Venezuela's crude oil production is declining amid economic instability
Venezuela's crude oil production has been on a downward trend for two decades, but has experienced significant decreases over the past two years. Crude oil production in Venezuela fell from an annual average of 3.2 million barrels per day (b/d) in 1997 to an average of 2.4 million b/d in 2015 (Figure 1). More recently, Venezuela's crude production fell from a monthly average of 2.3 million b/d in January 2016 to 1.6 million b/d in January 2018. A combination of relatively low global crude oil prices and mismanagement of Venezuela’s oil industry has led to the accelerated decline in production. Venezuela's economy is extremely dependent on oil revenue, so the production declines are having a negative impact on the country's finances as well.
Several indicators suggest that Venezuela's crude oil production will likely continue to decline in the near future. The number of active rigs has fallen from about 70 in the first quarter of 2016 to an average of 43 in the fourth quarter of 2017 (Figure 2). In addition, recent reports indicate that financial difficulties, such as missed payments to oil service companies, a lack of working upgraders, a lack of knowledgeable managers and workers, and declines in oil industry capital expenditures, have also contributed to production declines.
The United States is the largest importer of Venezuela's crude oil, receiving an average of 618,000 b/d in 2017, or about 41% of total Venezuelan exports. China and India received approximately 386,000 b/d and 332,000 b/d, respectively, in 2017. The remaining 186,000 b/d of exports during the year went to countries including Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Cuba, Singapore, and others (Figure 3).
Venezuela produces extra-heavy crude oil in the Orincoco Oil Belt area and relies extensively on imports of lighter liquids (diluents) to blend with this crude oil to make it marketable. Financial difficulties have recently prevented the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PdVSA), from importing the necessary volumes of diluent on several occasions to sustain production and exports.
In 2017, refiners in the United States and Asia reported crude oil quality issueswith imported crude oil from Venezuela, resulting in requests for discounts or discontinuation of purchases. Venezuela's crude oil exports to the United States fell from 840,000 b/d in December 2015 to 437,000 b/d in December 2017 (the latest month for which EIA import data are available). As recently as September 2017, Venezuela was the third-largest supplier of U.S. crude oil imports after Canada and Saudi Arabia, occupying a top-three spot since 2015. In December 2017, Venezuela fell behind Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Iraq based on average imported volumes of crude oil during the month.
The fall in exports to the United States is especially harmful to Venezuela's economy because U.S. refiners are among the few customers that still remit cash payments to Venezuela. Some volumes shipped to China, for example, are sent as loan repayments. In January 2018, Venezuela exported about 360,000 b/d of crude oil to China, based on tanker tracking data. Venezuela's exports to India—also a cash remitting customer—have fallen to the lowest levels in about five years. In January, only about 220,000 b/d of Venezuelan crude oil was destined for India, about 20% lower than the level in January 2017, according to crude oil shipping data. This level includes volumes sent to Essar’s Vadinar refinery in India to service debt that Venezuela owes to Russian oil company Rosneft (Rosneft co-owns the Vadinar refinery).
Although the Venezuelan government has not published any economic data in more than two years, Venezuela's National Assembly reported in mid-March that inflation was more than 6,000% between February 2017 and February 2018. The International Monetary Fund projects that inflation will reach 13,000% in 2018 and that Venezuela's economy will contract 15%, resulting in a cumulative GDP decline of nearly 50% from 2013 through the end of 2018.
Venezuela also has high levels of debt with a variety of creditors. During the last quarter of 2017, when Venezuela was late making some bond payments, the main rating agencies declared the country in selective default . Venezuela has more than $8 billion in bond payments coming due in 2018. Given the country's precarious financial situation, a general default is possible. In addition to about $64 billion worth of debt in traded bonds, Venezuela owes $26 billion to creditors and $24 billion in commercial loans, according to Torino Capital, although some estimates place Venezuelan debt as high as $150 billion.
Venezuela's crude oil production is projected to continue to fall through at least the end of 2019, reflecting that crude oil production losses are increasingly widespread and affecting joint ventures. These projections reflect that crude oil production losses are increasingly widespread and affecting joint ventures. With the reduced capital expenditures, foreign partners are limiting activities in the Venezuelan oil sector. Venezuela's economy is heavily dependent on the oil industry, and production declines result in reduced oil export revenues. Venezuela's economy contracted by nearly 9% in 2017, based on estimates from Oxford Economics.
U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices increase
The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price rose 5 cents from the previous week to $2.65 per gallon on March 26, 2018, up 33 cents from the same time last year. Rocky Mountain prices increased nearly nine cents to $2.53 per gallon, Gulf Coast prices increased nearly eight cents to $2.38 per gallon, West Coast and East Coast prices each increased nearly six cents to $3.27 per gallon and $2.59 per gallon, respectively, and Midwest prices increased two cents to $2.52 per gallon.
