With “Creating Value through Collaboration” as its theme, the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference (APIC) 2018 puts the spotlight on the imperative of collaboration and cooperation in paving the way for a prosperous and robust petrochemical industry.
Rising optimism in the oil & gas industry
With 2017 deemed by many as the year of recovery, 2018 brings about a sense of optimism as the oil and gas industry continues its slow and steady recovery from the 2014 downturn. Global oil prices are rising gradually from around $30 per barrel in early 2016 to around $53 per barrel in 2017. There is also an increase in upstream and downstream activities which is a positive indicator of the health of the industry.
Robust global economic growth has led to a steady increase in oil and gas demand. In its latest report, International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasted that global oil demand will rise from 97.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to 104.7 million bpd from 2018 to 2023 with China and India contributing half of the increase in demand.
Non-OPEC countries is forecasted to dominate the global oil supply contributing 59.26 million bpd of crude oil this year, with the US contributing the largest supply growth amounting to 1.4 million bpd for 2018. Apart from the surging output from the US, rising production from Canada, Brazil and Norway is expected to support and drive global demand, while the Middle East continues to remain as Asia’s biggest supplier.
Asia as the key driver of global petrochemical industry
Asia’s robust economic growth supported by megatrends; rapid urbanisation, growing population and rising middle class income will lead to higher demand of petrochemicals. This will increase the potential for continuous growth of the industry in the region.
One of the bright stars in Asia is China. Availability of coal resources and imported LPG from the US, and the development of integrated refinery and petrochemical complexes have made the availability of feedstock for the development of the petrochemical industry.
India is also expanding its petrochemical capacities and increasing its flexibility in petrochemical production. The government is planning to develop petrochemical complexes around India to meet the increasing demand for polymers and speciality chemicals across the diverse industrial segments. In 2017, India’s Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has successfully commissioned the world’s largest ethane importing plant and has now begun to import ethane from the US for its crackers in Dahej and Hazira.
Growing capacity expansion in the US
The shale revolution brought about a robust petrochemical capacity expansion in the US. According to an analysis by Independent Chemical Information Service (ICIS) eight new ethane crackers are expected to commence production from 2017 to 2018, producing a total of 9.2 million tonnes/year of ethylene capacity.
The US polyethylene capacity is projected to rise by 6.5 million tonnes/year, accounting for about 42% of global polyethylene capacity expansion up till 2020. The US polyethylene production will mostly be meant for export to key regions such as Latin America and Europe. The increased expansion has opened arbitrage opportunities to Asia, competing with the regional producers as well as producers from the Middle East.
The need for collaboration for the sustainability of the industry
With intensifying competition from other regions, collaboration plays a prominent role in enhancing the robustness of the Asian petrochemical industry. Strong cooperation between manufacturer and consumer is needed to develop new markets for differentiated products. The focus on creating high-value specialty chemicals which are customised to cater for the niche market will help propel the industry further in positioning the Asian petrochemical producers as solution providers.
Akbar Md Thayoob, President, Malaysian Petrochemicals Association (MPA) said, “Today, Petrochemicals are regarded as the key engine of growth as we move into the future. Shaped by the megatrends of urbanisation, ageing population, rising middle income, energy efficiency, just to name a few. Against this backdrop, there is a need for the petrochemicals fraternity to come together and collaborate to offer sustainable solutions demanded by these megatrends.”
Malaysia’s petrochemical industry landscape
Malaysia’s petrochemical industry began in the early 1990s with the development of three major petrochemical facilities strategically located in Gebeng, Kertih and Pasir Gudang. Since then, Malaysia has been among the key petrochemical players in the region with a wide range of petrochemicals being produced and exported from the country such as olefins, aromatics, ethylene oxides and glycols, among many others. These world-scale plants have also contributed significantly to the production of the local plastic processing activities in the country by providing a steady supply of feedstock material for the plastic industry.
