Donald Trump has led the US into an escalating trade spat with China that seems to be growing in size almost weekly. Will there be unintended consequences to its energy industry and strategy?
After China implemented counter tariffs to the US’ steel and aluminium import tariffs, Trump immediately proposed counter-tariffs on US$50 billion of Chinese goods, targeted at high tech products instead of mass consumer goods. He then complained a day late of ‘unfair retaliation’ when China fought back with proposed tariffs on key products from states that supported Trump in the last election, including soybean from the Midwest, the single largest US export to China last year. His solution? Another round of tariffs, this time with a higher target of US$100 billion of exports. China only exported US$170 billion of goods to the US in 2017; this is getting closer and closer to a blanket tariff regime, which could affect goods from smartphones to clothes.
China’s response to the US has been surgically precise, targeting areas that will hurt Trump politically. It hasn’t responded to the latest round of proposed tariffs yet, but if it wanted to, it could turn its eye to US energy exports. The first VLCC carrying US crude to China set sail in February 2018, and the string of LNG export projects on the US Gulf Coast is dependent on China’s soaring LNG demand – projected to double in the next five years – to succeed. According to Standard Chartered analysts, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. “China has become a major market for sales of U.S. crude abroad, accounting for about a quarter of shipments this year. But the U.S. accounts for a relatively small share of China's oil imports - just 4%, the analysts said. That ‘strong asymmetry’ means tariffs are not out of the question. A tariff would not necessarily cause a significant bottleneck for U.S. shale output, but would likely complicate marketing significantly and increase its discount on international markets"
Bloomberg also reports that “the Middle East is emerging as a potential beneficiary of the brewing trade war between the U.S. and China. If China goes ahead with its proposal to slap a 25% tariff on polyethylene and liquid propane, which were among 106 American goods targeted, buyers in the Asian nation may look elsewhere for alternatives to pricier U.S. supplies. And the energy-rich Middle East with plenty of petrochemical supplies looks well-suited to meet the substitution requirements. The region is already China’s biggest source for polyethylene - one of the most commonly used plastics in the world - and can further boost exports to the country along with another major seller South Korea, according to Goldman Sachs Group. In particular, Iran stands out as a likely beneficiary as the Persian Gulf nation can sell the gas at a discount to regional contract prices, said FGE consultant Ong Han Wee. “Iran is an attractive alternative,” he said. “Chinese companies will have to diversify their supply sources more toward Iran."
Trump says that ‘trade wars are easy to win’ but a negotiated settlement in the near future seems more likely than an outright ‘win’.
Something interesting to share?
Join NrgEdge and create your own NrgBuzz today
According to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria has the world’s 9th largest natural gas reserves (192 TCF of gas reserves). As at 2018, Nigeria exported over 1tcf of gas as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to several countries. However domestically, we produce less than 4,000MW of power for over 180million people.
Think about this – imagine every Nigerian holding a 20W light bulb, that’s how much power we generate in Nigeria. In comparison, South Africa generates 42,000MW of power for a population of 57 million. We have the capacity to produce over 2 million Metric Tonnes of fertilizer (primarily urea) per year but we still import fertilizer. The Federal Government’s initiative to rejuvenate the agriculture sector is definitely the right thing to do for our economy, but fertilizer must be readily available to support the industry. Why do we import fertilizer when we have so much gas?
I could go on and on with these statistics, but you can see where I’m going with this so I won’t belabor the point. I will leave you with this mental image: imagine a man that lives with his family on the banks of a river that has fresh, clean water. Rather than collect and use this water directly from the river, he treks over 20km each day to buy bottled water from a company that collects the same water, bottles it and sells to him at a profit. This is the tragedy on Nigeria and it should make us all very sad.
Several indigenous companies like Nestoil were born and grown by the opportunities created by the local and international oil majors – NNPC and its subsidiaries – NGC, NAPIMS, Shell, Mobil, Agip, NDPHC. Nestoil’s main focus is the Engineering Procurement Construction and Commissioning of oil and gas pipelines and flowstations, essentially, infrastructure that supports upstream companies to produce and transport oil and natural gas, as well as and downstream companies to store and move their product. In our 28 years of doing business, we have built over 300km of pipelines of various sizes through the harshest terrain, ranging from dry land to seasonal swamp, to pure swamps, as well as some of the toughest and most volatile and hostile communities in Nigeria. I would be remiss if I do not use this opportunity to say a big thank you to those companies that gave us the opportunity to serve you. The over 2,000 direct staff and over 50,000 indirect staff we employ thank you. We are very grateful for the past opportunities given to us, and look forward to future opportunities that we can get.
Headline crude prices for the week beginning 15 July 2019 – Brent: US$66/b; WTI: US$59/b
Headlines of the week
Unplanned crude oil production outages for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) averaged 2.5 million barrels per day (b/d) in the first half of 2019, the highest six-month average since the end of 2015. EIA estimates that in June, Iran alone accounted for more than 60% (1.7 million b/d) of all OPEC unplanned outages.
EIA differentiates among declines in production resulting from unplanned production outages, permanent losses of production capacity, and voluntary production cutbacks for OPEC members. Only the first of those categories is included in the historical unplanned production outage estimates that EIA publishes in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO).
Unplanned production outages include, but are not limited to, sanctions, armed conflicts, political disputes, labor actions, natural disasters, and unplanned maintenance. Unplanned outages can be short-lived or last for a number of years, but as long as the production capacity is not lost, EIA tracks these disruptions as outages rather than lost capacity.
Loss of production capacity includes natural capacity declines and declines resulting from irreparable damage that are unlikely to return within one year. This lost capacity cannot contribute to global supply without significant investment and lead time.
Voluntary cutbacks are associated with OPEC production agreements and only apply to OPEC members. Voluntary cutbacks count toward the country’s spare capacity but are not counted as unplanned production outages.
EIA defines spare crude oil production capacity—which only applies to OPEC members adhering to OPEC production agreements—as potential oil production that could be brought online within 30 days and sustained for at least 90 days, consistent with sound business practices. EIA does not include unplanned crude oil production outages in its assessment of spare production capacity.
As an example, EIA considers Iranian production declines that result from U.S. sanctions to be unplanned production outages, making Iran a significant contributor to the total OPEC unplanned crude oil production outages. During the fourth quarter of 2015, before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action became effective in January 2016, EIA estimated that an average 800,000 b/d of Iranian production was disrupted. In the first quarter of 2019, the first full quarter since U.S. sanctions on Iran were re-imposed in November 2018, Iranian disruptions averaged 1.2 million b/d.
Another long-term contributor to EIA’s estimate of OPEC unplanned crude oil production outages is the Partitioned Neutral Zone (PNZ) between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Production halted there in 2014 because of a political dispute between the two countries. EIA attributes half of the PNZ’s estimated 500,000 b/d production capacity to each country.
In the July 2019 STEO, EIA only considered about 100,000 b/d of Venezuela’s 130,000 b/d production decline from January to February as an unplanned crude oil production outage. After a series of ongoing nationwide power outages in Venezuela that began on March 7 and cut electricity to the country's oil-producing areas, EIA estimates that PdVSA, Venezuela’s national oil company, could not restart the disrupted production because of deteriorating infrastructure, and the previously disrupted 100,000 b/d became lost capacity.