The U.S. average diesel fuel price rose nearly 4 cents to $3.01 per gallon on March 26, 2018, 48 cents higher than a year ago. Rocky Mountain prices rose nearly seven cents to $2.99 per gallon, West Coast prices increased over five cents to $3.44 per gallon, Gulf Coast and Midwest prices each increased nearly four cents to $2.82 per gallon and $2.93 per gallon, respectively, and East Coast prices increased nearly three cents to $3.04 per gallon.
Propane/propylene inventories decline
U.S. propane/propylene stocks decreased by 1.2 million barrels last week to 35.6 million barrels as of March 23, 2018, 9.7 million barrels (21.4%) lower than the five-year average inventory level for this same time of year. East Coast and Midwest inventories each decreased by 0.5 million barrels, while Gulf Coast inventories decreased by 0.2 million barrels. Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories rose slightly, remaining virtually unchanged. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 8.2% of total propane/propylene inventories.
Residential heating oil prices increase, propane prices decrease
As of March 26, 2018, residential heating oil prices averaged almost $3.10 per gallon, nearly 4 cents per gallon higher than last week and 51 cents per gallon higher than last year's price at this time. The average wholesale heating oil price for this week averaged almost $2.12 per gallon, nearly 11 cents per gallon higher than last week and 52 cents per gallon higher than a year ago.
Residential propane prices averaged $2.48 per gallon, almost one cent per gallon lower than last week but nine cents per gallon higher than a year ago. Wholesale propane prices averaged $0.88 per gallon, 1 cent per gallon higher than last week and nearly 21 cents per gallon higher than last year's price. This is the last data collection for the 2017-2018 State Heating Oil and Propane Program (SHOPP) heating season. Data collection will resume on October 1, 2018 for publication on Wednesday, October 3, 2018.
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, October 2018; ClipperData
Note: Liquid fuels production includes crude oil, lease condensate, hydrocarbon gas liquids, biofuels, and refinery processing gain.
Iran's crude oil exports and production have declined since the May 2018 announcement by the United States that it would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and reinstate sanctions against Iran.
The announcement included two wind-down periods to allow those doing business that involved Iran time to comply. On August 6, 2018, the first wind-down period ended and triggered the re-imposition of some sanctions. On November 4, 2018, the second wind-down period will end and trigger the re-imposition of full sanctions, including a number of measures that target Iran’s energy sector.
According to data from ClipperData, Iran's exports of crude oil and condensate peaked in June at about 2.7 million barrels per day (b/d), more than 300,000 b/d higher than the average during the first four months of the year (before the May announcement of sanctions). In September, Iran’s crude oil and condensate exports fell to 1.9 million b/d. Although some countries, such as France and South Korea, stopped importing crude oil and condensate from Iran in July, other countries continue to import from Iran. The United States has not imported crude oil and condensate from Iran in several decades.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on ClipperData
ClipperData indicates that China and India collectively received nearly half of Iran's crude oil and condensate exports in the first half of 2018. During this period, China's imports from Iran averaged 644,000 b/d and India's imports from Iran averaged 554,000 b/d. In September, China's imports from Iran dropped to 441,000 b/d, the second lowest level since December 2015, while India's imports from Iran were 576,000 b/d.
Whether Iran's energy exports are declining entirely because of the sanctions or for other reasons is unclear. Trade press reports indicate a willingness on India's part to at least partially comply with the sanctions, but China had continued to import from Iran even when previous sanctions were in effect.
In response to the announcement of sanctions by the United States, the European Union passed a statute to protect European companies doing business in Iran from the effects of U.S. sanctions. Despite this effort, data from ClipperData indicate that France has not imported any crude oil or condensate from Iran since June. In addition, Italy’s and Spain’s imports from Iran in September were 27,000 b/d and 15,000 b/d lower than their averages for the first half of the year. Some countries could continue to import Iran's crude oil and condensate until the November 4 deadline, at which point they might stop importing from Iran.
Iran's exports have fallen at a faster rate than production. Shipping operators have decreased operations with Iran, but Iran has continued to export largely through the state-run National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. Trade press reports indicate that as countries continue to decrease imports from Iran, some of Iran’s shipping fleet is already being used as floating storage, where crude oil is placed onto ships and stored indefinitely.
Surplus crude oil production capacity in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could be used to replace some of Iran's crude oil barrels that are coming off the market. Saudi Arabia’s Arab Light is similar in composition to Iran Light crude oil and may provide refiners with a possible crude oil that would not require refiners to make significant alterations to their crude slates.
In addition, trade press reports indicate that Saudi Arabia is offering sales of Khuff condensate. However, the extent to which Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members offer enough volumes of crude oil and condensate to replace exports from Iran is unclear. After full sanctions are implemented in November, the total volumes of crude oil and condensate coming off the market will become more apparent in the following months.
Rosenberg WorleyParsons has won an engineering, procurement and construction contract from Lundin Norway and partners of PL338 for handling the modification work on the Edvard Grieg platform in the North Sea.
Modifications will enable Edvard Grieg offshore platform to receive and process oil and gas from nearby fields. Work is expected to be complete in the first quarter of 2021.
Based in Australia, WorleyParsons is an engineering services company, while Lundin Norway is an oil and gas company based in Norway.
