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Last Updated: June 21, 2018
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Market Watch

Headline crude prices for the week beginning 18 June 2018 – Brent: US$75/b; WTI: US$65/b

  • As OPEC prepares for its meeting in Vienna on June 22, oil prices are also facing a new challenge – the growing trade spat between the US and China
  • After China retaliated to the US’ imposition of tariffs on US$50 billion worth of imports last week, and the US mulls action on another US$200 billion, there is worry that China will reply with targets on US crude and LNG.
  • On the OPEC side, there is an emerging consensus that some form of output increase will be on the cards – supported by Saudi Arabia and Russia – though the size may be ‘modest’ to appease opposition from Iran and Iraq.
  • The figure being bandied about is some 300-600,000 b/d – smaller than Russia’s favoured increase of 1.5 mmb/d and far smaller than the 1.8 mmb/d cut agreed in November 2016.
  • Rosneft has expressed ‘comfort’ with the current price range of US$70-80/b, an indication that OPEC will aim to keep crude at this level even with an agreement on an output hike.
  • Beyond the June meeting, Saudi Arabia is said to be planning a leaders’ summit for the OPEC and NOPEC countries later this year, a step in formally institutionalising co-operation between the two oil blocks.
  • In the US, oil has seen some inventory drops, but the US active oil rig count continues to grow by one site last week, which was offset by the loss of three gas rigs, bringing the total active count to 1,059.
  • The standoff between the US and China over trade issues is uncharted territory. If the trade war continues to escalate, crude prices will continue to be affected by the vortex, placing additional pressure on prices and prompting investors to seek safe havens.
  • Crude price outlook: An output rise at OPEC is expected, and with trade issues dominating headlines, we expect some downward pressure on prices. Brent should stay at US$74-75/b while WTI may widen its discount to US$63-64/b as the infrastructure crunch persists in the Permian.

Headlines of the week

Upstream

  • Encouraged by mega-test finds in Guyana, ExxonMobil has begun developing drilling at three of its projects in Guyana, which should start producing some 500,000 b/d of oil by 2020.
  • As upstream in East Africa slowly but surely heats up, Kenya has approved a new petroleum law defining oil revenue sharing, with 75% going to the state.
  • Petrobras has sold 25% of the Roncador oil field in Brazil’s Campos basin to Equinor for US$2 billion, bringing Equinor’s equity output to 100,000 b/d.
  • ExxonMobil is reportedly taking ‘baby steps’ to create an in-house crude and fuels trading unit, though current plans call for an operation size that pales in comparison to the trading units of Shell, BP and Total.

Downstream

  • Fresh from mega-refinery deals in China, India and Malaysia, Saudi Aramco states that it will continue downstream investment with the goal of ‘8-10 mmb/d of participated refinery capacity and significant chemicals by 2040’
  • As the Chinese city of Tianjin gears up to be the pilot city in introducing an ethanol-gasoline fuel mix by September – part of a wider biofuels initiative by Beijing using local corn stock to reduce pollution – Sinopec’s Tianjin refinery says it is ready to produce some 120,000 tons of the biofuel by October.
  • New tax rules have clipped the wings of China’s independent oil refiners – the teapots – moving from a profit bonanza to shrinking margins and losses.
  • A massive blockade by farmers’ unions of refineries and depots in France has left some fuel stations dry, as the protest of imported biofuels continues.
  • Venezuela may refine foreign crude for the first time ever for domestic fuel demand and to fulfil exports, as the upstream sector buckles under pressure.
  • In a sign that China is looking to diversify its crude diet away from Russia and Saudi Arabia, chemical producer Hengli has purchased crude from Brazil to fuel startup at its new 400,000 b/d refinery in Dalian.

Natural Gas/LNG

  • Chevron has started up the second train of Wheatstone LNG, as it plays catch up with other Australian LNG projects after severe cost-blowouts and delays.  
  • Total, along with Sonatrach, Repsol and Alnaft, has signed a new concession contract for the Tin Fouyé Tabankort gas and condensate field in Algeria, extending the life of the current contract by 25 years.
  • Shell has sold its entire stake in the Petronas-operated MLNG Tiga LNG plant in Malaysia to the Sarawak state government for US$750 million.
  • Phillips 66 is planning a US$1.5 billion expansion of its NGL project in Sweeny, Texas, including two new 150,000 b/d fractionators.
  • Centrica and Tokyo Gas have signed non-binding agreements to purchase some 2.6 mtpa LNG from Anadarko’s Mozambique project, which should support the project’s upcoming FID.
  • The planned gas pipeline linking Israel to Egypt is one step closer to fruition, as Delek Drilling, Noble Energy and an Egyptian company agree to purchase 37% of East Mediterranean Gas, giving the partners control over the pipeline.

Corporate

  • Oasis Management has taken stakes in Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan and Show Shell Sekiyu, reviving the possibility of a merger between the two refiners that has been scuppered by Idemitsu’s founding family.

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