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Oil company proved reserves additions in 2017 were most since 2013 while expenditures were about half


In 2017, a group of the world’s largest publicly traded oil and natural gas producers added more hydrocarbons to their resource base than in any year since 2013, according to the annual reports of 83 exploration and production companies. Collectively, these companies added a net 8.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) to their proved reserves during 2017, which totaled 277 billion BOE at the end of the year. Exploration and development (E&D) spending in 2017 increased 11% from 2016 levels, but remained 47% lower than 2013 levels.


Of the 83 companies, 18 held more than 80% of the 277 billion BOE in proved reserves at the end of 2017. While many of these companies have global operations, some are national oil companies with reserves concentrated in their home countries including Russia, China, and Brazil. Proved reserves change from year to year because of revisions to existing reserves, extensions and discoveries of new resources, purchases and sales of proved reserves, and production. Figure 1 illustrates the 83 companies’ combined proved reserves changes during 2017.

Figure 1. Regional proved reserves


Organic additions to proved reserves, or reserves added through improved recovery and extensions and discoveries, are linked directly with capital expenditures in E&D. Proved reserves acquired through purchases do not represent E&D capital investment, but rather reflect transfers of assets between companies. Revisions to proved reserves are usually more significantly influenced by changes in crude oil and natural gas prices than by E&D investment.


Of the 17.7 billion BOE in organic proved reserves added in 2017, slightly less than half (8.5 billion BOE) were in the United States, while Russia, Central Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 24% (4.3 billion BOE). Canada (which includes oil sands and synthetic crude oil), Latin America, and the Middle East and Africa regions each added more than 1.1 billion BOE. Regionally, Europe accounted for the fewest organically added proved reserves for the sixth consecutive year, adding 0.3 billion BOE of proved reserves in 2017, 2% of the world total (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Regional organic  proved reserves


Global E&D spending by region was similarly distributed. Of the $285 billion companies spent on E&D in 2017, 33% ($95 billion) was in the United States, with the Russia, Central Asia, and Asia-Pacific region accounting for 30% ($85 billion) and all other regions each accounting for 10% or less. Changes in nominal year-over-year E&D spending varied across regions, increasing by 36% in the United States and by 15% each in Canada and the Russia, Central Asia, and Asia-Pacific region. Spending declined by 24% in Europe, 16% in the Middle East and Africa, and 15% in Latin America (Figure 3). Because significant cost deflation has occurred in the oil and natural gas industry since 2014, nominal spending values in different years may not be directly comparable.

Figure 3. Regional exploration and production


Because of a disparity between the timing of companies’ capital expenditures and the formal reporting of changes to their proved reserves, standard practice is to average the results over several years. Analyzed this way, E&D costs declined significantly on a per BOE basis from the 2012–2014 average to the 2015–2017 average (Figure 4). Three-year average E&D capital expenditures per BOE of organic proved reserves additions decreased in all regions except Latin America. On an annual basis, 2017 represented the lowest E&D capital expenditures per additional BOE to proved reserves during the 2012–2017 period at $16.12/BOE.

Figure 4. Finding costs for 83 publicly traded


First quarter 2018 capital expenditures for this set of companies were 16% higher than the first quarter of 2017, suggesting that many of these companies have increased their E&D budgets, which will likely contribute to further organic proved reserves additions in 2018.


U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices decrease


The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price decreased 3 cents from last week to $2.88 per gallon on June 18, 2018, up 56 cents from the same time last year. Gulf Coast and East Coast prices each decreased over four cents to $2.65 per gallon and $2.80, respectively, Midwest prices decreased nearly three cents to $2.79 per gallon, West Coast prices decreased nearly two cents to $3.43 per gallon, and Rocky Mountain prices decreased over one penny to $2.98.