PETRONAS’ largest downstream project, Pengerang Integrated Complex (PIC), is currently on track for overall start up by early 2019. This bold move by PETRONAS is expected to push the Malaysian Oil and Gas downstream sector into a new frontier of technology and economic development. During the construction period, PIC employed up to 60,000 workers and created spin-off from economic activities to its surrounding areas. Its proximity to the world’s busiest shipping lane and international trading hub makes it the most strategic regional downstream hub.
The Malaysian government’s support in providing a conducive ecosystem has also helped the petrochemical industry to thrive in the country. This includes the development of infrastructure and offering of incentives to attract foreign companies to invest in Malaysia and boost local manufacturing sector activities.
APIC 2018: Creating Value through Collaboration
Against the backdrop of these opportunities, APIC 2018 will gather key business players, leading market analysts and industry experts in Kuala Lumpur from 9th to 10th May to provide insights and critical analysis from across the chemical value chain to enhance the growth of the industry.
Notable speakers for the event includes Dave Witte, Senior Vice President, Division Head – Energy & Chemicals, IHS Markit, Clive Gibson, Vice President, Asia, Energy & Chemicals Advisory, Nexant, Vipul S Shah, COO – Petrochemicals, Reliance Industries Ltd and Dr Andrea Frenzel, President, South & East Asia, ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand, BASF.
For more information about Asia’s most premier petrochemical industry event, APIC 2018, visit www.apic2018.org.my
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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
In April 2019, Venezuela's crude oil production averaged 830,000 barrels per day (b/d), down from 1.2 million b/d at the beginning of the year, according to EIA’s May 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook. This average is the lowest level since January 2003, when a nationwide strike and civil unrest largely brought the operations of Venezuela's state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), to a halt. Widespread power outages, mismanagement of the country's oil industry, and U.S. sanctions directed at Venezuela's energy sector and PdVSA have all contributed to the recent declines.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Baker Hughes
Venezuela’s oil production has decreased significantly over the last three years. Production declines accelerated in 2018, decreasing by an average of 33,000 b/d each month in 2018, and the rate of decline increased to an average of over 135,000 b/d per month in the first quarter of 2019. The number of active oil rigs—an indicator of future oil production—also fell from nearly 70 rigs in the first quarter of 2016 to 24 rigs in the first quarter of 2019. The declines in Venezuelan crude oil production will have limited effects on the United States, as U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude oil have decreased over the last several years. EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in 2018 averaged 505,000 b/d and were the lowest since 1989.
EIA expects Venezuela's crude oil production to continue decreasing in 2019, and declines may accelerate as sanctions-related deadlines pass. These deadlines include provisions that third-party entities using the U.S. financial system stop transactions with PdVSA by April 28 and that U.S. companies, including oil service companies, involved in the oil sector must cease operations in Venezuela by July 27. Venezuela's chronic shortage of workers across the industry and the departure of U.S. oilfield service companies, among other factors, will contribute to a further decrease in production.
Additionally, U.S. sanctions, as outlined in the January 25, 2019 Executive Order 13857, immediately banned U.S. exports of petroleum products—including unfinished oils that are blended with Venezuela's heavy crude oil for processing—to Venezuela. The Executive Order also required payments for PdVSA-owned petroleum and petroleum products to be placed into an escrow account inaccessible by the company. Preliminary weekly estimates indicate a significant decline in U.S. crude oil imports from Venezuela in February and March, as without direct access to cash payments, PdVSA had little reason to export crude oil to the United States.
India, China, and some European countries continued to receive Venezuela's crude oil, according to data published by ClipperData Inc. Venezuela is likely keeping some crude oil cargoes intended for exports in floating storageuntil it finds buyers for the cargoes.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, and Clipper Data Inc.
A series of ongoing nationwide power outages in Venezuela that began on March 7 cut electricity to the country's oil-producing areas, likely damaging the reservoirs and associated infrastructure. In the Orinoco Oil Belt area, Venezuela produces extra-heavy crude oil that requires dilution with condensate or other light oils before the oil is sent by pipeline to domestic refineries or export terminals. Venezuela’s upgraders, complex processing units that upgrade the extra-heavy crude oil to help facilitate transport, were shut down in March during the power outages.
