Last Updated: April 5, 2018
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Refining & Petrochem
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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

APIC Petrochemical Refining Malaysia
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BP & The Expansion of the Caspian

The vast Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan’s portion of the South Caspian Sea marked several milestones in 2018. It has now produced a cumulative total of 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas since the field started up in 2006, with daily output reaching a new peak, growing by 12.5% y-o-y. At a cost of US$28 billion, Shah Deniz – with its estimated 1.2 trillion cubic metres of gas resources – has proven to be an unparalleled success, being a founding link of Europe’s Southern Gas Corridor and coming in relatively on budget and on time. And now BP, along with its partners, is hoping to replicate that success with an ambitious exploration schedule over the next two years.

Four new exploration wells in three blocks, along with a seismic survey of a fourth, are planned for 2019 and an additional three wells in 2020. The aggressive programme is aimed at confirming a long-held belief by BP and SOCAR there are more significant pockets of gas swirling around the area. The first exploratory well is targeting the Shafag-Asiman block, where initial seismic surveys suggest natural gas reserves of some 500 billion cubic metres; if confirmed, that would make it the second-largest gas field ever discovered in the Caspian, behind only Shah Deniz. BP also suspects that Shah Deniz itself could be bigger than expected – the company has long predicted the existence of a second, deeper reservoir below the existing field, and a ‘further assessment’ is planned for 2020 to get to the bottom of the case, so to speak.

Two wells are planned to be drilled in the Shallow Water Absheron Peninsula (SWAP) block, some 30km southeast of Baku, where BP operates in equal partnership with SOCAR, with an additional well planned for 2020. The goal at SWAP is light crude oil, as is a seismic survey in the deepwater Caspian Sea Block D230 where a ‘significant amount’ of oil is expected. Exploration in the onshore Gobustan block, an inland field 50km north of Baku, rounds up BP’s upstream programme and the company expects that at least one seven wells of these will yield a bonanza that will take Azerbaijan’s reserves well into the middle of the century.

Developments in the Caspian are key, as it is the starting node of the Southern Gas Corridor – meant to deliver gas to Europe. Shah Deniz gas currently makes its way to Turkey via the South Caucasus Gas pipeline and exports onwards to Europe should begin when the US$8.5 billion, 32 bcm/y Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) starts service in 2020. Planned output from Azerbaijan currently only fills half of the TANAP capacity, meaning there is room for plenty more gas, if BP can find it. From Turkey, Azeri gas will link up to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline in Greece and connect into Turkey, potentially joined by other pipelines projects that are planned to link up with gas production in Israel. This alternate source of natural gas for Europe is crucial, particularly since political will to push through the Nordstream-2 pipeline connecting Russian gas to Germany is slackening. The demand is there and so is the infrastructure. And now BP will be spending the next two years trying to prove that the supply exists underneath Azerbaijan.

BP’s upcoming planned exploration in the Caspian:

  • Shafag-Asiman, late 2019, targeting natural gas
  • SWAP, 3 sites, late 2019/2020, targeting oil
  • ‘Onshore gas project’, end 2019, targeting natural gas’
  • Block D230, 2019 (seismic assessment)/2020 (drilling), targeting oil
  • Shah Deniz ‘further assessment’, 2020, targeting natural gas
January, 22 2019
RAPID Rises

When it was first announced in 2012, there was scepticism about whether or not Petronas’ RAPID refinery in Johor was destined for reality or cancellation. It came at a time when the refining industry saw multiple ambitious, sometimes unpractical, projects announced. At that point, Petronas – though one of the most respected state oil firms – was still seen as more of an upstream player internationally. Its downstream forays were largely confined to its home base Malaysia and specialty chemicals, as well as a surprising venture into South African through Engen. Its refineries, too, were relatively small. So the announcement that Petronas was planning essentially, its own Jamnagar, promoted some pessimism. Could it succeed?