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Equinor for the development of sustainable energy projects.
The two companies will work to explore the unconventional gas resources or tight gas in China and will develop oil and gas ventures worldwide.
CNPC is an oil and gas company based in China, while Equinor is a Norway-based petroleum and wind energy company.
KBR’s UK-based subsidiary has secured a front-end engineering design (FEED) services contract from BP for the development of the Tortue field hub / terminal located off the coast of Senegal and Mauritania.
FEED work will assist in the final investment decision (FID) for the project.
The deal also includes a provision to transit the contract to an engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) agreement in future.
Based in the US, KBR is an engineering, procurement and construction company.
Saipem has received three offshore engineering and construction (E&C) contracts worth $400m in Azerbaijan, the North Sea and the Republic of Congo.
In Azerbaijan, the Saipem consortium comprising Saipem Contracting Netherlands, Boshelf and Star Gulf has received a subsea, umbilical, riser and flowline contract for Absheron field development.
On behalf of the Tolmount Development Partners, Humberside Gathering System provided a pipeline engineering, procurement, construction and installation contract to Saipem in Southern North Sea for development of the Tolmount Main gasfield.
Eni Congo provided a maintenance, modifications and improvements contract to Saipem for all Eni Congo offshore sites in the Republic of Congo.
Saipem is an oil and gas industry contractor company based in Italy.
Equinor has agreed to sell 77.8% stake in the King Lear gas discovery in the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) for $250m to Aker BP.
The King Lear gas discovery lies in production licences PL 146 and PL 333 of the NCS and is estimated to contain recoverable resources of 77 million barrels of oil equivalent.
Equinor is an energy company, while Aker BP is an oil exploration and development organisation. Both companies are based in Norway.
If you’re looking for a new job in the oil and gas industry, you must ensure that you have the right application letter that opens a window of opportunity. A role in the oil and gas sector is highly specialized, so a regular application letter will not catch the attention of the recruiter. To grab eyeballs, your letter should have all the right ingredients to get you the interview call from the company you have been eyeing. If you are unsure about how to go about it, then here is a detailed guideline:
What is the purpose of the application letter?
An application letter is your first introduction to the company. It must answer the following questions and provide clarity on the same:
In the application letter, do not restate what you’ve covered in the resume. Although, you can give a sneak-peak into your resume by emphasizing your key skills.
How to begin?
Before you begin, remember: Be original. Do not copy and paste the template. Carefully list down the job requirements and note down your achievements and qualifications that match the expectations.
Components/format of a job application
Here is a list of components that you must include in your job application to the oil and gas sector.
The above components will give you a clear idea about the information that you will require to make your application stand out.
Detailed guideline to compose the letter for oil and gas industry
Use a technical CV format
In the oil and gas industry, technical expertise is in high demand. Exploration and production profiles in energy companies require electrical, chemical, mechanical engineering. Now with automation and digitization, IT skills are also in demand. The technical CV format is easily available online and it highlights the relevant technical expertise right at the beginning of the letter format. However, if you don’t find a ready-made format, always include your technical expertise in your cover letter, preferably in the first paragraph itself to highlight your credibility.
Highlight your willingness to travel
Numerous job roles in the oil and gas industry are available in remote locations. The head office is usually in a major city of the developed nation. However, the working centers are in developing nations. Oil and gas recruiters prefer candidates who are willing to work at remote locations and are flexible with traveling. So, highlight relevant experience where you have worked in remote locations. However, if you are a fresher, you may highlight evidence that proves your willingness to travel. You should mention it clearly, that you are internationally mobile and can relocate to any place based on the need.
Commitment to industry and relevant expertise
Oil and gas jobs need a highly qualified, skilled and dedicated workforce. Highlight your work experience that shows your dedication to the industry. Also, highlight your intention to work in this industry in future and your plans to upgrade your skills to stay relevant. Mention any training and development programs that you have been a part of.
Focus and optimize your application
The Oil and gas sector generally has openings in the roles of scientists, engineers, business people/managers, mathematicians, and analysts. Define clearly what job role you are targeting at and what relevant skills you have. Learn about the popular keywords pertaining to your job role and ensure the right usage of keywords in the application.
Show you are future-ready
The oil and gas industry is witnessing many changes due to digitization, automation, social media boost, millennial-workforce entry, big data management, virtual and augmented reality. These changes will impact future job responsibilities and roles. So, highlight your skills that show you are future-ready. Include all new-age skills, relevant experience, certification, training programs that you have undertaken that will boost your chances of selection.
Do not forget to follow-up
Following up after you have mailed your application letter is a must. Be aggressive in your follow-up by stating in your application that you will be following up within a week. However, if the employer has mentioned a process or a timeline for announcement of the shortlisted candidate, then mention ‘you look forward to their response.’ Please make sure you specify clearly how to reach you.
The oil and gas industry has numerous job opportunities if you have the right skills, attitude and talent to work and thrive in this dynamic industry. Just work on your application, customize it based on the specific need and you are good to go. If you are looking for any relevant job openings in the oil and gas sector, do check out the NrgEdge platform.