The U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased over 2 cents from last week to $3.24 per gallon on June 18, 2018, 76 cents higher than a year ago. Midwest prices declined nearly three cents to $3.17 per gallon, East Coast and Gulf Coast prices each declined over two cents to $3.24 per gallon and $3.02 per gallon, respectively, West Coast prices declined nearly two cents to $3.75 per gallon, and Rocky Mountain prices decreased less than one cent to $3.34 per gallon.


Propane/propylene inventories rise


U.S. propane/propylene stocks increased by 3.2 million barrels last week to 54.1 million barrels as of June 15, 2018, 9.5 million barrels (14.9%) lower than the five-year average inventory level for this same time of year. Midwest, Gulf Coast, East Coast, and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories increased by 1.2 million barrels, 1.1 million barrels, 0.7 million barrels, and 0.2 million barrels, respectively. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 5.0% of total propane/propylene inventories.

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U.S. refineries running at near-record highs

U.S. gross refinery inputs

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Petroleum Status Report

For the week ending July 6, 2018, the four-week average of U.S. gross refinery inputs surpassed 18 million barrels per day (b/d) for the first time on record. U.S. refineries are running at record levels in response to robust domestic and international demand for motor gasoline and distillate fuel oil.

Before the most recent increases in refinery runs, the last time the four-week average of U.S. gross refinery inputs approached 18 million b/d was the week of August 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey made landfall the following week, resulting in widespread refinery closures and shutdowns along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Despite record-high inputs, refinery utilization as a percentage of capacity has not surpassed the record set in 1998. Rather than higher utilization, refinery runs have increased with increased refinery capacity. U.S. refinery capacity increased by 862,000 barrels per calendar day (b/cd) between January 1, 2011, and January 1, 2018.

The record-high U.S. input levels are driven in large part by refinery operations in the Gulf Coast and Midwest regions, the Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDs) with the most refinery capacity in the country. The Gulf Coast (PADD 3) has more than half of all U.S. refinery capacity and reached a new record input level the same week as the record-high overall U.S. capacity, with four-week average gross refinery inputs of 9.5 million b/d for the week ending July 6. The Midwest (PADD 2) has the second-highest refinery capacity, and the four-week average gross refinery inputs reached a record-high 4.1 million b/d for the week ending June 1.

Gulf Coast and Midwest gross refinery inputs


U.S. refineries are responding currently to high demand for petroleum products, specifically motor gasoline and distillate. The four-week average of finished motor gasoline product supplied—EIA’s proxy measure of U.S. consumption—typically hits the highest level of the year in August. Weekly data for this summer to date suggest that this year’s peak in finished motor gasoline product supplied is likely to match that of 2016 and 2017, the two highest years on record, at 9.8 million b/d. The four-week average of finished motor gasoline product supplied for the week ending August 3, 2018, was at 9.7 million b/d.

U.S. distillate consumption, again measured as product supplied, is also relatively high, averaging 4.0 million b/d for the past four weeks, 64,000 b/d lower than the five-year average level for this time of year. In addition to relatively strong domestic distillate consumption, U.S. exports of distillate have continued to increase, reaching a four-week average of 1.2 million b/d as of August 3, 2018. For the week ending August 3, 2018, the four-week average of U.S. distillate product supplied plus exports reached 5.2 million b/d.

In its August Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), EIA forecasts that U.S. refinery runs will average 16.9 million b/d and 17.0 million b/d in 2018 and 2019, respectively. If achieved, both would be new record highs, surpassing the 2017 annual average of 16.6 million b/d.

August, 14 2018
Offshore discoveries in the Mediterranean could increase Egypt’s natural gas production


Egypt natural gas fields and select infrastructure

Natural gas production in Egypt has been in decline, falling from a 2009 peak of 5.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) to 3.9 Bcf/d in 2016, based on estimates in BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy. The startup of a number of natural gas development projects located offshore in the eastern Mediterranean Sea near Egypt’s northern coast has significantly altered the outlook for the region’s natural gas markets. Production from these projects could offset the growing need for natural gas imports to meet domestic demand, according to the Egyptian government.