If Venezuelan crude or upgraded oil cannot flow as a result of a lack of power to the pumping infrastructure, heavier molecules sink and form a tar-like layer in the pipelines that can hinder the flow from resuming even after the power outages are resolved. However, according to tanker tracking data, Venezuela's main export terminal at Puerto José was apparently able to load crude oil onto vessels between power outages, possibly indicating that the loaded crude oil was taken from onshore storage. For this reason, EIA estimates that Venezuela's production fell at a faster rate than its exports.
EIA forecasts that Venezuela's crude oil production will continue to fall through at least the end of 2020, reflecting further declines in crude oil production capacity. Although EIA does not publish forecasts for individual OPEC countries, it does publish total OPEC crude oil and other liquids production. Further disruptions to Venezuela's production beyond what EIA currently assumes would change this forecast.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 13 May 2019 – Brent: US$70/b; WTI: US$61/b
Headlines of the week
Midstream & Downstream
The world’s largest oil & gas companies have generally reported a mixed set of results in Q1 2019. Industry turmoil over new US sanctions on Venezuela, production woes in Canada and the ebb-and-flow between OPEC+’s supply deal and rising American production have created a shaky environment at the start of the year, with more ongoing as the oil world grapples with the removal of waivers on Iranian crude and Iran’s retaliation.
The results were particularly disappointing for ExxonMobil and Chevron, the two US supermajors. Both firms cited weak downstream performance as a drag on their financial performance, with ExxonMobil posting its first loss in its refining business since 2009. Chevron, too, reported a 65% drop in the refining and chemicals profit. Weak refining margins, particularly on gasoline, were blamed for the underperformance, exacerbating a set of weaker upstream numbers impaired by lower crude pricing even though production climbed. ExxonMobil was hit particularly hard, as its net profit fell below Chevron’s for the first time in nine years. Both supermajors did highlight growing output in the American Permian Basin as a future highlight, with ExxonMobil saying it was on track to produce 1 million barrels per day in the Permian by 2024. The Permian is also the focus of Chevron, which agreed to a US$33 billion takeover of Anadarko Petroleum (and its Permian Basin assets), only for the deal to be derailed by a rival bid from Occidental Petroleum with the backing of billionaire investor guru Warren Buffet. Chevron has now decided to opt out of the deal – a development that would put paid to Chevron’s ambitions to match or exceed ExxonMobil in shale.
Performance was better across the pond. Much better, in fact, for Royal Dutch Shell, which provided a positive end to a variable earnings season. Net profit for the Anglo-Dutch firm may have been down 2% y-o-y to US$5.3 billion, but that was still well ahead of even the highest analyst estimates of US$4.52 billion. Weaker refining margins and lower crude prices were cited as a slight drag on performance, but Shell’s acquisition of BG Group is paying dividends as strong natural gas performance contributed to the strong profits. Unlike ExxonMobil and Chevron, Shell has only dipped its toes in the Permian, preferring to maintain a strong global portfolio mixed between oil, gas and shale assets.
For the other European supermajors, BP and Total largely matched earning estimates. BP’s net profits of US$2.36 billion hit the target of analyst estimates. The addition of BHP Group’s US shale oil assets contributed to increased performance, while BP’s downstream performance was surprisingly resilient as its in-house supply and trading arm showed a strong performance – a business division that ExxonMobil lacks. France’s Total also hit the mark of expectations, with US$2.8 billion in net profit as lower crude prices offset the group’s record oil and gas output. Total’s upstream performance has been particularly notable – with start-ups in Angola, Brazil, the UK and Norway – with growth expected at 9% for the year.
All in all, the volatile environment over the first quarter of 2019 has seen some shift among the supermajors. Shell has eclipsed ExxonMobil once again – in both revenue and earnings – while Chevron’s failed bid for Anadarko won’t vault it up the rankings. Almost ten years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, BP is now reclaiming its place after being overtaken by Total over the past few years. With Q219 looking to be quite volatile as well, brace yourselves for an interesting earnings season.
Supermajor Financials: Q1 2019