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Last Updated: March 30, 2018
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 26 March 2017 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$65/b

  • A week-long rally last week has pushed oil prices up to opportunistic highs, with Brent ending the week above the US$70/b level.
  • Political tensions, particularly in the Middle East, have supported the prices. Over last weekend, Saudi Aramco announced that it has shot down ballistic missiles fired from Yemen over Riyadh. It is the latest in the proxy confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the Saudi king attempting to get the USA on his side during Donald Trump’s visit.
  • Crude oil future contract trading has also begun in Shanghai, surpassing expectations in terms of volumes as individual investors have joined large commodity traders like Glencore and Trafigura.
  • Also supporting the rally was a surprise drop in US crude stockpiles last week, as imports dropped and refining rates rose, with strong demand drawing down gasoline and distillate inventories.
  • As a result, oil prices traded slightly weaker at the start of the week, as investors indulged in some profit-taking, but there seems to be enough strength in the market to keep prices on the higher end of the spectrum.
  • President Donald Trump’s introduction of new tariffs against China did spook the market with the threat of a trade war, that could potentially affect the US upstream industry infrastructure in the long term.
  • However, signs are that American crude storage surged this week, will add some gravity pull to prices this week, as the US rig count marched up, underscoring the continual concerns of American overproduction.
  • According to Baker Hughes, the American total rig count gained 5 sites last week – 4 oil and 1 gas – with the gains once again coming from the Permian Basin outweighing losses from Cana Woodford.
  • Crude price outlook: After highs last week and supply worries this week, crude prices this week should moderate slightly to US$68/b for Brent and US$64/b for WTI.


Headlines of the week


  • Adnoc continues to sell stakes in its upstream concessions to attract strategic participation, with PetroChina being the latest with a 40-year, 10% stake in Umm Shaif, Nasr and Lower Zakum for US$1.175 billion.
  • Over 21,000 hectares of onshore oil and has blocks have been auctioned off in southeastern Utah, with the 43 parcels coming from lands that were scaled back from national park border by Presidential order last year.
  • Petro Matad will be drilling four wells in landlocked Mongolia this year, opening up one of the last onshore frontiers for oil exploration in a bid to reduce dependence on Russia refined product imports.
  • CNOOC’s Weizhou 6-13 oilfield in the South China Sea has started up ahead of schedule, with peak production of 9,400 b/d expected in 2019.
  • Vietnam has halted drilling in the offshore Red Emperor block due to pressure from China, potentially costing Spain’s Repsol US$200 million.
  • China’s first crude oil futures contract has launched in Shanghai, attracting huge attention with the first trade landed by Glencore.
  • Shell has sold its entire stake in the West Qurna 1 oilfield in Iraq to Itochu for US$406 million, continuing its exit from Iraq after the Majnoon field.
  • Mexico’s oil regulator has directed Pemex to float a minority stake of the company to raise funds to improve its hampered ability to develop assets.
  • Oil Search has announced that the Gobe condensate processing plant and oil export pipeline in Papua New Guinea will resume operations this week after the deadly earthquake. Operations at Kutubu will also resume ‘soon.’


  • India and Myanmar are looking into building a pipeline from India’s east coast to Myanmar to ship refined products, which could connect to Bangladesh as well. Myanmar currently imports mostly from Singapore.

Natural Gas/LNG

  • As expected, Japan’s Inpex has officially delayed the startup of its troubled Ichthys LNG project in Australia to ‘April or May’, after a tropical cyclone caused minor damage at the site in the Northern Territory.
  • Greece’s Energean will be pumping in US$1.6 billion to develop the Karish and Tanin gas field offshore Israel, after a successful IPO in London.
  • Mubadala Petroleum and its partners Petronas and Shell are aiming to produce first gas from the Pegaga field in Malaysia by 3Q2021.
  • First gas has been achieved at the B15 field in Sarawak's SK310 PSC operated by Sapura E&P, and will connect to the Bintulu MLNG complex.
  • TransCanada is proposing to expand its Nova Gas Transmission Line that would expand transport of gas from Alberta and British Columbia to the rest of North America, now that British Columbia LNG plans are facing difficulties. Malaysia’s Petronas is reportedly interested in investing.
  • Despite some legal challenges, the EU Parliament is moving to draft new rules to regulate Russia’s planned Nord Stream 2 link to Germany.
  • Shell is reportedly considering signing a 15-year contract to purchase natural gas from Cyprus’s Aphrodite and Israel’s Leviathan to be processed into LNG at its Idku plant in Egypt.
  • Eni expects to sanction its Mamba LNG project in Mozambique by 2020, with a target for first gas in 2024.

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