The West Nile Delta, Nooros, Atoll, and Zohr fields were fast-tracked for development by the Egyptian government and have begun production, providing a substantial increase to Egypt’s natural gas supply. The Zohr field’s estimated recoverable natural gas reserves of up to 22 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) would make it the largest natural gas field in the Mediterranean, based on company reports gathered by IHS Markit. The Zohr field is currently producing 1.1 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day and is expected to increase to 2.7 Bcf per day by the end of 2019.

Natural gas production in Egypt has declined largely as a result of relatively low investment, according to Business Monitor International research. Meanwhile, domestic demand for energy has grown, driven by economic growth, increased natural gas use for power generation, and energy subsidies. With the exception of small declines in 2013 and 2014, natural gas consumption has increased every year since at least 1990, and it is up 19% from 2009, when domestic production peaked.

Faced with growing demand and declining supply, Egypt had to close its liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals to divert supply to domestic consumption. Egypt became a net natural gas importer in 2015, and although LNG exports resumed in 2016, Egypt’s net imports of natural gas continued to increase.

Egypt dry natural gas production, consumption, and trade

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy

The Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) indicated that Egypt will still need to import small volumes of natural gas in the coming years, particularly for the power sector. MEES reported that the state-owned Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) awarded contracts that would add 25 gigawatts (GW) to total generation capacity, 70% of which would come from natural gas-fired projects. Three combined-cycle natural gas turbine power plants with a total capacity of 14.4 GW will collectively require as much as 2.0 Bcf/d of natural gas when they become fully operational in 2020.

August, 15 2018
US Energy Exports Spared the Wrath of the Middle Kingdom

A threat. And then a backing off. As the trade war between the US and China escalates, both countries are moving into politically sensitive areas as they ratchet up the scale of the standoff. When the US first introduced tariffs earlier this year, they were limited to washing machines and solar panels. Then as President Trump moved into a broader range of goods, China responded with tariffs that were designed to maximise impact on Trump’s voter base. That meant the agriculture heartlands of the US in the Midwest where soybeans are grown and shipped in record numbers to China last year to feed its massive demand for animal feed and edible oils. Last week, the US imposed tariffs on an additional US$16 billion worth of Chinese imports, targeting technological sectors, and of course, China replied. The list included for the first time US crude exports, demonstrating China’s willingness to hit one of America’s most vibrant industries. And then, a few days later, it backed down, removing crude oil from the list. 

What happened?

Chatter among the industry suggests that Sinopec had lobbied for the removal. Even though growth has slowed down nominally, China’s fuel demand is still growing massively on an absolute level. In a year where Iranian crude exports are being squeezed by new American sanctions, China needs oil. It may have defied a request by the US to completely halt Iranian exports, but it has also promised not to ramp up orders as well. China imported some 650,000 b/d of crude from Iran last year. To replace even some of that will be challenging without tapping into growing American production, particularly since Sinopec and Petrochina are in a tiff with Saudi Aramco over prices, and the government wants to diversify its crude sources away from overreliance on Russia.

So crude was removed from the tariff list. Leaving only refined fuels and petrochemical feedstocks – tiny in demand except for propane, which has become a key feedstock for China’s petrochemicals producers through PDH plants. But since President Trump has mooted more tariffs, this time on US$200 billion worth of imports, China may have backpedalled for strategic reasons this time – Sinopec’s trading arm had suspended all US purchases until the ‘uncertainty passed’- but can still wield its potent weapon in the future. And not just on crude, but tariffs on LNG as well. The latter is more sensitive, given that many of the LNG projects springing up along the Gulf Coast are depending on projected Chinese demand. Cheniere just signed a 25-year LNG deal with CNPC and is hoping for more to come. That hope burns bright for now, but if the trade war continues escalating at its current pace, the forecast could get a lot cloudier. For now, US energy exports have been spared from the wrath of the Middle Kingdom. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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August, 14 2018