It has. The RAPID refinery – part of a larger plan to turn the Pengerang district in southern Johor into an oil refining and storage hub capitalising on linkages with Singapore – received its first cargo of crude oil for testing in September 2018. Mechanical completion was achieved on November 29 and all critical units have begun commissioning ahead of the expected firing up of RAPID’s 300 kb/d CDU later this month. A second cargo of 2 million barrels of Saudi crude arrived at RAPID last week. It seems like it’s all systems go for RAPID. But it wasn’t always so clear cut. Financing difficulties – and the 2015 crude oil price crash – put the US$27 billion project on shaky ground for a while, and it was only when Saudi Aramco swooped in to purchase a US$7 billion stake in the project that it started coalescing. Petronas had been courting Aramco since the start of the project, mainly as a crude provider, but having the Saudi giant on board was the final step towards FID. It guaranteed a stable supply of crude for Petronas; and for Aramco, RAPID gave it a foothold in a major global refining hub area as part of its strategy to expand downstream.

But RAPID will be entering into a market quite different than when it was first announced. In 2012, demand for fuel products was concentrated on light distillates; in 2019, that focus has changed. Impending new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations are requiring shippers to switch from burning cheap (and dirty) fuel oil to using cleaner middle distillate gasoils. This plays well into complex refineries like RAPID, specialising in cracking heavy and medium Arabian crude into valuable products. But the issue is that Asia and the rest of the world is currently swamped with gasoline. A whole host of new Asian refineries – the latest being the 200 kb/d Nghi Son in Vietnam – have contributed to growing volumes of gasoline with no home in Asia. Gasoline refining margins in Singapore have taken a hit, falling into negative territory for the first time in seven years. Adding RAPID to the equation places more pressure on gasoline margins, even though margins for middle distillates are still very healthy. And with three other large Asian refinery projects scheduled to come online in 2019 – one in Brunei and two in China – that glut will only grow.

The safety valve for RAPID (and indeed the other refineries due this year) is that they have been planned with deep petrochemicals integration, using naphtha produced from the refinery portion. RAPID itself is planned to have capacity of 3 million tpa of ethylene, propylene and other olefins – still a lucrative market that justifies the mega-investment. But it will be at least two years before RAPID’s petrochemicals portion will be ready to start up, and when it does, it’ll face the same set of challenging circumstances as refineries like Hengli’s 400 kb/d Dalian Changxing plant also bring online their petchem operations. But that is a problem for the future and for now, RAPID is first out of the gate into reality. It won’t be entering in a bonanza fuels market as predicted in 2012, but there is still space in the market for RAPID – and a few other like in – at least for now.

 

RAPID Refinery Factsheet:

  • Ownership: Petronas (50%), Saudi Aramco (50%)
  • Capacity: 300 kb/d CDU/3 mtpa olefins plant
  • Other facilities: 1.22 Gigawatt congeneration plant, 3.5 mtpa regasification terminal
  • Expected commissioning: March 2019
January, 21 2019
Forecasting Bangladesh Tyre Market | Zulker Naeen

Tyre market in Bangladesh is forecasted to grow at over 9% until 2020 on the back of growth in automobile sales, advancements in public infrastructure, and development-seeking government policies.

The government has emphasized on the road infrastructure of the country, which has been instrumental in driving vehicle sales in the country.

The tyre market reached Tk 4,750 crore last year, up from about Tk 4,000 crore in 2017, according to market insiders.

The commercial vehicle tyre segment dominates this industry with around 80% of the market share. At least 1.5 lakh pieces of tyres in the segment were sold in 2018.

In the commercial vehicle tyre segment, the MRF's market share is 30%. Apollo controls 5% of the segment, Birla 10%, CEAT 3%, and Hankook 1%. The rest 51% is controlled by non-branded Chinese tyres.

However, Bangladesh mostly lacks in tyre manufacturing setups, which leads to tyre imports from other countries as the only feasible option to meet the demand. The company largely imports tyre from China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.

Automobile and tyre sales in Bangladesh are expected to grow with the rising in purchasing power of people as well as growing investments and joint ventures of foreign market players. The country might become the exporting destination for global tyre manufacturers.

Several global tyre giants have also expressed interest in making significant investments by setting up their manufacturing units in the country.

This reflects an opportunity for local companies to set up an indigenous manufacturing base in Bangladesh and also enables foreign players to set up their localized production facilities to capture a significant market.

It can be said that, the rise in automobile sales, improvement in public infrastructure, and growth in purchasing power to drive the tyre market over the next five years.

January, 18 2019