia will launch a new fiscal framework next month, designed to make its oil and gas contracts more attractive to investors.

Downstream

  • With a stated goal of reducing oil product imports by 25%, Iraq is mulling over several projects to boost domestic refining output, including an NGL-to-liquids plan, a new 70 kb/d refinery in Anbar and boosting crude volumes in stabilised Kirkuk to refineries in the centre and south.
  • Another competitor joins the downstream race in Mexico, as Spain’s Repsol announce it would be opening 200 fuel stations over 2018 with an eventual goal of reaching 10% market share by 2022.
  • Austria’s OMV will be spending €10 billion to focus on gas and refined products, as well as expand its business outside of Europe.

Natural Gas/LNG

  • All major construction milestones have been hit at Shell’s Prelude LNG project, and will join Ichthys as the final two of Australia’s current giant LNG projects when it begins producing gas in the ‘next couple of months.’
  • Golar LNG’s floating LNG production platform in Cameroon has started up, becoming the second in the world after Petronas last year, with Gazprom having purchased the entire 1.2 mtpa output for 8 years.
  • Bangladesh’s Summit Power International and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp has agreed to develop a US$3 billion LNG-to-power project in Bangladesh.
  • Russia and Serbia has reportedly revived a gas pipeline plan that would allow Gazprom to bypass Ukraine to send piped gas to East Europe.
  • Algeria’s Sonatrach will be spending US$250 million to boost output at its Tinhert gas field, aiming to hit 20 mcm/d, from a current 5 mcm/d.
  • ExxonMobil will be leading a consortium to build Pakistan’s third LNG expect terminal, a US$150 million site in Port Qasim expected in 2019.

Corporate

  • Statoil is proposing to change its name to Equinor, to reflect a move away from hydrocarbons to a broader energy spectrum and low-carbon targets.
  • Saudi Aramco’s planned IPO is hitting more snags, as chatter suggests it could be delayed to 2019 and has received a tepid response in the USA.

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